Well we’re a couple weeks into the new year, meaning it’s already been a week since you quit your resolution and it’s finally ok to look at fantasy baseball rankings without feeling like a loser. Being as though The Been Stew didn’t make its debut until the middle of last season, this will be our first dip into the rankings pool. So why not start it off easy with fantasy’s deepest position (sink or swim!). Without further adieu:
1. Albert Pujols: One of these times the machine will be a letdown and it’ll probably be the year you finally get the 1st pick. Good news is it won’t be this year. Expect the usual: .320/110/40/120/12
2. Miguel Cabrera: Albert Jr. is growing up. Last year he ditched the beer goggles and this year he’ll be using protection (I’m looking at you Victor Martinez): .315/110/40/125/2
3. Joey Votto: He may be the only Canadian that hates bears, but like any true Canuck, he shows a strong affinity for the maple: .320/100/34/110/10
4. Adrian Gonzalez: Offseason shoulder surgery is a concern, but he’s supposed to be ready by spring training and has been a monster (not initially intended, but I’m sticking with it) away from Petco: .290/105/40/120/0
5. Ryan Howard: Despite missing a month with a sprained ankle, Howard still managed over 30 hr and 100 rbi. The guy could hit a homer with a $5 foot long and should: .270/90/40/120/2
6. Mark Teixeira: Thanks to a .256 average, last year was his worst since he was a rookie. But he still went 30/100 and has a sweet spot in the middle of the Yankee order, so fear not: .285/100/34/110/2
7. Prince Fielder: Odd numbered years are to obese vegetarians as full moons are to werewolves. Expect a bounce back from last year’s disappointment: .280/90/35/100/1
8. Kendry Morales: Morales was well on his way to proving his 2009 wasn’t a fluke, until he met a fate sadder than Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness. He may end up being one of the best values in the draft: .288/85/30/100/1
9. Adam Dunn: There’s something to be said for consistency and Dunn has provided four consecutive years of 40 hr followed by two years of 38. Expect the homer friendly US Cellular to push him back into the 40’s: .255/80/40/105/0
10. Paul Konerko: I’m not all in on last year’s resurgence, but Pauly has been rewarding fantasy owners for a long time now (surprisingly at 364 career hr, he has a reasonable shot at 500): .280/85/32/90/0
11. Justin Morneau: I guess this all depends on his head, but when healthy, he’s an MVP candidate. Could be a real steal this year or he could forget who he is. Must be monitored in spring training: .290/80/28/90/0
12. Billy Butler: One of these days he’ll turn all those doubles into home runs. . . or singles if his butt gets any bigger. As for now, there’s still hope: .300/80/20/90/0
1. Albert Pujols – The boys over at Yahoo! are predicting a fall from the mountain top for Pujols. Albeit, only a fall to the No.2 overall spot behind Hanley Ramirez. I can get behind that logic based on position scarcity and I’ve always had a soft spot for SBs. But if Pujols isn’t the first 1B off the board then I think we’ve found the sucker at the draft table. The Cardinals’ lineup isn’t any more daunting than last year. I’d expect numbers similar to last year. 40+ HR w/ 110 runs and RBIs.
2. Miguel Cabrera – A pretty good consolation prize if you’re drafting 3rd. You won’t get Pujols but Cabrera’s numbers won’t be too far off the pace. Pujols will probably edge Cabrera in SB and R. The batting average and HR/RBI totals could go either way. Drafting for consistency in the 1st round is a great luxury. Expect a line of 100/37/125/3/.320
3. Adrian Gonzalez – The real question we’re asking here is, “How big of a difference will Fenway be compared to PetCo?” In this guy’s opinion? A big difference. Gonzalez hit 20 of his 31 HRs last year away from PetCo. The year before that; 12 home, 28 away. I think it’s safe to say that PetCo has a negative effect on Gonzo’s power. With a big upgrade in ballpark and lineup, The Stew thinks that Gonzalez should be the 3rd first baseman off the board. I’d take the over on both 40HR and 120RBI. Cabrera is ranked ahead of Gonzalez based on level of risk but AGon could outperform Cabrera stats-wise. It is risk/reward and I don’t like any risk with my first round picks.
4. Joey Votto – Can he do better than his 2010? Possible. I’d venture to guess his HR and SB totals take a little dip in 2011. Votto is probably closer to a 30 homer guy than a 40 homer guy. His 16 SBs definitely weren’t out of the blue, but I’d have to think the Reds will limit his running jussssssst a wee bit. They won’t want to risk losing Votto because he broke his thumb trying to beat a tag at second. Votto has the pedigree and is entering the magical “age 27” season. But last year was a career year and you can’t pay for last year’s stats.
5. Mark Teixeira – Was last year’s .256 average a bump in the road or the beginning of a gradual statistical decline? Well, Big Tex turns 31 at the beginning of the 2011 season and I’d wager that he still has a lot left in the tank. Take away that .256 average and his counting stats were rock solid. Last year probably knocked Teixeira out of the 1st round, but he’ll be a steal for anyone who missed out on the top 4 on this list. 100/35/110/.280.
6. Ryan Howard – Sometimes it is easy to forget that Howard is actually older than Albert Pujols. Howard is a power hitter with a long swing. Age catches up to players in that mold quicker than others. Is Howard done? I don’t think so. But his BB total has fallen each of the past 4 years. His 31 HRs in 2010 were his worst full season total by 14. I’d be drafting Howard expecting a slight bounce back in HRs along with a return to the .250 average range. Last year was bad considering where he was probably drafted but I’d be surprised if his HR, R and RBI totals don’t rebound from 2010. Don’t be expecting 140+ RBIs, though.
7. Prince Fielder – Like The Been, I am predicting a bounce back year for Fielder. I am expecting a return to glory for different reasons, however. Two words: contract year. Judging by some of Fielder’s antics, I would have to think he is the kind of jerk that only gives it his all when there is money to be had. I think his stats last year were more of a product of bad/weird luck than a poor year. He hit 32 HR and had just 83 RBI to show for it. That doesn’t add up and the Brewers still have an above average lineup with Hart, Braun and McGehee. Look for a 90/40/110/.275 contribution.
8. Justin Morneau – What is it with corner infielders from Minnesota? Hopefully Morneau didn’t spend all winter hanging out with Corey Koskie. Or Lenny Dykstra for that matter. The Twins have a pretty solid, balanced lineup when Morneau is playing. Sources say that he will be ready for spring training. We will know more once we near draft time but I’m a believer that he will be ready to mash once again. Of course, Morneau will miss the playoffs with another injury in 2011 but who really cares about the playoffs? I wouldn’t want to play baseball outdoors in St. Paul during October neither. THE STEW JUNK BOND RISK/REWARD SPECIAL! 100/25/115/.285
9. Adam Dunn – Dunn is no longer the BA drain that he used to be. He has quietly hit over .260 in 3 of the past 4 seasons. He’ll never be Ichiro, but at least he’s not Mark Reynolds anymore. The White Sox lineup is better than the Nationals but not enough to make a huge difference. I’d expect to see a few more runs and rbis for Dunn. Don’t assume a move to The Cell will raise his stats exponentially, though. I’ll take the over on 40 HRs but 85/110 R/RBI is probably the best you’ll get from a guy that strikes out regularly with runners on 3rd with less than 2 outs.
10. Kendry Morales – Minor league track record suggests that Kendry is for real, at least concerning batting average. He’ll probably be right there in BA for first basemen. I think 35 HR is probably his plateau so don’t be expecting him to hit 40 bombs. The real concern is the Angels. They have skirted by the AL West with replacement parts for a few years now. Hunter and Abreu are one year older and their lack of a star may finally expose the smoke and mirrors offensive approach. I don’t doubt Morales as a hitter. I doubt those around him being able to continue their production at the MLB level. Unless they find another quality bat, I would predict a 90/30/90/.320 line for Kendry.
11. Kevin Youkilis – Adrian Gonzalez isn’t the only one benefiting from his arrival to Boston. Youk is reportedly healthy and ready for the 2011 season. He won’t be playing 1B this year, but he’ll retain eligibility. The guy takes a lot of walks so his production is easy to predict. That’s a quality that I will pay for as a fantasy manager. Hitting in the middle of a stacked lineup should offer up plenty of RBI opportunities. I would bet good money that The Greek God of Walks reaches the 100 RBI mark. I place him above Butler because of he has already shown he can hit for solid power. Beard, beard on the wall. Who is the mashiest of them all? YOUUUUK! 90/27/105/.290
12. Billy Butler – Well, he’s not Alex Gordon. That has to help a little bit, right? The guy is an absolute doubles machine. Although he took a step back in the power department in 2010, I think he’ll get to the 20 HR mark again this season. Thirty home runs might be a bit much to ask but 25 bombs are reachable. His counting stats will depend when/if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are called up and if they perform at a decent level. Unfortunately for Butler, the Royals opening day roster might be the worst in baseball this year. I’ll go with the Been on this one and say .300/80/20/90/0 is a safe bet.