|Point-Counterpoint: First Overall Pick in Fantasy Baseball|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on March 04, 2009
Finally, you struck it lucky and the first pick in your fantasy league is yours. But now you are spoilt for choice. Which player should you pick? Jonathan Leshanski, Tony Meale and Robert Democh all have their own idea about who is the number one fantasy player and they will try to convince you their choice is the right one.
Han Ram is your Man
Why Han Ram and not the others? There are a number of reasons, including age, upside, the fact that he’ll help in all five standard roto categories and the fact he’ll be hitting in the strongest lineup he’s ever been a part of.
Oh the case for A-Rod is a good one; he’s a five category contributor too and hits in a good lineup too. But A-Rod is on the wrong side of the coin age-wise. He’s 33 going into the season and his skills are more likely to erode than bring him to new levels. He’s also going to be facing the pressures of his divorce, high profile romances and of course the steroid controversy. Oh, and did I mention he doesn’t have a sterling reputation when it comes to handling pressure? He’ll get plenty of that over the steroid thing this season.
Then there is the speed demon Reyes. Reyes plays the same position and may well lead the league in steals again, and has a bit of pop too. Oh, and Reyes, like Hanley, may find himself slotted into the third position in the batting order this season. While that may bode well for both players’ RBI totals, Hanley’s higher average and greater pop will make him more valuable as both players are likely to steal less.
So, that leads us to the ever talented David Wright, baseball’s other elite third baseman. Of course, third base is a deep position this year. That’s a pretty serious strike against him. Well that and the fact that Wright’s numbers match up very well with Ramirez everywhere but in two categories -- RBIs and steals. Hanley wins the steal category hands down, and should match up with David in RBIs this year since he’ll be slotted into the third spot in the lineup -- and will come up often with runners on base, a new experience for the slugger.
So that leaves perennial MVP Albert Pujols. I admit it’s hard not to love what Pujols brings to the table: extremely high average, excellent power, tons of runs and RBIs, but the truth is that speed has never been Albert’s game. Throw in the fact that Pujols is coming off surgery which could cut into his numbers, and his age (29), and Pujols seems just a bit more risky than Ramirez.
Numbers for Hanley Ramirez over the past three seasons. Remember these are as a lead off hitter - not a guy in the middle of the lineup.
Consistency, RBI Give A-Rod Top Spot
Since becoming a Yankee in 2004, Alex Rodriguez has hit .303 for the Bronx Bombers and has averaged 42 homers, 123 RBI, 119 runs and 21 steals a season.
That, my friends, is called consistency.
And for whatever reason, A-Rod has a thing about odd-numbered years; in 2005 and 2007, his stats were up across the board; he hit .317 with an average of 51 homers, 142 RBI, 134 runs and 23 steals. Following a great year with a really great year might just be coincidence, but A-Rod is due for another ridiculous performance in 2009.
On the other hand, look at Hanley Ramirez’ stats from last season (.301/33/67/125/35). One number – 67 – immediately pops out. I don’t care where you hit in the order, if you hit 33 home runs, you should have way more than 67 RBI.
For example, Jose Reyes had fewer than half as many homers (16) as Han-Ram last year, but he still had more RBI (68). Jimmy Rollins, meanwhile, had fewer RBI (59) than Ramirez, but he also had one-third as many long balls (11).
Ramirez will likely get more RBI this year, as the Marlins want him to be more of a run producer and will likely bat him third in the order. But you can expect a dip in two numbers – runs scored and steals.
If Ramirez is knocking more runs in, then you have to figure he’ll be scoring fewer of them. And it would be foolhardy to expect Ramirez, who went from stealing 51 bases in 2006 and 2007 to “just” 35 last year, to do any better than equaling his ’08 total. The Marlins will likely want to preserve him so he doesn’t wear down or get hurt as the season progresses. Granted, 35 steals is nothing to slouch at, but his days of swiping 50 bags a year are likely over, making the steals disparity between him and A-Rod a little less meaningful.
In terms of batter protection, there really isn’t a comparison between the Yankees and the Marlins. The Yankees’ lineup is better from top to bottom, and I’d rather have a player hitting between guys like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira instead of Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu.
In terms of position scarcity, shortstop isn’t nearly as limited as it seems, while third-base isn’t nearly as deep. If you pass on Hanley, you can get undervalued guys like J.J. Hardy (.283/24/74/78/2) and Jhonny Peralta (.276/23/89/104/3) much later in the draft. Pass on Rodriguez, however, and you may end up with someone like Ryan Zimmerman (.283/14/51/51/1) or Chris Davis (.285/17/55/51/1) to occupy third base for you.
To be sure, having the first pick this year is a good situation to be in, and you won’t go wrong selecting either player. While it may be wiser to select the guy who is younger and isn’t walking around with a steroids scandal in his shadow, the bottom line is you know what you’re going to get from A-Rod. Hanley will be great, but there’s simply less certainty about his numbers than A-Rod’s. Until you get a better idea of how Hanley will be as a run-producer, Rodriguez – thanks to his stellar track record – remains the No. 1 guy for another year.
Albert Pujols: Number One’s Got to be Number One
Memo To: Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez
Albert, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Was it your new career high in OPS last year (1.114)? The soaring .357 average? Perhaps it was the fact you fanned just 54 times in 524 at bats? We’re just scratching the surface.
Pujols is an enigma, a power hitter who doesn’t strike out, a prodigious run producer who routinely hits for high average. Your first pick in a fantasy draft can make or break the success of your season. Above all, you want consistent production and Albert delivers that in spades. How about career averages (.334-40-122-118) which are the envy of everyone else? That alone justifies his placement atop the draft board, but like a fine wine, there is so much more to savor. For his career, Pujols has never hit below .314 or socked fewer than 32 home runs in a full season. This perennial MVP candidate laughs in the face of pain, compiling his impressive dossier while never missing more than 15 games in any year. His decision to withdraw from this year’s World Baseball Classic makes him all the more attractive…and bankable.
As he proved in 2008, Pujols can be at less than full strength and still dominate. Hanley and A-Rod simply cannot make similar claims. If you are fortunate enough to draw first pick in your fantasy draft, Pujols is the automatic choice. He is the premier player in fantasy. Case closed.
Who do you think should go first overall? Let us hear your opinion below.