NOTE: Every year fantasy experts, enthusiasts and rookies alike trot out their opinions for each position. Explaining that Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are top shortstops or that Carlos Lee falls somewhere in the top tier of outfielders does is not ground breaking advice.
As I preview each position leading up to the regular season, I will list my rankings and focus on several players who I believe are under- or over-valued.
1) Albert Pujols (STL)
2) Miguel Cabrera (DET)
3) Mark Teixeira (NYY)
4) Lance Berkman (HOU)
5) Ryan Howard (PHI)
6) Justin Morneau (MIN)
7) Prince Fielder (MIL)
8) Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
9) Joey Votto (CIN)
10) Adrian Gonzalez (SDG)
11) Chris Davis (TEX)
12) Derrek Lee (CHC)
13) Carlos Pena (TAM)
14) Adam Dunn (WAS)
15) Aubrey Huff (BAL)
16) Garrett Atkins (COL)
17) Carlos Delgado (NYM)
18) James Loney (LAD)
19) Conor Jackson (ARI)
20) Adam LaRoche (PIT)
21) Paul Konerko (CHW)
22) Todd Helton (COL)
23) Casey Kotchman (ATL)
24) Jorge Cantu (FLA)
25) Lyle Overbay (TOR)
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Joey Votto (CIN): The Reds' first baseman burst on the scene last year, hitting 24 home runs along with 84 RBI while hitting .297. With a full year under his belt, the sky's the limit for the 25 year old lefty.
Votto demonstrated remarkable consistency for a rookie. His home/road splits were virtually identical and he raked against both righties and lefties.
Many rookies fade down the stretch as the grind of 162 games catches up to them. Not Votto, who was better after the All-Star Break, hit .382 in August and smacked nine home runs in September.
ESPN ranks Votto as 13th best 1B for 2009. His ADP in ESPN leagues is 92, good for the 11th 1B taken. Votto will improve on his 2008 campaign, approaching 30 home runs, 90 runs and 100 RBI while hitting .300. He will also toss in 7-10 SB for good measure.
NOTE: Votto went 4-5 in Canada's round 1 loss to Team USA in the WBC. In the third inning he demolished a filthy Jake Peavy fastball to give Canada an early 2-1 lead.
James Loney (LAD): How many first basemen stole at least seven bases, drove in at least 90 runs, hit better than .280 and struck out less than 100 times? Albert Pujols and James Loney. Loney, like the aforementioned Joey Votto, is entering his second year as his team's starting first baseman.
Loney performed better against righties and on the road. He also struggled in September, hitting just .209. Loney is a line-drive hitter, which will limit his home run potential.
With the return of Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal and the addition of Orlando Hudson, the Dodgers will boast one of the National League's most potent lineups. Loney should approach 80 runs and 100 RBI while hitting .290.
Carlos Delgado (NYM): From 20-something first basemen we switch to the position's elder statesmen. Turning 37 during the 2009 season, Delgado bounced back from a sub-par 2007 with a monster 2008 season.
He hit 38 home runs while driving in 115 RBI and scoring 96 runs. 2009 should mark several milestones for Delgado. He needs 31 home runs to reach 500 and just 11 RBI for 1500 for his career.
After a slow April and May, Delgado averaged better than 7 home runs and 22 RBI per month for the rest of the season. Throughout his career, Delgado has been a better second-half player.
Always known for his RBI prowess (he trails only Ken Griffey Jr, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez amongst active players), Delgado is also a career .280 hitter.
Delgado is a safe bet for 30 home runs and 100 RBI hitting amongst Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran in the potent Mets lineup.