2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Players I Love, Players I Hate

John Thomas@@JohnThomas227Correspondent IFebruary 28, 2010

The 2010 MLB season is gearing up, and that means the start of the 2010 fantasy baseball season.

Fantasy sports are growing in popularity; I began playing a few years ago, starting with fantasy football.

Since then, I have played in football and baseball fantasy leagues every year. It's a lot of fun. Fantasy sports add to the enjoyment of the game. I already loved watching football and baseball. Adding fantasy sports made them even better.

Now, for the players I love.

(All projections are based on a 10-team league.)

David Wright, 3B, New York Mets

This season, third base is a very shallow position. After the top three players (A-Rod, Wright, and Evan Longoria), there are many question marks.

Although many people have Alex Rodriguez ranked above Wright, I believe that the Mets third baseman is the best in baseball.

In my opinion, David is a five-category stud. He will hit better than .300, score and drive in more than 100 runs, and steal more than 25 bases.

However, last year, Wright had a power outage in the Mets' new pitcher's park, Citi Field. I don't see that happening again. Look for Wright to hit more than 25 home runs and be a top-seven fantasy option that you can acquire in the second round of drafts.

Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

At just 22 years of age, much of Justin Upton's potential has yet to be realized.

Last season, the young outfielder hit .300, scored and drove in more than 80 runs, hit 26 home runs, and stole 20 bases. Not a bad season.

And he's only going to get better.

Upton's power will increase even more, placing him with a home run total over 30 and an RBI count over 100.

Also, look for Upton to run more in a rather weak Arizona lineup that will need all the help it can get.

Upton is a great pick, especially for those in keeper leagues that transfer over to next season. He is an up-and-coming stud, with potential for tremendous production in every category. Don't pass on him in the second round. You won't be disappointed.

Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

The National League's Comeback Player of the Year will come back even more this season.

Carpenter was lights-out last season, finishing the year with a 17-4 record and a 2.24 earned run average. He ended the season ranked as a top-ten pitcher in most league formats.

Although Carpenter has had injury trouble in the past, I think that those are behind him.

Is a relapse possible? Of course.

That is a risk that you must take with Carpenter. When he is healthy, he is a top-ten talent. I believe that his talent will come through in a second straight injury-free season for the Cardinals' star.

In addition, Carpenter will be drafted in the fifth or sixth round in many leagues, twelfth among starting pitchers. In my opinion, Carpenter will stay healthy and be a great steal on draft day.

Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros

Last season was arguably Berkman's worst of his career. He hit just .274, with 25 home runs and 80 RBI. This could be due to age. After all, he is 34 years old.

However, Berkman is such a good player that I can't see him being worse than that. There is nowhere to go but up.

In addition, experts have Berkman ranked behind the likes of Billy Butler, Adam Dunn, and Kendry Morales. Butler and Morales are not proven fantasy players. To me, they are one-year wonders with a high price tag.

Also, I believe Berkman will hit nearly as many home runs as Dunn. His average will also be 20 to 30 points higher than Adam's.

Berkman should be ranked ahead of all three players. Instead, he is projected to go in the eighth or ninth round in many drafts. Butler and Dunn are projected to go one round earlier and Morales is projected to go two to three rounds earlier. Look for Berkman to bounce back this season and be a nice steal for you in the later rounds.

Gordon Beckham, 3B, Chicago White Sox

Sophomore slump? Not with Beckham.

Gordon was called up to the big league club after just 60 games last season, where he hit .270, with 14 home runs and 63 RBI.

There are many reasons to like Gordon Beckham. For one, he will hit for a good average and give you good power.

In addition, he is just 23, with nowhere to go but up.

Finally, Beckham plays at third base, one of the weakest positions in baseball this season. Also, he could gain eligibility at second base as the season runs its course.

At the end of the season, those who did not draft Beckham will regret their decision. He is one of the best young players in baseball and will be able to serve your fantasy team for many years to come.

Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves

Jurrjens was a great starting pitcher last season, ending with an ERA of 2.60, 14 wins, and 152 strikeouts. At just 24 years old, his future is promising.

Also, Jair is surrounded by a solid pitching staff, consisting of Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, and Tim Hudson. The mix of veteran leadership and young arms will help Jurrjens progress as a pitcher.

Even though Jurrjens has had recent shoulder troubles, he should be good to go at the start of the season.

In addition, it should be easy to get Jurrjens late in drafts. Current expert rankings place the Braves' starter behind Scott Baker, Matt Garza, and Clayton Kershaw. Let others grab those riskier players. Jurrjens will be a nice asset to your fantasy team this season that you can give up very little to acquire.

Rajai Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics

Last season, Davis was everything you wanted from a midseason free agent acquisition. He hit .305, with 41 stolen bases.

This season, Rajai should give you similar production. His batting average should hover around .300 and Davis' stolen base total should surpass 50.

If you are looking for a speed guy late in your draft, Davis would be a nice pick. The players around him in expert predictions, such as Chris Coghlan and Dexter Fowler, will be far worse than Rajai this season.

Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

Buchholz has been a hot topic of the fantasy world for the past few seasons. He is a young talent. However, thus far, that talent is raw.

Last season, the Red Sox's pitching prospect took a step in the right direction, picking up 7 wins in the second half of the season.

This season, some will shy away from Buchholz after he threw for an ERA of 4.21 and a WHIP of 1.38.

However, I believe that his numbers from last season aren't a good reflection of his potential or of his numbers for the 2010 season. Buchholz should be a nice sleeper that won't hurt your ERA or WHIP. In addition, he should get plenty of wins in a solid Red Sox lineup.

Martin Prado, 2B, Atlanta Braves

There's nothing very interesting or amazing about Martin Prado. He is a .300 hitter that will give you about 10-15 home runs per season and score about 65-70 runs.

However, there is one thing about Prado that stands out from other players. He is eligible at first base, second base, and third base in most leagues. This makes him more valuable than his statistics. If any of your players goes down with an injury, Prado is a nice replacement.

In addition, Prado's multi-position eligibility allows you to focus on other areas of your team. Drafting Prado is like drafting backups for several different positions. This could allow you to bolster your pitching staff late in the draft.

Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox

Konerko is the perfect way to get cheap power. Last season, he hit for 28 homers and 88 runs batted in. There is no reason to think that Konerko won't continue that trend this season.

Now, I'm not saying that you should spend an middle-round pick on him. However, if you find yourself in the late rounds in need of power, give Konerko a try. There is little risk in a pick so late. Konerko is a much better option than most players you can get late in drafts.

After that love-fest, let's move on to the players I hate.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees

Don't scream at your computer yet. Hear me out on this.

Last season, A-Rod confessed to steroid use in his time with the Texas Rangers. In addition, he had surgery on his hip, causing him to miss the first month of the season.

Those controversies alone are enough to raise questions.

For one, players coming off of injury seasons seem to be less effective. In addition, they are more likely to get hurt again.

Also, players who have used or "allegedly" used steroids have trouble as their careers continue. For example, Barry Bonds quickly declined as his career progressed. Although it hasn't been proven that he used steroids, Bonds probably did. There are many other similar stories throughout the majors.

Alex Rodriguez will still be a good player. However, I would not give up a top-five pick in my draft for him. His statistics will not make him a top-twenty player this season.

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners

Just like A-Rod, Ichiro is still a good player. However, I'm not willing to give up a second- or third-round pick for what he will give you.

When you think of Ichiro, what comes to mind? Speed and batting average.

Soon, he will no longer be able to provide the ridiculous average and speed he once did, due to age. Currently, he is 36 years old. I believe that his age will show this season.

Another reason to avoid Ichiro is because there are so many players like him. There are plenty of outfielders that will give you average and steals. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Denard Span, Michael Bourn, Nyger Morgan, Juan Pierre, and many others can give you the same things Ichiro will, even if some of them are not as good at what they do as Suzuki is.

In my opinion, spend a later round pick on one or two of those players listed above. They are younger and have less risk than Ichiro. One adage of fantasy baseball is that you can't win your league in the first three rounds, but you can certainly lose it. Stay safe in the opening rounds.

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees

Granderson is a good player. In addition, he is going to be playing in the new Yankee Stadium, a lefty's home-run haven.

However, let's examine the history of new Yankees. Carl Pavano was a complete failure after becoming a Yankee. AJ Burnett's strikeout and win totals fell rather sharply last season. Jason Giambi's performance also declined after becoming a Yankee. There are many other examples of the new Yankee "curse."

I don't like taking risky players in the first ten rounds. That is the time of the draft where you need players who will give you good production every year. I believe that Granderson is a risk. His performance will drop off with the Yankees, just like those before him.

Jonathan Broxton, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees; Joe Nathan , RP, Minnesota Twins

These three closers are grouped together for a reason. All of them have one thing common.

They are being taken in the sixth or seventh round.

Why would I hate a player just for that? It is because they are closers.

There is no reason to take a reliever early in a fantasy draft. There are too many other options that can give you the same production as the three listed above.

Last season, no one expected David Aardsma to have 38 saves for the Seattle Mariners. No one expected Ryan Franklin to save 38 games for the St. Louis Cardinals. The same will occur this season. Don't pay for saves. They are too easy to obtain late in drafts or through free agency.

Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox

Last season, Quentin was affected by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, keeping him out of action for several months. He returned late in the season, making most people believe that there should be no ill effects this season.

However, plantar fasciitis is an injury that is known to linger. It can flare up at any time and is very difficult to get rid of entirely.

Even though it appears that Carlos has put his injuries behind him, I don't trust him. The injury risk is too great to spend a top-100 pick on Quentin. I look for him to have another injury-plagued season. Avoid him at all costs in fantasy drafts.

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Is "of Anaheim" still a part of the team name? I don't think anyone knows. The Angels should just go back to "California" to satisfy Los Angeles and Anaheim. Having two cities in a team name is rather silly.

I digress.

Year after year, I have heard stories about Howie Kendrick finally having his "breakout" season. That has yet to happen.

If you see Howie Kendrick as a starter in your fantasy lineup, be wary. He could quickly go downhill.

Poor play from Kendrick is not just a fluke. Everyone has a bad season.

However, throughout his career, Howie has had great difficulty staying consistent for an entire season. Later in the season, he might be worth a free agent pickup, should he get a hot bat. Just don't make him a fantasy starter. He hasn't proven himself yet.

Nyjer Morgan, OF, Washington Nationals

Morgan is a guy that appears to be a nice speed/average combination who will score runs. However, things are different when you examine him with more scrutiny.

His speed will not change. Nyjer is young and will continue to put up nice numbers in that category.

His batting average is another story. Morgan is a career .200 hitter against left-handed pitching. Although that didn't show last season, it may come out in the 2010 campaign.

In addition, Morgan will not score as many runs as fantasy owners would expect. Even though he may get on base, the Nationals will be hard-pressed to drive him in with a rather poor batting lineup.

Morgan isn't an awful player, but there are others like him that you can get later in drafts that will provide better statistics.

David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox

There is no reason to continue to love David Ortiz. He is done.

Allegations were made that Ortiz used performance enhancing drugs in 2003. As mentioned earlier in the article, steroids begin to negatively affect players as their careers progress.

This season, Ortiz will continue to decline. His batting average, home runs, and RBI will all drop in 2010.

In addition, Ortiz only qualifies at designated hitter. Unless your league has a DH lineup slot, drafting a player with no positional eligibility is a waste.

Don't touch him in your draft.

I want to remind everyone that I am not a fantasy expert. I am just an ordinary guy who loves baseball. Many of these predictions will be wrong. Feel free to disagree with me. In no way am I claiming to know what will happen this season. All of these predictions are purely educated guesses. Hopefully, they won't steer you wrong in the 2010 fantasy baseball season.

(Photo from http://swamigp.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/103143-004-1d39ba9a.jpg )


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