ORIGINAL ARTICLE: FANTASY BASEBALL INSIDERS
In the coming weeks, I will attempt to create the most accurate 2010 big board available. This draft guide will be released 10 players at a time until my top 50 have been revealed.
These lists will take into account past, present and future values based on standard 5×5 H2H settings. As I introduce each player one-by-one, it’s my goal to reveal something you didn’t already know. Feel free to agree or disagree with my rankings, as I’m always up for a healthy debate.
11. Tim Lincecum —SP —San Francisco Giants
There are very few pitchers in baseball that you should trust from year to year, though Tiny Tim may be one of the exceptions.
The two-time Cy Young award winner should be ranked No. 11 overall thanks to his ridiculous three-year averages: 199 2/3 innings, 2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.16 K/9, 3.26 BB/9.
Lincecum has increased his innings pitched and K/9 each of his first three seasons, while posting an ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 lower than the season before. No matter how you slice it, Lincecum is the best starting pitcher in baseball…and he’s only 25 years old.
12. Matt Kemp —CF —Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Kemp has improved his run, HR, and RBI total progressively over the past three seasons. In 2009, he set career highs in all three categories, scoring 97 times while hitting 26 HR and knocking in 101. Oh yea, he also stole 34 bases and hit .297, though his average floated between .310 and .320 for most of the season.
The thing that concerns me most about Kemp’s game is his poor pitch recognition, which is made evident by his 0.37 BB/K rate in 2009 (17th worst among batters with 500 or more plate appearances).
Kemp’s 2009 OBP of .352 (his career mark is .346) is also too low for my liking. The 25-year-old needs to get on base more often, and that starts with improving his career walk rate of 6.9 percent.
Despite this flaw in Kemp’s game, he should be the first center fielder drafted in 2010. If you’re overly concerned about the poor BB/K rate, consider this: Kemp was the only player in 2009 to hit at least 25 HR and steal 30 bases or more while maintaining a .295 or better average. This fact alone will make Kemp one of the most attractive young players on draft day 2010.
13. David Wright —3B —New York Mets
David Wright was perhaps the most perplexing story of the 2009 fantasy season. After averaging 108 runs, 30 HR, and 116 RBI over the previous three seasons, Wright struggled through the worst season of his career last year, posting just 88 runs, 10 HR, and 72 RBI.
Despite this sudden drop off in production, Wright could actually be considered the luckiest hitter of the 2009 season, as the soon to be 27-year-old posted a ridiculous .400 BABIP. Even furthering the curiousness of Wright’s season is the fact that his major league best BABIP led to only a .307 batting average.
Wright’s 2009 campaign is a true head-scratcher. Drafted among the top three before the season started, Wright’s performance failed to crack Yahoo’s end of the year top 50.
There are two explanations that may explain his lack of production.
The first is the ballpark factor, as the Mets opened a new (and slightly bigger) stadium in 2009.
The second is the fact that the Mets’ lineup was missing Jose Reyes , Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado for a large chunk of the season. These factors may not explain it all, but they clearly had some impact on Wright’s season.
Looking forward to 2010, it may be unrealistic to expect another 100/30/100/30/.300 season, such as the one he posted back in 2007. However, given a healthy Mets lineup, expect Wright to be a 25/25 threat with a .300 average; a mark that went untouched in 2009.
14. Jose Reyes —SS —New York Mets
Jose Reyes was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 season, as a hamstring injury limited him to just 36 games.
The Mets’ shortstop was a top five pick in fantasy drafts prior to the 2009 season, and for good reason. Reyes logged no less than 647 at-bats in the four seasons prior to 2009, and had always been among the major league leaders in steals.
This, however, is easy to forget after your first round pick hits the DL for good in late May, but consider this:
If you compare Reyes’ three year averages (excluding 2009) to that of fellow speedster Carl Crawford , (excluding his injury plagued 2008 season) we come to an interesting conclusion:
Jose Reyes: 118 runs, 16 HR, 69 RBI, 66 SB, .292 batting average
Carl Crawford : 93 runs, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 56 SB, .308 batting average
Their power numbers are nearly identical. Reyes averages 25 runs and 10 stolen bases more than Crawford per season, while Crawford’s only significant lead is in batting average, by 16 points.
Why should we make this comparison, you ask?
Because Crawford finished the 2009 season as the No. 14 player overall on Yahoo!, and he did so as a left fielder. Shortstop is a much more difficult position to fill, making Reyes one of the most valuable fantasy players looking forward to 2010.
15. Troy Tulowitzki —SS —Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki burst upon the scene in 2007, posting an incredible line of 104 runs, 24 HR, 99 RBI, seven steals and a .291 average at the tender age of 22.
The Rockies’ shortstop failed to repeat his rookie success in 2008, as quad and hand injuries limited him throughout the season, leaving some fantasy managers to believe his 2007 campaign was a fluke.
Those who stuck by him were rewarded in 2009, however, as Tulowitzki improved upon his rookie season, despite recording 66 fewer at-bats.
The 25-year-old scored 101 runs, blasted 32 HR, knocked in 92 runs and stole 20 bases, all while maintaining a .297 average. His HR total was the highest among shortstops, and his unique power/speed combo makes him a valuable commodity at a scarce position.
Looking forward to 2010, Tulowtizki should be the third shortstop drafted, as you can expect a minimum of 25 HR and 10 steals, with a .290 average and runs/RBI totals nearing the century mark.
16. Justin Upton —RF —Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2007, Baseball America claimed “The term ‘five-tool prospect’ somehow doesn’t seem strong enough for (Justin) Upton.” After his first full season in the majors, the rest of us now know this to be true.
In 2009, at the age of 21, (he turned 22 in August) Upton blasted 26 HR, tallied 86 RBI, scored 84 runs, and stole 20 bases, all while batting .300. Upton finished 27th in the majors (seventh among outfielders) with a .388 wOBA, an extraordinary accomplishment considering his young age.
According to HitTrackerOnline.com , the 2005 No. 1 overall pick ranked 14th in the majors with an average standard distance of 408.5 feet per HR last year, proving his power is legit.
Upton also flashed efficient base running skills, as he was caught only five times in 25 attempts in 2009, good enough for an 80 percent success rate.
Upton’s rare plus-power/speed combo gives him a chance to become a fantasy star. Looking forward to 2010, Upton is likely to push for a ridiculous 100/30/100/25/.300 line, something that’s been done just twice in the last six years (David Wright in 2007 and Bobby Abreu in 2004).
While Upton’s ceiling is top five player material, for now he should be drafted as the 16th player (third outfielder) overall.
17. Matt Holliday —LF —St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Holliday was a top five fantasy player just two seasons ago. After being traded to Oakland following the 2008 season, his fantasy value plummeted.
After posting average totals with the A’s in 2009, (11 HR, 54 RBI, .286 average in 346 at-bats) the 29-year-old slugger was traded to St. Louis, where he hit 13 HR with 55 RBI and a .353 average in just 235 at-bats.
Projected over 162 games, his St. Louis splits make for a line of: 108 runs, 33 HR, and a whopping 141 RBI. Holliday is also capable of posting a double-digit total in steals, sending his value through the roof.
Holliday is now locked in long-term with St. Louis, meaning he will continue to bat behind Albert Pujols, which makes hm a top 20 fantasy contributor.
18. Jacoby Ellsbury —LF —Boston Red Sox
In 2007, Baseball America claimed Ellsbury had “Plus-plus speed” and the ability “To produce at least 10-15 homers a year.”
The former held true in 2009, as Ellsbury totaled a whopping 70 steals. The power, however, has yet to top out, suggesting that the 26-year-old has yet to reach his full potential.
Batting lead-off for one of the most potent lineups in baseball, Ellsbury is likely to score 100 runs or more, swipe 60-plus bases and maintain a .300 average. If his expected average power stroke evolves, Ellsbury could even push for 15 HR and 80 RBI in 2010, giving him one of the most unique stat lines is all of fantasy baseball.
19. Carl Crawford —LF —Tampa Bay Rays
Over the past six seasons, Crawford has established himself as a reliable and consistent fantasy contributor. With the exception of his 2008 injury-riddled campaign, Crawford’s season output has always been comparable to the season before it.
His game is no secret; Crawford can be expected to post 90+ runs, 15 HR, 70 RBI and 50+ steals, to go along with a .300 average. His well-rounded line makes him an especially valued commodity in roto leagues.
It’s is important to note, however, that while Crawford is just 28 years old, he’s the oldest player on the 11-20 list. When speed is your greatest asset, the calendar is usually working against you.
Consider this: despite setting a career high in 2009 with 60 steals, Crawford’s base stealing efficiency has actually decreased over the past few seasons: 2006: 87%; 2007: 83%; 2008: 78%; 2009: 79%.
Crawford may be among the major league leaders in steals in 2010, but another 60-steal season isn’t likely. Expect no more than 50 steals from Crawford this season, meaning his value is likely to take a slight hit.
20. Joe Mauer —C —Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer is perhaps the most polarizing player heading into the 2010 fantasy baseball season. After failing to hit more than 13 HR in four seasons prior to 2009, Mauer exploded with 28 round-trippers last season, courtesy of a sky-high 20.4 percent HR/FB rate.
While Mauer’s career HR/FB rate of 11.4 percent suggests we should expect that mark to drop in 2010, a 20-plus HR season is still attainable, given that fact that Mauer plays DH when he’s not catching, which could allow for 550 at-bats.
Despite Mauer’s potential value, his high draft status does involve some risk. The soon to be 27-year-old has been shelved for an average of 31 games per season over the last three years.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Twins are opening a new outdoor ballpark this season. The unknown park factors are sure to have an effect on Mauer’s value, as will the 30-degree nights in April.
When preparing to draft Mauer this season, proceed with caution. It’s unlikely that Mauer will repeat his 2009 performance, but a 100/20/100/.330 line is within reach; something that hasn’t been done by a catcher since Ivan Rodriguez posted a ridiculous 116/35/113/.332 line in 1999.