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.
31. Felix Hernandez —SP—Seattle Mariners
After displaying flashes of brilliance in previous years, King Felix finally put it all together in 2009. Last season saw the 23-year-old post career bests in ERA (2.49), strikeouts (217), and innings pitched (238.2).
What’s more encouraging for Hernandez’s 2010 prospects is that his 2009 season didn’t come out of nowhere. His 2009 K/9 (8.18) and BB/9 (2.68) were in line with his career totals of 8.06 and 2.85, respectively.
Even more impressive is that Hernandez posted a sparkling 1.14 WHIP last season, a good indicator that his stuff is nasty and he now knows how to control it.
Given his pedigree, King Felix should dominate again in 2010. Expect around a 3.00 ERA and nearly 200 punch-outs.
While there are two different ways to interpret this, it’s worth mentioning: Hernandez has yet to reach his 24th birthday, but he’s already logged 905 major league innings.
Take that for what it’s worth.
32. Adrian Gonzalez —1B—San Diego Padres
Gonzalez has now played four full seasons in the majors. He’s hit at least 30 homers in each of the last three years, and his 2009 batting average, still productive at .277, was a career low.
Fantasy owners can only hope he gets traded midseason, as leaving the Padres and Petco Park would send his value through the roof.
For now, Gonzalez remains a top-40 option, and is the seventh best player at his position. As long as he remains in San Diego, expect a small regression from last season.
In 2009, Gonzo had a HR/FB rate of 22.2 percent, much higher than his career mark of 17.3 percent. The soon-to-be 28-year-old remains capable of 35 dingers, 100-plus RBI, and a batting average in the .270-.280 range.
33. Dustin Pedroia —2B—Boston Red Sox
If there were any doubters following his 2008 MVP season, Pedroia proved them wrong in 2009. Last year, the 26-year-old posted the best BB/K rate (1.64) among second basemen, and had the fourth-highest contact rate (93 percent) in the majors.
His well-rounded game makes him most attractive, as Pedroia remains a legitimate threat to score 110 runs, hit 15 home runs, swipe 15 bases, and even bat .300; a collective feat accomplished by no other second baseman in 2009. Because Boston’s lineup is so deep, Pedroia even has a chance to reach 80 RBI, further proving his value.
Best of all, Pedroia may gain shortstop eligibility this season, making him even more valuable than he is now. With more than two full seasons under his belt, Dustin Pedroia ranks third among two-baggers heading into 2010.
34. Ryan Zimmerman —3B—Washington Nationals
The 25-year-old Zimmerman has logged four seasons in the majors, though his 2008 campaign was shortened due to injury. Discounting 2008, his average totals from 2006, 2007, and 2009 are as follows: 98 runs, 26 HR, 102 RBI, and a .280 batting average.
While 2009 was his best season yet, (33 HR, .292 AVG) there’s reason to believe Zimmerman has reached his ceiling.
In 2006, Baseball America projected him to “hit 20 homers annually to go along with a .300-plus batting average.” Furthermore, according to HitTrackerOnline.com , 14 of Zimmerman’s 33 bombs in 2009 were considered “just enough”, a total which surpasses the league average by more than 10 percent.
This suggests Zimmerman experienced a bit of luck in the power department last season, forcing us to limit our 2010 predictions for Zimmerman.
Despite this, an underrated Washington lineup should provide Zimmerman with the opportunity to reach 100 runs and 100 RBI in 2010. His long ball totals, however, should drop into the mid-to-upper 20s.
Throw in a .290 batting average, and you have the fifth-best fantasy option at the hot corner in 2010.
35. Robinson Cano —2B—New York Yankees
Generally known for being one of baseball’s best second-half hitters, Robinson Cano proved to be a first and second half player in 2009, posting career-highs in runs (103), HR (25), doubles (48), and at-bats (637).
His 85 RBI and .320 batting average elevated his fantasy value even further, helping Cano reach his full potential.
Given his team, age, home ball park, and reasonable 2009 HR/FB rate of 13.0 percent, there’s reason to believe Cano can hit 25 dingers again in 2010.
Despite his spot near the bottom of the Yankees lineup, the 27-year-old remains capable of approaching the century mark in runs and RBI. While some two-baggers will hurt your team’s batting average, Cano is one of only two current players at his position who own a career average of .300 or better with at least 2,500 at-bats (the other being Placido Polanco).
Cano’s only weakness is his inability to be effective on the base paths.
In 38 career stolen base attempts, he’s been caught 21 times, which makes for an incredibly low 45 percent success rate. This defect in Cano’s game is the only thing keeping him from the top spot among the second tier at his position.
But for now, consider Cano a top-40 player and the fourth-best option at second base.
36. Kevin Youkilis —1B—Boston Red Sox
While the majority of Youkilis’ time is spent at first base, he remains eligible at the surprisingly thin hot corner this season. This, in addition to his three-year averages of 92 runs, 24 HR, 97 RBI, and a .302 batting average, make Youkilis a top-40 player.
The most overlooked aspect of Youkilis’ game is his keen batting eye.
In 2009, Youkilis had the second-lowest "o-swing rate" (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) among first basemen. Furthermore, the 30-year-old posted the fifth-best OBP (.413) at his primary position, ranking higher than Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez , Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Ryan Howard.
Looking forward to 2010, Youkilis remains capable of approaching 100 runs, 25 HR, 100 RBI, and a .300 batting average.
37. Justin Morneau —1B—Minnesota Twins
After posting 34 and 31 HR in 2006 and 2007, respectively, Morneau proceeded to hit just 23 long balls in 2008 despite playing in 163 games.
His batting average fluctuated in those seasons as well, hitting .321 in ‘06, .271 in ‘07, and .300 in ‘08. 2009 was just as puzzling, as the Twins’ first baseman hit 30 HR with a .274 average in just 135 games.
So what can we expect from the 28-year-old coming off what appeared to be almost his first 35 HR campaign?
Your best bet is to guess somewhere along the lines of his career averages, but his unpredictability leaves much up for interpretation. Heck, even his BABIP displays an abnormal pattern from year to year.
While Morneau has proven he’s capable of hitting 30 HRs and driving in 100, his inconsistency from year to year limits his value; making him the ninth-ranked first baseman going into 2010.
38. Derek Jeter —SS—New York Yankees
After combining for 23 HR and 26 steals in 2007 and 2008, The Captain unleashed 18 bombs and swiped 30 bases in 2009, totals we’re not used to seeing from most 35-year-old shortstops.
So what changed?
The explanation is simple, and very telling of his 2010 value.
In ‘07 and ‘08, Jeter hit second in the Yankees lineup. However, in 2009, Jeter batted lead off, fueling his fourth 30-steal season in 15 years.
Newly-acquired Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson are expected to bat No. 2 and No. 7 respectively, so Jeter’s spot at the top of the order appears safe.
Despite his age, Jeter remains capable of posting another 15-HR, 25-steal, .310 average line, good enough to rank fifth among a top-heavy shortstop position in 2010.
39. Brian Roberts —2B—Baltimore Orioles
While Roberts has been a very dependable fantasy option each of the last five years, two elements of his game appear to be heading in very different directions. Since 2007, his stolen base total has dropped by exactly 10 each year; starting at 50 in ‘07, to 40 in ‘08, to 30 in ‘09.
Oddly enough, his slugging percentage and isolated power (SLG% minus AVG) have increased progressively each of the last four years. In addition to this, Roberts set career highs in runs (110) and RBI (79) last season.
While the 32-year-old’s speed is obviously deteriorating, another 30-steal season appears well within reach. His improving power, however, has likely topped out.
Balimore President Andy MacPhail has collected an interesting mix of talent, youth, and experience this offseason, providing Roberts with another opportunity to score 100-plus runs in 2010.
This, in addition to approximately 13 dingers, 30 steals, and a .290 average, make Roberts the fifth-ranked player at second base this season.
40. Dan Haren —SP—Arizona Diamondbacks
Surprisingly enough, Dan Haren has logged no less than 216 innings in each of the last five seasons.
In addition to this, the 29-year-old appears to be getting better each year. Since 2007, Haren has improved his K/9, BB/9, K/BB, BAA (batting average against), and WHIP progressively each season.
While there’s a good chance Haren has reached his ceiling, there’s little evidence to show any signs of a sudden decline. Given 33 starts, Haren should post numbers worthy of a top-six pick among starting pitchers.
Expect no worse than a 3.50 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 200 strikeouts.
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