Now that football is finally over, the most exciting three months NOT during the baseball season have finally started. The final transactions are taking place, depth charts are being finalized and pitching rotations are being sorted out.
For now, though, let's have a look at the top 25 players that you will want on your fantasy team come April.
There have been significant talks with several teams about getting Prince out of Milwaukee. They obviously don't realize that putting him in a lineup with Braun, Hart, Weeks and McGehee will continue to form as one of the most fearsome lineups in the National League.
Even though Prince's average was down a little bit last year, the mound changes throughout the NL Central will be an interesting marker to see which road he is headed down.
Despite playing only 115 games last year, Utley was relatively unnoticed in Philly. His 16 homers and 65 RBI's were his lowest since 2004. There's no question, though, that Utley is always one of the highest drafted second basemen in the league and there are few at his position who can top his power numbers.
I would expect Utley to hit around 30 home runs this year and maybe break 100 RBI's for the fifth time in his career. The City of Brotherly Love has one hell of a season coming up.
Perhaps the most underrated player on this list, Shin Soo-Choo, despite playing on an awful team, really made a mark on his overall batting ability. His .300 average, 22 homers and 22 stolen bases joins Hanley Ramirez and Carlos Gonzalez as the only players from 2010 with a 20/20 season and a .300 bat. That's quite the group that Choo has joined.
Hopefully the Tribe can get some sparks out of their young bats and bring Cleveland back to a competitive stand in the AL Central.
The newly acquired South Sider solidified one of the top lineups in the major leagues. Grouped with Konerko, Rios, Quentin, Pierre and Alexei Ramirez, the Sox are the team to be feared in the AL Central. Dunn's numbers a season ago were relatively consistent to what he has been hitting ever since 2004.
The only obvious downside to Dunn is his huge strikeout total, as he has clipped the 190 strikeout total three times in his career, and had 199 last season. Since he will be a DH most of the season, Dunn will be able to focus solely on his hitting and smacking at least 40 home runs out of hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
In my opinion, he one of the most underrated players in baseball, and this star corner stud has continued to make Beantown a city with a team to fear. Youkilis played 102 games last year, but his 19 homers and 77 runs showed that he was off to a killer finish. Had he played 155 games, he would have had 28 homers and a whopping 117 runs!
Youk will be in a lineup with perhaps the best mix of players that Boston has seen in an awfully long time. I see Youkilis making a huge push for MVP this season.
Nobody would expect to say that 31 homers and 108 RBI's was a "quiet" year for Ryan Howard, but it certainly was. Since he did amass an average of 50 homers and 143 RBI's from 2006-2009, Howard has not been getting as much in-season recognition as one would expect. His MVP award from 2006 and top 10 finishes ever since then shows that he still has the consistency to be the one of the best power hitters in the league.
Like Dunn, Howard has strikeout issues, as he has had 190 strikeouts two times and both times maxed out at 199.
After a miserable .199 AVG, three HR and nine RBI in 41 games for the Sox in 2009, Rios became one of the best all-around hitters in the game last year. Clearly you can see his above-average average, solid power numbers and towering stolen base numbers makes him a threat in all aspects of the game. He and Drew Stubbs were the only two players with 30 stolen bases and 20 home runs. Now I bet that's a combo you never expected.
Don't look passed Rios, as Ozzie has high hopes for this guy in 2011 and he should be a third or fourth round draft pick.
With only 81 games under his 2010 campaign belt, Justin Morneau put up unbelievable numbers. The concussion that sidelined him for the rest of a season didn't kill the rest of the Twins' clubhouse, as they won the Central, but throwing Morneau back into the 2011 mix will make for much deadlier power combo with Kubel, Delmon Young and Thome.
Since it is fun to do, if Morneau had played 155 games, his numbers would linger around 34 homers and 107 RBI's. While those numbers are relatively close to his 2006 MVP numbers, Morneau will have to really impress after a tough miss to last season's second half.
How Ichiro has had 10 seasons of over 200 hits, I don't know. How he has managed to hit .300 all of those seasons, I don't know. How he has won only ONE MVP, I really don't know. The most consistent hitter of the past decade is making a move to become the best hitter of all time not named Ted Williams.
The feats that Ichiro has achieved since crossing the pond are beyond all imagination. His 214 hits last season, which led the league, were 48 less than his record 262 in 2004. There's no question that Ichiro will have another record breaking season, and hopefully Seattle won't be such a miserable team in 2011.
P.S. You may have already known this, but Ichiro is the only player in HISTORY to win the MVP, ROTY, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and start in the All-Star Game all in the same year!
I believe that the Braves picking up Dan Uggla was the most underrated transaction in the NL offseason. A guy whose numbers are about equivalent to that of Chase Utley has continued to make the NL East one of the tightest divisions in the major leagues. He joined Robinson Cano as the only second basemen to hit .280 with over 20 homers and over 100 RBI's.
Losing Uggla will be a huge loss for the Marlins, as now they really don't have a huge power number player. I have no doubt that Uggla and Utley will make the second base NL Silver Slugger race very interesting.
Even though Teixeira had the lowest average of his career last year, he still produced power numbers that we have seen ever since 2004. He has hit over 30 homers and 100 RBI's in seven straight seasons and only a handful of guys can say they've done that.
With the decline of A-Rod in sight and the Red Sox on the extreme high rise, I see Teixeira taking over the Yankees and possibly becoming the next leader of this legendary team. Don't pass on him in fantasy because he has consistently hit above .300, so remember, last year's average was a fluke.
This may be the season that Matt Holliday becomes the star of St. Louis. If things don't work out for Pujols, this team will belong to Holliday. After having just an average year last season, Holliday did make his way to 12th place in the NL MVP race. One can only imagine that if he hits in 2011 like he did in 2007, with a .340 AVG, 36 HR, 137 RBI and 386 TB, what kind of UNBELIEVABLE duo he and Pujols would make. That combo would be near equivalent to Manny and Ortiz.
Do not pass on Holliday in your draft this year. I feel his best in St. Louis is yet to come.
As a player with one of the best finishes to the 2010 season, David Wright had the quietest year we have seen from him. Even though his average was a career low, Wright still posted power numbers that could have put him in talks for Silver Slugger.
The Mets had a whole ton of distractions last year and it looks like Wright was buying into it for the first few months of the season. Now that his buddy Jose Reyes is back and the young guys in Ike Davis and Angel Pagan are starting to look like sleepers, and they should help Wright return to near-MVP form.
I personally can't stand Mauer. Seeing a guy who can kill you for contact and has one of the best defensive abilities in the league just makes for a player that I don't want to play against. He did have quite a slump year last season after hitting .365 in 2009 and winning the AL MVP. It may have been the loss of Justin Morneau that kept Mauer out of his hot hitting.
Even though he did hit a minuscule nine home runs in 137 games last year, his 28 homers in 138 games shows that Mauer does have lots of power behind that average.
If Tim Lincecum is a freak on the mound, this guy became a freak during the last two months of the season in 2010. Hitting .303 with 15 homers and 40 RBI's helped him finish off perhaps one of the best months in MLB history. Who would have thought that playing in only 122 games would keep Tulowitzki from finishing off this strong.
Once again, had Tulo played 155 games, he would have had 34 home runs and a stellar 120 RBI's. Expect great things from this kid, because he and his buddy coming up soon will be a killer 3-4 in the lineup.
The second biggest pick up for the Red Sox has finally filled the power role that they have lost since Manny left. His Padres team, which was terrible up until last year, saw Adrian putting up MVP like numbers. As he did finish fourth in the MVP race in 2010, there's no question that Gonzalez has the ability to make a difference as he brings his talents to Boston.
He's averaged 32 home runs and 99 RBI's over seven seasons, and the only way to keep them growing is to throw him in a lineup with other huge home run hitters.
This guy is just flat out unreal. He does not get nearly the respect that he should. Relatively shadowed by Prince Fielder, Braun can do just as much at the plate as his 270 pound first basemen. Braun has hit over 25 home runs in all four seasons of his young career and had 203 hits in 2009, which led the National League.
I can tell you now that this is Braun's year and the Hebrew Hammer will finally earn the recognition that he has worked for. Obviously winning his third Silver Slugger was fantastic, but this stud is definitely eying bigger hardware.
The relatively surprising winner of the MVP award last season has a lot on his plate for 2011. His .359 average and 1.044 OPS were numbers that very few can match. In only 133 games, Hamilton put up power numbers that other guys couldn't put up in 150 games. It's obvious that this guy has a true gift and other than his phenomenal comeback to baseball, Josh Hamilton will have a storied career that will only get more interesting as he continues to shine.
Whether he is able to repeat last year, I have no idea, but there's no doubt that Hamilton will be talked about a lot this season, whether he's playing hot or not.
Who would have ever thought that Carlos Gonzalez was going to do what he did last year. Last year, ESPN had him ranked 137 of the top 200 fantasy players before the season. I'm sure they feel stupid now, as they now have him at number 11, only one ahead of Tulo.
I have premonitions that this Tulo/CarGo combo will be the non-juiced Big Papi/Manny duo. They both have insurmountable power and extreme speed on the base paths. Who the hell knows if CarGo can repeat in 2011 and if he does, there's a great chance that he'll be holding the MVP award at the end of the season.
I have always found Hanley a little bit overrated. I've never been too sold on Han-Ram's numbers, but it's the fact that he is one of the best average, power and speed players today. His power numbers last year were his lowest since '06 and the loss of Dan Uggla may pose as a problem for Ramirez this year.
The young stars on Florida, Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and others, will pose as a challenge for Ramirez when it comes to helping the young guys while producing his own numbers. There is certainly no doubt Hanley will be an All-Star, but the Silver Slugger and MVP awards seem a bit too farsighted for this shortstop.
Robinson Cano is the Lebron James of baseball. He's big, he's fast and he's super strong. I know second basemen never have to throw the ball more than 90 feet to first base, but the extreme ease that Cano does it with is one of a kind. His standout campaign a year ago has put him atop the charts for middle infielders.
Winning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, being an All-Star and being third in the MVP race makes him of just a handful of players to accomplish all of that in one season. I believe Cano is on the verge of greatness and that last year was just the beginning to a new era of stellar second basemen.
I was never really sold on Carl Crawford and really kind of felt that his paycheck was a bit too high. After looking at his stats, I came to a conclusion that when this guy is on, there is nobody who can match his ability. I remember seeing him hit an in the park home run at U.S. Cellular Field a while back and just the power and speed which he combines probably makes him the best overall hitter in the league.
Nineteen home runs certainly isn't bad, but his runs and stolen base totals put him near the top of the major leagues and the Red Sox are damn lucky to have this guy for the future.
Frankly, I was surprised and quite upset that Votto came out with the hardware this season. Certainly he did earn it, because he posted numbers relatively equivalent to those of Pujols, but the amazement that fans felt after seeing this guy hit was remarkable.
Were people really thinking that Joey Votto was going to win the MVP award last year? I knew he was going to be good, but certainly not that good. Like Cano, Votto is on a climb to his prime and more great things will come from this Cincinnati first basemen.
Miguel Cabrera, while always a powerful hitter, manages to consistently do things with the bat that not only help his team, but keep on pissing you off. It seemed like there were way too many times last year when Cabrera was going 3-for-4 or 4-for-5 in a game with several RBI's that would pad his stats like nobody's business.
As much as I despise him, I believe that Cabrera should have won the MVP last year because of how much longer he played over Hamilton in the season, and his numbers could have been substantially higher than Hamilton's. For some odd reason, Cabrera has never been a trade target and he will be the life of the Tigers for a few more years. There's no question he will be top five in every draft.
Was there any question of who would be No. 1?
Albert is the best player in the Major Leagues and in 10 years, we may very well be saying he's the best of all time. His storied 10 year career includes a miraculous .331 average, 42 home runs, 128 RBI's, a .426 OBP and a remarkable 67 strikeouts a season. I'm sure Babe just turned over in his grave once I mentioned that.
I strongly feel that Pujols will break Bonds' record and St. Louis better get their stuff straight, because there is no question that losing him would be an utter mistake.