Over the past few seasons, we have grown accustomed to several constants in fantasy baseball.
#1: Albert Pujols is the top 1B
#2: Chase Utley is the top 2B
#3: Alex Rodriguez is the top 3B
#4: Hanley Ramirez is the top SS
However, due to the unforeseen volatility of the 2010 season, the baseball world has been turned upside down and the young up-and-comers have dethroned the aging elite.
The 2011 fantasy draft is a particularly hard one to predict. There are so many young stars (Posey, Cano, and Tulowitzki) throughout the league that it has become difficult to determine who should be drafted and when.
Despite all of these rising questions, one thing still remains constant: Albert Pujols is the top draft pick.
After that, the real question is: Who do you take next?
The following slide show will point out the hardest positions to draft for the following season while pointing out several key strategies that every owner should take into consideration on draft day.
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Taking Prince Fielder later in the draft could help you focus on other positions while drafting
Every year, first base dominates the first few rounds of the draft, and justifiably so. In standard scoring leagues last season, 8 of the top 20 position players played 1B, 6 of which were drafted within the first 2 rounds.
What does this mean?
First base is one of the most important positions on your fantasy team. However, this does NOT mean that it should be the first position that you target on draft day.
In 2010, the difference between the third highest scorer, Joey Votto, and the seventh highest scorer, Adrian Gonzalez, was twelve percent. Throw in an injured Kevin Youkilis and Justin Morneau into the mix, and you have 9 players of the same position who can put up very similar statistics throughout the course of the year.
Is it really that important to get Joey Votto in the second round as opposed to getting Prince Fielder or Justin Morneau in the sixth round? I don’t think so
Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson can strike out the competition
Drafting a closer should not be at the top of your priority list come draft day. There are thirty closers in the MLB so in standard ten, twelve, or fourteen team leagues, there should be more than enough to fill your rosters.
The problem with drafting closers is that most of the time, it is up to the team to decide whether or not the closer will get a save situation. Mariano Rivera is one of the top closers in the game but if the Yankees score too many runs, he will not get a chance to rack up the saves. On the flip side, a pitcher like Brian Wilson may be a safe bet because the Giants typically play in tight games with close scores.
With that said, there are still many closers to go around. You should focus your attention to more pressing matters such as filling your rosters or trying to draft those late round sleepers that will win you your league.
Scherzer can be one of the next elite pitchers to emerge in 2011
Although starting pitching is a very important position for your fantasy team, stud pitchers could be found nearly anywhere in the draft. Take last year for example: players like Mat Latos, Phil Hughes and David Price were just a few of the pitchers who were drafted late only to finish the season as some of the top producers.
You can’t go wrong with drafting Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay because you know exactly what you are getting with them. However, there are many hurlers that can be taken in the later rounds of the draft that can give you more value for your picks.
Pitchers like Max Scherzer, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Anderson are just some of the few sleepers that you can get in the later portions of the draft that could potentially be impact pitchers for your team. Don't worry about missing out on the so called 'elite', there are plenty of them scattered throughout the draft.
On a new team, Rajai Davis can be a great late round pickup
Unlike first basemen, who get you your points by hitting homeruns and racking up the RBIs, outfielders typically get you your points in a variety of ways. The superstars in the OF typically hit for a high average while providing an above average homerun, stolen base, and run total.
As previously mentioned, 8 of the top 20 position players in 2010 were first basemen. 9 of the remaining 12 players could be found in the outfield—demonstrating that the OF is just as important, if not more important, than first base.
Unlike first base, there is a significant drop-off after the first few players. After the likes of Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, and Ryan Braun are off the board with the first few picks, you have to start settling for second-tier players such as Nelson Cruz, Alex Rios, and Jason Werth a few rounds down the road.
However, even though you may miss out on the top flight outfielders, the playing field is level enough where the production of a player you may find in the sixth round (BJ Upton) is not so different than a player you may find in the eleventh round (Torii Hunter) or even the thirteenth round (Rajai Davis).
As a result, don’t fret if you feel like you are missing out on premier outfielders, there are plenty to go around.
Can Pablo Sandoval return to his 2009 form?
Do you remember the day when third base was considered deep?
With players switching positions (Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun), sporadic power numbers (David Wright 2009), injury problems (Alex Rodriguez) and too many big macs (Pablo Sandoval), third base is one of the hardest positions to draft.
There are 3 consensus top picks at the third base position—Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and Alex Rodriguez. After these players, there are more questions than answers.
Will Beltre replicate his power numbers NOT in a contract year?
Will David Wright hit for power at Citibank Field?
Will Pablo Sandoval shed the pounds?
Third base is a tricky position to draft for so it may be worth spending a high draft pick on some of the top third basemen to avoid any uncertainty and risk.
Sorry Chase Utley, there is a new sheriff in town
2010 was simple, if you miss out on Chase Utley with your first overall pick, you don’t have to worry about a second basemen for the next couple rounds.
This year gets a little more complicated—Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia had injury plagued years, Rickie Weeks FINALLY had a breakout season and Robinson Cano transformed into an MVP candidate.
This year’s class is worth keeping an eye on. You have your premiere second basemen—Cano, Utley and Pedroia, who will be drafted within the first 2 rounds. After that, you have your second tier of players (Uggla, Phillips, and Weeks) who are taken on average around the 5th round.
If you miss out on these players, the second base position could very well become the Achilles heel of your fantasy team and you may have to settle for the likes of Ben Zobrist and Howie Kendrick at the end of the draft.
Santana could be a great pick for your fantasy team
It seems like there are so many emerging stars at the catcher position. Apart from the obvious players such as Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez, many teams have invested first round draft picks in finding the next great offensive catcher.
Players such as Buster Posey and Carlos Santana are on the fast-track to becoming some of the game’s elite. Other players like Matt Wieters, J.P. Arencibia and Jesus Montero are all ready to live up to the hype.
Although it may seem like there are many players that could be labeled as ‘sleepers’ for the 2011 season, only a few catchers could be categorized as an ‘impact player’. Joe Mauer tops the list but many question his power potential and ability to stay healthy. Victor Martinez follows him and may seem like a worthwhile pick, but we can only hope that the catcher’s legs don’t give out on the 32 year old.
With questions surrounding these top 2 catchers, a rising star like Buster Posey could be the top catcher in this up-and-coming fantasy draft.
If only Tulo is able to stay healthy...
Shortstop is the hardest position to draft for the 2011 fantasy season. The once consistent Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes have fallen off of the fantasy radar, and the aging Derek Jeter does not seem like the player he was a few years ago. With no rising superstars at the position, shortstop is shaping up to be the thinnest position in the draft.
Hanley Ramirez is the top consensus shortstop in the draft, with Troy Tulowitzki shortly after him. Hanley has been consistently great over the past few seasons, and Troy has shown flashes of brilliance and should be ready to become elite if he can somehow manage to put together an entire season without getting injured.
After these two players are drafted, there is a significant drop-off in production and no one seems to want to separate themselves from the pack.
Do you go with an injury prone Jose Reyes in the fourth round?
How about the powerless Elvis Andrus in the sixth round?
Does the young Alexis Ramirez sound like a good late round option?
After Hanley and Troy are picked in the first round, the shortstop position gets difficult to draft. The difference from Elvis Andrus to Derek Jeter to Rafael Furcal doesn’t really matter. If you happen to miss out on the premiere players at the shortstop position in this year’s draft, don’t worry. Try to focus on other positions so you don’t miss out on another impact player elsewhere.