It's that time of the year again. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to their spring facilities and Opening Day is knocking on the door. Ah, the sweet smell of fantasy baseball is running through the air.
There are many questions to be answered and many mock drafts to complete. Now is the time to try to determine which players will be drafted when and prepare yourself for fantasy domination.
To get myself ready for this season, I figured what would be better than completely a 12-team mock draft...against myself. I have laid out for you how I see a draft panning out and where you can expect each player to fall. This is a perfect cheat sheet for the big draft day. We all know the key to drafting is knowing when to pull the trigger and when to let a player slide and then pick them up on the back end.
This was no easy task, but one that will extremely beneficial down the line.
With the first pick in the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft, Team 1 selects... Albert Pujols.
Did you expect it to go any other way? There is nothing scarier in baseball than Albert Pujols in a contract year. This guy is amazing. If the Cardinals let him walk, they will be in the cellar for years to come.
Let's not try to get cute and take anyone else other than Pujols with the first selection in your draft. In 2010, he hit .312 with 42 round-trippers and 118 RBIs. What is there not to love?
All players know that the year before you contract expires is the year to put up your biggest season. GM's are all about, "What have you done lately," and there is no better way to prove your worth than to hit Free Agency like a tsunami.
Albert Pujols is in his prime at 31-years-old and he will be going into this season looking to prove that he deserves the biggest contract that the MLB has ever seen. Draft him with confidence.
Next off the board is Adrian Gonzalez. He might be coming off shoulder surgery, but at 28-years-old, his body will recover quickly. This Boston Red Sox lineup looks, on paper, to be scary good. Fenway Park is known to be God's gift to left-handed hitters and Gonzalez is an elite hitting first basemen.
Gonzalez hit 46 dingers in 2007. I wouldn't be surprised if he belts close to 50 this year and knocks in 130 RBIs. That might be a bit of a leap, but he has that kind of power. His swing is perfect for Fenway.
With a BA that will hover around .300 and a hitters behind him like Youkilis that can hit him in with ease, Gonzalez could eclipse 100 runs scored as well.
If Pujols in a contract year is a match made in heaven, A-Gonz in Fenway is a almost as lethal.
Miguel Cabrera had an MVP-type season last year and could have won it if the Tigers didn't play so poorly down the stretch. I expect the same type of performance from him in 2011, warranting him the No. 3 overall selection.
Notice a trend here? Power hitting first basemen should be the first ones to come off the board. They are at a premium and are the best all-around players, outside of steals. This is exactly why these types of players will be the first ones drafted.
Since coming over from Florida in 2008, Cabrera has been a monster. Even in a park that is not too hitter-friendly, Miguel manages just fine. Over the last four seasons, he has averaged 36 HRs, 119 RBIs, a .316 BA and 96 runs scored. Talk about a guy that can cover all of your fantasy categories.
Cabrera might have lost Johnny Damon in the offseason and Magglio Ordonez is a shell of what he used to be, but with up and coming players like Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn, Cabrera will have plenty of opportunities to cause some damage in 2011.
Hanley Ramirez is the next to be drafted. This five-tool player can do it all. He can hit for average, .300 in 2011, hit the long ball, 21 HRs last season and steal bases, 32 in 2011. You could make a case for him to be the first man selected in your draft.
Ramirez is the best fantasy shortstop out there. His position is not a deep one either, making him that much more valuable.
The Marlins lost a few key pieces this offseason, mainly Dan Uggla, but Ramirez will still produce.
Did I forget to mention that he is 27-years-old, which is usually the age where we see players make their biggest jump in production. The sky is the limit for this stud.
Now we see the first third baseman come off the board. Evan Longoria is the next to be selected. Longoria will be relied on heavily going into 2011 since the Carlos Pena is no longer in a Rays uniform. Regardless of the fact that the Rays look to be a little depleted going into Opening Day, Longoria is still a young star who has not reached his full potential.
22 HRs was a slight drop-off from 2009, but his BA jumped up 15 points. I see Longoria hovering right around .300 in 2011 with his homerun total reaching at least 30.
Experts seem to be sleeping on the Rays this year with the splash the Red Sox made in the offseason, so Longoria is flying slightly under the radar. Don't let him pass you by come draft day.
Robinson Cano was a steal in last years draft as he was selected in the early-to-middle rounds, but produced like a No. 1 overall selection. Sliding into the five-hole in the powerful Yankee lineup paid dividends to the Yankees as well as lucky fantasy owners who drafted Cano.
Cano won't steal you any bases like Ramirez, but he will hit for average, hitting .320 and .319 in his last two seasons respectively, he'll knock in runs and score runs. In 2010, Robby knocked in 109 Yanks and touched home 103 times. Pretty nice stats right there.
Another season in the five spot will once again pay off, as Cano will have plenty of opportunities to produce another MVP-caliber season in the Bronx.
Carl Crawford will have a great season in his first year for the Red Sox. He will be followed by players in the lineup who can knock him in when he gets on and guys will be hitting ahead of him that are able to get into scoring position.
Crawford will be up near the top of the league in stolen bases and will have a career year in the homerun department. He, just like Gonzalez, will benefit from being a lefty in a hitter-friendly stadium. He will also eclipse 100 RBIs for the first time in his career.
If you thought Crawford had his best days in Tampa, prepare to eat your words in 2011.
The reining 2010 NL MVP is finally drafted. Do I expect Votto to match his 2010 totals. No. Will he have another phenomenal season for the Reds. Of course.
Once again we find ourselves with another player who is at that perfect age. The 27-year old Votto will once again hit near .320 and bash over 30 HRs. He is the perfect anchor to a fantasy team, but owners could be skeptical that he will warrant a first round selection. Do not hesitate to take him.
Votto and the Reds are a team of blossoming young stars. He is the real deal and will produce, once again, at an elite level.
Even though the pitching position is deep, Roy Halladay warrants a first round selection. He pitches in the National League and is on one of the best teams in the majors.
A repeat of a 21-win season is a reality. This team is a potent group of young stars and seasoned veterans. Halladay's ERA in 2011 was a minuscule 2.44 coupled with a ridiculous 1.04 WHIP. Even if you only get Halladay twice a week at most, his numbers will provide a nice solid base for your weekly matchup.
Roy Halladay was dominant for the Jays two years ago and was lights out for the Phillies in 2010. Expect the same in 2011.
Going back to the trend of corner infielders being a hot commodity, David Wright is the next player chosen.
Coming off a bounce-back 2010 campaign, Wright will continue to excel in 2011. Slugging 29 HRs in Citi Field is no easy task. Just ask Jason Bay. Wright's BA might have slipped to .282, but his career average is .305, so consider 2010 an outlier and the steady hitting will resume.
He is a lock for 100 RBIs and can even steal you some bases. A solid third baseman is a key factor for a solid fantasy baseball season as the discrepancy between players is vast. David Wright will be a lock for fantasy stardom in 2011.
Carlos Gonzalez had an incredible 2010 season. He was a popular sleeper pick going into last year and surpassed everyone's expectations. A Triple Crown candidate, CarGo finished with a .336 BA, 34 HRs and 117 RBIs. Just to top it off, he stole 26 bases and scored 111 runs.
Just like Votto, I do not expect Gonzalez to replicate these numbers. That will be asking way too much. If he comes close, fantasy owners will be extremely happy.
Calling Coors Field his home will only help to keep his long-ball total close to where it was in 2010. There is no doubt that he will hit over .300 again and will have plenty of opportunities to pile up the RBIs with the power-packed lineup he finds himself in.
At 25-years-old, CarGo has only tapped into his talent and in a second full season with the Rockies he will once again be fantasy gold.
Keeping things in Colorado, Troy Tulowitzki is the second shortstop taken.
If Tulo was on your fantasy roster come playoff time, you were a lock for the championship. No one played at the same level that he was playing on come August and September. He hit .351 and .322 respectively in those months and launched 13 homeruns. He was a on tear that was unheard of.
The downside to Tulo is the fact that it is a given that he won't give you a full season. He is destined for a stint on the DL each year. Hey, if you can deal with that, great. The type of numbers he is capable of producing make him worth the risk.
Even in only 122 games, he still managed to hit .315 with 27 HRs and 95 RBIs. Not to shabby.
Tulowitzki is worth the risk. He can produce at an elite level even at less than 100 percent.
Team 12: Ryan Zimmerman 3B, Nationals
Team 11: Alex Rodriguez 3B, Yankees
Team 10: Ryan Braun OF, Brewers
Team 9: Matt Holiday OF, Cardinals
Team 8: Chase Utley, 2B Phillies
Team 7: Tim Lincecum P, Giants
Team 6: Felix Hernandez P, Mariners
Team 5: Josh Hamilton OF, Rangers
Team 4: Mark Teixeira 1B, Yankees
Team 3: Cliff Lee P, Phillies
Team 2: Matt Kemp OF, Dodgers
Team 1: Jose Bautista OF, Blue Jays
This round was more about the outfielders than anything else. Braun was the first outfielder taken in round two and rightfully so. Hitting .304 with 25 HRs and 103 RBIs is deserving of an early selection.
Three pitchers were also taken, including World Series MVP Tim Lincecum, who seemed to find his deadly stuff again during the playoffs, King Felix, the reining AL Cy Young winner and Halladay's second in command, Cliff Lee. All three of these pitchers will look to repeat their dominance and will be lined up for success.
The biggest risk was Jose Bautista. Even though he is coming off a 54 HR season, his highest total before that was 16. Could he have been a one-year-wonder?
Team 1: Kevin Youkilis 3B, Red Sox
Team 2: Joe Mauer C, Twins
Team 3: Nelson Cruz OF, Rangers
Team 4: Shin Soo Choo OF, Indians
Team 5: Prince Fielder 1B, Brewers
Team 6: Adrian Beltre 3B, Rangers
Team 7: Dan Uggla 2B, Braves
Team 8: Andrew McCutchen OF, Pirates
Team 9: Adam Dunn DH, White Sox
Team 10: Jon Lester P, Red Sox
Team 11: Ryan Howard 1B, Phillies
Team 12: Jayson Werth OF, Nationals
In this round we see Joe Mauer come off the board who is looking to get back to his MVP form after missing a few games in 2010. He still managed to hit an impressive .327 and with Morneau back in the lineup, he will have more protection around him.
Dan Uggla is a player I love going into 2011 as well as Prince Fielder. One player was just paid and has to live up to his massive deal, while the other is in a contract year and will be looking to prove how much he is worth. Expect big things from both of these young players.
Jayson Werth could be a bust going into 2011 due to the fact that he no longer has Howard and Utley to protect him in the lineup. Ryan Zimmerman is there, but will Werth live up to his mega deal?
Team 12: Adam Wainwright P, Cardinals
Team 11: Justin Verlander P, Tigers
Team 10: Jose Reyes SS, Mets
Team 9: Ubaldo Jimenez P, Rockies
Team 8: CC Sabathia P, Yankees
Team 7: Derek Jeter SS, Yankees
Team 6: Ichiro Suzuki OF, Mariners
Team 5: Justin Upton OF, Diamondbacks
Team 4: Zach Greinke P, Brewers
Team 3: Jason Heyward OF, Braves
Team 2: Dustin Pedroia 2B, Red Sox
Team 1: Brandon Phillips 2B, Reds
What we see here is a run on quality pitchers. Let's just call round four the round of the ace. With Wainwright, Verlander, Sabathia, Jimenez and Greinke coming off the board, we see teams trying to make sure that they have a stud pitcher on their roster. Out of these five players, I think Greinke will perform the best. Moving into the National League will only help this young gun put up Cy Young caliber stats. That is if he doesn't allow his head to get the best of him.
Derek Jeter could be a reach, but he will come back with a chip on his shoulder looking to prove that 2010 was a fluke. He has been working with Kevin Long exclusively this offseason even before spring training to get his swing short and compact. Hey, Long did wonders with Granderson and Swisher.
Team 1: Victor Martinez C, Tigers
Team 2: Tommy Hanson P, Braves
Team 3: Clayton Kershaw P, Dodgers
Team 4: Rickie Weeks 2B, Brewers
Team 5: Jimmy Rollins SS, Phillies
Team 6: Justin Morneau 1B, Twins
Team 7: Buster Posey C, Giants
Team 8: Andre Ethier OF, Dodgers
Team 9: Ian Kinsler 2B, Rangers
Team 10: Alex Rios OF. White Sox
Team 11: Brian McCann C, Braves
Team 12: Kendry Morales 1B, Angels
What could come off as risky here is the selection of Justin Morneau and Kendry Morales who are both coming off season-ending injuries. Morneau missed the entire second half of the season with a concussion and Morales broke his leg celebrating a walk off homerun. It has been reported that both of these players will report to spring training with their teammates and should be good to go in 2011. Still risky, but worth a gamble.
Buster Posey had a phenomenal rookie season, hitting .305 with 18 HRs, but will he be subject to the sophomore slump? Just something that is worth thinking about.
Team 12: Mariano Rivera P, Yankees
Team 11: Hunter Pence OF, Astros
Team 10: Michael Young DH, Rangers
Team 9: Shane Victorino OF, Phillies
Team 8: Carlos Santana C, Indians
Team 7: B.J. Upton OF, Rays
Team 6: Mike Stanton OF, Marlins
Team 5: Heath Bell P, Padres
Team 4: Mat Latos P, Padres
Team 3: Stephen Drew SS, Diamondbacks
Team 2: Chris Carpenter P, Cardinals
Team 1: Colby Rasmus OF, Cardinals
The first closers come off the board in Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell. Both pitchers had phenomenal season and would be a great asset to bolster a roster looking to maintain a low WHIP and ERA. Even though Rivera is up there in age, he can still get it done with the best of them.
Stephen Drew is one of my breakout players for 2011. He is at the breakout age of 27 and plays in a launching pad in Arizona. He is a player to keep your eye on in your drafts.
The same goes for Mike Stanton and Carlos Santana. Both of these players were rookies last year, but will be poised for a breakout season. Stanton is mauler at the plate, sending 22 pitches into the seats in 2010. Look for that number to increase drastically. Santana's season was cut short due to a season-ending injury, but he has the potential to be a star on a lowly Cleveland roster.
Team 1: Alexei Ramirez SS, White Sox
Team 2: Casey McGehee 3B, Brewers
Team 3: Corey Hart OF, Brewers
Team 4: Drew Stubbs OF, Reds
Team 5: Kelly Johnson 2B, Diamondbacks
Team 6: Jered Weaver P, Angels
Team 7: Yovani Gallardo P, Brewers
Team 8: Cole Hamels P, Phllies
Team 9: Chris Young OF, Diamondbacks
Team 10: Josh Johnson P, Marlins
Team 11: Brian Wilson P, Giants
Team 12: Chad Billingsley P, Dodgers
The Reds seemed to be packed with players who are on the brink of breaking out. Last year it was Joey Votto, this year it will be Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is a five-tool guy who can hit it out of the park, steal bases and knock in runs. His average will improve with plate maturity—it was only .255 in 2010.
The same can be said for Chris Young. Another star in the making who is, you guessed it, 27-years-old. I'm telling you, it is the magic number. Young hit .257 with 27 HRs and 28 SBs. His average was .257, but has increased each year.
Be on the look out for these middle-round fliers.
Team 12: Curtis Granderson OF, Yankees
Team 11: Brett Gardner OF, Yankees
Team 10: Paul Konerko 1B, White Sox
Team 9: Pedro Alvarez 3B, Pirates
Team 8: Elvis Andrus SS, Rangers
Team 7: Martin Prado 2B/3B, Braves
Team 6: Delmon Young OF, Twins
Team 5: Michael Bourn OF, Astros
Team 4: David Price P, Rays
Team 3: Brian Roberts 2B, Orioles
Team 2: Vernon Wells OF, Angels
Team 1: Roy Oswalt P, Phillies
Both Vernon Wells and Brian Roberts came off the board in this round, but both are risky picks. Wells is coming off one of his best seasons, hitting .273 with 31 HRs, but can you really expect him to do that again at 32-years-old? This could be a situation where the Angels brought in a player past him prime with a lofty contract to deal with. Roberts is a great player who can score runs and steal bases, but only when he is healthy. Roberts missed almost the entire 2010 season. Can a 33-year-old really be trusted to produce at a young man's position?
On the other hand, Pedro Alvarez is a nice pick up. He is one of the two Pirates that is acutally fantasy-worthy. Coming off a rookie season where he hit .256 with 16 HRs, I can see a spike in production to come with a full season under his belt.
Team 1: Franciso Liriano P, Twins
Team 2: Tori Hunter OF, Angels
Team 3: Joakim Soria P, Royals
Team 4: Neftali Feliz P, Rangers
Team 5: Wandy Rodriguez P, Astros
Team 6: Gordon Beckham 2B, White Sox
Team 7: Max Scherzer P, Tigers
Team 8: Jonathan Papelbon P, Red Sox
Team 9: Aubrey Huff 1B, Giants
Team 10: Mark Reynolds 3B, Orioles
Team 11: Carlos Marmol P, Cubs
Team 12: Rajai Davis OF, Blue Jays
Neftali Feliz has potential to be one of the best, if not the best closer in 2011. He is young and has a rocket of an arm. His 40 saves in 2010 is incredible for it being only his first full season as a closer. The Rangers will continue to put up runs and win games, leaving plenty of save opportunities on the table for Feliz.
A slight risk could be the pick of Aubrey Huff. Huff had his best season since 2008, but is nearing the end of his career. Could his 2010 season just have been part of all that magic in San Fran?
Team 5 took their first starter in round nine. Wandy Rodriguez had a brilliant 2010. His 11-12 record is just due to bad luck since he is stuck on the lowly Astros, but his 3.60 ERA and 1.29 WHIP is a steal in this round. This goes to show you just how deep pitching really is.
Team 12: Pablo Sandoval 3B, Giants
Team 11: Rafael Furcal SS, Dodgers
Team 10: Jonathan Sanchez P, Giants
Team 9: Francisco Rodriguez P, Mets
Team 8: Adam Jones OF, Orioles
Team 7: Daniel Hudson P, Diamondbacks
Team 6: Ted Lilly P, Dodgers
Team 5: Clay Buchholz P, Red Sox
Team 4: Bobby Abreu OF, Angels
Team 3: Matt Garza P, Cubs
Team 2: Angel Pagan OF, Mets
Team 1: Andrew Bailey P, Athletics
Adam Jones might have failed to meet the lofty expectations surrounding him in 2010, but with Buck Showalter calling the shots, Jones will become the All-Star he was in 2009. He will be able to limit his strikeouts and will boost his BA up to .300 to go along with his 20 HRs.
Clay Buchholz and Matt Garza are both great picks in round 10. Garza was a stud for the Rays in 2010 and will have an even better 2011 in the National League with the Cubs. Buchholz had a ridiculous 2.77 ERA in 2010 with a 17-7 record. He could be a dark horse for the Cy Young in 2011.
Another nice pick is Daniel Hudson. He flew under the radar in 2010, but his stats speak volumes. His 8-2 record, 2.45 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are incredible for a rookie. He also held hitters to a .202 BA. This kid has a high ceiling and needs to be on your roster this year.
Brandon Morrow P, Blue Jays
Ben Zobrist 2B/OF, Rays
John Danks P, White Sox
Howie Kendrick 2B, Angels
David Ortiz DH, Red Sox
Mike Napoli C, Rangers
Jeremy Hellickson P, Rays
Nick Markakis OF, Orioles
Francisco Cordero P, Reds
Chone Figgins 3B, Mariners
With only 10 rounds done of this mock draft, plenty of fantasy worthy players are still left to be selected. Brandon Morrow is a young flamethrower for the Blue Jays who is a strike out machine. He pitched a one hitter in 2010 and mowed down 17 Rays. His ERA needs to come down from the 4.49 that it was last season, but as he matures at the rubber, it will drastically decrease.
Jeremy Hellickson is a young gunslinger for the Rays who need their young prospects to step up with a few of their big time players leaving during the offseason. Hellickson will be the guy to fill the void left by Matt Garza. His 3.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP are pretty incredible for a young rookie pitcher in the tough AL East.
I also suspect Nick Markakis to have a big year due to the acquisitions of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds. These new O's will provide plenty of RBI opportunities and protection in the lineup for Markakis. He will continue to hover around .300, but his 60 RBIs and 79 runs will definitely increase.