2011 Fantasy Baseball Big Board Top 50: Is Cardinals' Albert Pujols Still No. 1?

Nick Kappel@@NickKappelAnalyst IIIFebruary 22, 2011

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 17: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits an RBI double against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium on September 17, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve announced the top 50 players on our 2011 big board. Click on each player’s name for a more in-depth analysis, including 2011 projections!

1. Albert Pujols (1B – STL): His career averages (119 runs, 41 HRs, 123 RBI, 8 steals, .331 batting average) haven’t been matched in a single season since Larry Walker posted a redonkulous 143/49/130/33/.366 line in 1997.

2. Hanley Ramirez (SS – FLA): His career averages (112 runs, 25 HRs, 78 RBI, 39 steals, .313 batting average) are jaw-dropping considering his position. However, the most impressive stat (and the one that separates him from Troy Tulowitzki) is that he’s averaged 152 games per season over the last five years.

3. Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET): Entering his age-28 season and still improving. He’s had 33 HRs in six of the last seven seasons and no less than 103 RBI and a .292 batting average in seven full seasons.

4. Troy Tulowitzki (SS – COL): He was the only shortstop to hit 25 HRs last season. Entering his age-26 season, he’s one of only two players at a thin position capable of a 30/20/.300 line.

5. Adrian Gonzalez (1B – BOS): His career home/road splits suggest 50 HRs/.315 batting average are entirely possible in Boston’s lineup.

6. David Wright (3B – NYM): Despite the strikeouts, he still has the 30/100/100/.300 potential that Longoria shares, only Wright is capable of adding 30 steals to the mix.

7. Evan Longoria (3B – TB): Career averages of 88 runs, 27 HRs, 101 RBI, 10 steals, .283 batting average at a surprisingly thin position. And he’s only 25.

8. Ryan Braun (OF – MIL): Improving plate discipline suggests possible improvement on three-year averages (102 runs, 31 HRs, 108 RBI, 16 steals, .303 batting average) in 2011.

9. Carl Crawford (OF – BOS): 20-HR, 50-steal, .300-average potential in Fenway.

10. Carlos Gonzalez (OF – COL): First player to post at least 35 HRs, 110 runs, 110 RBI, 25 steals and a .330 batting average since Ivan Rodriguez recorded a 35/116/113/25/.332 line in 1999 with the Texas Rangers.

11. Joey Votto (1B – CIN): His 2010 campaign was the first 35/100/100/15/.320 season from a first baseman not named Pujols since Derrek Lee posted a 45/120/107/15/.335 line in 2005.

12. Robinson Cano (2B – NYY): Has hit .297 or higher five times (in six seasons), and sports a career .309 batting average. His on-base percentage, slugging percentage, isolated power, fly ball percentage and HR/FB rate have all increased progressively over the last three seasons, and he’s has missed a grand total of eight games over the last four years.

13. Ryan Howard (1B – PHI): Four-year streak of at least 45 HRs and 136 RBI ended last year due to ankle injury that forced him to miss three weeks. Thirty-one-year-old’s contact rates are trending upward, while his strikeout rates are on the decline; he remains capable of 40 HRs and .275 batting average.

14. Alex Rodriguez (3B – NYY): Batting average and slugging percentage (and therefore his isolated power) have declined progressively over the last four years. Despite this, he’s managed to post 30 HRs and 100 RBI in 13 consecutive seasons.

15. Prince Fielder (1B – MIL): Since 2006, he’s produced HR totals of 28, 50, 34, 46 and 32, with RBI totals ranging from 81 (2006) to 141 (2009), while batting as low as .261 (2010) and as high as .299 (2009). Notwithstanding, he’s never missed more than five games in any of his first five seasons.

16. Matt Holliday (OF – STL): Despite playing the last two seasons in Oakland and St. Louis (not Colorado), his three-year averages (99 runs, 26 HRs, 100 RBI, 17 steals, .315 batting average) are better than those of Kemp, Hamilton and Upton.

17. Mark Teixeira (1B – NYY): Line-drive, fly-ball and strikeout rates are all trending in the wrong direction, which may help explain .256 batting average in 2010. 30 HRs and 100 RBI are near-locks, but a .300 average isn’t.

18. Matt Kemp (OF – LAD): BB/K ratio was 15th worst last season, while his strikeout rate was 12th highest, and his contact rate was the sixth lowest. BABIP 49 points below career average could explain his “down” season, but full potential won’t be reached without improved plate discipline.

19. Roy Halladay (SP – PHI): Five-year averages: 236 IP, 18 wins, 1.42 BB/9, 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. Entering age-34 season, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue dominance.

20. Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B – BOS): Increased OPS in each of his seven seasons. Better three-year batting average than Wright, Longoria, Rodriguez and Zimmerman. Three-year averages across the board top Zimmerman’s.

21. Dustin Pedroia (2B – BOS):  Was on pace for career-year before foot injury last season. Now fully recovered, the 27-year-old is primed for a 110/20/85/15/.300 season.

22. Chase Utley (2B – PHI): Averaged 151 games, 111 runs, 29 HRs, 101 RBI, 15 steals, .301 average from 2005 to 2009 before thumb injury forced him to miss seven weeks in 2010. Decline in batting average (.332, .292, .282, .275) in recent seasons is concerning, however.

23. Ryan Zimmerman (3B – WAS): Missed 20 games last season and 56 games in 2008; Werth and LaRoche will struggle to replace Dunn’s presence. However, the 26-year-old remains capable of 25 HRs and .300 at thin position.

24. Jose Reyes (SS – NYM): Averaged 113 runs, 14 HRs, 66 RBI, 65 steals, .287 batting average while missing a total of just 15 games from 2005 to 2008. Has missed 155 games over last two seasons, but remains capable of elite fantasy numbers given healthy Mets lineup.

25. Josh Hamilton (OF – TEX): Missed 73 games in 2009 and 29 games in 2010, but still posted MVP numbers. .390 BABIP (among other things), however, suggests a regression in 2011.

26. Shin-Soo Choo (OF – CLE): One of three players to post 20/20/.300 line in 2010. Given healthy returns from Sizemore and Santana, Choo could be just fourth 20/100/100/20/.300 player in last three years.

27. Adam Wainwright (SP – STL): Three-year averages in wins (17), BB/9 (2.36), ERA (2.68) and WHIP (1.14) are all better than those of Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez. Only pitcher in baseball last season to record a value of 10 runs above average with three different pitchers (fastball, slider, curveball).

28. Tim Lincecum (SP – SF): Regression in K/9, BB/9, HR/9, batting average against, ERA and WHIP last year after improving all categories in previous two seasons. Decrease in fastball velocity and fourth-least effective curveball also contributed to his 2010 decline. Throw out unlucky August, however, and his season ERA drops from 3.43 to 2.79.

29. Felix Hernandez (SP – SEA): Lowest ERA (2.27) in majors last year to go along with stellar peripherals: 8.36 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, .210 BAA, 1.06 WHIP. Low BABIP (.263) and sub-2.50 ERA curse, however, suggest regression in 2011.

30. Dan Uggla (2B – ATL): Most HRs among second-basemen (154) since 2006. 30-plus HRs finally came with respectable average (.287) in 2010. Given his new ballpark and loaded Braves lineup, career year could be in the works.

31. Joe Mauer (C – MIN): Doesn’t need 25 HRs to be the top catcher; his three-year batting average (.340) is 42 points higher than any player at his position.

32. Victor Martinez (C – DET): Only catcher to post 100-RBI season since 2004, and he’s done it three times. Leads backstops in HRs over the last seven seasons (129), and now bats in the same lineup as Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez.

33. Cliff Lee (SP – PHI): Since 2007 minor-league stint, he has averaged 222 innings, 16 wins, 7.23 K/9, 1.28 BB/9, 2.98 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP per season with four different MLB teams. And now he’s a No. 2 starter on a team with plenty of run support.

34. Nelson Cruz (OF – TEX): Has played in only 267 out of a possible 486 games over the last three seasons, yet he’s averaged 21 HRs, 13 steals and a .292 batting average per year. A change in his running style will hopefully pave the way for his first full season and a possible 30/20/.300 campaign.

35. Jason Heyward (OF – ATL): Injuries have been a concern with him as well, but there’s no denying his talent. Sixth-best walk rate in the majors (14.6 percent) last season as a 20-year-old, and appears primed to approach an eye-popping 100/25/100/15/.300 line in 2011.

36. Justin Upton (OF – ARI): His 30/30 potential didn’t suddenly disappear. 23-year-old still has plenty of room to grow, and has reportedly taken on a “rigorous strengthening program” this offseason to solidify his health.

37. Josh Johnson (SP – FLA): Since 2005, only five starters have an ERA lower than Johnson’s mark of 3.10 (min. 600 innings). Top-five among qualified starters last season in ERA, FIP, xFIP, HR/9, contact rate and swinging strike rate.

38. Ian Kinsler (2B – TEX): Three-year averages (92 runs, 19 HRs, 67 RBI, 24 SB, .285 BA) are mind-boggling considering he’s missed a total of 118 games since 2008. Top-10 potential given a full season atop the Rangers’ lineup.

39. Andrew McCutchen (OF – PIT): Improved plate discipline and recognition of breaking pitches last season are very encouraging. Poor man’s Carl Crawford should approach 100 runs, 20 HRs, 35 SB and a .300 BA in 2011.

40. Jon Lester (SP – BOS): Has the ninth-best ERA (3.29) among starters who’ve logged 600 innings since 2008. Of the eight pitchers with a lower ERA during that time, only Lincecum has a better strikeout rate (10.25) than Lester (8.72).

41: Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD): Youngest of 45 pitchers that logged 200-plus innings in 2010. Of that group, only Lincecum, Lester and Weaver posted a strikeout rate better than Kershaw’s (9.34). His age-21 (2009) and age-22 (2010) seasons show he’s well ahead of where Felix Hernandez was at the same ages.

42: Alex Rios (OF – CHW): Once an unreliable, over-hyped player now has four consecutive seasons of at least 567 at-bats. His three-year averages (81 runs, 18 HRs, 79 RBI, 30 SBs, .275 BA) support his 89/21/88/34/.284 2010 campaign and prove he’s one of the most dynamic fantasy outfielders in a loaded White Sox lineup.

43: Brian McCann (C – ATL): Only catcher to have hit 20 HRs in each of the last three seasons. Entering his age-27 season in a stacked Braves lineup could lead to first career 100 RBI season.

44: Drew Stubbs (OF – CIN): Quietly posted a 22-HR, 30-steal season that went unmatched in 2010. Rare combination of “above-average raw power, and plus-plus speed”—according to Baseball America—makes him a 30-HR/40-steal candidate likely batting near the top of a loaded Reds lineup in 2011.

45: Ichiro Suzuki (OF – SEA): Has averaged 39 steals over the last five seasons and has hit .350 twice in the last four. Additions of Cust, Olivo to the Seattle lineup and expected emergence of Smoak, Ackley should help Ichiro score 100 runs in 2010.

46: Andre Ethier (OF – LAD): Broken finger that sidelined him for two weeks last season wasn’t 100 percent until September, but he still posted 23 HRs, 82 RBI, .292 BA line. Little protection in the Dodgers’ lineup, and will be counted on to carry the offense with Matt Kemp.

47: Martin Prado (2B – ATL): Highest batting average among second basemen since 2008 (.309). 15 HRs, 100 runs in 2010 despite playing only 140 games thanks to a finger injury in August. Entering his age-27 season as the Braves’ leadoff man with second base, third base and outfield eligibility.

48: Cole Hamels (SP – PHI): Only eight pitchers since 2007 (min. 800 IP) have lower ERA than his 3.44. Ranked second among qualified starters last year in contact rate, swinging strike rate, and 10th in strikeout rate. Clearly best No. 4 starter in the majors; should lead to career high in wins this season.

49: Zack Greinke (SP – MIL): Wide range of ERAs (3.47, 2.16, 4.17) and K/9 (7.40, 9.50, 8.14) in last three seasons. 2010 LOB rate (65.3 percent), FIP (3.34) and xFIP (3.76) indicate he was better than 4.17 ERA.  Numbers against N.L. since 2008 (7-2, 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.23 K/9, 1.57 BB/9) suggest forthcoming success in Milwaukee.

50: Jimmy Rollins (SS – PHI): Low BABIPs and injuries have hindered last two seasons. Three-year averages (75 runs, 13 HRs, 59 RBI, 32 SBs, .258) remain impressive (given position) despite low batting average.

Check back in the coming days and weeks as we continue to announce the 2011 fantasy big board top 100!


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