Every season fantasy owners stress over who to draft with their first pick. Although the draft order will surely affect who is available, at least one of these five fantasy stars should be available when you draft, and draft them you should.
Top 5 Hitters
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals – Alright, so this one might be a no brainer, but if you’re not convinced that he should be the number one overall pick, here’s why: this three time MVP has never hit lower than .314, hit fewer than 32 HR, or batted in fewer than 103 RBI, and last season he was amazing (.327/47/135). Add that to the fact that he’s never played in fewer than 143 games, and only strikes out about 60 times a season, and you’ve got the automatic #1 overall pick in your fantasy draft. If you’re blessed with the first pick, you would be a fool not to take him.
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins – The reigning NL batting champ (.342 in 2009), is one of the ultimate fantasy players. This 26 year-old can hit for high average, jack 25+ HR, steal 30+ bases, hit over 100 RBI, and score 100+ runs. You could make the case that no one else in the league has the potential to do all of those, and because he’s so young, plays the relatively shallow SS position, and has never had a serious injury in 4 seasons, you should definitely take him #2 if you can.
3. Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers – Fielder is a flat out slugger (130 HR in the last three seasons) who drove in 141 RBI last season. His massive upside is that he is young (26), never gets injured (157+ games in the last three seasons), and shows promise of being a .300 hitter (.299 in 2009). Any time you have the chance to take a guy who can hit 45+ HR, drive in 125 and hit .300, you should. The only thing that keeps him from being #1 or #2 is the fact that he likes to strike out (138 times in ’09), but if his OPS comes near to 1.014 again, who cares?
4. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins – Mauer may wind up be the best hitting catcher ever, and at 26, his power is only starting to emerge (28 HR in 2009). What makes last year’s AL MVP so valuable is that he’s an amazingly durable catcher (130+ games in 4 of the last 5 seasons), and a three-time batting champ (career .327 avg.), who could hit 30+ HR and drive in 100+ RBI. The biggest reason that you should pick Mauer #4, however, is that after him there are very few options at C, and if you have Mauer then you don’t need to worry like the rest of the teams in your league will about the catcher spot.
5. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies – 2009 was an off season for Utley as he failed to drive in 100+ runs for the first time in 5 seasons. But instead of chocking this up as the beginning of a slow slide ( Utley is 31), I think its merely an aberration. The reason I think this is because his OPS has remained basically the same since ’05 (other than his monster ’07 season) and he stole more bases (23) and walked more times (88) than he ever has. This shows that Utley is becoming a more disciplined hitter and accomplished baserunner, and this means that he might be ready for another monster year. Utley could easily hit 40+ HR, drive in 100+ runs, score 100+ runs, bat around .300, and steal 20+ bases.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers – Although a high pick on a lot of fantasy gurus’ lists, Braun plays at an oversaturated position (OF), and strikes out at a high rate (121 K’s in ’09). Other than that he has tremendous upside and is a consistently brilliant hitter. I would definitely put him at #6, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable drafting him abovethe five guys I listed.
Alex Rodriguez, SS, New York Yankees – Despite the fact that some fantasy experts have A-Rod going as high as #2, I don’t see the need to draft a 34 year-old hitter whose numbers keep dropping as he gets more injury prone in the first round.