The Major League Baseball season started in full swing Monday with 13 games. But if you’re like me, and many of you are, you weren’t really paying attention yet because there happened to be a little thing called the NCAA championship going on. No problem. But if you’ve got any of my last-minute procrastination qualities as well, you’re also late to the fantasy baseball season.
So while you’re preparing to draft, check out my two top players for every position. These are hard hitters that will bring you fortune as the season goes by.
1B: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals — Voted No. 1 among all Yahoo! fantasy baseball users and the reigning MVP of the National League, Pujols is a dynamic force. He’s averaged 39 home runs in the last three seasons, 118 RBIs and 106 runs. His on-base percentage last year was second only to the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones, while topping the majors with .653 slugging percentage. Having Pujols puts a dent into that weekly head-to-head matchup. Backup: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies — Any coach will tell you don’t hesitate to pick up power in the infield. Your corner infielders need to be Goliaths in the box. Why go against logic on this one? Howard is the next best choice, battling with Pujols as the dominant first baseman of Major League Baseball for the past three years, claiming an MVP in 2006.
2B: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox — As the reigning MVP of the American League, and only arguably so, Pedroia takes No. 1 here not because of the hardware he’s sporting, but because of the invaluable luck he gets from batting in the second spot of the Red Sox lineup. His 17 homers last year were nice, but his high batting average (.326) takes the cake. Backup: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox — I know what you’re thinking. Why snub Chase Utley? Well, I’m not too hot about anybody returning from hip surgery. That specifically affects the batting motion. I don’t expect him to play anywhere near his level from prior seasons. And I’m really high on Ramirez after a stellar rookie season in which he put up 139 hits, 77 RBIs, 21 home runs and stole nine bases in 136 games played. Plus, you get the added bonus of a kid that can play shortstop. Can you say, upside?
3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays — A year ago, it would have been blasphemous to not have Alex Rodriguez in this spot. Now, it just falls in line with common logic that a man recently off hip surgery is not going to perform up to his same standards. (Do you hear that Utley fans?) Longoria impressed with 27 homers, a .531 slugging percentage and 85 RBIs last year. With the Rays in the spotlight, I have a feeling this young star will continue to shine. Backup: David Wright, New York Mets — He may be on one of the most frustrating teams in Major League Baseball, but he’s definitely a diamond in the rough. With no lingering affects from last season, Wright will likely reproduce the 33 long balls and 124 RBIs.
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies — He’s your favorite, he’s my favorite and he is the best player at his position when healthy. Don’t underestimate his healthy return, pushing past the 137 games he played last year. His 47 stolen bases were an eye-popper. Backup: Jose Reyes, New York Mets — With 56 stolen bases under his belt, 113 runs, a .358 on base percentage and 68 RBIs, he’s a statistical monster. He’s got a leg up on Hanley Ramirez but he’s got to show me something to best Rollins.
C: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs — Soto had a pretty good rookie year, earning him NL rookie of the year honors. His 141 hits, 35 doubles and 86 RBIs outweigh his 121 strikeouts. He’s another upside guy, standing tall in a room full of nobodies. Backup: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves — Batting .301 last year, adding 23 home runs, 87 RBIs and 153 hits make McCann the safe pick. He’s not very sexy, but he gets the job done.
LF: Matt Holiday, Oakland Athletics — There’s no legitimate reason Holliday shouldn’t be on the top of your list. His numbers last year exemplified the standard: 25 home runs, 88 RBIs, .321 batting average, .409 on-base percentage, and .538 slugging percentage. His 107 runs scored were only bested by Carlos Beltran (116) and Nate McLouth (113) among outfielders. Go with the hometown favorite. It’ll relieve your conscience. Backup: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs — Herein lies proof of my fandom rather than oblivious fact. I prefer Soriano because he is a ball player in every sense of the word. He’s always willing to take the strikeout instead of the walk. Expect him to always be aggressive and fill the stat sheet — even the Ks column.
CF: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers — What’s 130 RBIs between friends? Add in 98 runs, 32 homers and a .530 slugging percentage, Hamilton is the center fielder of choice. His 126 strikeouts are cause for pause, but he is a gamer if I ever saw one. Backup: Grady Sizemore — His 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 101 runs make him a sexy No. 1 or 2. As a leadoff hitter, he’ll get the necessary at bats for another 30-90 season.
RF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners — His numbers don’t do him justice, but his game is untouchable. He’s never been a power hitter, but his 213 hits and .311 batting average make him an icon at the right field or center field position. Backup: Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles — What’s not to like about Markakis, who boasts a .306 batting average, 87 RBIs and 106 runs on the year with 20 homers to boot? He’s got all the intangibles to make your season go smooth.
SP: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants — He is the gem of the Bay. In one and a half seasons, The Freak has stolen my heart as the greatest pitcher to stand on a Giants mound in decades. His 265 strikeouts plowed through the opposition and there’s no hint that he will do otherwise this season. Mark my words: Lincecum will repeat as Cy Young. Backup: Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks — He’s Lincecum’s only real challenge. At 22-7 last season with 183 strikeouts, he’s as much a force to be reckoned with in the NL. Expect him to wreak havoc.