Fantasy

2010 AL Central Fantasy Preview

Do not be disappointed if Joe Mauer only hits 22 HR this year.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With a little less than a week remaining until the umpire yells "play ball" for the first time in 2010, we continue our travels around the six divisions, looking for interesting players and fantasy situations.

In Part Four of six we head to the American League Central.

Minnesota - For those of you who think Joe Mauer (ADP 13.7) has become a 30 HR-a-year guy, may I remind you that his previous high was 13. He's a great hitter, but do not be disappointed if he only hits 22 HR this year. Meanwhile, Justin Morneau (ADP 41.1) is truly a 30-100 hitter who doesn't get the respect. Additionally, I think both Orlando Hudson (ADP 244.7) and J.J. Hardy (ADP 263.5) will have solid seasons. Hardy put together two solid years (26 HR in 2007 and 24 HR in 2008) before slumping so badly last year that he was even sent to the minors for a while. The Twins really have no other viable options at shortstop, so Hardy will get a long look. Michael Cuddyer's 32 HR season has elicited excitement, but he's an inconsistent hitter. Over the past four seasons, he's had two very good years and two mediocre years. You will have to decide if Cuddyer's worth a ninth-round pick.

Detroit - The Tigers are a dichotomy of the very young mixed in with the old. Rookie centerfielder and leadoff hitter Austin Jackson (23-years-old) will have big shoes to fill as Detroit sent Curtis Granderson's rare combination of speed and power to the Yankees. Jackson is the top outfielder in the Tigers organization, but he's purely a speed and average guy. He's only owned in 17% of all leagues. Rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore (25-years-old) will start at the bottom of the order and isn't a viable fantasy option as of yet. On the other hand Miguel Cabrera (still just 26-years-old despite having played seven major league seasons) is as solid a first baseman as any outside of Pujols and will almost assuredly get you 90 runs, 35 HR and 110 RBI while batting around .320. The Tigers lineup also includes veterans Johnny Damon (36-years-old), Magglio Ordonez (36-years-old), Carlos Guillen (34-years-old) and Brandon Inge (32-years-old). Do not expect Damon (ADP 141.8) to match last year's 24 homer total now that he has left the "jet stream" of Yankee Stadium for the spaciousness of Comerica Park. On the mound, I'm expecting another great season from Justin Verlander and solid years from Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Scherzer (ADP 167.2) could be the bargain of the trio because he averages more than a strikeout-per-inning and can be had for a 14th-round selection.

Chicago - The White Sox have the potential to score a lot of runs if youngsters Gordon Beckham (ADP 106) and Alexei Ramirez (ADP 111.6) continue to improve and Carlos Quentin (ADP 133.8) returns to his form of 2008 when he banged out 36 homers. The team picked up Juan Pierre for speed at the top of the lineup, but unless you can live with his career OPS of .720, the steals and runs scored won't be enough to compensate. After a very good rookie season, Ramirez disappointed in 2009, taking a slight step backwards in production and his No.7 spot in the batting order won't help. He'll be slightly overbid on Draft Day. Beckham should be the better of the two young guys, and batting second in the lineup should help his numbers. Don't forget Paul Konerko (ADP 236.2) late in the draft, his home run power can be useful.

Cleveland - Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo make a solid top of the lineup, but from there the Indians lineup is suspect. Assuming Sizemore is healthy, and there is nothing that appears to contradict that, Sizemore is undervalued based on his ADP of 23.8. He should again be a 30-30 guy and a top-10 pick, but many fantasy owners forget he missed the end of last season and only see his weak 2009 statistics. Don't you be one of them. Cabrera is a solid shortstop choice if you can't get or don't want to spend the big money for Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki or Jimmy Rollins. He won't get you their "monster" numbers, but he won't hurt you either, particularly as a 10th-round selection. Did you know that Choo was a 20-20 guy who also hit .300? That's a rarity these days and you should grab him in the fifth/sixth round if you can. He's barely played a season and-a-half full-time and should continue to improve.

Kansas City - Most of the viable fantasy-worthy Royals are pitchers (Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria), but don't forget first baseman Billy Butler on Draft Day. Without much protection in the lineup, Butler scored 78 runs, hit 21 homers, knocked in 93 runs and batted .301. He's going in the sixth round and is certainly worthy of that position.



Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.