Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I admit to already starting to get excited about the upcoming 2009 fantasy baseball season. It's just a little over six weeks until pitchers and catchers report.
Yes, it's true that I still have two fantasy football leagues which extend into the NFL postseason, but my head and my heart are already thinking about curveballs, stolen bases and home runs.
To that end, I have put together a first-round mock draft for this year, knowing full well that some players are not yet signed, some will be injured and others will have such a disappointing/impressive Grapefruit/Cactus League performance that I will have to change their expectations.
With that said, here is my 12-man league first-round mock draft:
1) Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins - Ramirez is the best combination of speed (35 SBs) and power (33 HRs) in baseball. And he's just 25 years old.
2) Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees - He'll rebound from his "off" year (.302 batting average, 35 HRs, 103 RBIs, 18 SBs) and with the loaded Yankees lineup could end up being the best fantasy player in baseball - again.
3) Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals - Pujols is consistently great year in, year out. Since 2001 he has never had less than 99 runs scored, 32 HRs, 103 RBIs and hit less than .314.
4) Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians - If Sizemore (.268 average in 2008) could just raise his average closer to the .300 mark he would have statistics as good as Hanley. Still, he won't ever be drafted ahead of him because he plays outfield and there are so many great players at the position and so few great shortstops.
5) David Wright, 3B, New York Mets - I keep expecting a 40 HR - 40 SB season from Wright and though he has never gotten to that level, he helps you in every category. Over the last five years a typical season from Wright is .309 batting average, 92 runs, 26 HRs, 97 RBIs, 18 SBs.
6) Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers - He was on his way to a great season when he got injured and with Chase Utley out for an undetermined period of time there is a shortage of great second basemen.
7) C.C. Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees - As long as Sabathia stays healthy (he has pitched 494 innings over the past two years), he should win 20+ games, strike out 250 batters, have an ERA of 2.80 and a WHIP of 1.10.
8) Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers - Cabrera started slowly after joining his new team in a new league, but ended the year with 37 HRs and 127 RBIs. Now that he is more comfortable he should surpass those numbers.
9) Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants - He was the best pitcher in the league last year (18-5, 265 Ks, 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and at just 23 years old there is no reason he can't repeat those results.
10) Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee - Braun's first 250 games with Milwaukee compare favorably to Albert Pujols' when he first came into the league. Enough said.
11) Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets - He gives you great production in runs scored and stolen bases, but when will he blossom into the "all-around" star we keep expecting when we drafted him as a top-five player. I've lowered my expectations because I don't think it's ever going to happen.
12) Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees - With the awesome lineup the Yankees put on the field, Teixeira might never come up with the bases empty. He's going to knock in 125+ runs and score that many too while still batting around .300 and hitting 30+ HRs.
Just missed: Manny Ramirez OF, Ryan Howard 1B Philadelphia, Johan Santana SP New York Mets, Dustin Pedroia 2B Boston, Alfonso Soriano OF Chicago.