It’s already been established here and throughout the wide-reaching fantasy baseball-verse that Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez are No. 1 and No. 2 — usually, but not necessarily always, in that order.
So, you pulled the number three out of your league’s ceremonial number-picking hat. Chances are you’ve got a pretty good idea who you’re going to pick out of four strong candidates: Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp.
But do any of these players deserve the pick more than the others?
The answer is yes, but we’ve got to qualify the answer with an “it’s complicated,” because man is it ever.
Of the four choices, Rodriguez plays the position (3B) with the least amount of fantasy stars and he’s an outstanding offensive star in his own right.
Utley’s position is a bit deeper than A-Rod’s, but he’s the clear-cut No. 1 at second base and would give any owner an advantage.
The dark horses in this race, Braun and Kemp — who is the shakiest of the options here — play in the deep, deep outfield. However, it needs to be said that Braun and Kemp have no rivals in the OF ranks. If you were going by sheer statistics, Braun should be picked here over A-Rod or any other player.
Here are my projections for all four players:
- Braun — 100/35/115/15/.310
- Rodriguez — 100/35/100/15/.290
- Utley — 110/30/95/15/.290
- Kemp — 95/25/95/35/.300
For many people, Braun’s problem is the depth in the outfield. Nobody wants to pick an outfielder early because there will be plenty available late. But why not?
The bottom line in fantasy baseball is accumulating winning statistics. If Braun provides the most offense in every counting category, why couldn’t he be a top pick?
Position scarcity? (Part II)
Is position scarcity really as big a deal as we make it out to be? More importantly, is outfield really as deep as everyone thinks it is?
After Matt Holliday, Carl Crawford and Grady Sizemore, there are a lot of question marks in the outfield ranks. Actually, all three of those guys have a measurable level of downside risk attached to them, too.
Braun will be 27 this season and hasn’t given any indication he’s overachieving. He’s been consistently great in every category while being solid in steals. Last season, Braun finally cracked the 20-steal mark.
Experts don’t speak gospel, even Ninjas
This argument isn’t meant to tell you to pick Braun, rather to keep your mind open to the possibility that A-Rod and Utley aren’t the only choices here as many experts would have you believe.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Kemp has the most upside out of this bunch.
Kemp is a little less “safe” than the other choices, but he hit a career high 26 homers last season at age 25. Based on home run rates in 2007 and 2006, the number is legit and it should come as no surprise if it grows into the 30 range in 2010. Kemp is also a significant speed threat. Figure on 35 steals but don’t be surprised if he surpasses 40.
So let’s say everything falls right, Kemp goes 100/30/100/40/.300 — by the way, that’s only a measly five more runs, homers, RBIs and steals than the previous projections. That gives him more counting stats than Braun, who already had more than A-Rod and Utley.
It’s really up to you
So, who’s the “best” choice? That’s up to you, Mr. third-picker. You need to make the decision. You need to hang your hat on the one guy out of these four you think will be the best, the one that meets or exceeds projections, regardless of position.
If you’ve done your research and your gut brain is telling you Matt Kemp is going to be a monster in 2010, don’t pick A-Rod because he plays third base or Utley because some magazine or fantasy site preaches position scarcity.
This is the beginning of the draft. You’re picking through the best cuts of meat. You’re not going to lose your draft here, but you are picking your cornerstone.
There are few worse feelings in fantasy sports than when you saw a breakout coming and that player breaks out for your league rival. That jerk’s probably picking right behind you again. Don’t give him the opportunity to steal your thunder.