It’s never too early

With the football season wrapping up Sunday, sports junkies are thirsting for something new to keep their minds occupied. Sure it’s 20 degrees, dark and cold, but it’s never too early to start looking at baseball season.

Spring training is not for a couple weeks but it doesn’t hurt to start looking at some of the prospects for the 2010 fantasy baseball season. The earlier you start preparing for your draft, the better you are going to be prepared. Let’s take a look at some players that will shine this year, as well as some players that you want to avoid.

The Usual Suspects:

These guys are perennial first rounder’s. They have what it takes to be the cornerstone of your fantasy team.
1. St. Louis Cardinals first basemen Albert Pujols should go number one overall in every fantasy draft this spring. The man is a machine. Pujols has hit .327, .356, .327, and .330 the last four year respectively. Not only does he hit for average but he hits for power and drives in plenty of runs. Pujols even matched a career high with 16 steals last season.

2. Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez hit for a career high .342 and drove in a career high 106 runs in 2009. The all star shortstop also stole 27 bases and hit 24 home runs. Ramirez is a fantasy superstar; the shortstop contributes in every category. Ramirez also plays the shallowest position in the game, so if you can get your hands on him you will be doing yourself and your fantasy team a huge favor.

3. New York Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez is approaching 35 years of age but his talent still makes him a fantasy superstar. Arod will always hit for average, power and speed. He plays a weak position and therefore deserves to be drafted in the top five picks in fantasy drafts this spring.

4. Phillies second basemen Chase Utley is a surefire fantasy stud. Utley is good for 30 homers, 100 RBI’s and a high batting average every year. He also stole a career high 23 bases in 2009. If you have a top five pick, drafting Utley will ensure that you have a solid consistent player leading your fantasy team.

Potential Busts:

These players have experienced great seasons the last couple year’s. But 2010 could be the year they fall to mediocrity

1. Arizona Diamondbacks third basemen Mark Reynolds exploded for a career high 44 homeruns and 24 stolen bases in 2009. Reynolds also struck out a major league record high 223 times. Some experts are deeming Reynolds a 50-30 threat but history suggests otherwise. Prior to his breakout 2009 season, Reynolds had stolen 22 bases total dating back to his minor league days in 2004. Reynolds also never showed much signs of power throughout his career until his 2008 season where he hit 28. Reynolds is a very useful fantasy player but due to his strikeouts, inconsistency and lack of track record he cannot be considered a stud yet.

2. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has digressed both years since his MVP 2007 season. Rollins did hit 21 and stole 31 bases in 2009. Rollins can no longer be looked at as a first rounder; he should be slated around the 4th or 5th best fantasy shortstop.

3. Twins catcher Joe Mauer had a career year in every since of the word in 2009. Mauer set career high’s with a .365 average, 28 home runs and 106 RBI’s. Mauer is by far the highest rated catcher in fantasy, but you have to be a little suspicious if you are thinking about targeting Mauer with your first round pick this spring. Prior to 2009, Mauer’s career high for homeruns was 13 set in 2006. Mauer also has to deal with the wear and tear of playing catcher Mauer will still hit for a high average, and will still have a solid 2010 campaign but if you are expecting first round numbers again you will likely be disappointed.

4. Blue Jays outfielder Adam Lind broke out in 2009. Lind set career high’s in average (.304), home runs (35) and runs batted in (114). Prior to the 2009 season Lind’s career high in homeruns was only 11 set in 2007. Lind cannot be considered a fantasy stud yet, for all we know 2009 could have just been a fluke. Draft Lind around the 5th round in fantasy drafts.

Out of the “Wood” work:

These players are not big names but 2010 could finally be the year they breakout and make a big difference for your fantasy team. There is nothing like drafting a gem that nobody saw coming. Just ask the fantasy owners who drafted Zack Grienke and Adam Lind last season.

1. Angel’s third basemen Brandon Wood will finally get a chance to start due to the departure of Chone Figgins in the off season. The 25- year-old phenom has put up monster numbers in the Angel’s minor league system each of the last 4 seasons. Wood will likely go undrafted in most fantasy leagues but if you want to take a chance on a young rookie late in the draft Wood is a guy you will want to consider.

2. Brewers second basemen Rickie Weeks was having a great season last year until a freak injury ended his season in early May. Weeks had already hit nine home runs at that point of the season. Weeks could very easily breakout again this year; take a chance on Weeks late in your draft. Weeks has plenty of potential.

3. Johnny Cueto has shown signs of brilliance the last two seasons. The Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is entering his third season and could very easily put everything together and break out this season. Cueto struggled during the second half last season but the 23-year-old is still learning to pace himself. Cueto could be this season’s Zack Grienke; draft Cueto as your 4th or 5th starter and hope for the best.

4. The Colorado Rockies played Ian Stewart a little bit of everywhere last season. With 425 at bats he hit 25 home runs and drove in 70 runs. Stewart will most likely play third base for the Rockies this season but he is also eligible at second. Stewart only hit .228 last season but with regular at bats his average could always improve. Stewart could potentially break out this season. The 24-year-old has room to improve, draft Stewart as a decent utility player late in the draft.

Story by Alex Owesly