If you haven’t had your fantasy baseball draft yet, that means two things: (a) you’re wrapped up in MLB betting or (b) your draft must be in the next 24 hours, as the season starts Thursday. If you fall under (b), you clearly need a quick cheat sheet. Here’s some crucial information to know.
TOP THREE NO-BRAINER PICKS
1. Albert Pujols, 1B: He’s only the greatest right-handed hitter of all time AND in a contract year. Take him if you have the first pick.
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS: He needs to be a top-two guy given the scarcity of talent at shortstop this year.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B: Joey Votto has the one big season and Troy Tulowitzki gets hurt every year. Booze or no booze, Miggy Cabrera is money in the bank. Take that to your sportsbook.
TOP THREE OVERRATED PICKS
1. Carlos Gonzalez, OF: CarGo is a great ball player and had an amazing 2010 but he’s going as high as first in some drafts. That’s way too crazy for a guy with one good season and sometimes-questionable plate discipline.
2. Ian Kinsler, 2B: Still very talented but Kinsler gets hurt every single year.
3. Joe Mauer, C: Why take Mauer when you can wait 10 picks and take Buster Posey, who could match Mauer in average but has more power and is less of an injury risk?
TOP THREE UNDERRATED PICKS
1. Jon Lester, SP: You’ll probably see at least five pitchers fly off the board before Lester but he’s a reliable 200-plus strikeout guy on a great team. He’s a fine anchor for any fantasy rotation.
2. Nelson Cruz, OF: For all the love that a guy like Matt Kemp gets, Cruz’s per-game fantasy production was as good as anyone’s last season. Let’s hope he can avoid injuries in 2011.
3. Dan Uggla, 2B: Some people get scared off by his strikeouts and often-poor average – but not this sports betting blog. Uggla is just the second second baseman in MLB history to hit 30 homers in four consecutive seasons. That’s major power from a light-hitting position.
TOP THREE BREAKOUT STARS
1. Jason Heyward, OF: To me, he’s the National League’s answer to Josh Hamilton. Unfortunately, that comparison looks like it will include injury concerns. Let’s hope the big fella plays a full year with the Braves.
2. Francisco Liriano, SP: As we’ve seen with Josh Johnson, many pitchers really start to dominate once they’re more than a full season removed from Tommy John surgery. I think Liriano will put it all together and contend for a Cy Young this season.
3. Carlos Santana, C: Mauer, Posey, Victor Martinez and Brian McCann get all the love, but you can wait another round or two after those guys are gone and snag a catcher who could be just as valuable this season. I’m betting the Indians’ Santana bounces back from his knee injury to hit .285 with 20-plus homers and 80-plus RBI.
TOP THREE SLEEPER PICKS
1. Starlin Castro, SS: Castro still isn’t quite a household name yet, so you may be able to snag the Cubs’ starting shortstop on the cheap for one more season. Castro hit .300 as a rookie and is tearing the cover off the ball this spring. Go get him.
2. Aroldis Chapman, RP: He isn’t closing right now but the man who owns baseball’s fastest-ever pitch won’t be denied the job for long. His strikeouts make him valuable immediately, especially in leagues that count holds.
3. Mike Morse, OF: The Washington Nationals’ new starting left fielder is a very deep sleeper and will only be drafted in the biggest of leagues. But he jacked 15 homers in half a season’s worth of at-bats last year and will finally get a crack at full-time duty this year.
TOP THREE BUST PICKS
1. Trevor Cahill, SP: He doesn’t strike anyone out and was very lucky last season with his defense and ballpark. Time for the 18-game winner to crash back to Earth.
2. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF: Bautista may still have a decent season but there’s just no way he hits 54 homers again. Something around 34 seems more appropriate.
3. Clay Buchholz, SP: Buchholz is a good pitcher for sure but the advanced numbers indicate that luck on his batting average on balls in play helped his ERA drop a run lower than it should’ve been last season.