- Alex Rodriguez—NYY — How did this guy have an MVP season, opt out of his contract, and then end up signing back with his original team for less money???? If you got points for common sense, A-Rod would go undrafted. If you got points for having a backbone, A-Rod would go undrafted. Lucky for him and his owners, baseball is about statistics. Few people put up the numbers that Mr. Rodriguez does. After a sub par first few seasons in the Bronx, Rodriguez put up one of the more impressive regular seasons in recent memory. He is the consensus number one overall pick for this year, but I am figuring that he will be somewhere between where he started in New York, and his 2007 numbers. Look for .290/47/136 and another solid season in ’08.
- David Wright—NYM — It has taken me a great deal of time to finally come around on the value of David Wright. I’m not sure exactly what I didn’t like about him for the last few years, but it’s now obvious to me that the guy is a stud. Maybe it’s the way his hits, runs, homers, steals, and average continue to rise. You can safely expect a .330/33/115/30 steal season from Wright as the Mets return to the post season.
- Ryan Braun—MIL — It seems like no one has made the splash that Braun has since that Pujols guy broke into the bigs. Braun didn’t make the team out of spring training strictly because of his glove, but it was obvious early that the Brewers had to find a way to get him into the lineup. After missing April and May, Braun had All-Star caliber numbers for someone who played the entire season. Ryan is a 5-tool superstar. Should you expect similar production in ’08? I would say his first full season turns out to be similar to his rookie campaign in which he missed the first two months.
- Miguel Cabrera—DET — Given his pardon out of Florida and over to a real franchise in Detroit, Cabrera has the chance to get to the national stage to show the rest of the world what he is capable of. Miggy has been incredibly consistent throughout his major league career, as he has averaged .318/31/114. Although it seems like he has been around forever, Cabrera still is only 24. It is possible that he could still improve, if he can keep his weight under control. You can sign Cabrera up for right around his averages again, although some think with some actual hitters in the Tigers’ lineup Miggy’s numbers will rise.
- Aramis Ramirez—CHC — Even though Ramirez always seems to have some sort of nagging injury, by the end of the season, his numbers are usually in the same range. He had a dip in power numbers in ’07, however, his average rose 20 points. He isn’t flashy or exciting, but Ramirez is a pretty good option at 3B if you miss out on one of these top guys.
Rising Star: Kevin Kouzmanoff-SD — After a pretty rapid ascension through the minors it looked like Kouzmanoff would be the Indians third sacker of the future. He was then traded for Josh Barfield and got his chance to start for the Pads. Kouzmanoff struggled mightily in his first half in the majors, but the Padres showed patience and it began to pay off as Kouzmanoff hit over .300 and went over double digits in homers after the break. I believe that he will take confidence from a strong finish and carry it over to fulfilling his potential in San Diego. It isn’t exactly a home park that is conducive to gaudy offensive numbers, but it is possible to thrive there.
Falling Stock: Hank Blalock—TEX — Back in 2004, it looked like Blalock was one of the rising young stars of the MLB when he hit 32 homers and drove in 110. Since then, he has been in a downward spiral that was culminated last season when he needed to have a rib removed and played just 58 games. At just 27, it is possible for him to turn it around and return to his career-high numbers, but I wouldn’t be the one to take the chance on him.
Make or Break Year: Edwin Encarnacion—CIN — When Encarnacion came up in 2005, he looked like he was ready to make an impact when he had 9 homers and 31 RBI in just 69 games. He made a decent step forward with a solid ’06. It was expected that 2007 would be the season that he arrived as fantasy relevant on the scene. After a horrendous first month or so of the season, Encarnacion was shipped back to AAA. Could this be the year that Edwin becomes a full time-fantasy relevant player? For his sake, it better be.
Risky Pick: Joe Crede—CWS — Crede had put together a string of solid seasons before the 2007 year. It was then that his always creaky back cost him the majority of his season. In his absence, rookie Josh Fields put together a nice little year at the hot corner in Chicago. Now the question is, Is Crede healthy? Will he ever be healthy? It now seems that The Pale Hose are looking to move Crede and let young Fields handle the hot corner. However, if there are no takers for Crede and his aching back, he very well may be back in Chicago. Whether he has a starting job or not, Crede is a risky pick due to the health (or lack thereof) of his back.
Top Prospect: Evan Longoria—TB — It is possible that Longoria will start the year with the big club, but even if he doesn’t, it’s just a matter of time before he is ready for the big time. In under 140 games while in the minor leagues, Longoria hit 26 homers and drove in nearly 100. One of the better prospects yet to hit the majors, Longoria’s immense talent has the baseball world buzzing about his arrival. It might not be this year that he makes his splash, but the sky’s the limit for Longoria in the future. Keep a very close eye on his progress; Longoria made the jump last year, and it appears that he has the inside track on the third base job in Tampa.
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