We are nearly a month into the 2009 MLB season, meaning players are pretty much up to speed on things while others are already nursing injuries, some worse than others. All you fantasy baseball players are probably looking for that waiver wire gem and/or contemplating a few trades, blockbuster or not. Power or speed? Consistency or scattered power outages? Wins or saves? These are all questions that enter the fantasy owner's mind at all hours of the day. What you want in a player is, quite obviously, consistence. Surprises usually aren't welcome in the fantasy world, especially since most surprises aren't necessarily good ones. Not only that, but you want a player that you can count on, and it sure doesn't hurt to know exactly what to expect from this player each and ever day.
For these reasons, Albert Pujols should have been the number one player taken in the draft this year (and every other year of his illustrious career, for that matter). Pujols is the definition of consistency. Since entering the league in '01, Pujols has put up 30 or more home runs (HR's) with over 100 runs batted in (RBI's) and, yes, he has even had a .300 or better batting average (BA) in all eight of those seasons. Don't underestimate his ability to steal a base or two, either. In '05, he stole a career-high 16 bases and has four so far this season. At age 29, Pujols will have 500 career home runs in no time and if he can keep this extraordinary pace, may even contend with the home run record in his later years.
Why draft Hanley Ramirez with the first overall pick, when you can snag Pujols? Yes, Ramirez's track record looks pretty good too, but he doesn't have it all like the St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman, Pujols. Ramirez has played three full major league seasons in the Florida Marlins organization as a shortstop, but hasn't quite shown the consistency and reliability you want in your top fantasy player. When he has a good day, yeah, he's good, but the fact that he has never recorded over 100 RBI's, and his batting average has been a little off-beat (.292, .332, .301) at times, tells me that he has some weaknesses. Whether it be an inability to hit with runners in scoring position, or lagging injuries, there are holes on Ramirez's stat sheet.
Pujols v.s. Ramirez (so far in '09)
Pujols (24 games; 87 at bats): .356 BA, 9 HR's, 29 RBI's, 4 SB, 25 runs, 18 BB's, 8 K's, .724 SLG
Ramirez (21 games; 81 at bats): .272 BA, 2 HR's, 12 RBI's, 3 SB, 9 runs, 7 BB's, 13 K's, .432 SLG
Final Word: After taking a look at the two's numbers after the first twenty games, I am sticking with my Pujols over Ramirez verdict. El Hombre, as they call him in St. Louis, is leading every major category over the speedy Hanley. Pujols, one of the best all-around players in the game today, attracts more walks than most other players, therefore he produces a lot of runs for his ball club and has more chances at stealing bases. All of these reasons lead me to believe that he is not only a great player for your fantasy team, but does a lot to help his team win games. St. Louis would not be nearly as good a team without him.
As for the rest of the fantasy baseball world? Well, here is my list of six current hot and cold players (as of Monday, May 4th):
Carlos Pena, 1B, TBR: In the past three or four games no one has been hotter at the plate than this slugging infielder. In his team's four-game series against the Red Sox this weekend, Pena was 6-for-14 with two home runs and four runs batted in. He is hitting just .269 this season, but I expect his power surge (11 HR's, 27 RBI's in '09) to continue through October, maybe November.
Zack Greinke, SP, KCR: Yes, the Kansas City Royals (14-11) are in first place, and it is mainly because of this young man. Greinke has posted a 5-0 mark, and a 0.50 earned run average (ERA) in his first five starts this season. He has recorded two complete games with 10+ K's in late April, and has straight dominated opposing batters. His only two earned runs of the season came on the 29th of April against the Detroit Tigers. Greinke is, without a doubt, the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. He will make his sixth start of the season tomorrow against the Chicago White Sox.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SDP: Gonzalez has seemed to have gotten overlooked by the other stars of the game, but Gonzalez has hit 9 home runs (tied for third most in the league), and has had just three games without a hit in his team's 25 games this season. He has put up a solid .318 average, and has driven in 20 runs. His team hit a bit of a cold streak during their series against the Dodgers this past weekend, but I expect him to continue his successes throughout the season.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY: Expected to make an immediate impact in his new home in New York, Teixeira has been a bust already (in some people's minds). The slugging first baseman has his just .182 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in while in pin stripes. In his past 12 games, Teixeira has had 6 hit-less games (a combined 8-for-46 with 0 home runs and 3 runs batted in). Not exactly what New York fans, and fantasy owners, were expecting 20 games into the season. Get it in gear, Mark!
David Ortiz, DH, BOS: U-G-L-Y! It appears as though Ortiz's best fantasy days are behind him. The "former" slugger is hitting .215 with zero homers in 93 at-bats. As a matter of fact, Ortiz hasn't hit safely since April 29 against the Cleveland Indians (went 1-for-5), meaning he went 0-for-11 in Boston's four-game weekend series with the Rays, as his Sox dropped three of the four games.
Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX: Hamilton has been a big disappointment to both baseball fans and fantasy owners. Much was expected from him this season after his monster year in '08, but he was recently placed on the 15-day disabled list by Texas after he sustained a strained rib cage muscle. In the 18 games he played in before his DL stint, Hamilton was hitting a rather low .242 average with just two home runs and 10 runs batted in. You may see him again towards the middle to end of the month, but most likely not before then.
More to come from where this came from! Stay tuned...