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MLB Power Rankings: Identifying the Top 40 Late-Round Fantasy Draft Steals

In all likelihood, Bud Selig won’t be hosting your fantasy baseball draft this year—but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. You probably wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t in it to win it, and while it’s tough to win a league if your top picks don’t deliver, the best way to truly separate yourself from your fantasy league opponents is by nabbing some late-round value picks. 

The key to uncovering late-round draft day steals is to get a sense of what types of players tend to be undervalued in the fantasy marketplace. 

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, in reasonably shallow leagues sometimes it is the injury-prone player who can dramatically outproduce his draft slot while healthy.  Sometimes it is the former superstar many managers wrongly assume is now washed up.  Sometimes it is the famed “post-hype sleeper,” a relatively young player who did not initially live up to the hype but still possesses the talent that made them a touted prospect in the first place.  Sometimes it’s a player whose consistent production year after year is routinely under-appreciated, perhaps because the player isn’t “flashy” enough. 

For our purposes, “late-round” steals will only include players who are going in the 15th round or later (pick 169 onward) in 12-team standard leagues, according to either Mock Draft Central or Yahoo average draft position data.

On to the list we go.

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MLB Power Rankings: Tim Lincecum and the 25 Best Strikeout Pitchers in Baseball

Unlike my recent attempt to rank the 25 craftiest pitchers in baseball, it’s a lot easier to quantify the best strikeout pitchers in the game.  One statistic in particular, the K/9 rate (strikeouts per nine innings), will get us most of the way there.

That doesn’t mean this will simply be a list of the 25 pitchers with the best K/9 rates in 2010, though.  A couple other factors will also be at play.

First, there is the starter vs. reliever question.  We’ve seen enough pitchers transition from reliever to starter (and vice versa) over the years to know that it is a lot easier to maintain a high K/9 when you are pitching one inning at a time than when you have to conserve your stuff for the whole game. 

Some pitchers defy that trend (see Morrow, Brandon), but generally speaking, pitching in relief allows for an extra two to three strikeouts per nine innings, something that will be factored into these rankings.  It’s also simply more impressive to maintain a high K rate over 200 innings than it is over 60 innings, so the list with be fairly starter-heavy.

Which brings me to the second factor: this list won’t just consider 2010.  While a pitcher won’t get credit for a strikeout rate they haven’t achieved since 2004, performances over the last three seasons (2008 to 2010) will be considered, as long as a pitcher hasn’t seen a dramatic drop-off in strikeouts during that time.

Finally, while there will be no strict innings limit for inclusion on the list, pitchers with longer track records will generally be given preference over young pitchers who haven’t yet proven that they can maintain a high K rate over the long haul.

But enough with the ground rules!  Here are the 25 best strikeout pitchers in baseball today.

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MLB Predictions: 15 Players in Contract Years Poised for Big Seasons

As Albert Pujols embarks upon one of the most memorable contract years in baseball history, a common debate in the baseball world has resurfaced: Do major leaguers tend to perform at a higher level in these so-called “walk years?”

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to that question. A couple studies in recent years have found this is not the case, while others have concluded that there is a correlation between contract years and increased performance.

The debate frequently focuses on one player in particular: Adrian Beltre. Beltre is a .275 career hitter but hit .334 and .321 in his 2004 and 2010 contract years, respectively.

In addition to being the only seasons in which Beltre hit above .290, 2004 and 2010 were also the only two times he has surpassed 26 HRs or 99 RBI. As you may recall, he nearly doubled that home run mark in 2004.

But Yahoo!’s Brandon Funston recently claimed that the notion Beltre performs better in contract years is a “myth,” citing an article by FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron (no, not that Dave Cameron).

Cameron argued that those who cite Beltre’s 2004 and 2010 seasons conveniently ignore the fact that Beltre actually “had five seasons in which he was playing under an expiring contract” and “[m]ore often than not, he’s performed worse, not better.” According to Cameron, a better explanation for Beltre’s career years in 2004 and 2010 is that those were “the last two seasons in which he was not spending half of his games hitting in Safeco Field,” one of baseball’s most difficult parks for “a right-handed pull power hitter.”

Cameron makes some interesting points, and there is no question that playing at Safeco took a major toll on Beltre’s numbers. But the case is not as open-and-shut as Cameron suggests. 

For one thing, Beltre’s massive 2004 season was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, meaning he played half his games in Chavez Ravine, which has frequently ranked as one of the top pitcher’s parks in baseball.

Moreover, two of the five seasons Cameron counted as years Beltre was playing for a new contract—2002 and 2003—were years in which Beltre was eligible for arbitration, not free agency.  This means far less money was at stake than when Beltre was about to head onto the open market looking for a multi-year deal.

The other year besides 2004 and 2010 that Cameron included was 2009, a walk year in which Beltre put up a disappointing .265-54-8-44 season that forced him to sign a one-year contract rather than land a lucrative multi-year deal.

Beltre famously missed much of the 2009 season with a severely contused testicle (groan), but the injury that best explains his poor performance was a shoulder injury that bothered him all year. The Seattle Times reported at the time that Beltre said his shoulder “never was 100 percent” all season and that it felt “like someone stabbed you in the shoulder” every time he lifted it.

So what are we to make of all this? Well, let’s just say it’s hard to know exactly what impact playing out a contract will have on any given player. It seems safe to assume that based on their mental makeup, some players will perform better in a contract year, some worse and some it won’t impact at all.

What we know for sure, though, is that players that step up in contract years are handsomely rewarded.  So without further ado, here is the list of the top 15 players who could be in for big seasons in 2011—and big paydays in 2012.

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Albert Pujols Contract Standoff: Good or Bad for His Fantasy Value?

If you’re the type of person that reads this website, you’ve undoubtedly heard by now that the deadline has come and gone for Albert Pujols to reach a contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cardinals reportedly offered “more than $200 million over nine or 10 years” for the future Hall of Famer and even an ownership stake in the team. But it just wasn’t enough for the game’s best player.

Pujols has apparently “told the team he’ll still give them a chance in the window between when the season ends” and free agency begins, but that still means he’ll play out his walk year with free agency looming.

The news will surely send shivers down the spines of Cardinals fans everywhere, as their heads are filled with nightmares of Pujols donning a Chicago Cubs jersey. Just ask Cleveland Cavaliers fans how they felt in LeBron James’ final year of his contract.

But there’s another—albeit less dramatic—story line here: What does this news mean for Pujols’ fantasy value?

Pujols enters the 2011 season as the clear No. 1 player in fantasy baseball. While a few fantasy writers have chosen to rank Hanley Ramirez or Miguel Cabrera ahead of Pujols, those rankings appear to come from an overemphasis on position scarcity or the desire to be different for the sake of being different.

Ramirez is the rare elite hitter at SS, but he doesn’t put up the type of eye-popping numbers in any rotisserie category that Pujols does.

Cabrera is Pujols-lite: He’s has never topped 40 HRs (Pujols has hit 40-plus HRs six times), and he’s a .313 career hitter (Pujols is at .331). The fact that Cabrera’s drinking problem has now resurfaced makes it even more difficult to compare him to Pujols going forward.

So does Pujols’ contract situation threaten his No. 1 fantasy player status, or does it vault him even further ahead of the competition? Let’s break this question down into two sections: the short term (this year) and the long term (the next five to 10 years).


Short Term

Many players have put together career seasons in their contract years. If Adrian Beltre was able to hit .334 with 48 HRs in a walk year, imagine what Pujols might be able to do.

Pujols may not show it on the outside, but he has to be motivated to show the world that he has every right to ask for the largest contract in baseball. On a rational level, he surely understands the economics of the situation from a team standpoint, but that doesn’t mean he won’t also feel slighted on an emotional level.

He could very well turn that fury into stats we haven’t seen since the end of the steroid era.

Of course, there are also some players who struggle in their walk years. Sometimes it comes down to circumstances or bad luck (injuries), but in many instances it comes down to whether a player thrives or wilts under the pressure of playing for a big payday.

This isn’t your typical walk year either. Pujols has tried his best to get out in front of the story and make it clear that he won’t talk about his contract situation with the Cardinals or the media during the season, but as the LeBron James situation showed, that doesn’t mean the story is going to hibernate for six months. Pujols is going to feel far more pressure than the Adrian Beltres of the world ever did.

That said, this also isn’t your typical player. Throughout his career, Pujols has displayed a level of class, professionalism and maturity that is equal to his on-field abilities. This isn’t Javier Vazquez (or Cabrera) we’re talking about here—if anyone can handle the intensity of this situation, it’s Pujols.

We already know everything we need to know about Pujols’ on-field skills. We also know a lot about his off-field demeanor, but after this ordeal, we’ll know more.

The bet here is that Pujols rises to the challenge and posts a fantasy line in 2011 at least equal to his average season. A true career year (50-plus HRs) is certainly possible.


Long Term

The long-term question when it comes to Pujols’ fantasy value gets to the crux of the situation: What team will he play for in 2012 and beyond?

If Pujols does leave the Cardinals, there is a good chance it will help his fantasy value. 

In 2010, Busch Stadium ranked as the seventh-most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors. Given the troubling state of the Mets’ finances, the Los Angeles Angels are the only potential team in the Pujols sweepstakes that plays in a worse stadium for hitters than Busch.

If he does leave St. Louis, the most likely destination for Pujols is with the rival Chicago Cubs. The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field is the third-most friendly park for hitters. The next most logical team to sign Pujols is the Texas Rangers, who play in the sixth-most friendly ballpark for hitters.

The Red Sox (seventh-best hitter’s park) and Yankees (second-best hitter’s park) both already have top-tier first basemen (Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira, respectively) but can’t be counted out when a player of Pujols’ magnitude is on the market.

All four of these teams would also likely be able to construct a better lineup around Pujols than the Cardinals can offer. OF Matt Holliday is as good a cleanup hitter as you could hope for in terms of providing protection, but St. Louis lacks impact bats throughout the rest of the lineup.

If the Cardinals are somehow able to re-sign Albert, it would seem as though his long-term value would remain unchanged. But that’s not necessarily the case.

St. Louis is a great baseball city with terrific fans, and the Cards frequently finish in the top five in baseball in attendance. But at the end of the day, the Cardinals are a mid-market team, and that’s not going to change whether or not they keep Pujols.

The biggest reason the Cardinals have been reluctant to give Pujols a record-breaking contract is that they worry they won’t have enough money left to continue to build a team around him. Or worse yet, they’ll have to immediately begin to dismantle the team they’ve already built.

Many eyebrows were raised last winter when the Cardinals managed to come to terms with Holliday (and his agent Scott Boras) on a seven-year, $120 million deal that included a full no-trade clause. That deal was meant to assure Pujols that the Cards were committed to winning and that he’d have protection in the lineup, but it also made re-signing Albert much more difficult.

The Cardinals had the 11th-highest payroll in baseball last year at $93.94 million. Holliday is scheduled to receive $17 million per year over each of the next seven seasons.

If Pujols were to sign a 10-year, $300 million contract, as has been rumored may be necessary for the Cards to keep him, that would mean the team would be committing $47 million—or about half of last season’s payroll—to just two players for the life of Holliday’s contract. Add in the $24 million the team will owe Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter in 2012, and there is barely more than $20 million left for the rest of the team.

Yes, veterans like Carpenter and Lance Berkman will come off the books in the next year or two, but Wainwright and Colby Rasmus are going to become more expensive.

The bottom line is that unless they start spending significantly more on payroll, the Cardinals aren’t going to have the resources to put any other decent hitters around Pujols besides Holliday and perhaps Rasmus. That could affect Albert’s run and RBI production down the road.

It’s also possible St. Louis could decide it needs to convince Holliday to accept a trade, which could take a bigger toll on Pujols’ fantasy production. Under that scenario, Pujols could end up seeing a record number of intentional walks.

On the other hand, the Cardinals have never really put a great top-to-bottom lineup around Pujols in the past, and it hasn’t seemed to bother him much. So the impact may well be negligible.

Pujols could hit in a lineup filled with Little Leaguers, and he’d probably still manage to hit over .300 with 35-plus HRs. He’s just that good.

In the end, whether or not he stays in St. Louis, Pujols is so talented that he should remain the best fantasy player of them all well into his mid-thirties.

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Boston Red Sox: The Greatest Players in Team History, Position by Position

The title of the article says it all, Red Sox Nation.  Let’s do this.  But first, a few quick ground rules:

Some of the players on this list played part of their careers for other teams, but only accomplishments in a Red Sox uniform will be considered.

The era a player played in will be factored in when considering all statistics.  Players’ numbers will be compared to their contemporaries, not just to players from other eras who played the same position.

Longevity counts, but the biggest factor will be how much a player stood out from the pack during the years they played in Boston.

A player must have played the majority of their career at a position (more games there than anywhere else) to be considered the best player at that position.

This list is meant to depict the best overall player at each position, not to build a functional baseball team.  There will be no attempt made to balance power and speed in the lineup, etc.

That should just about cover it.  It’s time to put together the Boston Red Sox All-Time Team.

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Yankees or Red Sox? Identifying Who Has the Advantage, Position By Position

As we fast approach the start of another baseball season, let’s return to a familiar question: Who’s better, the Yankees or the Red Sox? 

The Red Sox made more upgrades to their roster during the offseason, but the Yankees were the better team last year.  So where does that leave us?  Let’s take a look, position by position.

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Shortstop Shopping: How To Approach Fantasy Baseball’s Shallowest Position

In 2010, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez had whatby his own lofty standardscould be considered a down year.  Hanley “only” batted .300 after hitting .330 or better two of the previous three years.  He “only” hit 21 HRs, the lowest total since his rookie campaign. 

He also failed to reach 100 Runs scored for the first time in his career, and his RBI and SB numbers were on the lower end of his career averages.

And yet, Hanley Ramirez remains a no-brainer top three pick in fantasy baseball leagues. 

Ramirez’s “down year” line of .300-92-21-76-32 still made him the 15th most valuable player in fantasy baseball in 2010 according to Baseball Monster, a website that quantifies fantasy value for standard rotisserie leagues. 

Among shortstops, he was #1 and only the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki was close.  In 2009, Ramirez was the 5th most valuable player at any position.

What these statistics should tell you is that even if Ramirez only qualified at 1B or OF, his five-category production would make him worthy of a first round pick.  Add in the fact that you can plug him in at SS, fantasy baseball’s shallowest position, and it’s clear why a legitimate case can be made for him going No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts.

So if Ramirez is an obvious top three pick, how early should you consider Tulowitzki, who nearly matched Ramirez’s output last year? The answer: early, but not as early as you might think.

Again, let’s remember that we’re talking about a below average year for Ramirez.  In 2009, Tulowitzki had an even better year than he had in 2010, but he was still far less valuable than Ramirez.  Ramirez gets a boost from his position eligibility, but the biggest reason he is a top five pick is that he’s proven that he is capable of top five production. 

Tulowitzki has proven he is capable of top 15 overall production, which is still extremely valuable at SS.  He’s just not in the same stratosphere as Ramirez, as least not yet.

The other thing to consider before you take the Tulowitzki plunge is the risk factor.  While Ramirez missed several weeks at the end of last season with elbow inflammation, he still easily surpassed 500 at-bats, as he has every year in his career. 

Tulowitzki, on the other hand, missed large chunks of the 2008 and 2010 seasons with injuries and has only made it to 500 at-bats twice in four years.

Of course, the fact that Tulowitzki was able to put up such impressive numbers in 122 games in 2010 points to his upside.  But another risk factor with Tulowitzki is his streakiness. 

As of September 1st, Tulowitzki had a total of just 12 HRs, 55 RBIs and 9 SBs through 92 games.  He was hitting at a .315 clip, but was still on the verge of being a major bust.  Tulowitzki came alive in September with 15 HRs and 40 RBIs in 28 games, an astounding hot streak that salvaged his 2010 season. 

Heading into last season, it was widely believed that a major part of Tulowitzki’s fantasy value was his ability to swipe 20 bags, as he did in ’09.  But he finished with just 11 SBs in 2010.  If Tulowitzki’s SB totals continue to fall, his value will be more and more tied to incredible HR streaks, which makes for a risky proposition.

None of this is to say that Tulowitzki shouldn’t be considered in the mid-to-late first round of fantasy drafts.  He is still young and could continue to improve, and his potential production at SS is very appealing.  Just realize there is a significant drop-off between him and Ramirez.

In fact, Tulowitzki’s value could end up as close to the Mets’ Jose Reyes as it is to Ramirez’s. 

Reyes is even riskier than Tulowitzki, considering his recent injury history and inconsistent production, and you can’t expect him to hit more than about 15 HRs.  The big question with Reyes, though, is how much he’ll run.  If he only steals 30 bases, he may not end up being much more valuable than Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter, Alexei Ramirez or Elvis Andrus. 

But if Reyes can return to nabbing 55-plus SBs, his overall value could come close to Tulowitzki’s.

Overall, Tulowitzki is a good gamble in the late first round, while you should probably hold off on Reyes until the third round in 12 team leagues.  I just wouldn’t feel comfortable coming out of a draft with Reyes as my second best player.

No other shortstop is worth considering until round five or six at the earliest.  Rollins and Jeter are declining, Alexei Ramirez is the definition of inconsistent and Andrus is still somewhat unproven.  The perennially overrated Stephen Drew is just plain boring (where does the Drew hype come from?!?!??), and there will be players available in the 15-20th round of drafts that can give you similar production.

Outside of Drew, I would gladly take any of these guys if they fall a round or two further then they should.  But I wouldn’t reach for them when there are still more elite players out there at other positions. 

If I miss out on the mid-round shortstops, I will settle for a more forgotten declining veteran like Rafael Furcal, a solid-but-unspectacular bat coming off a down year like Yunel Escobar, a post-hype speed candidate like Alcides Escobar or a younger guy with 15-15 potential like Asdrubal Cabrera, Mike Aviles, Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa. 

In fact, I might try to take two guys from that list.  I suppose you could also consider taking a poor contact hitter with 20 HR potential like J.J. Hardy or Alex Gonzalez in the later part of the draft.

Are any of those guys particularly exciting?  Certainly not.  But because of the dearth of talent at SS, they probably won’t put you too far behind the other managers in your league, unless they happen to own Hanley, Tulowitzki or perhaps Reyes.

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Red Sox: Gonzalez, Crawford Acquisitions Big, But Lackey, Beckett Key For 2011

It’s hard not to be giddy with anticipation right now if you’re a Boston Red Sox fan. 

Coming off a frustrating season in which the team finished 7 games back in the AL East and had to watch the playoffs on their flat-screen TVs just like the rest of us, the Red Sox went out and acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, two of the most coveted players in the game, both in the early part of their prime. 

Red Sox Nation has not seen such a major retooling of the lineup since the early 2000’s, when the team added Manny Ramirez (’01) and David Ortiz (’03), and in the process established themselves as a perennial 90-plus win team and championship contender.  And this time it happened in just a matter of days instead of several years.

Sure, the Red Sox still face some minor offensive questions heading into spring training.  Will Crawford bat leadoff or third?  Where will Jacoby Ellsbury hit in the lineup?  Will Boston have some struggles against left-handed pitching, given that Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are their only dangerous right-handed bats?

But these concerns truly are minor.  The Red Sox are going to score runs, and they’re going to score runs consistently.  They were second in all of baseball in runs scored last season, and the combination of Gonzalez, Crawford, a healthy Ellsbury, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia should at least rival the production the team received from departed free agents Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, along with the array of outfielders that frequently found their way into the lineup last year (Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Jeremy Hermida, Mike Cameron, and Daniel Nava). 

The real reason the Gonzalez and Crawford additions should be celebrated is because they set the Red Sox lineup up well for the long run. 

Both players are under 30 years old, while Martinez and Beltre are on the wrong side of 30.  Crawford brings across the board production and skills, while Martinez becomes more and more one-dimensional as he gets older and is able to catch fewer and fewer games.  Gonzalez’s production in San Diego was held back by the worst ballpark for hitters in the majors, whereas Beltre, much like in 2004, is coming off a career year as he went in search of a new contract. (Beltre surpassed 100 RBIs and a .320 batting average in both his 2004 and 2010 contract years, but has not driven in 100 runs or hit above .276 in any other season since 2001.) 

But while GM Theo Epstein did very well to acquire two major assets who should serve the team well for years, the Red Sox 2011 season will all come down to the performance of the pitching staff, and the starting rotation in particular. 

The Red Sox finished 22nd in baseball in ERA in 2010. Few saw it coming, the Sporting News’ 2010 Red Sox preview, for one. The Sporting News wondered if the Red Sox “have enough offense” and their main concern with the pitching staff was “Who will be left out of the rotation,” since Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, and Clay Buchholz all seemed like strong options.  The Sporting News preview gave the Red Sox pitching staff an A grade–an evaluation which was the norm among baseball experts at the time.

Lester certainly held up his end of the bargain, and Buchholz developed into a dominating ace-caliber starter faster than even the most optimistic fan could have predicted.  Wakefield and Matsuzaka’s struggles should not come as too great a surprise.

The real problem was that Lackey struggled mightily in his move from the AL West to AL East, and no one anticipated that the bottom would fall out completely for Beckett.

The Red Sox also ranked near the bottom of the league (23rd) in bullpen ERA, which came as a major surprise after they finished in the top 10 in 2009.   While Daniel Bard established himself as the team’s closer of the future, Jonathan Papelbon had a sub par year, and no other reliever registered an ERA under 4.  Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez, who each played key roles in the bullpen in 2009, fell off considerably. 

Papelbon should rebound heading into a contract year.  And the Sox beefed up the bullpen with their offseason acquisitions of Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks.  Wheeler makes for a very solid addition.  He knows what it takes to succeed in the AL East, and has done quite well in each of the last three seasons in Tampa Bay.  While Jenks’ name recognition probably rates higher than his actual value at this point, it would not be surprising for him to register a strong year pitching in middle relief rather than the pressure cooker of the ninth inning. 

In the end, despite all of Epstein’s impressive moves this winter, the Red Sox 2011 season will be largely determined by two players that were already on the team last year: Lackey and Beckett.  There are real questions about whether each is breaking down physically and can return to their former level of performance. 

If Lackey and Beckett each continue to falter, Sox fans will have to hope for many 11-9 victories this summer. But if at least one of them can turn things around, the Red Sox have to be considered a World Series favorite. 

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Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: How High Should You Reach for Adrian Gonzalez?

When the Boston Red Sox completed a trade with the San Diego Padres for 1B Adrian Gonzalez in early December, the move was met with much fanfare.

As sports fans gradually transition from football mode into baseball mode, the excitement surrounding the A-Gone acquisition is sure to skyrocket heading into spring training. 

While the Padres surprised the baseball world by competing for a playoff spot in 2010, they remain a small market team sitting far from the Northeast media machine.

But as Gonzalez dons a Red Sox uniform, he will officially be entering the big time and receiving the media attention that goes along with it.

No doubt the fantasy experts will be increasingly hyping Gonzalez too—and why shouldn’t they? He will be moving from the worst ballpark for hitters in all of baseball to Fenway Park, one of the best. He’ll also be leaving a lineup featuring Chris Denorfia, David Eckstein, Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick to join one featuring Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.

Yet Gonzalez is still a bit underrated in some fantasy circles, despite all the hype about him joining the Red Sox.

The numbers Gonzalez has put up outside of spacious Petco Park provide a sneak preview of what fantasy owners can expect. Extrapolating his road stats over the last four years to a full season, Gonzalez is averaging a .306 batting average, 45 HRs, 128 RBI and 112 runs. Look at only the last three years, and the numbers are even better.

Gonzalez is also only 28 years old, which means he has just entered his prime. While it’s true Gonzalez had minor offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, the procedure did not prevent the Red Sox from dealing three strong prospects for him, and he’s expected to be ready for spring training.

Unless word spreads of any setbacks with Gonzalez’s shoulder, the move to Boston instantly vaults him ahead of Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and Prince Fielder in fantasy value among first basemen, because Gonzalez is the most likely of that group to pair a 40-HR season with a .300-plus batting average.

Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and perhaps Joey Votto are the only hitters in baseball more likely to reach those milestones than Gonzalez, and they’re the only first basemen who should be going ahead of Gonzalez in fantasy drafts.

Add it all together, and Adrian Gonzalez has the look of a mid-to-late first-round pick in 12-team fantasy leagues.

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