Let’s take a preliminary look at the first-round of 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.  This is going to be an extremely fluid list, so don’t take the order as anything set in stone.  As I work on my progressions and really dig into my research, things are going to move, possibly quite dramatically.

With that said, let’s get to the list:

1) Albert Pujols – St. Louis Cardinals – First Baseman
Any player who has a “down” year, yet hits .312, 42 HR, 118 RBI, 115 R and 14 SB is one scary individual.  There is no doubting who the best player in the game is.  For his 10-year career, he’s never had fewer than 32 HR.  He’s only once been below 115 RBI.  Only one year has he scored fewer than 100 runs.  He’s never hit below .310, and he even chips in a few stolen bases.  He’s certainly a special player.

2) Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers – First Baseman
If it wasn’t for Pujols, he’d be the clear-cut, best hitter in baseball.  Coming off a year where he hit .329 with 38 HR, 128 RBI and 111 R, he has been almost as consistent as Pujols.  Where the two differ, however, is Pujols ability to chip in some stolen bases and the runs scored.  While Cabrera scored plenty of runs in 2010, his prior three seasons had been 96, 85 and 91.  He’s no lock to pass the century mark, which certainly puts him a cut below.

3) Hanley Ramirez – Florida Marlins – Shortstop
Honestly, his position in the first-round is a real unknown for me at this point.  A year ago people were considering taking him first overall, but a disappointing 2010 campaign clearly takes him out of the top spot debate.  He hit .300 with 21 HR, 76 RBI, 92 R and 32 SB.  I know, it doesn’t seem bad, but it really doesn’t hold the clout of a top pick, either.  Then again, the Marlins struggled overall, especially at the top of the order, and had to utilize Ramirez in the leadoff spot for 97 AB. 

That certainly hurt his chances to drive in runs, as did injuries.  What does appear to be the case is that his days of stealing 50 bases are behind him.  This is going to be one of the more debated spots for me and chances are that he’s going to be moved as my projections and research get fine-tuned.  He certainly is a player we’ll take a closer look at as we get closer to the season, as the makeup of the Marlins will have a huge influence on his potential value.

4) Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays – Third Baseman
An injury towards the end of the season helped to skew his numbers down, but don’t be mistaken, he is one of the better hitters in the game—period.  The fact that he plays at an extremely shallow position just makes him look all the more appealing.  He finished 2010 hitting .294 with 22 HR, 104 RBI and 96 R in 574 AB (151 games).  The power was down, thanks to his HR/FB taking a major hit (17.6% in ‘09 to 11.1% in ‘10).  At 25-years-old, it certainly is easy to imagine the power coming back, so don’t shy away from him.

5) Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies – Shortstop
His slow start may have caused many owners to think that they could get a bargain on Tulowitzki in 2011.  The show he put on in the first half of September put those hopes to bed.  He hit .322 with 15 HR, 40 RBI and 30 R for the month, as he tried to carry the Rockies to another unbelievable late season run.  While they ultimately fell short, Tulowitzki proved how valuable of a fantasy player he could be.

6) Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder
Some people may feel that the lack of elite outfielders helps Braun remain as a first-round pick.  However, when you look at the numbers, there really isn’t much not to like, is there.  He hit .304 with 25 HR, 103 RBI, 101 R and 14 SB.  Many people believe that out of a first-round pick, you don’t want someone that is going to help you in two or three categories, but someone who helps across the board.  Braun certainly does that, with the potential to significantly improve on these numbers moving forward.

7) Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds – First Baseman
Talk about a player who took a major step forward in 2010.  He hit .324 with 37 HR, 113 RBI and 106 R and while there is reason for skepticism, there also is a lot of reason for hope.  Can he repeat the .361 BABIP?  Can he repeat his 25.0% HR/FB?  Of course, his home park certainly helps, though he actually hit just .297 with 18 HR at home.  We’ll go into great detail about him in the near future, but he has turned me into a full believer.  Still, playing a position that is significantly deeper than many others would cause me to shy away from him in the first half of the round.

8 ) Alex Rodriguez – New York Yankees – Third Baseman
At this point, we all know that Rodriguez is an injury risk, but we also know that no matter what, he’s going to provide 30 HR and over 100 RBI.  In just 522 AB in 2010 he had 125 RBI.  Certainly, the development of Robinson Cano providing security behind him helped a great deal.  He’s probably a borderline first-round/early second-round pick at this point, but he’s a player you want to own.

9) Robinson Cano – New York Yankees – Second Baseman
With all the hype Cano had in 2010, his final numbers were extremely similar to what he did in 2009, outside of the RBI.  Just look at the numbers:

  • 2009 – .320, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 103 R
  • 2010 – .319, 29 HR, 109 RBI, 103 R

The fact of the matter is, however, that now that he’s done it twice, it’s hard to argue how good he is.  Hitting in the middle of the Yankees lineup (which helps to explain his improved RBI), he should continue to be among the best hitters in the league.

10) Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies – Outfielder
Don’t get me wrong, he had a marvelous season overall hitting .336 with 24 HR, 117 RBI, 111 R and 26 SB.  However, does one year of those numbers justify a first-round pick?  At a shallow position, they probably do, but I still have to consider him a borderline late first-round/early second-round pick at this point.  It may change as we get closer, but for now, he’s near the bottom of the round.  A .384 BABIP just isn’t likely to be repeated, so he’s likely going to regress across the board.  That means we are going to need a significantly better look at him before cementing his spot on this list.

11) Chase Utley – Philadelphia Phillies – Second Baseman
We all know just how good he is.  While he may no longer be the best option at his position, he still brings more than enough to the table to justify being a late first round selection.  Injuries helped to reduce his numbers, holding him to just 425 AB on the season.  However, having hit .323 with 5 HR and 22 RBI in September should help ease some concerns.

12) Mark Teixeira – First Baseman – New York Yankees
I was extremely torn on this final spot, with names like David Wright, Carl Crawford and Josh Hamilton also in consideration.  They all have negatives, but for now I’m going to give the nod to Teixeira.  I know he struggled in the average department, but he also had some bad luck, with a .268 BABIP.  Considering that he still produced the home runs (33), RBI (108) and runs (103), I’m not worried that he’s not going to produce enough.  The average will bounce back and he should remain among the best hitters in the game.

What are your thoughts on the first-round?  Who do I have going too early?  Who’s too late?  Who was left off that you think belongs?

Make sure to check out our early first-round rankings:


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