I'm also a big fantasy baseball fan, so now that I've had all my drafts completed, I'll share my top surprises for 2008 as well as the biggest busts. As a baseline, I'm using our own Draft Averages (www.sportsline.com/fantasy/baseball
/draft/MLB/ROTO/ALL) So for each position I'll pick a player who I think will most outperform their draft slot and the one that will most underperform it.
C: Geovany Soto: Won the job after a great callup last year. I have him ranked at #6 after all the M's (Martinez, Martin, Mauer and McCann) and Posada. He's #11 by our users, behind over the hill guys such as Varitek, Hernandez and Rodriguez. I also like Napoli and both Molinas better than most.
1B: Todd Helton: I have him as the 7th best 1B, while our users have him at #12. He'll hit for a higher average than any 1B not named Pujols and his R and RBI totals will be very strong, considering the park and the lineup. I like LaRoche and Jackson to out do their 16th and 17th ranking as well.
2B: Dustin Pedroia: #7 for me, while #11 for our users. Not much power and not much speed, but if he bats at the top of that lineup, he'll score a ton of runs. Others I like: Roberts (I have him at #2), Weeks.
3B: Ryan Zimmerman: Only ARod, Wright, Braun and Cabrera are better. The Nationals will have their best offense ever and their new park has to be friendlier to hitters than old RFK. Our users have him at #9. I also like Encarnacion and Kouzmanoff.
SS: J.J. Hardy: He's somewhere in between the player he was last year in the first half and the one he was in the second half. He's my #7 SS, while he's #12 among our users. I also think Lugo and Lopez will outdo their rankings.
OF: Chris B. Young: He's a younger version of Alfonso Soriano. I expect another 30-30 season and wouldn't be surprised with 70 total HR+SB. If only he would bat 5th so he could get more RBI's.
OF: Corey Hart: He's Chris Young lite. But with better average and more RBI potential. Won't be surprised if he goes 30-30.
OF: Matt Kemp: He's #33 on our list, which is ridiculously low. Only if Joe Torre falls asleep and gives Pierre AB's at his expense will this not be the steal of every draft. Others I like: Milledge, Victorino, Delmon Young, Adam Jones.
SP: Javier Vazquez: This is probably my most controversial pick. His offense will be better this year so he could win 16 games with a mid-3 ERA.
SP: Cole Hammels: The park may scare some, but not me (and Webb and Haren have the same issue too). In a league with Peavy and Santana he's got no hope to win a CY, but he should in the hunt for #3 with Webb for the foreseable future.
SP: Jeremy Bonderman: He was downright atrocious in the second half last year, but I expect a big bounceback this year. Others I like: Gallardo, Hill, Garza, Duke.
RP: Francisco Cordero: The NL has few no doubt about it closers. He's one of them and the Reds should be improved this year. Expect 40-45 saves. Also like Soria, Lyon (although a bit risky) and Chad Cordero.
C: Ivan Rodriguez: I hate to say it as I've always liked Pudge, but he's done. He's lost his power (regardless of his spring training HR binge) and last year he walked a total of 9 times! Also I'd stay away from Varitek and Hernandez.
1B: Carlos Delgado: Another player I think is done. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, he'll be lucky to get 400 AB's this year. Also in the running are Konerko and Sexson.
2B: Robinson Cano: He's not a bad player (in fact his stats are better than Pedroia whom I have in the other list). But he's not the 3rd best at the position as our users think. Others overrated: Kent, Hill.
3B: Mike Lowell: Had a great season last year, but he could go all 2005 on us again when he hit .236. Blalock, Glaus and Rolen are all way too high.
SS: Miguel Tejada: This is probably the weakest of my picks. There wasn't really anyone that jumped out as being terribly overrated.
OF: Manny Ramirez: He's #9 on our list, and that's simply too high at this stage in his career.
OF: Nick Markakis: He's #14 on our the list. I must be missing something. He's young so he has that going for him, but I just like too many guys ranked after him better.
OF: Vernon Wells: He's had two good seasons in his career. He could have another 2003 season, but that was 5 years ago. Other choices: Abreu, Hawpe, Pierre, Ankiel, Bourn.
SP: Justin Verlander: I know many consider him a top favorite for the CY, but not me. Hell, he's not even the best pitcher with the initials JV in his division. He's still the best pitcher in that staff, just not as good as everyone expects.
SP: Roy Halladay: Just because he never seems to be healthy.
SP: Brad Penny: He had a great year last year, but he's never been that good, and he's an injury risk. Others I'm not high on: Jared Weaver, Wainwright and Lester.
RP: Jason Isringhausen: Another injury risk, and every day I like this Cards less. Also on this watch all the old guys: Borowski, Jones, Hoffman, Percival, Sherrill and Gregg.