Everyone has their own method when it comes to draft day. Some people focus heavily on building a solid staff of pitchers, some go the “pitch and ditch” method where you focus all your energy on offense and then just pick up free agent pitchers when you need to fill a weekly slot. But if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that it is tough to find offensive players who can excel at the “big 5” (AVG/R/HR/RBI/SB – which I will address like this through the article) statistical categories.
Today I want to take a look at the main guys that will give you the best chance at the .300/100/20/100/20 stat line that all fantasy owners covet. In order to really do some damage in your league, you need to focus on all statistical categories. Filling your team with just sluggers will help you win in those categories, but what about the rest? After some pretty extensive research, I was able to weed out some of the pretenders and was left with a list of very solid candidates. So below is the list (in alphabetical order) of players who fall into the rare classification of being able to lead in all five main categories. Some of the guys are obvious big picks for the numbers they put up, but if you look closer, they’re actually more beneficial to your team than meets the eye.
Bobby Abreu, OF, New York Yankees
2006 saw Abreu’s home change from Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Abreu has always had .300/100/25/100/30 numbers throughout his career but things may change in 2007 as he becomes a full-time Yankee. One thing that will change for Abreu is the pressure for him to hit a lot of home runs. In Philadelphia, people were getting on his case about the fact that through 339 at-bats, he only had 8 home runs. Now that he is in a more powerful lineup (of course the Phillies are more powerful than when he left), the need for him to crush 25-30 homers isn’t quite as pressing. The Yankees may also be less apt to run with Abreu as the Phillies were. The NL is more known for “producing” runs where as the AL (and the Yankees in particular) tend to try to slug it out. Regardless, I think Abreu will still have a huge season in 2007 and could put up career numbers
Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Crawford will go into 2007 ranked very high (top 10) on many people’s draft lists. It’s quite obvious why when you look at his numbers over the past few years. He has stayed steady with an over .300 average the past two seasons and had over 50 stolen bases three out of the past four years. Not only that but we have seen his homer and RBI numbers increase each year as well. Now that the Rays have become more offensively potent with players improving and the full-time addition of Delmon Young, they should score more runs which will help Crawford easily topple 100.
Johnny Damon, OF, New York Yankees
Damon’s move to the Yankees in 2006 saw his homers, RBI, and stolen bases increase from the previous year, but his average drop. After another year of experience playing in New York Damon should be all ready to put another solid year. Damon is one of the few leadoff hitters in baseball that you could easily insert into the number three spot in the order. Damn should also be able to bump up his RBI numbers with the steady end of the Yankee order that they will have in 2007.
Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets
Reyes is an obvious choice as he has become a top 5 pick in fantasy league drafts. He is a perfect example of the kind of player I am talking about in this post. In 2006 Reyes found his power stick when he hit a career high 19 homers. Reaching the 100 RBI plateau may be tough for a leadoff hitter (especially in the NL where the pitcher hits right before him), but his stolen bases and runs will more than make up for that.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs
While you normally don’t see too many leadoff hitters threaten 50 homers, Soriano isn’t your prototypical leadoff guy. Sure he scores a lot of runs and steals a lot of bases, but you’d think having him hit 3-4-5 would be more beneficial with his power. Regardless of where he hits in the order, Soriano will usually get you four categories but fall a little short in the average dept. Of course we will let that slide considering he is one of the few guys in the league capable of having a 40-40 season. It should be very interesting watching him in his new Cubbies uniform.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
The second half of last season saw David Wright struggle at the plate a little. While having an explosive first half, his second half cool off surprised many people. I think this season will be a different story as I see him having a strong full season and improving on his already solid numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him reach 30 homers and drive in 125 all the while keeping the rest of his numbers pretty much the same. David Wright is a very nice pick up for a player that won’t go until late second round at the earliest, so pick him up if he’s available your second time through.
Carlos Guillen, SS, Detroit Tigers
Guillen showed for the first time in his career that he is able to steal some bases with a career high 20 in 2007. That’s why he wasn’t included in the “Sure Thing” category. Guillen has also yet to drive in 100 RBI in a season. This could all change in 2007 as the Tigers have only bettered their lineup with the addition of Gary Sheffield and the maturation of Curtis Granderson. Guillen could find himself in the middle of a lineup that helps him realize a career year.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians
Grady is just a good overall pick anyway based on his numbers, but this year he should make another step forward in his abilities. While hitting at the top of the order may limit his RBI chances, the fact that he’s part of such a super-charged lineup may help him inch closer to 100 RBI (similar to Johnny Damon’s career). He will definitely be a target of mine on draft day.
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
I had a difficult time deciding if Chase should be a “Sure Thing” or a “Just About” only because we don’t know what if Chase can improve in the stolen bases department. Sure he’s a top pick regardless of how many stolen bases he has, but as far as this post goes we can probably just say he’s a 4 ½ stat guy. Of course I’ll waive the few stolen bases he falls short for the rest of the numbers he puts up.
Josh Barfield, 2B, Cleveland Indians
There are two things that are working against Barfield as he enters the 2007 campaign. One is that he is susceptible to the “sophomore slump.” Now this is easily avoidable by getting off to a good start. The second is a little more daunting for the second generation player. Last season it took some time for Barfield to get comfortable in his new surroundings. He admittedly is a slow starter as it normally takes him 1-2 times through teams and pitchers before he is able to become comfortable. Once he became comfortable with the Padres last season, he did great. But now he is not only on a new team, but a new league. If Barfield can hit the ground running in 2007, he should be able to improve on his offensive numbers. He is also part of a very powerful offense now in Cleveland who scored the most runs in the American League last season. Because of this, he should be able to score more runs and drive in more RBI and reach the magic numbers of the “big five.”
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins
Last season Ramirez won the NL Rookie of the Year with some great numbers. This season he should be able to feed off that and reach the 20 homer mark and get closer to driving in 100 runs. While he does have some very solid hitters around him, I’m sure Boston is kicking themselves for trading this budding superstar before last season. Can you imagine what he would be capable of in that lineup?
Here’s a look at how these players did statistically in 2006:
Now I’m sure most of these players were high on your rankings already, but hopefully this helped shed some more light on them and make picking them a little easier when you are on the clock. As always I’m open for any opinions you may have so just let me know via email or comment.
On the other hand, if you are in the fantasy league I play in, just ignore this entire post.