- Ryan Howard — PHI — After being injured and struggling the first six weeks of ’07, Howard continued his assault on National League pitching. Although his average dropped 45 points, Howard still finished among the leaders in HR's and RBI's. Howard’s one downfall is his horrendous eye at the plate. He set a new mark of swinging and missing with 199 strikeouts. Expect another monster season for Ryan, projecting .285, 53 HR, and 140 RBI.
- Albert Pujols — STL — There is only one reason that Albert isn’t the number one player on the board overall. There have been more reports that his elbow has become such a problem that he is unable to straighten his arm. To make it worse, Pujols has said that he isn’t going to push himself this year if the Cardinals aren’t in the race. Since that is a distinct possibility after the way they finished last year, you are taking a pretty good-sized injury risk with Albert. I think he is still very much worth it, but it had to at least affect his ranking. He will make many people sorry if he stays healthy, look for .330/46/145 if the elbow doesn’t bark too much.
- Prince Fielder — MIL — One thing you can’t call Prince is late for dinner. One of the biggest men in baseball, he is also already one of the more feared young power hitters in the MLB. In just his second full season, Prince hit 50 HRs, and there’s no reason to believe that his power numbers will decline. He won’t kill you with his average and he even swipes a couple of bags a year. Don’t think he’s quite snuck into the first round yet, but another great year to the tune of .285/48/140 is well within his reach. Hell, I’ll even tack on 4 steals to that projection.
- Mark Teixeira — ATL — Habitually known as a second half performer, Tex didn’t disappoint last year, as he hit more than half of his 30 HRs and 105 RBI after his trade to Atlanta at the deadline last season. Fantasy owners are hoping that THIS is the year that he finally puts it together for the entire season. Can he get back to his 2005 numbers (.301/43/144) now that he is in the inferior National League? I think he will be great again, but I can’t project 40 dingers. Figure on .278/36/110.
- Justin Morneau — MIN — Morneau shockingly just got PAID by the Twins this off-season. Minnesota made the ’06 MVP $80 million richer, and now he has to earn this money. After a few years of inconsistency and injuries, Morneau has put it together the last couple of seasons. He struggled at the end of 2007, but looking at his line .271/31/111 it’s hard to complain too much. The Twins pitching staff is going to be a train wreck, so they are hoping Justin continues to hit baseballs into the baggie in right field. I’ll estimate his ’08 numbers at .285/32/105.
Rising Star— Billy Butler — KC --Butler left nothing to prove in the minor leagues, outside of whether or not he could field the ball. Even without a position, the Royals promoted him last year and after he left small children crying with his play in left field, Butler was relegated to DH duty. In September, it was figured he could do the least damage at first base, and he is slated to get first crack at taking the job. There’s no doubt about his bat though. A career .336 hitter in MiLB, Butler could become a force with the bat as soon as this year. He struggled some in his time in the majors, but once he gets comfortable expect a lot of baseballs to go splashing into the waterfalls at Kauffman Stadium.
Falling Stock— Carlos Delgado — NYM --After ten straight seasons of swatting 30 or more home runs, age and injuries finally caught up to Delgado. Dontrelle Willis ended his season with a fastball to the hand, but Delgado was hobbled by shoulder, knee, and wrist injuries as well. A guy who you could once put in the bank for 30+ HRs and 110 RBI now comes with a lot of baggage and question marks at age 35. Maybe he should talk to Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. This is the part of their careers where they started getting much, much better.
Make or Break Year— Travis Hafner — CLE --“Pronk” (part project, part donkey) really isn’t a first baseman, however, he played enough games at the position last year to qualify there in most fantasy leagues. After 3 straight years of improving numbers, yet nagging injuries, Hafner played in almost every game... and his numbers took a dramatic turn for the worse. In 23 more games, he hit 18 less homers, 17 less RBI, and his average dropped over 40 points! The Indians front office, fans, and fantasy players are hoping for a big turn around from the big man this year, or has he taken a down turn? I’m thinking bounce back season from Hafner this year.
Risky Pick— Carlos Pena — TB --Bouncing to his fourth team in three years (wasn’t he in the Yanks' minor leagues for a while?) it looked like Pena headed to Tampa Bay because no one pays attention down there anyway. Once the firstbaseman of the future in Detroit, I think everyone wrote Pena off as a bust. However, I’m guessing there was some sort of deal with the devil in ’07 as Pena had a season that I don’t think even his mother would have projected. 46 HRs and 121 RBI???? If you are expecting him to even come close to that again, don’t be too surprised if you are disappointed by his performance.
Top Prospect—Joey Votto — CIN -- One of the jewels of the Reds farm system, Votto proved he belonged in his cup of coffee in the majors last September. In just 24 games, he hit .321 with four homers and 15 RBI. Votto looks to be a .300/25/95 guy right off the bat, and throw in 10-15 SBs, and you’ve got a guy who should be a star in this league for many years to come. Also deserving consideration— Daric Barton, OAK.
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