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Fantasy Fix: Baseball on the Brain

The snow is piling up outside my window on the Far Northwest Side as I write this, but I'm thinking about baseball. Is it the Cubs' recent acquisition of Matt Garza? The White Sox' recent signing of Will Ohman? (Well, I know it's not that.)

There has been a fair amount of hot stove activity this winter, and I feel like we're set for a really exciting baseball season, not one dominated by pitchers like last year, but one in which fantasy numbers on both hitting and pitching fronts soar to new heights. Just a hunch . . .

Anyway, this has gotten me thinking about fantasy baseball draft rankings, so here's my very preliminary take on the top 10 picks (Subject to change sometime after spring training actually starts):

1. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado.

I mentioned Car-Go a few weeks ago, and I know I'm in the minority thinking he's a No. 1 pick, but he truly has no weak categories and has the potential lead the league in RBIs, AVG., and runs and could finish second or third in HRs and in the top five in SBs.

2. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis.

He may be the consensus No. 1, and certainly still has Triple Crown potential. Plus, he's going into a contract year. 45 HRs and 125 RBIs with a .320 AVG. is, astonishingly, a conservative estimation. Still, he barely gets the nod over my No. 3.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit.

He's about to turn 28, and is due for his best year in an already-illustrious career. Detroit's deal for Victor Martinez will make it much harder for the opposition to pitch around him. Even though he doesn't steal bases, he's the best fantasy player in the American League.

4. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida.

Another player a lot of people like as a No. 1, in no small part because of his position. But, his numbers seem to be heading in the wrong direction: His average was down 42 points last year from 2009, he hasn't stolen more than 35 bases the last three seasons after having 51 in 2006 and 2007, and his 21 homers last year were his lowest since 2006. The results will still be pleasing, but don't overpay.

5. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado.

I have learned my lesson not to discount him after his slow starts because he more than makes up for it come September when you really need a fantasy playoff push. I'd like to see him run more this year. Pencil him in for 30 HRs, 105 RBIs and 20 SBs.

6. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston.

I'm a sucker for the theory that playing half his games in Fenway Park will make him the AL home run king. Even if that doesn't happen, he'll be plunking dozens of doubles off the Green Monster, and the fact that he's no longer a one-man offense should help him have a career year.

7. Robinson Cano, 2B, NY Yankees.

He had a breakout season in 2010, just like a lot of us expected. But does that mean his numbers will stay flat in 2011? Maybe, but if that means .320, 30 HRs, 110 RBIs, it still makes him the best at his position.

8. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati.

I was a fan long before his 37-HR 2010 season. I think he can improve on last year's .324 AVG and 113 RBIs, and maybe even his 16 SBs, but HR-wise, I have a feeling he's peaked. Still a nice pick here if you want a 1B early and don't get Pujols or Cabrera and don't buy into the Gonzalez-meets-Fenway theory.

9. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee.

A multi-category threat, but his numbers were down in every area except doubles last year. His 14 SBs last year were particularly disappointing, but he just turned 27, so power numbers may still have some bounce in them. If he can reach 30 HRs, 110 RBIs and stay above .300, he'll live up to the No. 9 spot.

10. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa.

Another young stud, just 25. His average has edged up each of the last three years, and .300 is a good bet in 2011. His 22 HRs last year were 11 fewer than 2009; he should be back around 30 this year. However, a couple key lineup mates - Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena - are gone, and I think his RBIs in particular will suffer.

We'll return to hoops action next week, but the baseball season can't come quick enough.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read about his split sports fan personality at his Beachwood blog SwingsBothWays.

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