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The time has come to rehash 2010's fantasy highs and lows, and look forward to 2011.
But rather than brag about picking up Matt Cassel from the waiver wire just in time for him to become a top fantasy QB, or lament that I traded Jose Bautista when he had only 17 of his eventual 54 home runs, I just want to move on and try to get head start on 2011.
With that in mind, here are 11 fantasy predictions for 2011:
1. Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C, NY, will be my fantasy basketball MVP for the 2011 season.
Averaging more than 26 PPG so far, he has a great chance to lead the league in total points if he stays healthy. And while he has never been a threat to average a double-double, he's getting very close this season at 9.3 rebounds per game. Combine that with 52.3% field-goal shooting and about 2.2 blocks per game, and I think he edges LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul.
2. Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans, will lead the league in assists and steals, but his fantasy value will drop after this season, assuming he stays in New Orleans.
He's been listed as the No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy draft pick the last few years, but to my mind he just doesn't score enough to rank that high. Here's his scoring averages the last three seasons: 22.8, 18.7, 16.5. And here's his assists averages: 11.0, 10.7, 9.9. I don't like where this is heading and neither should you.
3. The top pick overall in many fantasy baseball leagues will be Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia.
I am not saying he should be the top pick, but that in many leagues he'll go first as team owners drool over his postseason performance and think about how well-armed his new (and former) team is for another postseason run. But, I don't think he's the top pick overall, and I don't even think he's the top pitching choice on his own team. Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia, gets my vote.
4. If I get the top pick overall in a fantasy baseball league, I will take Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado.
I almost never take outfielders or pitchers No. 1, but he proved himself as the ultimate multi-category player in 2010: 34 HRs, 117 RBIs, 26 SBs, 111 runs and 197 hits. At 25-years-old, he realistically could edge higher in every one of those categories in 2011.
5. Jose Bautista, 3B, Toronto, will not hit 54 HRs again. He will not hit 50. Or 40. I will do his fantasy ranking a favor by predicting he will hit no more than 37.
Many team owners will be tempted to rank him second or third at his position, but there are still at least five 3Bs (Evan Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman and Kevin Youkilis) and maybe even a sixth (Adrian Beltre) I would pick before Bautista, who could prove to be a drag in every other category except home runs.
6. Carlos Pena, 1B, Cubs, will hit more home runs than Adam Dunn, 1B/OF, White Sox.
In the battle of local free agent signings, Dunn will be drafted higher in most fantasy leagues, but Pena will be an interesting mid-to-late round sleeper pick in a lot of leagues.
7. Jon Lester, SP, Boston, will be the top fantasy pitcher in American League-only leagues.
With 19 wins and 225 strikeouts last year, he will benefit from an improved Boston attack to end up north of 20 wins and 250 strikeouts. Amazingly, he may still be only the fourth-best fantasy pitcher overall behind Halladay, Lee and Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco, the latter maybe softening a bit after a World Series win, but still the top strikeout pitcher overall.
8. The biggest fantasy baseball surprise of 2011 will be Brandon Webb, SP, Texas.
He has missed just about all of the last two seasons, but the former Cy Young winner who just signed with the Rangers is a ground ball pitcher in a home run park, he has an incentive-laden deal with a lot to prove, and he will be backed up by an extremely productive lineup. Webb will be a forgotten man by now to most fantasy owners, but would make a great late-round sleeper pick.
9. The top overall fantasy football pick in most leagues going into the 2011-12 season will be Arian Foster, RB, Houston.
This season, he'll end up with 16 TDs overall, more than 1,500 rushing yards and more than 600 receiving yards. We may see more first-round QB fantasy picks than ever next season, but Foster will be your consensus No. 1 overall.
10. The top fantasy QB taken in most drafts next year will not be Michael Vick.
I am not saying it shouldn't be Vick, but Tom Brady, QB, New England has been unbelievably good this season (34 passing TDs and just 4 INTs) and four other QBs (Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Matt Schaub) have good chances to end this campaign with more than 4,500 passing yards.
Vick, whose season has been nothing short of a revelation, may get lost in the mix when it's time for the next draft.
11. The top overall fantasy basketball pick in most leagues for the 2011-12 season will be LeBron James, SF, Miami.
Sure, I predicted Stoudemire will be MVP this season, and Durant still has so much upside as a scorer, but James remains the biggest multi-category threat, and his best season is still ahead of him.
Happy New Year!
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