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The First Round

Mock Draft Central has baseball drafts up and running, which means we can get an early read on what the general fantasy player is thinking.  I'm not sure if we can consider this information meaningful in mid-January, but it should get us in the ballpark.  Here's how the average first round plays out:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Hanley Ramirez
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. Troy Tulowitzki
  5. Evan Longoria
  6. Carlos Gonzalez
  7. Joey Votto
  8. Adrian Gonzalez
  9. David Wright
  10. Robinson Cano
  11. Josh Hamilton
  12. Ryan Braun

Comparing to last year:

CarGo, Votto, Adrian, and Cano are truly new to the first round, having never come near it in past drafts.  As we saw last year with guys like Kemp, Joe Mauer, and Mark Reynolds, one huge season does not necessarily mean the player has arrived as an annual fantasy first or second-rounder.

Maybe CarGo doesn't hit .336 again, but in a half-season in '09 he did show that he mostly just needed playing time to be able to flirt with 30/30.  That's why so many forecasters were touting him and he was often drafted inside the first ten rounds last year.  The concerns with him for 2011: he could theoretically become complacent with a long-term contract in place, he wasn't first-round material away from Coors, he's battled injuries before, and he doesn't draw walks.  Back in October I guessed CarGo would be drafted third overall, but it appears you could get him sixth or even a few spots later.  It's hard not to like him, but the risk is higher than with other first-rounders.

Aside from stolen bases, Votto had an elite fantasy season in 2009.  The 16 steals and added power in '10 were bonuses, but many were comfortable taking him in the second round last March.  He's a 27-year-old monster who could bump it up to 40 home runs this year.  Take him early with confidence.  I know it's not statistically proven but from a fantasy standpoint I'd prefer to see him not locked up to an extension, with the carrot of a monstrous second-year arbitration reward in his sights.

Adrian is coming off shoulder surgery but moves to a better ballpark and lineup with the Red Sox.  He will also be facing tougher pitching.  He draws tons of walks but unlike Votto isn't a huge average guy and has no speed.  If Votto is off the board you could wait until the second round for Fielder as your primary first baseman.  Contract year for the big man.

Cano has it all except speed, plus he plays second base.  He spent most of the year batting fifth or fourth and added a bunch of RBIs over his previous season.  He's been very durable over the last four years.  You can justify this pick, but he wasn't much different when he was going in the fourth round last year.  Give some thought to instead buying low on Utley, Dustin Pedroia, or Ian Kinsler.

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