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Bust, Sleepers, Breakout Stars and Safest Bets.

By Joe Osborne

A lot of people like to complain that baseball is boring, slow and not much fun to watch. Others would say that they love the drama, intense rivalries and calculated strategies. No matter what your opinion on the game is, there’s nothing that will get you more invested in the game than playing in a  fantasy baseball league. So, with Spring Training now underway, and the season only a few short weeks away, I thought it would be a great time to give my predictions and insight for the upcoming fantasy season.

Safest Bets – These are the most reliable picks you can make

No need to over think it. Pick Albert Pujols.

Albert Pujols: There’s absolutely no debate here. Ten straight seasons with over 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s make Pujols one of the top hitters in the history of the sport. He’s also scored 100 or more runs each season except for once when he scored 99. At 31 years-old, he’s still in his prime. It’s no secret that he’s in the last year of his contract and if he maintains his consistency this season, he could earn the highest paying contract ever. Pujols has also been extremely durable throughout his 10 year career, only missing more than ten games twice, while the least amount of at-bats he’s had in a season was 524. The numbers don’t lie, which is why Pujols will be the top pick in most drafts this season.

Roy Halladay: Since making the switch from the American League to the National League, Halladay has been the top pitcher in the game. Over the past five seasons, Halladay has averaged 18 wins, a mind blowing 7.6 complete games (which scores huge points in fantasy leagues), 180 K’s and a very reliable 32.2 starts. Even if Halladay doesn’t deliver a dominating performance each time he pitches, the Phillies should be able to give him enough run support to add a few extra wins to his total.

Not worth the price of admission – The following players won’t be worthy of their high draft position

Ryan Howard: The Phillies first basemen will still put up decent numbers, but wont’t offer much value based on where he’ll get picked. Since becoming an everyday player in 2006, Howard’s lowest totals in hits, home runs, rbi’s and walks came last season. With Jason Werth’s big bat no longer in the line-up, Howard will miss out on more opportunities to put up fantasy numbers. You’re better off waiting to the later rounds to grab your first basemen.

Adrian Beltre: Two times in his career, he has hit for a .300 avg and over 100 RBI’s in the same season. Both times were in contract years and he’s entering the first year of a six year deal. Beltre has been inconsistent throughout his career, especially when he’s not playing for a new contract. If you’re looking for your third basemen to put up big numbers, you should look somewhere else.

Back from the dead - Here’s a few guys who should be able to regain the form that made them fantasy stars in the past

Carlos Beltran: With two injury riddled seasons behind him, and in the last year of his contract with the Mets, Beltran should be able to regain the form that made him one of fantasy’s top outfielders over the last decade. When healthy, Beltran is an absolute game changer. From 2001 to 2008 Beltran averaged almost 30 home runs, 103.5 RBI’s and 108 runs. Beltran’s still only 32 years old and should have plenty of pop left in his bat. He’s not worthy and to risky to be your first outfielder selected, but will be worth the risk later in the draft when you’re filling your other outfield slots.

Aaron Hill: Did any player fall off more than Hill did in 2010? After a breakout 2009 season, Hill battled a brutal hamstring injury throughout the season which resulted in a horrible .205 batting average. Having an average that low means everything suffers, but Hill still managed to ht 26 home runs. With his hamstring injury being a thing of the past, Hill can be expected to raise his batting average closer to his career average of .270, which should have a dramatic impact on his runs, RBI’s and obviously hits.

Breakout stars – I think the title of this section is pretty self-explanatory

Dallas Braden: With two full seasons under his belt, the Oakland pitcher is ready burst. Braden’s 11-14 record from last season is anything but impressive, but his five complete games and 192.2 innings pitched prove that he has the tools to be a star. With a little bit of run support and some help from the bullpen, Braden could turn into one of fantasy’s top pitchers in 2011. If you need a pitcher towards the end of your draft, pick Braden because he should be available late.

Billy Butler: In a league that’s dominated by first basemen, the name Billy Butler isn’t one that usually pops up, mainly because he plays on the Royals and because he’s not even 25 years old yet. Butler did see a dip in his home run and RBI numbers last season, but did see an increase in hits, walks, average, on-base percentage and struck out 25 less times. We keep hearing about all the young talent in Kansas City, and Butler is about as bright as the young stars get.

In conclusion, you can take my advice or leave it, but don’t go into your draft blind. Have a strategy of players you want to target and decide what positions are most important to draft early. Positions such as shortstop and catcher are very shallow, with a huge drop off after the first few players, so it might be smart to snag up one of these positions early. Don’t be afraid to take risks on unknown players in the late rounds. Winning a league often comes down to getting big points from unlikely players, so do your homework on new players in starting roles. That’s it for now, but I’ll be back throughout the season with more fantasy baseball content. Have fun and good luck drafting!

Joe Osborne is a sports and entertainment enthusiast who resides in Halifax, NS. To read more articles like this, visit WhatUpSports.com, or you can follow Joe on Twitter @TheJoeOsborne.


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