It's never too early to start thinking about fantasy baseball. Being the fantasy addict that I am, I'm already planning my strategy for this year's drafts, which officially begin in mid-February.
My draft strategy this year is simple: draft an excellent pitching corps that cannot be beat. I plan to use at least six of my first 10 picks to draft top-notch pitching. Drafting heavy on quality pitchers assures that I will be dominating the five pitching categories every week.
It might seem like an odd draft strategy to rely so much on pitching, but when it comes down to it, I'd rather rely on consistent quality pitching rather than unpredictable hitting. Even if I only win one or two hitting categories, I will be able to fall back on my pitching, which can win me the majority of categories every week.
Some of the players I have in mind include but are not limited to : C.C. Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels and Francisco Rodriquez. I almost can imagine the fear and panic a manager would feel going up against a rotation like that for seven days in a row.
It sure will be interesting to see if this draft strategy translates into winning fantasy teams or lopsided teams with tons of pitching and no hitting. I'll have to wait until April to find out, but I've read good things about drafting heavy on pitching.
Here are my top three players to look out for in 2009:
Alexi Ramirez, second base/shortstop/outfield, Chicago White Sox - Ramirez had a good season last year and I expect him to continue to play well in 2009. I think he will see an increase in his run production and steals, but I think he will do about the same in home runs and batting average. His versatility is a major plus, and I think he's a steal in the sixth round, as he should provide top-tier production in his second year.
Mike Aviles, shortstop, Kansas City Royals - After his call up last year, Aviles provided owners with stellar hitting throughout the season. He ended up with 38 multi-hit games after his May call up. With a full season ahead of him, I look for his stats to go up all across the board, except in hitting, where it would be hard to top a .325 average he attained last year. Don't believe the nay-sayers who say that he's past the growth stage of his career either. He will be productive this year.
Lastings Milledge, outfield, Washington Nationals - Milledge came on strong at the end last year and turned out to be a solid fantasy contributor in the second half. If he can add some power to his game (14 home runs in 2008) to go along with his speed (24 stolen bases in 2008), he could end up being the steal of many drafts.
My next baseball column will come around the middle of February after I have completed at least two drafts.
Next week, look for some more fantasy basketball action.
Craig resident and Fantasy Fix columnist Chris Gingrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.