Beltran a Must Have in H2H Leagues

I would like to Welcome Mark Schruender to the FB365 team!  He’ll be writing articles with an emphasis on head to head leagues for the foreseeable future.  Mark has been doing great work on his blog Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove for over a year now and is currently entering the top 50 rankings of his preseason countdown.  I’m very happy to have him aboard as I am sure he will make the 2010 fantasy season even better here at Fantasy Baseball 365! – Charlie

Two years ago at this time, Albert Pujols’ star was fading. Sure, he had just hit 30 plus home runs, 100 plus RBI, and had a .327 average along with the rest of the Pujolsian stat line that is as automatic by October as colored leaves in New England. The problem was that he was set to have Tommy John surgery. It was imminent. There was going to be no Pujols in 2008. There was talk he would never be the same player again. About seven weeks later the season started and Pujols was also starting at first base. A little over six months after that Pujols was named the National League MVP.

Last year, it was fairly well-accepted that Chase Utley would miss all of April and probably not be able to play until June. Once he came back nobody knew about the type of impact hip surgery would have on his swing, his ability to run the bases, and play the field. Utley hit third in the season opener against the Atlanta Braves. He went on to set a career high in stolen bases and remains on top of the second base throne.

Both of these players saw their draft value plummet in the weeks leading up to the season. The owners who believed in the remarkable consistency these players had had throughout their careers leading up to those uncertain times were rewarded. This year Carlos Beltran is being subjected to a New York-sized preseason hate level. At Mock Draft Central, Beltran is being taken 89th on average. That sounds generous compared to the 160th overall ranking that the world’s most popularly played fantasy baseball game, Yahoo, is slotting him to start the season. Those rankings are justified after Joel Sherman speculated that Beltran will only get through this season to put himself in better position for 2011.

In fairness, the Beltran example is a little different from Utley and Pujols because Beltran was out for a significant portion of last season, but for his career Beltran has been as consistent as Utley and Pujols. From 2001-2009 he averaged 27 home runs, 101 runs, 97 RBI, 27 steals, and an .879 OPS. The concept of what he does on average when he’s in the lineup is exactly the reason why head to head leagues should make Beltran a higher priority. The most important part of the season for head to head leagues is September when the playoffs are going on. If the rankings were reworked at that time, Beltran should easily fit into the top 50 and more likely the top 30 overall. Missing action in April is not an especially big deal since that’s when the highest quality free agents are available.

Those who draft Beltran might be patient enough to wait for his return, but might be concerned about how well he can play on the knee. That concern is legitimate, but there is a concern or a question with every pick in the draft. Looking back on a draft I participated in last season here are the players who were taken from picks 150-160, or where Beltran is going based on Yahoo’s ranking.

Lastings Milledge, Manny Corpas, Chris Young, Derrek Lee, Gavin Floyd, Randy Johnson, Chad Qualls, Pablo Sandoval, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Xavier Nady. Obviously Lee, Sandoval, and Jimenez performed beyond the value of that pick while Floyd and Qualls might have been picked right where they belong. In picking Beltran at this position ask yourself does he have better than a 30% chance of outperforming this ranking in four or five months? Last I checked Pujols never got Tommy John and Utley was the same guy he always is. Roll the dice on Beltran – especially in head to head leagues.

Mark Schruender is a part-time contributor to Fantasy Baseball 365. He also writes daily on his blog Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove.