1. Carlos Delgado, TOR $31
Delgado re-established himself as one of the best fantasy players in the game last season, propelling him to the top of our list. He topped 40 homers for the third time in his career, and was able to bring his batting average back up over .300 as well. Don't forget his RBI abilities either. He lead the majors in that category and can give a serious boost to your fantasy team. He's this year's top AL first baseman, and in a budding Toronto lineup, should be able to put up monster numbers again.
Projection: .305 - 41 - 130 - 115 - 0
2. Jason Giambi, NYY $30
Giambi suffered a slew of injuries last season, but that didn't stop him from hitting 41 homeruns for the second year in a row and driving in over 100 runs for the sixth straight year. Giambi is expected to be healthy next year, playing first base every day (which has traditionally helped his numbers) and in the middle of a lineup that could be even better than 2003's version of the Yankees. He'll return to his former MVP-candidate status in 2004.
Projection: .302 - 40 - 118 - 100 - 1
3. Mike Sweeney, KC $24
Sweeney won't put up the power numbers of some of the other guys on this list, but he combines very good homer totals with a fantastic batting average, assuming he can stay in the lineup. Back injuries limited Sweeney to just 108 games last season, but he played well when he returned. In a revitalized Royals lineup, Sweeney could do some serious damage in 2004.
Projection: .330 - 27 - 105 - 97 - 5
4. Frank Thomas, CHW $22
All of the Big Hurt's detractors had to stay quiet in 2003, as Thomas once again became one of the most feared sluggers in the league. He turns 36 during the season and his batting average is on the decline from his glory years, but Thomas can still put a serious hurt on the ball, and opposing pitchers. Draft him as a first baseman now, but he might lose his eligibility there in future seasons, as he continues his shift to a full-time DH.
Projection: .265 - 37 - 98 - 85 - 0
5. David Ortiz, BOS $19
Ortiz came seemingly out of nowhere to put up MVP-type numbers in his first year in Boston, but scouts have been predicting big things for Ortiz for years, he just needed to stay in the lineup. We don't expect him to have quite the monster year that he did in 2003, but if he can avoid injury, Ortiz will be a great pickup for 2004.
Projection: .280 - 30 - 90 - 85 - 0
6. Mark Teixeira, TEX $18
In his first full season in the majors, Teixeira immediately became a serious power threat, and one of the better first basemen in the league. In the minors, the 23-year-old had a .318 batting average, and he hit .427 in his last year in college.
|Mark Teixeira: Should avoid the sophomore slump in '04.|
Projection: .280 - 29 - 85 - 75 - 2
7. Rafael Palmeiro, BAL $16
Palmeiro's power numbers have remained steady even as his batting average continues to drop. The move to Baltimore won't hurt his totals at all, and could even help him slightly since the Orioles' lineup will be stacked in 2004. Palmeiro is on the downside of his career, but he's still got a few productive years in him.
Projection: 258 - 35 - 98 - 90 - 1
8. Aubrey Huff, TB $15
After a career year in 2003, Huff could be one of the rising stars in Tampa Bay's surprisingly-talented lineup. Huff might have been playing over his head last season however, but his numbers really weren't far off from his 2002 averages, he just had a lot more playing time. Now that he's firmly entrenched in that lineup, he could make some more noise in 2004.
Projection: .306 - 29 - 95 - 90 - 2
9. Travis Lee $10-13
Lee hasn't signed with a team yet, so his projections depend on where he lands. If he gets a full-time job on a team with some support around him, Lee has the talent to be a productive player. Pay attention to where he ends up however, as it will likely make all the difference in his numbers.
Projection: .270 - 20 - 80 - 80 - 6
10. Kevin Millar, BOS $12
The second Red Sox on our list, Millar also had a career year in 2003. At 33 though, Millar is peaking too late for this to be anything of a new standard for him. He benefits from hitting in righty-friendly Fenway however, so he could very well put up similar numbers to 2004.
Projection: .285 - 23 - 85 - 80 - 2
11. Doug Mientkiewicz, MIN $8
Mientkiewicz doesn't bring traditional first-baseman power to the table, but he is capable of hitting for a higher average than most of these sluggers. If that's something you want to focus your attention on, this Twinkie could be the guy for you.
Projection: .305 - 12 - 72 - 68 - 3
12. Carlos Pena, DET $7
Pena was a top prospect in the Texas system just a few years ago, and was expected to be the next big thing at first base. He still has enormous power potential, but his average has been just terrible so far in his career. With a few fresh faces in the Tigers' lineup, Pena could be primed for a breakout year. If he is, look out.
Projection: .269 - 23 - 70 - 65 - 4
13. Raul Ibanez, SEA $7
The move from Kansas City to Seattle is going to hurt Ibanez. He'll benefit from a slightly stronger lineup, but he's going to a pitcher's park and a pitcher's division. Already a marginal player, Ibanez will be lucky to even come close to his production in 2002 and 2003. He's a better play in the outfield than at first base.
Projection: .285 - 15 - 85 - 90 - 7
14. Erubiel Durazo, OAK $6
Durazo is an on-base machine, but walks don't count in traditional 5x5 leagues. He was supposed to be more of a power threat than he turned out to be, and his BA was below average. He's still young, so there's room for improvement, but in Oakland's depleted lineup, Durazo's going to have a tough time putting up big numbers.
Projection: .270 - 23 - 80 - 90 - 2
15. Tino Martinez, TB $5
Tino returns to the American League in 2004 as he tries to bring some veteran savvy to the young D-Rays club. Martinez has historically been a very good AL hitter, but he's definitely on the downside of his career and his production is slipping. He could put up solid numbers if he sees regular playing time.
Projection: .268 - 19 - 75 - 70 - 1
16. John Olerud, SEA $5
Formerly a model of consistency, Olerud had arguably the worst season of his career in 2003. He posted full-season lows in almost every category and posted a batting average lower than .280 for the first time since 1996. Age could finally be catching up to the former batting champ, but he can't really be that bad.
Projection: .275 - 15 - 80 - 70 - 0
17. Paul Konerko, CHW $4
Will the real Konerko please stand up? The White Sox first baseman frustrated owners last season with a pathetic first half. He almost made up for it after the All-Star break, but his final numbers still weren't enough to warrant a spot on your roster. We think he'll return to something closer to his previous years, but he may never be the same player again.
Projection: .270 - 21 - 75 - 70 - 0
18. Scott Spiezio, SEA $4
Spiezio's nice because he's got that third-base eligibility thing going for him, but he's a weak play at first base. He managed to finish 2003 with pretty good numbers due to a strong finish. But don't expect them to improve with the move north to Seattle.
Projection: .270 - 14 - 82 - 65 - 5
19. Matt Stairs, KC $3
Good sleeper pick here. Most people have forgotten about Stairs and most people don't know that he hit 20 homers last year. Back in the AL now, in a great hitter's park, and with the DH available, Stairs will see some playing time in '04. He might be put into a lefty/righty platoon with Ken Harvey, but Stairs will see most of the at bats and could do some major damage.
Projection: .279 - 22 - 68 - 56 - 0
20. Ben Broussard, CLE $3
Broussard had serious power in the minor leagues, averaging 32 homeruns per 162 games. He showed off some of that power for the Indians in 2003, but his average dropped largely due to a difficulty making contact. With another year under his belt, Broussard could have a very good season, but he'll be forced to share time with Travis Hafner at first base and DH.
Projection: .260 - 21 - 68 - 72 - 4
21. Scott Hatteberg, OAK $3
The best thing Hatteberg has going for him is that he's pretty much guaranteed at bats. Oakland doesn't have anyone to replace him right now. He had way more fantasy value when he was a catcher, but as a first baseman, he's at the bottom of the list. Don't look for much here.
Projection: .260 - 12 - 60 - 62 - 0
22. Travis Hafner, CLE $3
Like his teammate Broussard, Hafner projected to be a major power threat in the majors, but hasn't been able to put it together yet. His biggest weakness is against lefty pitching, where he had a terrible .629 OPS. Hafner could be forced into a platoon situation, but Broussard can't hit lefties either. More likely, both players will split time with Casey Blake between the 1B and DH positions.
Projection: .265 - 16 - 52 - 48 - 1
23. Ken Harvey, KC $2
Harvey's an excellent player against lefties, but he can't hit right-handed pitching at all. This inability will probably force him into a platoon situation and rob him of at bats. With enough playing time, Harvey could post decent homerun totals, but don't look for a good average.
Projection: .260 - 15 - 60 - 51 - 1
24. Robert Fick, TB $1
Fick somehow went from being an everyday player to a bench player on the Devil Rays. As a reserve, Fick's numbers will obviously take a hit, but if Martinez is ineffective or injured, Fick could jump in and become a starter. Even with playing time though, Fick probably isn't worth a spot on your roster, and definitely not as a first baseman.
Projection: .270 - 10 - 50 - 47 - 0
25. Brian Daubach, BOS $1
Daubach actually was a decent fantasy play in his first go-round with the Red Sox, but he signed a minor-league deal and will have to compete with Millar and Ortiz for at bats, no small task. Daubach's a good player that can put up good power numbers with enough at bats, but getting those at bats is going to be difficult.
Projection: .265 - 9 - 30 - 25 - 0
26. Robb Quinlan, ANA $1
Quinlan made his major-league debut with the Angels this year and hit .287 in 94 at bats. He projects to hit for good average, but his power is suspect. He could hit 20 homers, could hit 10. Definitely an unknown quantity at this point, Quinlan could be a great sleeper pick, particularly in AL-only leagues. Most people have never heard of this guy, now you have.
Projection: .290 - 14 - 60 - 65 - 4
Things To Keep In Mind: Anaheim signing Guerrero shakes things up. Quinlan may be forced to the bench as Darin Erstad takes over 1B duties. Keep Erstad in mind for down the line. He won't be eligible at 1B for your draft, but the position change could be good for him as it is less taxing than CF.
Special thanks to Mark Rubin, our in-house fantasy baseball expert.