Projections are listed as follows: AVG - HR - RBI - Runs - SB. These prices are for regular 5x5 Rotisserie-style leagues with MLB Universe. Adjust prices upward for AL/NL-only leagues.
1. Scott Rolen, PHI $28
Rolen leads the way here, but 1 and 2 are virtually interchangeable. For the moment, Rolen wins Best in Show because he has more speed (can steal in double figures) than Mike Lowell. But he‚ll be looking over his shoulder all season, as his lofty position is only his for the moment.
Projection: .300- 32- 110- 105- 15
2. Mike Lowell, FLA $27
Before all is said and done in 2004, Lowell could very well have a new address. While now it is definite that he won‚t be moving to the Bronx (at least for the time being), Shea Stadium may not be completely out of the question (?). Anyway, for a man who has battled testicular cancer, hitting a few more homeruns and winning a World Championship just makes life that much better. If he remains in Florida or not will not affect a fine 2004 campaign. His numbers should increase, and without a question, he remains a top fantasy option at third base.
Projection: .283- 35- 108- 91 - 3
3. Aramis Ramirez, CHC $24
For the time being, Ramirez is a marginal member of this group. He belonged here during his outstanding Rookie Year of 2001. An injury, immaturity and a bad team caused a major step backward in 2002. But last year, following a slow start, he finally got his bearings straight once again. Also a move to the best team in the National League won‚t hurt his 2004 stock options. Look for a huge season, plus a few extra postseason fringe benefits, from Ramirez this season.
Projection: .290- 37- 112- 87- 6
Ensberg is in for a big year in '04
Ensberg is a superstar in the making. Houston should battle the Cubs and Cards tooth and nail for the NL Central Title in 2004. The winner of that division should also rule the National League and wind up in the World Series, and Ensberg could have a lot to say about how that race turns out. He came a long, long way in 2003, and should be a very important Fantasy player in 2004. Surrounded by Jeff Kent and the Killer B‚s in a very potent Houston lineup, Ensberg should threaten Rolen‚s and Lowell‚s top slots before the year is out.
Projection: .287- 25- 91 -85- 13
5. Shea Hillenbrand, ARI $17
The jury is still out on Hillenbrand. He showed flashes of brilliance last season, particularly in one monster game for the Diamondbacks. He should remain an option at third base in a very, very thin NL field. The D-Backs will probably not be pennant contenders this season, and this fact could have a direct effect on Shea‚s numbers. While Ensberg should be heading for the stars in 2004, Hillenbrand could very well head in the opposite direction.
Projection: .279- 17- 80- 75- 5
6. Adrian Beltre, LA $14
Is this the season when Beltre finally reaches his potential??? Probably not; he will continue to be hurt by playing 81 games in the vast expanses of Dodger Stadium. A move to a place like Colorado would do wonders for his confidence, as well as his career. He‚s only considered a „Good‰ option at third right now due to default. In 2004, he will have to prove that he belongs in this group. He has the talent - the proper motivation might be the problem here.
Projection: .281- 20- 84 ˆ 77- 16
7. Edgardo Alfonzo, SF $12
Just a few short seasons ago Fonzie was the best of the best, but he has fallen oh so fast. Sure, the Mets were dead in the water, but the move to the potent Giants lineup didn‚t seem to help either. Of course, his homerun and RBI numbers were inflated for a couple of seasons, and he probably will never hit 20 blasts in a year again. But he should remain a productive player and we expect his average and RBI totals to increase in 2004. Right now he‚s a late round pick, but he could just be that sleeper your team needs.
Projection: .292.-15- 83- 80- 7
8. Tony Batista, MON $11
Tony is rated this low for three very good reasons: 1) He has moved to the NL 2) He has moved to the NL to a bad team 3) His batting average will continue so suffer due to reasons 1&2. Just like Alfonzo, you will be able to pick him up cheap and late, with the hope of having a surprise in the box. Don‚t look for it to happen, but playing those games in San Juan could add a couple of nice dingers to the overall package. The rest of the numbers probably won‚t help you, however.
Projection: .243- 24- 77- 71- 5
9. Vinny Castilla, COL $10
Vinny‚s playing time will be directly related to the start of his season. The Rockies will not wait long for him to come around if he slumps early. He will then sit until they move him and consequently he might no longer be a Fantasy possibility in August and September. He‚s getting old and his days are numbered, but at least he‚s back where he had his finest seasons.
Projection: .250- 16- 60- 49 -2
Helms could make your season
Never a Fantasy reality before 2003, Wes showed considerable power last season, and he could very well move up a couple of spots this season. This is contingent upon two major factors: higher average, fueled by fewer strikeouts. Playing for the Brew Crew is always a drawback, but Wes seemed to rise above his situation in 2003. We would say he and Beltre could be your season-makers, or breakers, at this position, in 2004.
Projection: .270. ˆ 28 -90 ˆ 74- 3
11. Ty Wigginton, NYM $8
Wiggy has a lot of skills, and he should be helped by Kazuo Matsui‚s presence on the left side of the Mets‚ infield. Ty could be a huge surprise in a solid, if not great, Mets lineup. In fact, I will go out on a limb and predict a 20-20 season for him. Could be real nice late round pick.
Projection: .275- 20- 72- 66- 21
12. Chris Stynes, PIT $7
Moving to PNC Park in Pittsburgh won‚t help his overall numbers, but still could be the surprise of the year in this category as he certainly will get almost all the playing time at third for the Buccos.. Will pop a few dingers and put up decent numbers. Whether that helps the Pirates or not is questionable.
Projection: .271- 18- 70- 62- 8
13. Sean Burroughs, SD $5
We were expecting Burroughs to play like his father Jeff did, and hit a few balls into Mexico. Ain‚t gonna happen. He has to start proving that his is a viable Fantasy addition?so far, no cigar!
Projection: .275- 10- 58- 55- 3
14. David Bell, PHI $5
Like Burroughs, Bell has things to prove this season, otherwise he might be looking for other work. One, he has to remain healthy. Two, he has to take advantage of playing in Philadelphia and being a part of a very potent Phils offense. The new ballpark in Philly also comes into question. Like his teammate Pat Burrell, Bell has to let his 2004 numbers do the talking and then we will know where we stand?
Projection: .261- 17 ˆ 60 ˆ 54 ˆ 4
15. Jeff Cirillo, SD $4
The move from hitters‚ parks to Safeco Field took it‚s toll on Cirillo. He used to be a very potent hitter, but is fading fast. 2004 will be very telling as to how his career plays out. He will either resurrect his career, or wind up watching the game from afar. The clock keeps ticking?
Projection: .270- 12- 55- 51- 2
16. Russell Branyan, ATL $3
Here‚s a guy who can go crazy and have a streak when he‚s blasting mammoth homeruns. He‚s also a guy who has no real position on the baseball diamond. He is meant to DH fulltime and therefore has no business with any NL team. Plus he strikeouts like nobody‚s business. Simply put: he can hit them out, but otherwise has way too many holes in his game to be take seriously at this point.
Projection: .252- 18- 41- 37 ˆ 3
17. Mark Derosa, ATL $2
The Braves keep shedding their skin like a snake, but like that proverbial serpent-in-the-grass, they keep on reviving themselves, and keep right on winning. With Vinny Castilla now back in Colorado, DeRosa has a clear shot at the Bravos third base slot. Just how well he takes advantage of the situation will be the question. He will have to produce fast as he will have young Wilson Betemit looking over his shoulder, just waiting for Mark to stumble.
Projection: .260- 6- 38- 35- 2
18. Craig Counsell, MIL $2
A man with an unorthodox batting style and an even stranger career. Always seems to be vanishing and then reappearing, as injuries keep on taking their toll. Might really be on his last legs this time, and this season should tell the story.
Projection: .255- 8- 32- 40- 5
19. Todd Zeile, NYM $1
Mr. Zeile switches uniforms just as often as his street clothes. Now it‚s back with the Mets. Yes, he helped them to their 2000 NL title as a first baseman, and yes, he is a very good player to have in the clubhouse. But now he will be more of a coach than a player at this juncture. He should help young Wigginton get better and help friend Piazza with his inevitable transition to first base. He will also hit a few homers in his spare time, drive in a few runs, and get a little older?all in one season.
Projection: .270- 11- 41- 35- 0
20. Jamey Carroll, MON $1
Carroll could move up in a hurry with increased playing time with a Montreal team that is in heavy transition. If he can prove several things to manager Frank Robinson, he could move up in this category in a hurry. He has speed and is definite presence on the base paths. Now he just has to get on more frequently and his stock will zoom.
Projection: .245- 8- 33- 56- 14
Pedro Feliz, SF
Feliz has a solid bat and third base is his best position. He can go long and plays in a great lineup. He currently plays behind Edgardo Alfonzo at third, but could get increased playing time there if Alfonzo continues to deteriorate at the plate. With Jose Cruz, Jr. now in Tampa Bay, Feliz also should challenge for the starting job in right field. His flexibility could go a long way here, as well as a nice power surge.
Projection: .261- 17- 60- 51- 5
Brandon Larson, CIN
Another player who‚s just waiting for a chance to break out. Cincinnati is also a team in transition, so that should work in Larson‚s favor. The Reds won‚t contend in the NL Central this season, as the Cubs, Astros and Cards simply have too many weapons. Look for Larson to take over at third, knock a few homers in the Cincinnati bandbox and move up in these standings. Has to overcome a 2003 shoulder injury, plus a season with the Reds where he hit .101!! (9 for 89).
Projection: .265- 18- 65- 59- 6
Tomas Perez, PHI
The Phillies will rule the roost in the NL East in 2004, and Perez will benefit from hitting in a great lineup. He should fill in admirably and become a better overall player. Could switch addresses as well in 2004, and become a starter elsewhere. A definite mover, and should David Bell fail again, Perez will be knockin‚ on the door.
Projection: .267- 15- 55- 61- 2
Wilson Betemit, ATL
Will the Braves do their Lazarus Act one more time, and will Betemit be the key player in their ŒRising-from-the-Dead‚ scenario??? DeRosa better help put the Bravos in contention early, otherwise the highly regarded Betemit will take up residence at the hot corner.
Projection: .275- 10- 35- 32- 6
While Scott Rolen and Mike Lowell are fine players and compare favorably to Eric Chavez and Hank Blalock of the AL, the talent comparison of the two leagues takes on a whole different dimension with A-Rod‚s inclusion at third in the AL. Rolen should only get better (if healthy) and Aramis Ramirez could have a dynamic season at Wrigley Field. Among the NL‚s young players, Sean Burroughs could make a real impact his year in what should be an electric lineup in San Diego. Other than that, Morgan Ensberg will help slug the Astros to at least a Wild Card berth in the NL, while Tony Batista will regret having left the American League. Also keep Brandon Larson and Wilson Betemit in mind when drafting in the late rounds. One, or both, may just be what your 2004 team ordered!
Special thanks to our in-house Fantasy Expert, Steve Usinger, for his help with this report.