Fowl Ball: Ryan Fowler Fantasy Baseball Blog for June 15th, 2011 From WhatIfSports.com image

Fowl Ball: Dethroning Albert Pujols

A blend of pop culture, humor and fantasy baseball

By Ryan Fowler - WhatIfSports.com
June 15, 2011

We all know somebody who finds pleasure in tossing the "I loved that band when it played in a sardine can" card, just as the group begins to gain national attention. The unknown musical commodity was theirs and theirs alone. Now, the big fish is out of the can and in the mainstream for public consumption. Before you could say iTunes essentials, the band is branded a sellout by their disciples. Those who listen to "Dead Broke In A Station Wagon" from that day forward aren't true fans.

This egocentric mentality carries over to fantasy leagues, and it can hurt your chances at a championship. If you don't believe me, have a chat with anybody who took a flier on Bryce Harper or Aroldis Chapman in their 2011 fantasy baseball draft. Unless you are in a keeper league, the decision to take Harper or Chapman this season was to place them inside your own sardine can. Like my colleague Mitch and I discussed recently, I've never seen a 105-mph fastball win anybody a fantasy league title nor Single-A stats collected for the Hagerstown Suns.

The same mentality drives all owners to ponder: Who is the next No. 1 fantasy pick?

Let's talk fantasy baseball ...in the yearrrrr 2015.

Fowl Facts

Alex Rodriguez

Earlier this decade, Alex Rodriguez was the first overall pick on an annual basis, albeit under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs. With a 162-game average of 123 runs, 43 home runs, 128 runs batted in, 21 stolen bases and .302 batting average, A-Rod's place in fantasy baseball history differs from his bid to enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The top-pick torch was then passed on to Albert Pujols. The three-time MVP has done nothing but rake since he entered the league in 2001. His statistical consistency, ability to stay healthy and position eligibility at first base has made him a No. 1 lock for several seasons. At the age of 31 and on the verge of signing what could be the final contract of his career, Pujols' average draft position could slide over the next few years.

My two candidates to replace Pujols as the top overall pick challenge the accepted fantasy rationale that emphasizes position scarcity when determining player rankings. I am completely cognizant that the talent pool in the outfield is deeper than at first, second, short, third and behind the plate. But in 5 x 5 rotisserie leagues, my goal is to collect the most runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and carry the best average. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, 27, and Los Angeles' Matt Kemp, 26, may reside in my sardine can, but their 5 x 5 value is on the rise and could dethrone Pujols in the next few years.

Kemp and Braun vs Pujols (stats as of June 13th)
PlayerGAvg.RHRRBISB
Matt Kemp68.33246205615
Ryan Braun67.30448144815
Albert Pujols67.2744614405
Albert Pujols

A slow start by Pujols handed Braun and Kemp a rare opportunity to join the MVP conversation in the National League. The two outfielders also possess a speed factor missing from Pujols' skill set. (Albert has never stolen more than 16 bases in a season.) Braun and Kemp have swiped 30 bases combined and have been caught only six times.

As fantasy owners, we crave projections and perspective to justify any numbers staring us right in the face. After all, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. That is why I placed Braun and Kemp under the microscope to further examine and validate their rise in fantasy value.

2011 Braun vs MVP Pujols
PlayerGAvg.RHRRBISB
Braun on pace for159.30511835 11936
MVP Pujols 2009160.3271244713516
MVP Pujols 2008148.357100371167
Braun 162 game avg.162.3071123611720
Ryan Braun

I took Braun's per game averages for the 2011 season and multiplied them by the 159 games he's on pace to play. His slash line was then compared to Pujols' past two MVP seasons, in 2008 and 2009, when his ADP was one.

When you review his 162-game average, Braun has adopted a more aggressive attitude on the base paths. With stolen bases at a premium, 20 extra SBs (Braun 2011 pace vs. Pujols 2009) appear more valuable than an extra 16 runs, 12 home runs and 16 RBI.

2011 Matt Kemp vs MVP Pujols
PlayerGAvg.RHRRBISB
Kemp on pace for160.33311248 13433
MVP Pujols 2009160.3271244713516
MVP Pujols 2008148.357100371167
Kemp 162 game avg.162.29092259028
Ryan Braun

Kemp is on pace for his best season. To think he hit .249 and struck out 170 times (fifth most in MLB) last year causes one to wonder whether ex-girlfriend Rihanna's "S&M" effected Kemp's "AVG". (Kemp told "Petros and Money" recently she didn't have anything to do with his 2010 struggles). If he keeps up the pace, Kemp could outslug Pujols' two MVP seasons.

His 162-game averages do suggest his recent surge could fizzle out. But with an average of 28 swipes, the precious speed category presents itself once again. The top base stealers of 2011 are currently Michael Bourn, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, Drew Stubbs and Coco Crisp. The five-pack have combined for 22 home runs. Kemp offers more bang for the buck in 5 x 5 formats.

I realize we may be getting ahead ourselves and I'm a small fish in a large pond on this topic. The true debate of who should replace Pujols as the top pick won't heat up for a few more years. Until then, you're always welcome in my sardine can at the Fowl Ball Blog. Remember, you can always brag you heard it here first.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com.

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