With Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols going head to head in the Top Pick '09 final vote MLB.com's fantasy experts offer their take on which of the two fantasy phenoms should be the first player selected on draft day.
Vote Pujols for Top Pick:
I'm all about considering position scarcity in the middle rounds of my fantasy drafts, but when I'm making my first pick, I'm drafting the best available player. And after hitting .357 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs last season, Albert Pujols is my guy. The Great Pujols has been as consistently awesome as they come, having belted 30-plus homers with 100-plus RBIs while hitting north of .300 in each of his eight majestic seasons. Tack on the likelihood that Han-Ram's stolen base total will decrease with a shift to the middle of the Marlins lineup, and it's clear that Pujols should be the Top Pick in '09.
-- Dave Feldman, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
I understand your argument when it comes to Hanley: He's faster, he's younger, he's more complete. You're right. But when push comes to shove, I want my No. 1 pick to be the guy who gives me that never-have-to-worry-about-him type of confidence. In Pujols, I get that guy. Inarguably the game's most reliable slugger, the veteran has compiled an eight-season stretch of 30-plus jacks, 100-plus RBIs and a .300-plus average that borders on the realm of the historic. Can Hanley preach that same dependability? The uber-talented shortstop has strung together three dazzling campaigns, but a guaranteed superstar he is not (read: a 30-point, 16-steal, 14-RBI dropoff from 2007-08). In other words, Hanley is still on his way. Pujols, well, he's already there.
-- Corey Gottlieb, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
Vote Hanley for Top Pick:
Pujols may be the finest overall talent in the Majors, but for fantasy purposes, Hanley is the clear-cut No. 1 pick. He combines 30-homer power, 50-steal speed, massive run production and a high batting average into one single package, forming an unparalleled offensive skill set for a shortstop. With his drop down to the third spot in the Marlins batting order this season, the all-world speedster should top 100 RBIs for the first time in his career. On top of that, Hanley is still just 25 years old and has a chance to improve in every facet of his game. He's the obvious choice.
-- Cory Schwartz, Co-Host, MLB.com Fantasy 411
The question has been debated since rotisserie was nothing more than a way of cooking chicken: Does baseball's best pound-for-pound hitter trump its best five-category hitter? Usually, yes. But not in this case, not when the top
hitter -- Pujols -- plays first base, and the top five-category guy -- Ramirez -- mans shortstop, one of the toughest positions at which to find value. Pass on Pujols, and there's an abundance of riches to choose from in Lance Berkman, Justin Morneau or Prince Fielder. Pass on Hanley, and you're left with several solid but unspectacular shortstops like Derek Jeter, Stephen Drew and Rafael Furcal. If that doesn't sell you, consider this: How often do shortstops with 40/40 potential come around?
-- Alex Cushing, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
This is one of those picks where you can't really go wrong -- it's like deciding between the porterhouse and the filet mignon. Hanley is a 30/30 guy, while Pujols is maybe the only guy capable of hitting .350 with 40 homers. What swings the pendulum in Hanley's favor is the matter of position scarcity, as well as the fact that Pujols has gotten more banged up over the years. With that in mind, I'm going to pass on Pujols' porterhouse and dig in to some Grade A Hanley, who has his best years ahead of him at 25.
-- Tim Ott, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
There are numerous factors as to why Hanley should be taken No. 1 over Pujols. The Marlins stud is only 25 years old and is still getting better, while Pujols will be 30 soon and has less room for explosiveness. In addition, Hanley has position scarcity in his favor; a young shortstop who will go 30/30 and score tons of runs is just too good to pass up. Taking Pujols first isn't the worst move in the world, but you'll be missing out on the complete package .
-- Mike Siano, Co-Host, MLB.com Fantasy 411
Hanley is the clear choice here. After the top three shortstops are off the board, there's a huge dropoff at the position, and a shortstop who can hit .300 with 30 homers and over 40 steals has immense appeal. While the fleet-footed youngster might swipe a few less bags and score a few less runs with his move to the middle of the Marlins' lineup, his RBI total will undoubtedly increase, resulting in little change to his overall value. Pujols is as consistent as they come in terms of average, home runs and RBIs, but Hanley's ability to hit for first-base type power and steal a ton of bases is more than enough to make him the No. 1 selection.
-- Zach Steinhorn, Producer, MLB.com Fantasy 411 blog
I'm a guy who loves to kill two birds with one stone when draft time arrives, so I'm obviously smitten with the 30/30 reliability that Hanley offers. Given that he hasn't reached his peak as a power hitter, the young speedster could even go 40/40. What's more, Hanley doesn't lose all that much to Pujols in the average department, and his shift to the Marlins' three-hole should ramp up his RBIs, the only glaring weakness on his fantasy resume. That's not to mention the discrepancy in depth between shortstop, one of the game's shallowest positions, and first base, possibly the game's deepest for hitters. The evidence is clear.
-- Kyle Stack, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
Like deciding between visiting Chick-fil-A and heaven, there is no wrong choice here. Ultimately, I'd take Hanley, simply because doing so gives you more flexibility during the draft. If you pass on the five-tool stud, you lose your shot at a high-level shortstop, as the position's top-tier performers (Hanley, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins) are all typically snatched up during the first round. Meanwhile, most drafts will see upwards of eight first basemen selected between Rounds 2 and 7, evidence that you can pass on Pujols and still get excellent production out of the position later on.
-- Toby Mergler, Correspondent, MLB.com Fantasy
The two most vital prerequisites of a No. 1 overall pick are elite production and durability. Over the last eight years, Pujols has proven he can put up huge numbers while remaining healthy, while Hanley's body of work spans just three years. Therein lies the issue, though: Pujols' career has plateaued, while Hanley's is still on the rise. The 25-year-old phenom has already shown he's capable of batting over .330 with 30-plus homers and 50-plus stolen bases. While he hasn't yet accomplished those feats in the same season, who's say 2009 won't be the year? Hanley is the most valuable fantasy player and should be the top pick in any format.
-- Matt Chaprales, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.