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The 2006 Real Fantasy Awards

In this year's inaugural edition of “The Real Fantasy Awards,” MLB.com’s fantasy writers voted on 10 individual categories. Naturally, the traditional “MVP,” “Rookie of the Year” and “Cy Young” ballots were cast, but the voting process wasn’t without ingenuity.

From “Most Super Utilityman” to the “Doug Ault Memorial Award” (biggest fizzle after a hot start) to “Best Mustache,” a wide array of props -- or lack thereof -- were doled out.

So without further ado, here are the winners, complete with voting breakdowns and analyses. Enjoy.


Most Valuable Player

Alfonso Soriano (Six votes)
Washington Nationals

This year's Fantasy MVP is an absolute no-brainer, considering Alfonso Soriano has had one of the greatest individual seasons in Major League history.

Not only did the 30-year-old become the fourth player in big-league history to join the 40-40 club (Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez are the other members), but he also became the first member of 40-40-40 club by eclipsing the 40-double mark this season.

Now, his 46 homers, 41 doubles and 41 stolen bases are impressive, but let's not forget about his 116 runs scored, his .576 slugging percentage, his .932 OPS and the fact that he's only five ribbies away from the 100-RBI plateau.

After proving to be a one-man roto machine, the left fielder more than deserves to be MLB.com's Fantasy MVP.

Other nominees:

Jose Reyes - One vote
Johan Santana - One vote
Ryan Howard - One vote
Albert Pujols - One vote

-- Gregg Schwartz, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Cy Young

Johan Santana (Unanimous decision)
Minnesota Twins

Not much dissent in the hallowed halls of MLB.com as the unanimous choice for Fantasy Cy Young is none other than Johan Santana. The 27-year-old southpaw leads the Majors in wins (18), ERA (2.79) and -- for the second straight year - strikeouts (240). Blessed with the best changeup in the game, he boasts a .215 batting average against and a career-high 9.57 K/9 IP.

Sure, a pessimist could point to the fact that Johan allowed 24 homers, which ties the career high he established during his historic 2004 campaign, but it's a fact that fly-ball pitchers give up the long ball. Heading into 2007, take comfort in the fact that -- on average -- Santana has thrown only about 100 pitches per start over the past three years, in which he's logged 228, 231 2/3 and 225 2/3 innings, respectively.

Remember, even though starters are injury risks, no other player this side of Albert Pujols can single-handedly distance your squad from its competitors.

-- Jamie O'Grady, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Rookie of the Year

Jonathan Papelbon (Four votes)
Boston Red Sox

When a rookie pitcher wins 17 games (and counting) with a 3.63 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 124 Ks and doesn't garner a single vote for Fantasy Rookie of the Year, you know it's been a good year for freshmen. Though Detroit's Justin Verlander (among many others) has had a great first season, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had a rookie campaign for the ages.

Before being shut down with a shoulder injury on Sept. 1, the 25-year-old righty saved 35 games with a 0.92 ERA that's simply staggering in this day and age, even for a reliever. Throw in a 0.77 WHIP and 75 Ks in 68 1/3 innings, and you're looking at one of the best fantasy seasons ever for a closer.

With Papelbon likely headed to the Boston rotation in 2007, he might never save another game again. But as the saying goes, it's better to quit closing while you're ahead.

Other nominees:

Francisco Liriano - Three votes
Hanley Ramirez - Three votes

-- Ben Heller, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Biggest Disappointment

Morgan Ensberg (Three votes)
Houston Astros

Dear Mr. Ensberg,

Coming into the season, we expected pretty decent numbers from you based on what you did in 2005 (.283 average, 36 home runs and 101 ribbies, in case you forgot); we figured you'd hit something like .280, knock in 90 or so runs and crack about 25 homers.

Well, you delivered 23 homers, which isn't far off -- but 17 of them came before May 27. Way to leave everyone hanging for more long balls. Good times. Unfortunately, your .329 April was just a tease, and by hitting .216 or worse in May, June, July and August, you secured your place as the season's biggest disappointment.

But Morgan, we really want you to do well, and you can only go up from here. So cheers to 2007. Hopefully, your .297-.426-.541 September is a sign of what's to come.

Sincerely,

Fantasy Owners Everywhere

P.S. We have a similar letter drafted to your teammate Brad Lidge, if that makes you feel better.

Other nominees:

Brad Lidge - Two votes
Mark Teixeira - Two votes
Jorge Cantu - One vote
Kevin Mench - One vote
Hideki Matsui - One vote

-- Cara Pitterman, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Biggest Draft-Day Steal

Justin Morneau (Four votes)
Minnesota Twins

In keeping with the saying that "Today's bust is tommorow's bargain," Justin Morneau didn't disappoint the cliché gods in 2006.

As a 24-year-old in 2005, Morneau batted just .239 with 22 homers, letting down many owners who viewed the first baseman's monstrous Minor League output as a precursor to a breakout campaign. But, as many young players have shown the impatient manager in us, the imposing 6-foot-4, 225-pounder emerged the year after the pundits had hyped him, after his stock had sufficiently dropped.

Simply put, Morneau was arguably the best draft-day purchase of 2006. His owners will attest to the bragging rights and VIP fantasy privileges (whatever those are) that come with selecting an MVP candidate in the middle rounds. Morneau's laundry list of accomplishments includes a .324 batting average (first among American League first basemen), 34 long balls, 129 RBIs (second only to David Ortiz in the AL) and a staggering .570 slugging percentage, good for 12th among all qualified hitters. Heck, he's even hitting a mighty .322 against fellow lefties.

Given that Morneau has improved in every area of the game with a lower strikeout rate, a higher walk rate and more line drives hit than he had a season ago, it's becoming increasingly unlikely that today's draft-day steal will turn out to be tomorrow's bust.

Other nominees:

Jonathan Papelbon - Two votes
Jermaine Dye - One vote
Ryan Howard - One vote
Alfonso Soriano - One vote
Justin Verlander - One vote

-- Alex Cushing, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Waiver-Wire Pickup of the Year

J.J. Putz (Four votes)
Seattle Mariners

Determining the best waiver-wire pickup is a little tricky, as the quality of candidates varies from format to format. But I felt this award should go to a guy who was likely ignored in all but the deepest of deep-league drafts, and no breakout player fit that role better than J.J. Putz.

Simply put(z), there was no good reason to use a pick on the Seattle reliever, who was coming off an unimpressive 2005 campaign (3.60 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.75 K/9 IP) and was seemingly stuck behind Rafael Soriano on the bullpen depth chart. But Putz was the one who took over closer role for the ineffective Eddie Guardado in early May, and he's responded with numbers (34 saves, 2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 97 Ks in 75 1/3 IP) that are better than all but a handful of his peers.

Whether he's worthy of a top five closer ranking in 2007 is a question for another time, but for now, Putz is numero uno among those who were overlooked on draft day.

Other nominees:

Jered Weaver - Two votes
Takashi Saito - One vote
Jonathan Papelbon - One vote
Corey Patterson - One vote
Frank Thomas - One vote
Justin Morneau - One vote

-- Tim Ott, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Comeback Player of the Year

Frank Thomas (Six votes)
Oakland Athletics

Admit it. When injuries cause a 38-year-old designated hitter nicknamed "Big Hurt" to miss exactly two-thirds of his team's games over a two-year period after he'd already missed nearly an entire season a few years earlier, you kind of assume he's done. Then he hits a measly .190 in the first month of the season, and you know -- just KNOW -- he's done, right?

Well, not so fast. This isn't just any bum-legged dobbin. This is Frank Thomas, a Hall of Fame-caliber masher, and he's proven it over the second half of the season. Thomas rebounded from his slow start to hit .268 in May, and after a minor injury flare-up in June, he's really turned it on.

Check out Thomas' stats in his first 67 games since the break: a .297 average, 19 homers, 61 RBIs and a .957 OPS in 239 at-bats. Plenty of quality players have bounced back this year, but none have returned from the precipice as impressively as the man who is once again showing fantasy owners how he got his nickname in the first place.

Other nominees

Jim Thome - Two votes
Carlos Beltran - Two votes

-- Cory Schwartz, MLB.com Director of Stats and Fantasy 411 co-host


Most Super Utilityman

Freddy Sanchez (Four votes)
Pittsburgh Pirates

I voted for Freddy Sanchez for Most Super Utilityman for a few reasons. Yes, runner-ups Bill Hall and Michael Cuddyer had very good years, but I don't agree that they were "super" utilitymen.

Sanchez played 20 or more games at three positions (second base, shortstop and third), Hall played more than 120 games at short and only about 20 games at his two other positions combined, and Cuddyer played 135-plus games in the outfield and only six at first base.

Consider that Sanchez has amassed 50 doubles, 83 RBIs and 84 runs scored while giving everyday value at multiple positions. Add in the fact that he's likely to win the National League batting title, and you have the game's Most Super Utilityman.

Other nominees:

Bill Hall - Three votes
Michael Cuddyer - Two votes
Mark DeRosa - One vote

-- Mike Siano, MLB.com Fantasy 411 co-host


Inconsistent Player of the Year

Jeff Francoeur (Three votes)
Atlanta Braves

The impatient Francoeur -- he of the .290 on-base percentage -- continues to fulfill his destiny of streakiness. Such is the fate of an undisciplined hitter with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that only a pitcher could love (127/26).

The 22-year-old right fielder hit .216 with a .371 slugging percentage in April, .280 with a .498 slugging mark in May, .248 with a .413 slugging mark in June, .297 with a .515 slugging mark in July, and .266 with a .459 slugging mark in August.

Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same -- at least in the case of Francoeur, who's batting .227 with a .341 slugging percentage through 24 games in September. Let the whirlwind rage on.

In the meantime, ask yourself if the 26 homers and the 99 RBIs are really worth a season of uncertainty.

Other nominees:

Randy Johnson - Two votes
Alex Rodriguez - Two votes
Daniel Cabrera - One vote
Brad Lidge - One vote
Dontrelle Willis - One vote

-- Dean Chiungos, MLB.com Fantasy Writer


Doug Ault Memorial Award (biggest fizzle after a hot start)

Chris Shelton (Seven votes)
Detroit Tigers

Chris Shelton was the talk of baseball for the first two weeks of 2006. Through his first 13 games, the Detroit first sacker was hitting .471 with nine homers and 17 RBIs. If there were ever a time to sell high on a player, that was it.

By the end of April, his average was down to .326 (he added just a single homer the rest of the month). In May, Shelton kept his average above .300 but hit only one homer. A .205 average in June followed by another one-homer month in July earned him a demotion in August. Now he starts once a week and sports a .276 average with 16 homers and 47 RBIs, just slightly off from his 112-homer pace from mid-April.

Other nominees:

Jonny Gomes - One vote
Alex Rios - One vote
Mike Mussina - One vote

-- Gregg Klayman, MLB.com Fantasy Director


Best Mustache

Sal Fasano
New York Yankees

According to an old English proverb, "A man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar." And in the case of Sal Fasano, the cup comes heavily sweetened.

Fasano's facial hair has been unmatched in execution this season, from the rough-and-tumble Fu Manchu that inspired "Sal's Pals," the catcher's Philadelphia-based cult following, to the Wild West-style 'stache that has symbolized his gunslinging tenure with the Yankees.

Sure, his mustache-to-face ratio might be higher than his batting average (.219), but what Fasano lacks in substance, he more than makes up for in style.

Call him what you will. Career backup. Wyatt Earp. The elusive Dr. Fu Manchu. Or my personal favorite, "Salvatore Frank Fasano: The Man, the Myth, the Mustache."

Honorable mention:

Jason Giambi

-- Dean Chiungos, MLB.com Fantasy Writer

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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