In our first attempt at ranking players for 2011 fantasy baseball, we slotted Kevin Youkilis and Kendry Morales eighth and ninth, respectively. With both players suffering season-ending injuries last year, they combined to appear in just 153 games with a .301 average, 106 runs, 30 homers and 101 RBI. You know what? My 2011 projection for either player wouldn’t be far off from that line. Morales’ broken leg and Youkilis’ torn thumb muscle are both fluky injuries and shouldn’t impact their 2011 seasons, so if you’re forced to decide between the two in your best attempt to avoid starting Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko at first base, who should you take?
Each player is assigned a grade for each of the five standard offensive categories plus a few extra I felt were important to factor. Grades are based on my expectations for the season and take into account both the player’s expected performance relative to the entire player pool and relative to the position he plays at. Grades were averaged using the standard 4.0 GPA scale to provide a cumulative “Professor’s Grade.”
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Case for Youkilis
With three straight .300-plus seasons and 100/100 run/RBI potential only rivaled by the elite first basemen, Youkilis is a well-rounded second tier player who had been a pillar of consistency before his season was cut short last year. Youkilis will likely bat right between Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, which will ensure he sees good pitches to hit, and a full season of Jacoby Ellsbury and his 70-steal potential will only increase Youk’s RBI chances. Between Crawford, Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, it’s entirely possible for the three hitters ahead of Youkilis to combine for 120-plus steals.
Youkilis finished sixth in MVP voting in 2008 and third in 2009, so he has been in the conversation, but it’s unlikely that he reaches some new level of performance, but his bust potential is pretty low, too.
Case for Morales
I actually projected Morales as my 2010 AL MVP, but that early injury erased any chance of that happening. Still, I gave him an A- in MVP Potential because I’m still amazed at the potential Morales has, and a 40-homer season is in the not-too-distant future. Morales’ run potential takes a hit because of the Angels lineup, but with a near-.300 average and significant home run-potential, Morales is a threat for 120 RBI. Of course, because of that lineup, 90-something is a distinct possibility as well.
Who Should You Draft?
This was about as close as it gets. Youkilis won the category count 3-2-2 and barely edged out Morales in my overall Professor’s Grade, and he’s the guy I’m taking. Youkilis has been too stable for too long and plays in too good of a lineup for me not to give him the nod, but I also recognize the .300/40/120 potential Morales has. Youk’s third base eligibility is a nice boost to his value, but if we’re looking at these two strictly as first basemen it doesn’t get much closer.
Now, is anyone really shocked that I’m siding with Youkilis here? Probably not. Still, notice how closely Youkilis and Morales graded out (a B and a B separated only by a few tenths of a point) and that should speak volumes about how great of a value Morales is this season. Mock Draft Central currently has him at the 59th overall selection to Youkilis’ 30th, although much of Youk’s value is admittedly buoyed by his third base eligibility. Still, while Youkilis wins this battle, Morales is a player to target.