Where would you rank this player for fantasy baseball?
Player A: .297, 56 HR, 68 RBI, 113 R, 16 SB
This is a five-star player. He would have been the league leader in HR last season, and he can steal a base.
The only knock might be that RBI total; let's just say he believes in the Alfonso Soriano school of lineup construction.
Would he be better than this guy?
Player B: .301, 33 HR, 67 RBI, 125 R, 35 SB
Player A has a 23 HR advantage; Player B has a 19 SB advantage.
Stolen bases are pretty valuable in fantasy, so maybe you think it's a toss-up. But it's definitely close.
What could we do to make Player A more valuable? How about this:
Player A II: .297, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 113 R, 56 SB
Now Player A has a 23 SB advantage to Player B's 19 HR advantage.
Since we know SB are more valuable than HR in fantasy, things now seem to tip in favor of Player A.
Overall, Player A has the more valuable fantasy stat line.
What if I also told you Player A's 56 SB was his lowest total in the last four years?
Would it make the case airtight if you knew he was a lock for 60?
If you're paying careful attention, you've probably realized Player A is Jose Reyes and Player B is Hanley Ramirez.
Reyes is the best player in fantasy baseball.
It surprises me more people haven't come to this conclusion.
They both play short stop, a tough position for a hitter.
They both hit in similar lineups, with the Mets middle of the order, Beltran and Wright, looking stronger than the Marlins Uggla and Ross.
The difference is that one can win the stolen base category, while the other is plus across the board, without overwhelming you in any category.
Most fantasy draft guides rank Hanley as the top overall pick, with David Wright, Albert Pujols, and even guys like Ryan Braun ranking ahead of Reyes.
In MLB.com's "Top Pick 2009," where fans vote on who should be the top fantasy pick in 2009, Reyes wasn't even nominated.
That is absurd.
The debate between Ramirez and Reyes is at least tenable; it wouldn't insult my intelligence to engage in it.
But the idea that Reyes would be the fourth pick—or lower—is wrong in a deep, biting sort of way; like groin injuries or Michael's social interactions in The Office.
Why do people want a slugger over a burner with their top pick?
Call it inattention to the needs of fantasy or call it long ball bias, but people seem to have forgotten one of the most important rules of fantasy baseball: speed is better than power.
The total number of bases stolen in the NL last season: 1482.
The total number of homers: 2608.
The basic economic conclusion: There is a smaller supply of SB, so there is a higher demand for them.
Since one stolen base is low on supply, shouldn't the value be more than home runs.
Stolen bases are also less evenly distributed than home runs.
The stolen base leader last season, Willy Taveras, had 68, while the home run leader, Ryan Howard had 48.
The range of stolen bases among the top 12 NL base thieves was 44. The range among home run leaders is just 15.
There are fewer elite runners in the league than there are elite sluggers. Only eight players stole 30 or more bases last season in the NL, 13 players hit 30 or more home runs.
Expand that to all of MLB and the differences hold.
Sixteen players stole 30 or more bases, while 25 players hit 30 or more home runs.
The point I'm making is a basic one, but one that fantasy experts seem to have ignored— speed is king.
So when you log on to make your first round draft choice, ignore those draft guides, chuckle knowingly to yourself (if no one is nearby), and pick Reyes in '09.