Five on the rise
Adam Jones, Orioles
As if Jones wasn't regarded highly enough, he's just a monster spring training away from cracking Round 2 of AL-only leagues. Thankfully for us, he should have no trouble justifying the hype -- hopefully, with a 20/25 season.
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
Wow! If Matt LaPorta is anything close to what the so-called experts are saying about his potential, the Indians might have the American League's best outfield -- at least north of the Florida state line ... and west of the Baltimore harbor. Choo also feeds the fantasy bulldog, perhaps to the tune of 18 HRs, 89 RBIs, 96 runs, 23 steals, .308 average.
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Meet the Adam Jones of the National League -- just oozing with 5-tool expertise. In other words, enjoy your last year of plucking McCutchen from the icy depths of Round 8.
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
So, that's why the Rockies were happy to ship free agent-to-be Matt Holliday to Oakland last winter (sorry, Huston Street). Gonzo already has established himself as a 20-20 threat for the Rockies.
Kyle Blanks, Padres
PETCO Park be damned, Blanks is still a reasonable threat for 25 homers. Draftniks be damned, I plan on stealing him in Round 13.
Five in decline
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
Soriano was once a must-have component to mixed-league drafts. But now, he's nothing more than a later-round flier -- at least for the fantasy few who haven't been burned by him the past two seasons.
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Truth be told, I would dance a happy jig to garner Hamilton sometime around Round 7 in mixed-league drafts. But there's also no denying his precipitous fall from the top 10, dating back to last year. That's what happens with the perpetually injured. Out of sight, out of mind.
Carlos Beltran, Mets
Beltran's teeth-gnashing decline down the draft boards was self-induced. He could've had knee surgery last October, instead of waiting until February. As a result, fantasy owners won't enjoy his projected goodness until May 1 or so.
Adam Dunn, Nationals
Dunn remains a reasonable hope for 35 homers ... but there's just no buzz surrounding a guy who has little talent surrounding him in Washington.
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Speaking of self-inflicted downfalls ... Manny has no fantasy leg to stand on here. For some inexplicable reason, his power's been sapped (oh wait, one reason does come to mind). And for whatever reason, he doesn't want to be a Dodger in 2011. Should be a fun summer in Mannywood.
Hunter Pence, Astros
Perhaps it's an anti-Houston bias, but Pence just doesn't get enough fantasy credit, even though he's solid, if not remarkable, in five categories.
Corey Hart, Brewers
This time last year, Hart was hailed as an automatic for 20/20 greatness; but injuries -- along with fantasy empathy -- have sullied his predraft value a few more slots than expected.
Denard Span, Twins
Yes, the Twins have a crowded outfield, and yes, Span may never sock 10 or more homers in his major league career. But he still has top-30 value for outfielders, which should never go unnoticed.
Alex Rios, White Sox
Just two years ago, Rios was a high Round 2 pick in AL-only leagues; and now, he can be found on the preferred-walkon scrap heap. Bottom line: He's just too good to be this bad. And even if he is, it's not like you spent an arm and a leg for his services.
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays
Oh, the irony of Wells migrating with Rios from the penthouse to outhouse in just 48 months. But hey, at least the price is right.
Jay Clemons' Outfielder rankings
On the rise
Matt Wieters, Orioles
Everyone knows Wieters is the prototypical catcher of the future in fantasyland -- a possible Mike Piazza-in-his-heyday type. But when does his era of dominance begin? Personally, I don't mind arriving to the party early on this one.
Bengie Molina, Giants
No one is disputing Molina's fantasy viability in recent years, but he's doomed for partial failure this season -- once highly touted rookie Buster Posey officially joins the club around June 1 (if not earlier).
Ryan Doumit, Pirates
For those fantasy owners who don't value the catcher spot in NL-only leagues (or mixed leagues with two starting backstops), make sure to grab Doumit in the latter rounds. With 130 games under his belt (an ambitious figure, mind you), Doumit is a reasonable lock for 17 HRs and 75 RBIs.
Jay Clemons' Catcher rankings
On the rise
Joey Votto, Reds
Sometime this decade -- perhaps next year -- Votto will be an extremely high pick in mixed leagues. In the meantime, we'll just have to enjoy his Round 1/2 production for a Round 4/5 draft-day price -- in the neighborhood of 27 HRs, 95 RBIs, .320 average.
Chris Davis, Rangers
At 24, Davis seemingly has plenty of time to right the ship. But his window of opportunity with the Rangers is closing fast -- thanks to the emergence of stud farmhand Justin Smoak, and the club's jogjam at the infield corner spots.
Garrett Jones, Pirates
If Jones had played 162 games with Pittsburgh last year, he could've amassed 40 homers and 20 steals. And yet, he's nothing more than a flyer pick in mixed-league mock drafts. This is what happens when you play for the sad-sack Pirates -- and had only two career HRs before 2009.
Jay Clemons' First Base rankings