OpinionFebruary 16, 2009

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Debate #1 for #1: Hanley Ramirez vs Alex Rodriguez

By R.J. White

A heavily discussed topic this season has been whether to take Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez or New York third basemen Alex Rodriguez with the number one overall pick in your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. I would venture to say that for about half the fantasy baseball community, the answer is a no-brainer: Take the younger, faster Ramirez over the older, controversial Rodriguez. In a keeper league, Ramirez is the right choice for #1. But in re-draft leagues, this topic deserves some thought.

Let’s look at what each candidate did in 2008 and has done on average in the last three seasons.

Avg 2008.301.302
HR 20083335
RBI 200867103
R 2008125104
SB 20083518
Avg 06-08.308.302
HR 06-0826.341.3
RBI 06-0869126.6
R 06-08123120
SB 06-0845.619

Both are candidates to hit around the .300 mark, though Ramirez has the potential to go a little higher. While close in HRs in 2008, A-Rod is historically the better power hitter and a perennial 40-HR candidate. However, Ramirez does have youth on his side and could continue to beat his career-best HR total like he did in both 2007 and 2008. Ramirez beat Rodriguez in runs last year, though the Yankee 3B could keep pace with Florida SS in 2009. Where Ramirez can’t catch Rodriguez is RBI, a category in which A-Rod is likely to have 35-50 more RBI. Of course, Ramirez more than makes up for it in SBs, though as his power has risen with age, his SBs have declined. So after looking at the stats, we’d probably give Ramirez a slight edge over Rodriguez in normal mixed leagues.

If fantasy baseball was a one-pick-and-done sport, that would be the end of it. However, we know that in order to be successful in this game, you have to be able to build the best team. The choice to take Hanley Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez has a cascading effect on the rest of your draft. With a Ramirez pick, you’d need to focus more on bringing in good hitters in the HR and RBI categories in your next couple of picks. With Rodriguez, you want to be able to bring in a good SB guy (or multiple solid SB guys) and avoid falling behind in that category.

The main point in this argument is going to rest on your own shoulders: who are you comfortable targeting at 3B and at SS in the rest of the draft? From the Cafe threads:

Once you get past the top five [third basemen], the pickings are extremely slim. Worse yet, all of the top five are usually gone after three rounds…Short has actually become a pretty deep position…There’s really no major differences between 4-11, leaving you in a decent position to wait for the 10th or 11th SS on the board. –AquaMan2342

Think of it this way. Assuming you get left out on whichever position you don’t draft until late, you could end up with say Hanley and somebody like Mark Reynolds or Ty Wigginton. Or you could have ARod and perhaps Orlando Cabrera. –horatio

My feel on it is I’d rather have an 8th-10th round SS than an 8th-10th round 3B. One of Drew, Tulo, Jeter, Hardy should be there sometime in the 8th-10th, where as I don’t think I like the 3B options available at that point. –Maris09

In mocks I have done, I have taken both Hanley and A-Rod with the 1st pick, and after seeing the results of them I would go with Arod. IMO power with a decent average is a lot more scarce this year than speed so I will take my chances on getting a SS later in the draft and take the power and average with the early pick. –kentx12

But some members think you should definitely take Ramirez if you feel Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria will be on the board for your second-round pick. Again, from Cafe threads:

I’d take Hanley. I actually think 3B is weaker than SS though, but in a 10-teamer you have a slight chance of getting Longoria back and you’re at least assured of Aramis Ramirez at the 2nd/3rd bookend picks. –The Artful Dodger

If you are in a position to choose 1st, you can probably get Longoria with your 2nd pick. –Juhlz

One last point: The media (and likely some fantasy owners) are going to make a big deal about A-Rod’s steroid scandal, and this may well be the tipping point for some owners to draft Ramirez. To me, this scandal shouldn’t enter the #1 pick discussion. The positive test was in 2003, and with new steroid-testing standards ensuring we’d have heard about any recent positive tests, we can assume (for now) Rodriguez’s Yankee years were played clean of steroids. The front office won’t be suspending Rodriguez for his 2003 transgression, so you don’t have to worry about A-Rod missing any time on the field due to this scandal.

In summary, you really have to take a good, long look at your personal 3B and SS rankings and projections to determine whether you should draft Hanley Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez #1 overall this year. For me, shortstop is a position I feel comfortable filling in the middle rounds. I agree with AquaMan2342 in that the second tier of shortstops contains some intriguing names. I’ll probably be drafting Rodriguez with my #1 overall pick then targeting Rafael Furcal, J.J. Hardy, or one of the other second-tier shortstops in the 7th-10th rounds.

Coming this season, the Cafe will be featuring a thought-provoking lineup of weekly columns! In one column, we’ll continue to debate hot topics and give readers the chance to ask us questions we can help you to answer. Also, be sure to check out the Cafe’s Leftovers Forum and Draft, Keeper, Trade, and Waiver Forum for other interesting topics like this one. Happy drafting!

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years. He is addicted to fantasy sports and loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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