Roto Arcade - Fantasy

We understand that pitchers and catchers still have some time before they're required to hop a plane to Arizona or Florida. But fantasy players needn't wait to start sorting out the quandries they'll be facing come draft day. And among the first crucial decisions they'll face is which high-end commodity will best fill their virtual hot corner. If you don't land A-Rod near the top, you'll have Evan Longoria(notes), David Wright(notes) and Mark Reynolds(notes) to choose from before the 3B spot starts into a precipitous depth fall. Brandon Funston, Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski take sides on this "hot" topic in their opening arguments for the 2010 fantasy baseball season. ...

Brandon says: Evan Longoria entered the league as a consensus top three prospect. All he’s done since then is validate that standing. In ’08, his age 22 rookie season, he slugged .531 and clubbed 27 home runs. Last season, at 23, he hit 33 home runs with 113 RBI and 100 R as the No. 3 hitter in the Rays lineup. You can say what you want about David Wright and Mark Reynolds, but you can’t say that either of them still has the room to grow that the 24-year old Longoria does. And he showed the kind of improvement from his rookie year to last that encourages the idea of further gains – BB% rose from 9.3 to 11.0; K% fell from 27.2 to 24.0.

There’s also reason to think there could be even greater speed impact. Longoria stole nine bases last season, and has totaled 16 SBs in his two years without being thrown out. The hitting environment also favors Longoria in this debate, as the Rays scored at least 83 runs more than the Mets and Diamondbacks last season.

With Wright, you have to make yourself comfortable with the idea that he’s going to see his mid-20s power return after hitting just 10 in ’09. With Reynolds, you have to get comfortable with 200-plus strikeouts and the real possibility of a sub-.250 BA. There’s not an enigma that large looming over Longoria, and when I’m looking in the late-first or early-second round, I like the question marks to be diminutive.

Evans says: Despite outstanding production in four roto categories last year, Reynolds' abhorrent strikeout rate and unsavory BA were uglier than Susan Boyle attempting a lap-dance. As a result, he's become arguably be one of the finest early round bargains this drafting season. Compared to Longoria and Wright, he's being selected on average some 5-10 picks later. Discount seekers surely are giddy.

Their excitement is warranted.

A season ago, the venomous D-Back was one of fantasy's biggest bargains. His magnificent line (.260-44-102-98-24) was tops at his position and No. 13 overall according to Baseball Monster. Though a known sufferer of Deer-itis, he showed noticeable eye growth for the third consecutive season, evident in his walks percentage rise ('07: 9.2, '08: 10.6, '09: 11.6).

Longoria and Wright are exceptional talents who will undoubtedly log a BA some 20-40 points higher. But the 26-year-old, on the cusp of his prime, will sizably outpace both in homers – particularly Wright, who may never recover his 30-35 HR stroke. Reynolds' 20-SB upside also gives him a significant value advantage over Longoria. With the yet-to-peak Stephen Drew(notes), Conor Jackson(notes) and Justin Upton(notes) hitting in the 1-2-3 spots, Reynolds, who also qualifies at 1B, could establish a new career high in RBI.

Owners who invest heavy coin in Reynolds should draft creatively in the later rounds to compensate for his poor BA (i.e. selecting Chris Coghlan(notes) or Martin Prado(notes)). But his tremendous four-cat contributions can't be ignored. Pay for the career year.

Pianowski says: There’s a sneaky secret about David Wright’s lost 2009 season – it really wasn’t that bad.

Okay, those power numbers (10 homers, 72 RBIs) make you want to run into traffic. But he was a plus player in runs scored, stolen bases and batting average (a crazy-high BABIP helped but Wright also ripped a ton of line drives). A concussion problem cost him some numbers and affected him down the stretch. Throw in the psyche job of Citi Field (though his power was missing on the road too) and the pressure of so many injured teammates and at least we can understand why the 2009 stats fell off.

But 27-year-old franchise players don’t lose it overnight. Citi Field is roomy, but it’s not Yellowstone Park. Wright’s average season from 2005-2008 (.311-105-29-112-21) made him a first-round pick in everyone’s mind. I’m more than happy to take him at a mild discount in 2010.

Wright’s unlikely to ever lead the league in homers, but we’re still looking at a five-category player here. I understand that he’ll go behind Longoria and Reynolds in a lot of pools; fantasy owners generally don’t get excited about drafting someone in part because of the safety of their average or the bonus of 20-30 steals. But I have no problem drafting the unsexy stats, and I still feel there’s an MVP in this guy’s future – maybe it’s unlocked in his Age 27 year. When it gets to you in the early second round, Do the Wright Thing.

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Photos via US Presswire 

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