For me, the Fantasy MVP is all about value. Fantasy seasons aren't won in the first round (though they can certainly be lost there). They're won in the late rounds, when the guy you took a flyer on busts out in a huge way, carrying you to the title. With that in mind, my top three fantasy MVP candidates are:
1. Ryan Ludwick -- A lot of teams got a lot of value out of a guy who probably went undrafted and snagged in the FA pool.
2. Carlos Quentin -- Ditto. Hard for me to put him after Ludwick (being a White Sox fan), but Ludwick did a little more for your AVG and rate stats, in a few more AB.
3. Ian Kinsler -- Possibly should be higher, given that he plays a position that's such a death trap offensively this year. But no one counted on a 18 HR/26 SB/.319 year out of him.
FANTASY CY YOUNG
1. Cliff Lee -- Remember my thing about it being about value? Um, yeah. Lots of people expected a 22-win, 2.41 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 160+ K season out of this guy. You drafted him in the last round, because you were running out of SPs you could actually name. And he ... delivered.
2. Ervin Santana -- If I'd told you you were getting 15 wins, 200 K, a 3.33 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP, you'd've been a little disappointed out of drafting Santana, because Johan did really well in Minnesota, and now pitching in the NL, you'd think he'd do bett... wait, ERVIN put up that line???
3. Chad Billingsley -- Edges out Edinson Volquez because (a) his Wins, ERA & WHIP were a little better (as of this writing), and (b) unlike Volquez, he's decided how to spell his first name.
FANTASY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Jacoby Ellsbury -- He only really helped you in one category. But 49 steals is probably enough to put you in the money in that category by himself, and he didn't hurt you with a Juan Pierre/Michael Bourn-esque slaughtering of your AVG.
2. Alexei Ramirez -- Yes, I'm a White Sox fan, but that's not the point here. A 20 HR/12 SB/.294 season out of a guy who can cover 2B, SS, or OF is fantasy gold. (He falls to 3rd if your league uses OBP instead of AVG.)
3. Evan Longoria -- Of course, a 25 HR/7 SB/.277 season out of a guy who (in some leagues) is SS-eligible is nothing to be laughed at, either.
FANTASY SLEEPER OF THE YEAR
For this, I'm defining the contenders as "the guys you thought *might* be worth a mid- to late-round flyer on." In other words, sleepers. That's why I'm leaving out the out-of-nowhere guys in this category.
1. Rich Harden -- Injury-plagued season ... career ... but if you guessed he was going to be (more or less) healthy all year and give you some solid numbers, you made out. If you guessed it late in the draft, you *really* made out.
2. Nate McLouth -- Those of you who saw a 26 HR/21 SB full-time CF were rewarded. The rest of us ... weren't.
3. Shane Victorino -- I saw Victorino on a couple of sleeper lists, but I didn't buy it. Guess I was thinking of the soccer player. He duplicated a very good fantasy season and proved his naysayers (namely, me) wrong.
FANTASY DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR
In order to disappoint, you have to be good enough to have expectations. So, guys like Austin Kearns and Andruw Jones (1 fewer HR, and .200 lower AVG than Carlos Zambrano) are exempt. (Anybody besides me halfway expect Jim Bowden to trade Elijah Dukes for Jones?)
1. Troy Tulowitzki -- What happened? To go from a 3-category stud (4 if you use runs) shortstop to Adam Kennedy is mind-blowing.
2. Kosuke Fukudome -- No one really knew what to expect, but ... yeesh. Who knew that "Kosuke Fukudome" was Japanese for "Shannon Stewart"?
3. Tony Pena Jr. -- In spite of what I said above ... No one expected him to hit. But I think it could have reasonably been expected that he'd have an OPS+ of over 5. Didn't happen.
Dishonorable Mentions: Victor Martinez (leave me alone in my shame) and Paul Konerko (the slowest professional athlete in the world -- I once saw him lose a footrace to a sumo wrestler).