Championships aren't won in the first few rounds of fantasy baseball drafts. Winning selections come in the middle and late stanzas, when fantasy baseball sleepers and undervalued players pop up. Who must you watch for in your rotisserie and head-to-head baseball drafts?
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
Forget Prado? Shame
The Tribe's 5 of the future might have to yield to glove-friendly Jack Hannahan - at least at first. The latter makes sense to start because he'll help Cleveland's contact-friendly starting pitchers.
But we're talking about a long season; how long will Cleveland want Hannahan's iffy bat at what should be a power-themed position? They need all the offense they can get. After a strong spring and a midseason call-up, Chisenhall flirted with his upside during a four-homer September in which he drove in 14, scored 13 and hit .279.
Unfortunately, that clip won't be sustained over a full season as long as Chisenhall doesn't revolutionize his poor batting eye. If you can absorb the statistical hit, though, the 23-year-old should provide something close to a 20-homer season if he approaches 500 at-bats. He'll punish mistakes, and Progressive Field, though pitcher-friendly, has offered a slight boost for left-handed dingers.
His budding pop will be written off thanks to an overall disappointing MLB debut, but Chisenhall deserves consideration in the final rounds as deep mixed CI depth and as a value pick in AL-onlys. -TH
Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
In mixed leagues, Prado was a double-digit money earner in 2009 and 2010, years in which he batted .307 with double-digit bombs. In 2010, he played and performed well enough to score 100 runs. In his first campaign as a regular left fielder, things didn't go so well, however. His marks in 129 games - a .260 batting average, 13 home runs, 57 RBIs and 66 runs - represented a great disappointment to roto managers who took him on.
Prado, 28, was hitting nearly .300 in the middle of May but dipped to around .280 in June. A week into that month, he was unable to play because of what turned out to be a staph infection in his right calf. He missed more than a month. Braves staffers believe that when the right-handed hitter returned to action, after the break, he hadn't fully recovered and had been sapped of some of his vigor. Prado's marks from that stretch agreed: Despite a couple of solid weeks to begin his second half, he batted only .244 with five round-trippers the rest of the way.
The oft-overlooked outfielder played in place of Chipper Jones often enough to retain third-base eligibility in any format. That's good news for those who are concerned about the lack of depth at the position, and he's flexible. Prado, whose healthy BA foundation lends itself to plentiful counting numbers and his status as a low-risk investment, is at full strength and worth a reach. -NM
Danny Valencia, Minnesota Twins
There's one thing that Valencia's teams could count on prior to last season: his steady, if somewhat weak, stroke. Last season's .246 batting average shot that to hell, though.
The good news is that his BA components remain strong, and now the 27-year-old has a season and a half of MLB experience on his resume. He's not the .311 hitter that he represented himself to be as a rookie in 2010, but the BABIP gods who allowed him never to post an average on balls in play below .300 (and regularly to deliver marks well above it) played a cruel joke on him in 2011.
The right-handed batter also belted 15 home runs, increasing the pace at which he walloped the rawhide in that debut season. He sacrificed little to attain this growth, and he remained largely a line-drive hitter, as he was in the minors. Valencia doesn't make contact often enough to be a perennial .300 hitter, but he's more than capable of hitting .275 or so with double-digit bombs. You could find yourself in a worse position than one in which you have Valencia as your starting hot corner man in an AL league. -NM
Fantasy baseball sleepers and undervalued: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
Fantasy baseball busts and overvalued: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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