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.
Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
Same old Young?
The tunnel vision of desiring 20-plus homers from a third sacker tempers the love for the vet, who's also eligible in the outfield. In a healthy 2012, his BABIP rebounded to normal levels to .322, backed up by a near career high in liner rate. Chase Field isn't as beneficial for bats as it used to be, but it should augment his chances to leave the yard a smidge more frequently.
Plus, those 17 swipes he accumulated last year - he hadn't registered more than five in any other MLB season - have a better chance of sticking than most think. Prado should at least reach double-digit thefts while providing one of the soundest batting average profiles of any MLB regular; despite 'Zona's poor finish in the category last year, Kirk Gibson should let Prado loose, especially if he's hitting second.
When this positional pool reaches its sketchy phase - it's quite wide - Prado will look quite cozy in the right setting. -TH
Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies
Virtually no one wants the Texas Rangers' dead weight. It makes sense that only the Phils would. Certainly, rotisserie owners do not. Young? P-shah! Try 36 years old. Washed up. Done. Toast. Finito. Someone, please, escort him to a landfill.
And so a buying opportunity is born. That's the thing about fantasy, baseball and life: Nothing is so simply black or white. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron captured a sensible perspective of Philly's (then-pending) acquisition of Young. Of course, it runs parallel to an argument to take him in the final third of a deep mixed-league draft or spend an extra dollar on him in an NL-only league.
Young is forgiven for last year's ill performance, even at this stage of his career, by the laws of regression alone. Charlie Manuel is so loyal to players like Young that the vet's PT is virtually guaranteed all season, barring the bottom falling out (which, contrary to popular belief, hasn't happened quite yet). By virtue of voluminous appreciation, Young is a probable money earner. -NM
NEW - Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees
On a club plagued with dings and AARP memberships, the 34-year-old hardly presents variety; he hasn't topped 122 games played or 19 homers in any of the last three campaigns and has lost his BA mojo. The .235 clip from last year was fueled by a .214 post-break performance.
Luckily, to test his ability to surpass those numbers, you're not paying the early-rounds tag he used to command. He hit 12 of his 19 homers in 2012 after the All-Star Game, and Youkilis still walks a ton to back up his Hellenic moniker. He has displayed vintage pop thanks in large part to the work he's doing with Kevin Long. Lowering the positioning of his hands and bat should shorten his path to the zone, moving him toward splitting the difference, at least, between his .300 seasons and his downward spiral of recent years.
His hitter-friendly domicile, run-producing lineup placement and additional eligibility at first base augment his value as a midrange option at either corner infield slot; he may still carry some elite stretches in him. -TH
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
Last season, two things stood between Chisenhall and playing time: Jack Hannahan, a good defensive player who'd won over manager Manny Acta enough to play third base; and then a broken bone in Chisenhall's arm, suffered on an HBP shortly after injuries to Hannahan created an opportunity for the youngster.
In 2013, Acta and Hannahan are gone, and the Tribe is committed to a legit OD lineup spot to Chisenhall. His control of the strike zone has been mediocre, but Cleveland's staff has noticed that it's improving. The 24-year-old is a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter with the power to drive 15 or 20 balls into the seats in a full season.
There are potential pitfalls. Chisenhall hasn't hit left-handers particularly well, and, if that continues, he'll be subject to platooning with someone like Mike Aviles. His BA profile doesn't foretell a .300 BA any time soon. But for the price - essentially zero in a mixed league, perhaps less than double digits in an AL format - he already has a pretty good chance to pay for himself. And there's room for a little more than that, at least. -NM
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.