Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove - AL
Pierzynski has become the symbol for uninspiring fantasy backstop investments. More importantly, what does this do for Tyler Flowers? Besides nothing? The ChiSox seem reluctant to turn to him. He has power but may be a real BA liability, although he spent some time in 2010 experimenting with his swing. This is discouraging for the youngster, without a trade coming about.
'Tek will back up Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is no Victor Martinez. Varitek can't hit for a respectable batting average anymore, but he still has some power. In the number of at-bats that he's likely to receive, the BA damage won't be great. Perhaps a bit of quandary: If Salty fails (again), 'Tek must play more, but then your average will pay more.
Tim Heaney was perhaps just a year early on the Pena sleeper love. From Aug. 25 until the end of the 2010 season, Pena batted .320 with a dinger and 15 ribbies in 105 plate appearances. The squat backstop had displayed positive signs for a couple of years and may have a serious chance in 2011. Jason Kendall (shoulder) could be back in May, but that date is considered pretty optimistic. Pena will duel with prospect Lucas May for at-bats, and between them, they could man the position for the majority of 2011.
If it weren't for this shoulder thing, A-Gon would probably be a clear first-rounder in mixed leagues. The fantasy baseball realm will be watching his rehab closely. He may not be ready for the season's first game, and he may not have all his punch. Fenway Park probably makes up for the latter, at least, though. Gonzalez may be overvalued, but he may be worth it.
The quality pitching in the AL East could abuse Reynolds, the majors' most strikeout-prone hitter. How long will Buck Showalter put up with a batting average of Carlos Pena-like proportions, especially if he's not getting Carlos Pena-like defense?
With some potential negatives, plus the obvious ones, will enough people be scared off to call him undervalued? It may depend on the draft room's mood. His walk rate has steadily increased, but he needs to drive the ball a bit more.
Betemit put up quality numbers in limited duty last season, but there's some serious question about how much he could sustain it with more plate appearances. He has great physical tools and some power. His track record suggests that you're better off waiting to claim him for the prospect of a power streak rather than investing a low dollar amount on draft day.
Jeter's previous contract expired a year too late. Did his skills expire? Because nothing will change about his environment, the Captain's detractors may have enough influence to create a buying opportunity. Jeter stays in great shape, put up quality counting stats (outside homers), is eligible at a premium position and still has a little pride.
Lawrie is considered one of the better up-and-coming prospects in baseball. He's schooled in the Milwaukee way: He likes to run, and he strikes out pretty often. There's an expectation that he'll develop some power. His glove may not end up playing at second, but he can play at third. He seems a bit overrated, but right now he's a commodity.
Sweeney's boring counting stats but solid supported batting average and big frame give reason for hope from a personal standpoint. The A's could eventually have a crowded outfield, however; Chris Carter and (much less likely) Michael Taylor wait in the wings. Ah, but the check the medical histories of David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Conor Jackson. Maybe Sweeney comes even more cheaply this year.
One of these years ... Mo keeps adapting his skill set to his devolving physical ability. There's probably no reliever who works harder, at least. The K/9 dipped drastically, but his left-on-base percentage was quite a bit below his standards. The signs are still gradually discouraging, but people are gradually paying less for relievers.
The left-hander was distinctly more effective in a relief role, which is where the Halos will use him. He'll serve as the latest who-will-do-it suspect for saves, along with Fernando Rodney and a host of youthful arms with enticing skills but a touch of wildness. Mike Scioscia seemed less committed to Rodney than he ever did to Brian Fuentes, so Takahashi could be a worthwhile investment.
Enough people might be sick of hearing the southpaw's name that he'll slide by as an end-gamer in the right setup. Jack Zduriencik said that reports on Bedard are positive, and he has plenty of support. If the optimism gains steam in spring training, so might his price; begin exercising temperance at that time. For now, keep an eye on how this turns out, and be mildly intrigued.
Villanueva's 2010 K/9 increase was dramatic, even excessive. Still, the Brewers were never able to maximize his (or any of their pitchers') talent, and he didn't get much help from his defense. He was extremely hittable when he didn't miss bats, though. Maybe Villanueva gets a shot at save opps. He never showed the goods to do the job in Milwaukee.
About Nicholas Minnix
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. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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