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Eric Wedge admitted yesterday that he's leaning toward it, saying it has as much to do with the entire lineup composition as it does with Ichiro's disappointing 2011. During his career at the top spot, he has worked around his low walk rate because of his high contact frequency; the latter is yielding less promising results.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old might instead hit second or third while leaving the top spot to Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez or Chone Figgins. Batting immediately before the heart of the order, which now includes Jesus Montero, might diminish Suzuki's chances to thieve, despite his continued aggressiveness last season.
Though hardly a deal-breaker for you to take a guarded chance on an Ichiro rebound, this potential drop-off in at-bats - as miniscule as it might seem - could further deplete the counting stats you'd net from your investment. That means he must deliver a .300-plus average to justify a fantasy purchase. Apt players must lower Ichiro's bar regardless of where he's positioned.
This one-year pact offers some insurance for the developing Brandon Crawford, who's expected to start at shortstop. His stick maturity has not yet caught up to his glove's. Consider the 25-year-old a quasi-prospect, but don't overlook the redeeming qualities. Though it hasn't always translated to a helpful BA, Crawford walks frequently and didn't K much in his 2011 MLB stint.
He might need to build on his 107 Triple-A at-bats with another trip to Fresno, but at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Crawford hides a 10-plus-homer season that could emerge within the next few years, if not 2012. His leather should keep him in the lineup if he stays afloat at the dish.
Of course, with the brittle Freddy Sanchez manning the keystone, Theriot could see plenty of action there. With playing time, he'd offer some swipe potential, but his game is just an empty average, and at age 32, his legs wouldn't guarantee a delivery of his past 20-SB seasons.
Crawford's playing time will top his bat in terms of fantasy value. NL-only drafters should consider him a low-end starter but shouldn't ignore the hint of bat promise he carries.
Theriot is merely a single-universe MI; his keystone-shorty eligibility carries more weight there. He might sneak into starting duty at some point, but The Riot shouldn't yet draw a mixed-league crowd.
NL-only drafters value this announcement; Pierre, if he makes the club, would provide valuable outfield depth. His stolen-base efficiency is dropping, but he's still capable of contributing there, even at age 34.
Senior Circuit scroungers should look to his experience and possible stolen base or two per week as reason to add him to the bottom of their offensive squads, as long as Philly or some other team retains him. Mixers can wait until he slides into regular playing time.
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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