Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Michael Cuddyer, Rafael Betancourt
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The versatile Cuddy inked a three-year pact, worth $31.5 million, for access to plenty of playing-time avenues, including as a platoon partner for Todd Helton and Seth Smith, who might yield to Cuddy altogether or be traded. Cuddyer could also claim one of the apparently open jobs at third base and second base. The former would be more comfortable for him.
Colorado's strong offensive core and Cuddyer's impending occupation of the five-hole, or somewhere close, sustain his RBI chances, which have consistently ticked his value upward. The 32 homers he clubbed in 2010 probably represented his apex - an unattainable goal even with 81 games at Coors Field.
But even with his uninspiring fly-ball rates, the thin air should preserve his 20-homer pop; Target Field wasn't even a hindrance there. Though he can't be expected to hit much better than the .284 clip he had in 2011, he had been a reliable contact bat over the last four seasons under the Minnesota Twins' all-fields approach.
His new environment adds an inflation risk on his draft price, especially in NL-onlys. It can't realistically push a well-established but same-old-same-old profile to elite status at any particular fantasy position, even in this bat haven. The chance of his already helpful multi-positional eligibility adding the hot corner justifies a buy, though, for reliable filler in the mixed middle rounds.
The trade of Huston Street last week helped clear Denver dollars to sign Cuddyer. Betancourt stole Street's job in August and didn't look back: He didn't walk a single batter while fanning 25 in 20 1/3 frames while recording eight saves over the final two months of 2011.
He'll turn 37 in April and yields plenty of fly balls, but Betancourt boasts pristine control. He's tough to hit because his fastball, which kicks up to the mid-90s, frequents the higher portion of the strike zone. Batters often fall off the ladder he makes them climb; he threw a strike on the first pitch versus 73 percent of the hitters he faced last year, which was tops among MLB relievers. The second-place arm, Koji Uehara, logged 67.9. Betancourt finished second in 2010 and sixth in 2009.
Will those aerial allowances catch up to him if he loses a tick off his four-seamer - and if so, will his slider, his only other offering, pick up the slack? The Rox have some backup options, including closer of the future Rex Brothers, in case Betancourt stumbles. At his likely price as a midrange or low-end No. 2 mixed stopper, though, the pitfalls are tempered, and there it's worth paying for his eye-popping peripherals now that saves are joining the picture.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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