Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.
INF Yuniesky Betancourt returns to Kansas City Royals
The Royals' starting 6 in 2009 and 2010, Yuni returns as a utility infielder, pinching at-bats when he can in KC's young infield. Third baseman Mike Moustakas will probably sit versus tough left-handers, so there's room for a sprinkling of Betancourt.
Giavotella: hip to the keystone?
From there, he'll need some help. Ned Yost wants shortstop Alcides Escobar to play at least 150 games in 2012, presumably to gauge the 25-year-old before his first year of arbitration. He took some steps forward last season and plays upstanding defense, but his future isn't cemented.
Johnny Giavotella, who turns 25 in July, ranks as an intriguing keystone fantasy sleeper. He tore up Triple-A Omaha in his first go-round last year, but what if he needs more farm seasoning or can't start the season on time following offseason hip surgery? Chris Getz's capable defense and speed keep him on roster, but he's merely bench material in terms of offense.
Betancourt's glove doesn't support making him roving infield insurance, but KC isn't scared to have him tread water outside his familiar shortstop. His hot streak last summer with the Milwaukee Brewers warmed fantasy players to him again, but he has become aggressive at the dish and has lower odds of following through on an otherwise acceptable batting average profile.
On the bright side, his aggressiveness deserves some credit for the 29 homers he has clubbed over the last two seasons; a career-best 16 of them came with the Royals two campaigns ago. Those taters from a middle infielder who might add another one or two eligible positions deserve a few AL-only bucks as a middle infielder or backup.
In his current role, he'll offer about 200 at-bats but could just as easily net 400 or more if injuries and incompetence arise. Even with the flaws in his game, he's a stable if not high-upside backup plan in single-universe leagues, where playing time often prompts us to take chances on otherwise boring commodities.
Chicago Cubs bring back OF Reed Johnson
The right-handed bat was pressed into 246 at-bats with the Cubs last year and, by going .309-5-28, performed at a level appreciated by NL-only owners - and, for a brief stretch, deep mixed ones, too. His .394 BABIP won't stick, but his higher rate of line drives means that despite the disappearance of double-digit-homer potential, Johnson could serve as a moderate batting-average asset.
The 35-year-old can step in at any outfield spot, including in right to spell new addition David DeJesus against southpaws. This makes him worth a fifth-outfielder spot in Senior Circuit fantasy leagues.
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 competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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