Undervalued fantasy baseball players - NL

by Nicholas Minnix and Tim Heaney on March 29, 2010 @ 16:00:00 PDT


AL: Fantasy baseball sleepers | undervalued | busts | overvalued | saves | stolen bases

NL: Fantasy baseball sleepers | undervalued | busts | overvalued | saves | stolen bases

The whims of fantasy baseball drafts often hide consistent commodities. Many opt for hot, less proven fantasy baseball players. Smart drafters take advantage and grab wrongfully ignored players for their fantasy baseball team.


Ryan Doumit, C, Pittsburgh Pirates

He's an injury risk, perennially. It's why he's falls around the 200th pick in mixed leagues, on average, seemingly perennially. Health isn't his owned skill, but on the chance that he gives you two-thirds of a season or more, you should strongly considering targeting him and spend an extra buck or two.

His wrist is 100 percent healthy. The home run power didn't return when he did, but he slugged .459 in September. His 2009 BABIP was subpar. From limited sample, we know: Doumit isn't a BA liability, has 20-homer power, even in Pittsburgh and plays a lot when healthy. Catcher is even more barren this year. Give yourself some potential value here.

NEW - Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Atlanta Braves

Glaus had only 29 at-bats last year, thanks to arthroscopic shoulder surgery and other dings. Many are scared off by this and his admitted steroids use.

You shouldn't write off the 33-year-old's potential for 20 homers, especially with a repaired shoulder. He's a year removed from a .270-27-99 line in 544 at-bats; a healthy year would put him close to that. Since he'll eventually gain first base eligibility, NL owners should target him as a low-end starter at either corner infield spot. Deep mixed players should consider him for a bench spot, as well. There's some upside left for how low he's being viewed.

Kelly Johnson, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

In mixed leagues, more people think Johnson isn't deserving of a draft pick than don't. Why? Because he hit .224, with only eight homers, in 303 at-bats and lost his starting gig? OK, good reasons, but let's not forget that KJ, 28, has - until recently - been a pretty patient hitter. His average on balls in play was a grotesque .247.

Homer frequency for left-handed hitters at Chase Field, Johnson's new home, is substantially greater than it is at his old one, the slightly suppressing Turner Field. He's also a starter again. Don't pass up the chance to grab the potential for 15-plus dingers from your keystone or middle spot so late.

NEW - Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Houston Astros

Matsui is coming off his healthiest season in the bigs. He usually misses a little time due to injuries - you account for that with his low-risk draft value.

His declining line-drive rate supported his BABIP loss, but he can still beat out grounders, so a rebound from his .250 average is still in the cards. A near guarantee for 20 steals, Matsui can be a low-end mixed middle infielder. There's not much upside, but there's stability.

David Wright, 3B, New York Mets

Where'd the homers go? A stumbling flyball rate and rising liner tendency jacked up his average, kept him in the ballpark; concussion side effects didn't help. His BABIP was inflated and is probably going to bring his average down upon normalization.

New York Mets OF Jason Bay
Bay's new waters not as rough as you think

Stats say Citi Field wasn't the power vacuum many make it out to be. Wright's lack of power, much of which came from his own flukish indicators, probably skewed the park's small sample size. He's tinkering with his swing and now says his body was banged up throughout last season.

The 27-year-old should hit 20 homers again; he clubbed 63 in the two previous seasons before last year. Even if his stolen bases come back down toward 20, he offers elite run and RBI totals, too. A potential return to five-category output should push you to grab him in the second round, especially if others let him slip.

Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves

For the last few years, fantasy owners should have been drafting Chipper in the same range. Instead, he's overvalued one year and under- the next, based on what he has done for you lately. He's kind of old. He's prone to injuries. And he's a really good hitter.

Jones' batting average was .264 in 2009 for the same reason (but in the opposite manner) that it was .364 in the year prior: He posted an extreme BABIP, and nagging injuries affected his swing. Don't reach for him, but when it hits double-digit rounds in a mixed draft, take a shot on what he can deliver: a .300 BA and 20 homers.

Stephen Drew, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

Considering the gap between the handful of shortstops in the mixed top 50 and the next tier as well as the excessive love Drew received in fantasy baseball drafts last year, he's a bargain. There's nothing wrong with his talent. He was just overvalued because there was plenty of evidence to see that 2008-level production wasn't yet something to expect consistently.

Last year, Drew's fate countered with a poor average on balls in play, in conjunction with a reduced liner rate but not supported. He improved his BB/K from 0.38 to 0.56. He battled a hamstring malady and stress from personal matters, too. This year, Drew has a rosier outlook and seems primed to deliver on 2009's expectations.

Yunel Escobar, SS, Atlanta Braves

Escobar's batting average skills are more than dependable. It's the delivery of something else for which we long. Last year's 14 homers and five steals don't excite folks, obviously. The former doesn't befit a 6-foot-2, 200-pound athletic specimen like Escobar, 27.

He's approaching blossoming power age. The flyball rate climbed past 30 percent. The HR/FB hit double digits. The slugging percentage jumped 35 points. A few more games - 150 this year? - and we're looking at 20 round-trippers. He's a low-risk choice, so why not go a round early and see if he breaks through a bit?

Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets

Skeptical of Bay's ability to produce with the Mets? David Wright's dip in homers was the result of many others factors besides Citi Field. In fact, New York's new park actually favored right-handed hitters for power. The Mets' lineup contains health risks, but last year was a perfect storm of bad luck.

Bay lofts big flyballs, and his batted-ball rates should play well in NYC. His BB/K is slightly declining but back to normal levels. He's not dependable for batting average, but 30 homers are easily attainable. Health is a concern but not more so than for others who are beginning to catapult him in drafts.

Conor Jackson, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

We thought this one wasn't slipping by anyone.

Atlanta Braves SS Yunel Escobar
Already steady Escobar developing pop

Jackson missed most of 2009 with Valley Fever. All reports regarding his health are positive. All reports regarding his bat are resoundingly positive. The right-handed hitter tore through the Dominican Winter League and has been slugging this spring. The D-backs love his on-base ability so much that he may lead off.

The missed time has driven down his price - to nil in mixed leagues and 4th outfielder levels in NL games. That means Jackson can put you in great position to earn a tidy profit.


Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Cons, 2009: late start in Spring Training because of elbow concerns, huge jump in workload, complacency after "banquet circuit," excessive hit rate victimization (especially in the first half), loss of confidence in curveball, poor attitude, immaturity, etc., etc., etc.

Why you believe, 2010: Plenty of rest this offseason, winter throwing program has already built up arm strength, the hook is already looking sharp, clean bill of health, a full ST to work sharpen his arsenal, an adjusted perspective and maturation, Roy Halladay's influence, etc., etc., etc. Reach. Far.

Roy Oswalt, SP, Houston Astros

Back problems: There, we got that out of the way. Oh wait, he's becoming more hittable? This 32-year-old is showing some signs of decline, and his flyball spike probably isn't all injury-related.

What persisted through his marred '09 should point to a positive future. His K rate stayed relatively similar to recent patterns. A healthy Oswalt still spells "bulldog." You aren't paying for him to be your ace anymore, but as, say, a No. 4 mixed starter, his No. 2 potential stands out among riskier options.

Ryan Dempster, SP, Chicago Cubs

After a shaky start, Dempster was on point and dispatched any concerns about his workload spike from the season before. The right-hander struggled with command in the first half. He suffered a broken toe in July that forced him to miss nearly four weeks, but he also began a torrid three-month stretch of 4.00 K/BB brilliance.

It's safe to say that Dempster has made a successful transition back to starting pitcher. He's past the largest hurdle, despite a correction BABIP against, thanks to his improved rate of walks allowed. His impressive second half has him primed for a return to 2008 worth.

Tim Hudson, SP, Atlanta Braves

In his first action since TJ surgery, this 34-year-old right-hander picked up right where he left off ... almost. He gave up a few more hits and walks than we're used to seeing from him, but that's normal upon return. What are encouraging: the 6.38 K/9 in 42 1/3 innings and the same outstanding grounder rate.

Velocity upticks aren't uncommon after this procedure. Hudson doesn't need it, but he'll at least be back to previous form. There is no evidence that the consistent veteran can't be, once again, a pitcher who delivers a mid-3.00 ERA, a sub-1.30 WHIP and about six strikeouts every nine frames. The only difference: The price is discounted.

Aaron Harang, SP, Cincinnati Reds

Harang's two-year descent doesn't leave many fantasy baseball players hopeful, but overlooked is his rebound in K/9 consistently in the second half before an appendectomy - not arm problems - in late August ended his season. In the offseason the righty also worked on several aspects of his motion to improve its efficiency and impact on his body.

It's unlikely that Harang will rebound to previous fantasy ace levels, but it costs merely a pick outside the mixed top 200 to see how much better he'll be. There are signs that he could be returning to a 40 percent grounder-inducement rate, too, which would instill more faith that he'll continue to reduce his homers allowed per nine.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Chicago Cubs SP Ryan Dempster
Dempster adapting to starting gig

In 2009, the right-hander exhibited impressive growth in K/9 (from 5.69 to 6.67) and a reduction in BB/9 (an already impressive 2.06 to a stellar 1.84) from the previous season. NL players understand that he's asset, so there may be little or no price break, but mixed players give him no love.

Kuroda endured two injuries - a strained oblique and a concussion from a liner to the head - that should not set off pitching red flags. He has good command, a pretty defense and great run support. He posted a 3.76 ERA with a 64.3 percent strand rate last year. How much better could that mark have been? What a safe, attractive option with upside to round out your mixed league rotation.

Billy Wagner, RP, Atlanta Braves

Yes, Wagner will be 39 in July. But he'll be 39 with a remodeled arm that was on display for a brief time last season. One-inning stints won't hurt him as much as if he were a starter, even with his fastball.

He breathes dominance. Few consensus No. 2 closers have Wagner's track record. You might have to deal with some initial control foul-ups, but in a pitcher-friendly environment and pitching behind a strong 'pen, Wags can play up to his No. 1 potential often.

Chad Qualls, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

One busted kneecap has caused many drafters to forget that he was nearly finished doing what his owners expected when they targeted him: deliver 30 saves and post respectable ratios. A nagging forearm issue went away, and the kneecap was a freak thing.

The righty has been making excellent progress. Last year he was the victim of a little bad luck. He posted a command rate greater than 6.00, by far a lifetime high. Dominance dipped a bit, but in correspondence with much better control. Groundball pitcher, even less comp for saves now. More track record than in 2009, but cost is just as good.

Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies

No one has forgotten: Lidge was terrible in 2009. Most have forgotten: Lidge was incredible in 2008. True: Everything went right on the march to a World Series title. Also true: Everything went wrong on the march to World Series runner-up. Reality: Lidge is somewhere in between.

Expect corrections of his hit and strand rates. His slider remains devastating. Health concerns? He isn't supposed to miss much regular-season work. Folks draft Lidge around players with much less job security or no immediate shot at saves. Ryan Madson? His ability to work under pressure is more questionable than Lidge's.

AL: Fantasy baseball sleepers | undervalued | busts | overvalued | saves | stolen bases

NL: Fantasy baseball sleepers | undervalued | busts | overvalued | saves | stolen bases

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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.

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