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
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
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
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,
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
Stephen Drew, SS, Arizona
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
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
Jason Bay, OF, New
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,
We thought this one wasn't slipping by anyone.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.