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.
Ty Wigginton to open 2012 as Philadelphia Phillies 1B
Wiggy has been in line for his typical lot of at-bats ... somewhere, and the announcement that he'll help replace Ryan Howard (Achilles') gives a solid fantasy foundation for the well-traveled vet. Jim Thome will see a handful of starts at the 3 every month, but this gives more incentive for mixed owners to pluck Wigginton in the late stanzas for an early-season boost. Don't forget, Howard could return as soon as May.
Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe will compete for Minnesota Twins' LF job
Saunders is a Snake again
This complicates things on paper for Revere's elevating to a consistently useful fantasy option, but given Denard Span's recent concussion issues and Minnesota's recent desire to trade him, Revere and Plouffe could elevate to more-than-platoon duties.
Even with a straight handedness arrangement, the lefty-hitting Revere would be in line for the majority of at-bats, enough to justify the sleeper value his thievery garners. You're not drafting him for power, but his frequent contact foreshadows batting-average upside.
Plouffe, on the other hand, has punch. He stands to offer a better BA versus left-handers, though, and he'll need some plate maturity to cross the .250 threshold overall. Still, he can fill numerous fielding spots should Minnesota change course, and AL-only bargain hunters can't overlook his likelihood of holding shortstop and keystone qualifications in many 2012 setups.
Milwaukee Brewers import OF Norichika Aoki
He comes over from Japan on a two-year deal with a club option for 2014. Aoki looks more like a fourth outfielder to many scouts, but he boasts an experienced left-handed stick that can hit leadoff and play all three outfield spots. The 30-year-old hit .329 in 685 games for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows while winning three Central League batting titles.
With Ryan Braun facing a possible 50-game suspension to open 2012, Aoki will at least provide depth along with Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez; count on Morgan having a playing-time advantage over Gomez. Hart might dabble in first base, possibly allowing Milwaukee to sit lefty masher Mat Gamel, the projected first sacker, versus southpaws. That strategy would solidify Aoki's chances at playing frequently, at least until Braun comes back.
Aoki's high-end batting-eye ratio provides optimism for a Pacific-crossing translation of his helpful clip. When you add the potential for double-digit steals, you're looking at productive NL-only - and, at some point, mixed - outfield filler.
SP Joe Saunders returns to Arizona Diamondbacks
The K-challenged Saunders, who turns 31 in June, had a revival of sorts in 2011, fueled by his return to a high rate of runners left on base and improved slider deployment. Wins, control and fortunate opponents' hit rates guide his fantasy worth, which for mixed leagues typically buys him a frequent-rider ticket on the waiver wire shuttle.
He'll eat innings consistently for NL-only leaguers but will also cause bouts of indigestion thanks to his shaky output at Chase Field. He makes for a decent stream in the right ballpark.
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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