By Zach Steinhorn
It’s no secret that drafting proven players while their
value is low is one of the keys to building a championship team. Every season,
there are plenty of guys who, despite boasting solid big league track records,
are undervalued on draft day due to either health concerns or poor performance
the previous year. Owners should never be afraid to take a chance on these
players so long as the price is right. Let’s take a look at the first half of
the 2010 Fantasy Comeback Team.
C Geovany Soto Cubs
One of the biggest busts of 2009, Soto redeemed himself in a
huge way this season, looking a lot more like the player who took home Rookie
of the Year honors in ’08. The Cubs backstop got off to a red hot start,
batting .340 in April, and finished 2010 with a very solid line of .280-17-53.
Although his streaky ways can be frustrating, Soto is a safe bet for quality
power numbers at a thin position and is arguably a top-5 fantasy catcher
heading into 2011. In other words, don’t expect to draft him at a bargain this
1B Aubrey Huff Giants
You just never know what you’re going to get from Huff from
year to year. Maybe all he needed was the excitement of playing for a
postseason-contending team. Maybe all he needed was the motivation of playing
for a new contract. Whatever the reason, Huff is enjoying one of his finest
seasons to date. The first-year Giant sports a career-best .382 on-base
percentage through 153 games and has reached the 25-home run mark for just the
second time in the last six seasons. Having gone undrafted in the majority of mixed
leagues following an awful 2009 campaign, Huff has easily outperformed a number
of mid-round first basemen, including Derrek Lee, Lance Berkman and Carlos
Pena. Go figure. Considering Huff’s inconsistent track record, be careful not
to overvalue him on draft day 2011.
2B Rickie Weeks Brewers
Health, not talent, has always been the question with Weeks,
but in 2010 it hasn’t been an issue at all. Although Weeks doesn’t quite fit
under the “established track record” category, he had shown flashes of stardom
before. The problem was that he had yet to play more than 129 games in a
season. Well, the 28-year-old second baseman is finally injury-free and proving
exactly why he was such a highly regarded prospect, batting .270 with 28
homers, 82 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 11 steals through 156 games. Look, there’s
little doubt the guy can put up strong numbers, but the number that will always
matter most for Weeks is the one under the column labeled “G”.
SS Jose Reyes Mets
Entering drafts this past spring, nobody epitomized the term
“high-risk high-reward” much like Reyes, the former top-5 overall pick who was
limited to just 36 games in 2009 due to a myriad of leg injuries. Spending a
fifth round pick on the Mets’ speedster would either prove to be a huge steal
(no pun intended) or a huge waste. Turns out that fifth round is about where
Reyes will go next year, and I’d be more than glad to take him in that spot.
While the days of 60-plus steals are probably over, Jose remains a safe bet for
30-35 steals to go along with double-digit homers and a solid average…and
that’s a conservative projection. Sure, he remains a health risk, but how many
other shortstops can offer that type of production?
3B Adrian Beltre Red Sox
What a wise decision by Beltre to sign a one-year deal with
Boston coming off the worst season of his career both performance-wise and
health-wise. With the Red Sox, the veteran third baseman would get the chance
to restore his stock in hopes of inking a lucrative long-term contract at year’s
end. The plan has worked to perfection. Aided by a far superior supporting
lineup than the one he had in Seattle, Beltre has surpassed the 100-RBI plateau
for the first time since 2004. Oh yeah, then there’s the 28 homers and gaudy
.323 average through 153 games. Beltre’s a career .275 hitter, so a
considerable drop-off in the average department can be expected in 2011. That
said, aside from 2009, Adrian has been one of the more consistent options at
the hot corner over the past decade. For owners willing to wait until the
mid-rounds to draft their third baseman, Beltre will make for a fine choice.
By Zach Steinhorn
OF Jason Heyward Braves
Expectations were sky high for Heyward
entering the season, and while he hasn’t quite matched the production of the
’07 Ryan Braun or ’08 Evan Longoria, the Braves’ right fielder has done more
than enough to prove that he’s the real deal. After battling inconsistency for
much of the first half, Heyward is hitting a robust .326 in 60 games since the
All-Star break to go along with a .938 OPS. He remains a must-own in keeper
leagues and will make for a fine mid-round selection next year.
OF Austin Jackson Tigers
The Tigers’ front office deserves a lot of
credit for their gutsy decision to trade away Curtis Granderson for a package
that included Jackson. There were questions as to whether the 23-year-old
center fielder was ready for the big show. Not anymore. Through 140 games this
season, Austin is batting .300 with 98 runs scored and 24 steals.
Although his power upside is limited, Jackson has wasted little time
establishing himself as a quality three-category contributor.
OF Mike Stanton Marlins
Take a look at the .241 average and the 108
strikeouts in just 316 at-bats and you’ll realize that Stanton is
still a work in progress. Then take a look at the 20 home runs and .500
slugging percentage and you’ll know that he’s a star in the making. What can
you expect from Stanton in 2011 and beyond? Power, and lots of it.
We’re talking Adam Dunn power. Simply put, Stanton is Adam Dunn with
SP Jaime Garcia Cardinals
Garcia wasn’t even assured of a rotation spot
heading into the season, but after a strong spring training the Cardinals named
him their fifth starter. Six months later, it’s safe to say that the club has
not regretted this decision. Through 28 starts, the young southpaw
is 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA. Even more impressive than Garcia’s overall
numbers is his consistency. In 24 of those 28 starts he’s given up three earned
runs or less. Oh yeah, and then there’s the 2.64 ground-out to fly-out ratio and
the nine home runs allowed over 163 1/3 innings. All signs point to continued
success in 2011.
RP Neftali Feliz Rangers
Will the Rangers eventually move Feliz into
their starting rotation? Maybe. For now though, the closer role is suiting him
just fine. Through 64 appearances this season, the 22-year-old flamethrower
sports a nifty 3.00 ERA and miniscule 0.92 WHIP to go along with 36 saves in 39
chances. He’s been especially lights out in the second half, posting a 1.78 ERA
in 25 relief outings since the All-Star break, and will go into next season as
a sure-fire No. 1 fantasy closer. However, keeper league owners should monitor
his situation during the offseason. Feliz’s 2011 appeal could take a hit should
he convert to a starter as he has yet to make one big league start. Who knows
how he would handle the switch.
By Zach Steinhorn
in fantasy baseball is as much about unproven rookies as it is about
established stars. Why? Because you don’t have to spend an early-round draft
pick on a guy with little to no big league experience. As we head towards the
finish line of the 2010 fantasy season, you can bet that all teams still in
contention have at least one breakout rookie on their roster. The time has come
to present the 2010 All-Rookie fantasy team. We’ll cover the infielders today
and move on to outfielders and pitchers on Thursday.
We all predicted
a bright big league future for Posey, but few could have expected the San
Francisco backstop to ascend to elite catcher status this quickly. For some
reason, the Giants decided to keep their top prospect down in the Minors until
late-May, but once he got the call it didn’t take long for him to make his
mark. Posey’s batting average has yet to dip below .289 this season and his
performance in July (.417 AVG 7 HR 24 RBI) was flat out ridiculous. Project his
stats over a full 162 game schedule and you’ve got 24 homers and 104 RBIs to go
along with a .321 average. Pretty good. Buster will head into next year as a
clear-cut top 5 fantasy catcher, and keeper league owners must be salivating
over the thought of having him on their squad for years to come.
stat line (.279 AVG 18 HR 78 RBI) doesn’t exactly jump out at you,
let’s note that Gaby went undrafted in the vast majority of mixed leagues, so
to get this kind of production off the waiver wire cannot be overlooked.
Sanchez’s 16 home runs in just 85 Minor League games last season suggests room
for improvement in the power department, and considering the depth at the first
base position, there’s a good chance he falls to the very late rounds in drafts
next spring. 20-25 homers and a solid average in the 22nd round.
What’s not to like?
I’ll be honest,
even though he did appear in 17 games for the Pirates in ’09, I had no idea who
Walker was when he got called up by Pittsburgh towards the end of May. I would
soon find out. The 25-year-old kicked off his big league season with a bang,
recording multiple hits in six of his first 10 games. He’s been a mainstay in
the Pirates’ lineup ever since, and has even earned a spot on most fantasy
rosters as a quality option at the weak-hitting second base position. Walker
will surely be a tempting choice come draft day 2011, but be careful not to
overrate him. A very high .349 BABIP points towards a regression in the average
department. Don’t be surprised if by this time next year, we’re categorizing
Walker as more of an NL-only choice than a viable mixed league starter.
league owners will probably want to aim higher than Desmond when drafting their
starting shortstop next season. That said, the 25-year-old will make for an
intriguing late-round option. While Desmond doesn’t profile as much of a power
threat right now (just 10 homers so far this season), his ability on the
basepaths (16 steals in 142 games) combined with a steady average is certainly
worthy of attention. Factor in Desmond’s considerable improvement in the second
half (.312 AVG since the All-Star break as opposed to .255 AVG before the
Midsummer Classic) and we’re looking at a player who still has plenty of room
to grow. I can see him develop into a consistent 15 home run, 20 stolen base
guy as soon as 2011.
Johnson plays both football and baseball? No, this is the other Chris Johnson,
the one who, after dominating at Triple-A this year to the tune of a .329
average and eight homers in 38 games, took his talents to the Majors and didn’t
miss a beat. Johnson batted .374 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 30 games
from June 22 through the end of July, piecing together a 14-game hitting streak
in the process. A 16 RBI month of August followed, and it became clear that
Houston had found its third baseman of the present and future. Not only will Johnson
be a popular NL-only draft target come 2011, there’s a good chance he’ll
maintain mixed league value.
Check back in on
Thursday for the rest of the 2010 All-Rookie Team.
By Zach Steinhorn
Injuries. They can mean the difference between a first and
fifth place finish, and the most frustrating thing is that they are totally out
of our control. Sure, we can try to improve our odds of making it through the
fantasy season relatively healthy by avoiding injury-prone players on draft
day, but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. Here’s a look at five players who
saw their 2010 campaign come to an end under rather fluky circumstances.
Kendry Morales 1B Angels
Coming off a breakout 2009 campaign, Morales was well on his
way towards establishing himself as one of the game’s elite first basemen
before disaster struck. Only if Kendry’s deep fly ball had not cleared the
fence on the afternoon of May 29, he would still be playing today. Instead, a
walk-off grand slam led to a jubilant celebration which led to a fractured leg
which ended his season. Tough way to lose your fourth round pick. The good news
is that Morales should be 100 percent healthy for the start of 2011 and will be
available at a discount. He’s definitely someone to target.
Dustin Pedroia 2B Red Sox
Make no mistake, getting hit by a pitch hurts. But 95
percent of the time, the batter grimaces for a minute or so, trots to first
base and is later listed as day-to-day. Not in the case of Pedroia, who after
getting plunked on the foot by a Jonathan Sanchez pitch, immediately landed on
the DL. Owners of the scrappy second baseman were all smiles upon his return to
in mid-August, but the good feeling lasted just two games. Back to the DL he
went, and this time it was for good. Elite middle infielders are so hard to
find in fantasy that I don’t see Pedroia falling too much in drafts next year,
but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take him. Just be willing to pay full
Jake Peavy SP White Sox
After looking like his old dominant self during his three
starts with the South Siders last September, Peavy proved that he was fully
recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him for a good chunk of the 2009
season. The former Cy Young award winner instantly became a mid-round sleeper
target for 2010. Owners who took a chance on him are surely kicking themselves
now. Not only was he mediocre in 17 starts this year, posting a 7-6 record and
a 4.63 ERA, but in July the injury bug struck yet again as a detached shoulder
muscle ended his season. Peavy says he’ll be ready in time for spring training,
but you’re better off turning to other options next year. Pitchers coming back
from shoulder surgery generally do not make for smart investments.
Ricky Nolasco SP Marlins
Now this one is flat-out bizarre. Just when Nolasco owners
were starting to gain some confidence that he was finally putting his
early-season inconsistency behind him, having recorded nine quality starts in
his last 12 outings, he suffers a torn meniscus. How, you might ask? While tying
his shoes. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Sabermetric gurus will once
again be drooling over the K/BB specialist heading into 2011, and I’ll once
again be on the bandwagon. Sooner or later, this guy is bound to live up to his
Francisco Rodriguez RP Mets
We’re all taught in kindergarten not to let our anger get
the best of us. Apparently, K-Rod was out sick during that lesson. The Mets’
stopper was in the midst of yet another stellar season before suffering a torn
ligament in his thumb, and he wasn’t even on the mound at the time. Rather, he
sustained the injury when he struck his father-in-law during a heated dispute
in the team’s clubhouse. Rodriguez’s fantasy value should remain unchanged
going into next season, unless of course the Mets decide to cut ties with their
By Zach Steinhorn
Aging pitchers are generally avoided like the plague in
fantasyland, as most owners would rather take a chance on the young
flamethrower with that all-important “upside.” That strategy usually works, but something strange is happening in 2010: many of
these grizzled veterans are actually providing tremendous return on their draft day investment. Let’s discuss four pitchers who are
defying the odds.
Hudson, SP Braves: Hudson
was a popular sleeper pick after pitching very well in his return from Tommy
John surgery last September, but no one could have seen this coming. Not only
has the right-hander reclaimed his ace status, but he’s turning in the finest season
of his career with a 14-5 record, 2.15 ERA and 1.09 WHIP through 25 starts.
doesn’t offer much in the strikeout department, his low walk rate (2.94 BB/9)
and a knack for inducing tons of ground balls will help keep his ERA down. Expect
continued top-notch production from the 35-year-old sinkerballer.
Wagner, RP Braves: 2010
was supposed to be Wagner’s final season in the big leagues, but the lefty closer might want to delay those retirement plans. Another Tommy John surgery success story, he’s dominated opposing hitters to the
tune of a 1.71 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, and allowed runs in just eight of his 54
appearances this season. Owners who were willing to take on the injury risk and
draft Wagner with a mid-round pick are being handsomely rewarded.
Dickey, SP Mets: Now
this one is baffling. Just about the only positive development in what has been
a bitterly disappointing season for the Mets is the emergence of Dickey, who
entered the season with a career ERA of 5.43. The 35-year-old was called
up from the Minors back in mid-May to serve as a rotation fill-in, and three months later he’s 8-5 with a 2.41 ERA through
18 starts. I remain skeptical as to how much longer his good fortune will last,
but the guy deserves a ton of credit for transforming from an ineffective
hard-thrower to a successful knuckleball pitcher. Who knows — maybe he can
follow in Tim Wakefield’s footsteps and pitch into his mid-40’s. Nice story,
but banking on Dickey to carry your fantasy staff down the stretch is very dangerous.
Pettitte, SP Yankees: The consensus opinion of Pettitte has remained the same
for years: better real-life pitcher than fantasy pitcher. While he was
certainly worth drafting as an innings eater who could rack up a decent number
of wins, owners didn’t expect help in the ERA and WHIP categories from the veteran southpaw. Well, we’ve
been treated to a pleasant surprise this season. Not only was Pettitte 11-2
through 18 starts before going down with a groin injury, but he ranked among
the Major League leaders in ERA (2.88) and held opposing hitters to a .242
average. Pettitte is expected back sometime in
early to mid-September, but the 38-year-old has already far exceeded his owners’ wildest expectations.