It is nearly impossible to not fall in love with an under-the-radar player or two each year while preparing for a new fantasy baseball season.
These are guys you feel aren’t getting enough love or attention from experts who bury them in the rankings.
- Evan Longoria, TB. Some make a case for David Wright here. And, if you look at their 2010 stats, they are similar. Except that Longoria’s career is on the way up, and Wright has already reached his ceiling. I also trust the lineup support in Tampa Bay over the brittle offense in New York.
- David Wright, NYM. 1b to Longoria’s 1a. At a position that is more top heavy than many want to believe, Wright has value earlier in drafts than similar players at other positions. I still will likely be taking a value guy at 3B. Like that McGehee guy.
- Ryan Zimmerman, WAS. A good example of how my rankings don’t necessarily match up with where you should take guys. Zimmerman doesn’t have the name value that A-Rod does, and that will show on draft day, but I have no qualms in predicting right here and now that Zimmerman will outproduce A-Rod as a fantasy option at third base this season. Zimmerman is just 26, finally starting to realize his true power potential, hits for high average and finds himself on a young but quickly improving Washington offense.
- Alex Rodriguez, NYY. Not that I’m knocking A-Rod. Even in a “down” season, he led all third baseman last year with 125 RBI … 21 more than the next guys on the list. There is no denying he’s in one of the best lineups in baseball, in one of the most hitter-friendly environments. He’s been a little more brittle of late, but still good for some nice stats, especially when considering the dropoff moving down this list.
- Casey McGehee, MIL. Not understanding how McGehee is not considered part of this next tier by many experts who do rankings. Sure, he has a shorter body of work than the Adrian Beltres and Aramis Ramirezs on this list. However, the workload he has turned in looks really, really good. His 23 homers last year and .283 average put him higher than many others on this list already. His 104 RBI in 2010 meant he matched or beat the RBI output of every other third baseman not named A-Rod. McGahee’s half-season of major league stats in 2009 were also impressive. 16 homers in just 355 at-bats. A .301 batting average. And, he still plays in a Brewers lineup filled with solid offensive options. I wouldn’t take him this high, but expect him to produce numbers to justify this ranking by the end of the season.
- Adrian Beltre, TEX. Beltre had one of his best seasons in quite a while last year with Boston, playing for a contract. Now that he has his big pay day with the Rangers, one wonders if he’ll play with as much motivation? He has been streaky at best during his lengthy MLB career, although hitting in Arlington will be a benefit for him.
- Aramis Ramirez, CHC. Coming off one of his most disappointing seasons, Ramirez will be red flagged by many on draft day. While injuries did play a part in his 2010 campaign, so did bad luck, as indicated by his .245 BABIP. That is likely to turn around for a player that hits much closer to .300 on a regular basis than the .241 he clocked last season. He may be a riskier pick than the next guy on this list, but his ceiling is much higher.
- Michael Young, TEX. What exactly is going on with Young and the Rangers? It is looking like he’ll be bumped from everyday 3B duties in favor of new addition Beltre, and will play more DH and utility. He was also allegedly almost dealt to Colorado during the offseason. Young still is good for a solid batting average., decent power and plenty of RBI opportunities in that lineup.
- Jose Bautista, TOR. I know. I’m crazy for putting last year’s home run king this low on the rankings list. However, did you ever look at Jose’s career numbers and his year-by-year output? He averages nearly .230 to .240 in batting average most seasons. He was barely breaking double-digits in homers the four seasons prior to last season’s 54-dinger explosion. The guy is due to come crashing down the earth soon.
- Pablo Sandoval, SF. Kung Fu Panda took a King Kong nosedive last year. A guy who once hit for high average was relegated to a .268 plate output. Considering the major struggles, he still produced semi-swallowable numbers in several categories. My ranking here has more to do with reports that he has been working his tail off this offseason, shedding more than 20 pounds and taking on a new outlook on his career. Time will tell.
- Mark Reynolds, BAL. Maybe a new team will help Reynolds’ contact rate. There is no denying he can hit the long ball (104 homers the past three seasons combined), but his .198 average last year was just downright unacceptable. One would hope that he’ll correct his plate issues, but not enough for me to bite earlier than this.
- Martin Prado, ATL. Eligible at both second base and third, Prado’s ability to hit for average deserves consideration at a position where there are more question marks than you’ll find on the Riddler’s costume. For more on Prado, check out my 2B rankings.
- Ian Stewart, COL. Here starts a trio of major upside guys who deserve consideration in all formats. Stewart goes first because I think he’s closer to officially breaking out. Injuries were an issue for Stewart last season, and his power numbers should rebound with a healthier 2011 campaign, but the key here was Stewart’s improvement at the plate in 2010 in terms of laying off the strikeouts, which should be an indicator of bigger and better things to come in 2011.
- Pedro Alvarez, PIT. Some suggest Alvarez added 15 pounds during the offseason. Something to monitor during spring training. Still, his power potential is so worth a later-round flier, even if he does need some maturing in plate discipline.
- Chase Headley, SD. A guy who showed much more power in the minors than he has in his short major league career so far, perhaps that is related somewhat to the pitcher’s paradise that he calls home? Headley still has shown some spark, such as the 17 stolen bases last year, with the potential to blossom in the near future.
What are your opinions on my rankings? Who would you include, take out or change slots with? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.