|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 3/11/1974|
Profile: In 2010, Bobby Abreu hit 20 home runs, stole 24 bases, and showed the same plate discipline (13% BB, 23% K) that he always has (14.8% BB, 21.6% K career) — and yet, there are reasons to think that the end is nigh for his fantasy relevance. While his stolen-base totals have stayed in the steady-but-solid range in the last six years (22 to 31 stolen bases), his Bill James’ speed score hit a seven-year low last year. With his bad body and poor defense — he’s pretty much a designated hitter these days — his lack of athleticism really has to catch up with him eventually. Also worrisome is the fact that he hit a career-low in line drives last year. He’s been undervalued before, and has managed twelve straight years with at least 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but as that speed dissipates, so will his remaining fantasy value. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The old man with the beer gut has managed twelve straight seasons with more than 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but those wheels are getting a little rusty. Treat him more like an extra piece if he falls far enough, and you’ll mitigate the risk that his athleticism is providing these days.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 11/13/1984|
Profile: A former top prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Tony Abreu’s star has faded in recent years. His four plus tools, which led Baseball America to project him as a .280 to .290 hitter, have not developed. A hip-labrum tear cost him the 2008 season, so that could play a part in his underachievement. His 2010 debut in Arizona did not go well, though it lasted for just 201 plate appearances. With Mark Reynolds out of the picture he could play himself into a regular role at third base. But even that remains a big question mark at this point. Chances are he’ll head into the season as a bench player, with a chance to earn more playing time later. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Tony Abreu has promise, but has never showed that he can capitalize on his talents at the Major League level. He could win playing time with a strong spring, but he’ll likely be a non-factor.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/6/1987|
Profile: Though it’s good and great to be suspicious of major-league equivalencies (MLEs), Alvarez’s Major League debut certainly makes a case for using them at least as a baseline. Following a mid-season call-up, Alvarez struck out slightly more, walked slightly less, and hit home runs at a slightly lower rate in his 386 plate appearances than he had in 278 Triple-A PAs. In terms of what we learned about Alavrez, one thing is that his power’s almost definitely real, as the third baseman compiled a total of 29 homers across the two levels. Another thing is that contact might be an issue for the 24-year-old: Alvarez struck out in 34.3% of his MLB at-bats, and was able to post an average north of .250 only because of a .341 BABIP. Is he the sort of player to sustain high BABIPs? It’s possible, but unlikely. For 2011, at least, expect Alvarez to continue producing good power numbers (i.e. HRs, RBIs, some runs) while struggling to bat much higher than 2010’s effort. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Hit 29 home runs between Triple-A and the Majors in his age-23 season. Should deliver similar, if not greater production, in 2011, but still has contact issues.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/26/1988|
Profile: Q: What did Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Cesar Izturis do in 2010 that Elvis Andrus did not do? A: Hit a home run. Yes, it’s a fact: among qualified batters, only Andrus and Nyjer Morgan failed to hit at least one ball out of the park. Between that and the fact that he took almost all of his 674 plate appearances from the lead-off spot, it’s no wonder that Andrus recorded a mere 35 RBI. Nor ought fantasy owners expect dramatic improvements in either category. Andrus’s value — what he has of it — comes from his spot in the lineup, his improving plate discipline, and his speed afoot. Something around 30-plus stolen bases and maybe 90 runs scored wouldn’t be unexpected. Given that he won’t even turn 23 until August 26th, an improvement of approach — and hence of his career batting mark of .266 — is also a distinct possibility. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is still quite young (just 23 in August) so any amount of development is still possible, but most likely profiles as a high-SB guy with decent averages and run numbers, but with poor marks in HRs and RBIs.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/19/1979|
Profile: The Royals signed Rick Ankiel before the 2010 season hoping that he would return to his pre-2009 form at the plate. While he did avoid the depths of his horrific 2009 season and even increased his walk rate a bit, in other respects he was pretty much the same player. His power was still middling, and not enough to make up for his Mike Jacobs-esque “command” of the strike zone, and his contact rate dipped even further. Oh, yes: he got hurt, too. The Royals somehow managed to make something out of it by making him part of a trade to the Braves, but that shouldn’t matter to fantasy owners. All Ankiel really offered in the past was power potential, and that seems to be fading as well. At 31, don’t go nuts betting on the oft-injured Ankiel’s potential. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Ankiel spent much of 2010 hurt, swinging at pitches so far out of the zone that they might have been thrown by, um, Rick Ankiel, and impressing people in batting practice. In other words, he was, and remains, Rick Ankiel — a bench player whom someone will think is a starter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/5/1986|
Profile: In his second go-around in Triple-A, Arencibia was named the Pacific Coast League MVP. The catcher slammed 32 home runs and hit .301 in 459 at-bats. Given a brief MLB trial, the catcher batted just .143 in 11 games and showed an overly aggressive approach. Arencibia has the ability to hit 20+ home runs as a catcher in the Majors but he’ll post low on-base rates due to his refusal to take a walk and his contact issues. He’ll be 25 years old when the season begins so it’s time for Toronto to give him a chance to win the full-time job and he should see a fair bit of playing time with Jose Molina as the only other catcher on the 40-man roster with MLB experience. Expect okay power numbers but not much else from Arencibia in 2011. He’s a solid $1 option but there is some risk involved. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Arencibia appears set for a full-time gig in 2011. He has excellent power potential — especially in Toronto — but his average and on-base percentages will suffer.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 1/29/1987|
Profile: Avila was the Tigers’ main catcher for the 2010 season and he didn’t disappoint… behind the plate. He did not have a good season hitting, though. In 2009, in just 72 PAs, he hit .279 with five home runs. In 2010, he definitely didn’t do as good, with a .228 average and seven home runs. The home runs were nice but the batting average was brutal. This year seems like it could be a make or break one for Avila. He should feel more comfortable catching Detroit’s pitchers and can focus a little more on his offense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see 15 home runs with a .275 average, if he gets plenty of plate appearances. Also he should be plenty of chances to get plenty of R+RBI with the Tigers good offense. A huge question mark for Avila is how the Tigers plan on using recently signed Victor Martinez The current talk is that Avila will be the everyday catcher with V-Mart giving him a day off every week or so. If Avila gets off to a slow start like he did in 2010, V-Mart may be forced in to the catcher role more and more. Expect Avila to get drafted in deeper and AL-only leagues. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Avila should improve in 2011, but, with the signing of Victor Martinez, he role isn’t perfectly defined yet.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/13/1981|
Profile: Aviles has a chance to make a significant fantasy impact this season if he’s not jerked around in Kansas City again. He broke out in 2008 by hitting .325 with 10 home runs in 102 games. In May of 2009, he went on the DL with a forearm injury and eventually had Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2010 to play 110 games, posting a .304 average and eight home runs. He hit for average during the entire season, but in September and October he hit six of his eight taters. It appears as though Aviles’ injury may have been sapping his power for most of the season. One of his traits that can’t be overlooked is his position versatility. For the 2011 season he is qualified at second base and shortstop in most leagues. There has been some talk out of the KC camp that he may be holding down third base until top prospect Mike Moustakas is called up, possibly in early June. Aviles’ greatest value would likely be as a second baseman. His 2010 batting average of .304 was fourth-highest among second basemen with 300 PAs or more. One big question make for Aviles is how many games he’ll be able to play as well as at what position. He should be drafted in AL leagues and some deep NL leagues. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Mike seems to have finally shaken off his 2009 injury and could be a nice fantasy sleeper.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/14/1984|
Profile: Another full season at shortstop appears to be on the horizon for Erick Aybar. The soon-to-be 27-year-old should be good for between 15 and 20 stolen bases with that playing time. He is not a power threat in the least and that hurts his ability to drive home runners. His speed will help him to score runs, however. Those four are the near constants; the variable is the batting average. Aybar went from .277 in 2008 to .312 in 2009 and then down to just .253 this past season. With no significant change in Aybar’s batted-ball tendencies as a hitter but his BABIP has fluctuated in accordance with the shifts in batting average. The best bet is to expect a BABIP, and thus a batting average, somewhere in the middle of the previous three seasons, much like his 2008 numbers. His on-base rate is poor so he will not help there, either. Not an altogether mind-blowing package, but for a shortstop it can be worthwhile. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Erick Aybar is a decent shortstop who has little competition for his starting gig. That makes him worth watching, but his fantasy skills make him worth waiting for come draft day.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/9/1983|
Profile: After developing into a useful role player in Tampa Bay, Aybar’s offense disappeared last season, and now he finds himself unemployed and with few options. His bat was the only reason teams were interested in him, as his defense was never great and his off the field problems were only tolerable when he was producing at the plate. Now, Aybar is trying to sell himself as a reclamation project, but he has yet to find any interested teams. There are reasons to think that his bat may still have some life left in it, but he may have to have accept an assignment in Triple-A or hit up the Newark Bears if he wants to get his career back on track. Losing enough weight to be able to handle third base would help as well. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be drafting him. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: In the deepest league in the history of fantasy leagues, Aybar still wouldn’t be draftable.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 9/5/1975|
Profile: With A.J. Ellis and Dioner Navarro as the only alternatives, chance are that Rod Barajas will get a good deal of playing time in Los Angeles this season. That might help inflate his home run total — his 17 last season ranked seventh among catchers — but that’s really all Barajas brings to the table. Even with those 17 homers he only drove in 47 and only scored 39, neither of which ranks favorably among catchers. He might provide value as a second catcher, and in deep leagues he can help more than, say, Francisco Cervelli. But in 10- and 12-team leagues he’s a backup option and nothing more. Use only in case of injury. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Rod Barajas brings one tool to the table, home runs, but the rest of his game is lacking. He’s a nice plug-in when a starter has a day off, and can fill in for an injured starter.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/6/1979|
Profile: It’s never a good thing when the most memorable thing about a player’s career is an injury, but when everyone thinks about Clint Barmes, they remember him breaking his collarbone during a fall that featured a bag of deer meat back in 2005. It’s also almost never a good thing for a player’s fantasy value when his best trait is his glovework, but again we run into Barmes. His AVG and BABIP have dipped below .250 and .275, respectively, over the last two seasons, and it doesn’t appear that his 23-homer season in 2009 is a repeatable effort. Moving into Minute Maid Park with its short left-field porch should help get Barmes back in double-digit homer territory, but he still has just one season with an AVG over .245 and one with more than 11 HR since 2005. Barmes is nothing more than a replacement-level fantasy player going into 2011, even at the middle-infield spots. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Barmes doesn’t offer much fantasy value, though the move to Minute Maid Park should add some power. He’s not much more than an adequate player in most leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/30/1979|
Profile: After doing his best Derek Jeter/Nomah impression in 2009, Bartlett had his worst offensive season since he was a part-time player for the Twins back in 2005. No one should have expected Bartlett to keep all of those gains made at the plate in ’09 — his BABIP was well over .360, and his ISO was nearly 100 points higher than his 2008 total — but it was disappointing to see him completely revert to banjo hitting. He batted .254/.324/.350, barely breaking a .300 wOBA (.302). Bartlett’s power spike in ’09 was fueled by a big decrease in his ground-ball rate, down to 35%, but he smacked the ball into the Trop turf about 45% of the time in 2010. Bartlett mashed when he hit a fly ball in ’09 (.919 slugging percentage). This past year, he slugged well below his career average on fly balls (.516 in ’10, .609 career). He didn’t add much in the running game, either. Perhaps slowed by a sore hamstring, Bartlett swiped just 11 bases in 17 tries after topping 20 SBs in 2007 and 2008 and stealing 30 bags in 2009. It was the third year in a row that he hit the DL with a lower-body injury (sprained knee in 2008, sprained ankle in 2009). The 31-year-old’s value takes a hit with his trade to the Padres — PETCO’s not the place to get back on track offensively. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Bartlett’s an average big-league hitter in a neutral offensive venue, but PETCO is the most partisan pitcher’s park known to man. That big 2009 production isn’t coming back, and replicating last year’s numbers might be a challenge now that he’s with the Friars.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/16/1985|
Profile: This past season was a huge improvement for Daric Barton over his last full season, in 2008. A prototypical Oakland player, Barton is not nearly as big a fantasy star as he is in real life. Almost all of Barton’s value comes from solid defense and his ability to get on base. If your fantasy league uses OBP then Barton can be a high-value target, but in the standard 5×5 categories, Barton offers little. His average sits below .300 and he does not hit home runs nor steal any bases. He will have a full-time job, but Oakland is not a powerful offense and so you should project his runs scored and batted-in totals to be less than enthralling, as well. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Every Oakland player profiles the same. They should have their own fantasy league where UZR and OBP are the only two categories. Barton does well there, but poorly elsewhere.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/19/1980|
Profile: Fantasy baseball’s waiver-wire MVP in 2010, Bautista owners aren’t certain of what they’ll get in 2011. Fifty-four homers is extremely unlikely to be his true-talent level, and even if it was, teams will simply stop pitching to him if he shows it’s no fluke. If we do a straight 5-4-3 weighting system, Bautista would be expected to hit close to 34 home runs in 2011, plenty enough to make him a fantasy must-have. Looking beyond the long ball: he’s never hit for a high average, even last season, so something around .250 should be expected (.244 career). He’s also not much of a base-stealer, though he did swipe a career-high nine in 2010. RBI and runs scored are a function of his teammates more than anything, but an extreme amount of homers (like, say, 54) will obviously have a big impact. Bautista’s value is enhanced by his multi-position eligibility,but drafting him in the first round and expecting another 50+ homers is unwise. There’s a lot of risk here, but also a ton of reward. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Fifty-four homers in 2010 was a fantasy godsend, but expecting Bautista to repeat that performance next season would be unwise. The secondary fantasy skills aren’t great, especially if he’s not hitting 30+ homers, so make sure you weight the risk vs. reward when drafting.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/20/1978|
Profile: Jason Bay has put up .230+ ISOs every year in his career save two — 2007 and last year. The thing is, that massive drop in power cannot be attributed to his home field alone — not only did he play poorly on the road (.112 ISO away from Citi) as well as home (.182 ISO), but the park also didn’t suppress power as much as most may have thought (94 park factor for home runs by RHB). Looking across his batted-ball types, Bay didn’t suddenly start beating the ball into the ground or anything. Instead, the two poor years have one thing in common: the worst reach rates of his career. Perhaps he was pressing. Will all that time off help push him from the spotlight and tamp down expectations? If that is the case, it’s possible that he doesn’t press as much in 2011, doesn’t reach as much, and finds his power stroke once again. Power drops this extreme are rare, and he’s only 32, so it’s not quite time for him to fall from grace this quickly. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Call it a lost year for the Canadian slugger, who was putting up career-worst power numbers even before he lost the second half of the season to concussion symptoms. He has to bounce back, doesn’t he?
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/16/1986|
Profile: Gordon Beckham went through a serious sophomore slump, dropping from .270/.347/.460 in 2009 to .252/.317/.378 in 2010. A high HR/FB of 10.4% in 2009 regressed down to 6.9% in 2010, while his ground-ball rate increased. Beckham’s plate discipline was worse, as well, as 2010 saw Beckham striking out more and walking less per plate appearance. The once-top prospect is still 24, so he has time to come around to be worth a shot at in fantasy. Beckham’s ceiling may look like .300/.360/.500, his minor league numbers being close to those, aided by a higher BABIP. In two seasons with the major-league ball club, Beckham couldn’t hit higher than .300 BABIP. His isolated power dropped tremendously in 2010; after averaging over an ISO of .190 his entire professional career and throughout the minors, Beckham managed an ISO of just .126 in 2010. If Beckham can regain his power, improve his plate discipline, and turn around his BABIP, he would be a good offensive option at second base. That’s a lot of ifs. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Beckham went through a serious sophomore slump, especially in his HR and isolated-power numbers. He must also improve his plate discipline and BABIP in order to be a good option at 2B.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/13/1986|
Profile: In 2009 Josh Bell appeared to come into his own. He hit .295/.376/.516 in Double-A and was likely to make his big-league debut in 2010. But nothing really went according to plan. He hit for some power at Triple-A, but then struggled mightily when recalled to the Majors. That’s quite a drop-off for the game’s No. 37 pre-season prospect (per Baseball America). In 2011 his chances will be limited. Chances are he’ll spend much of the season in the minors, since the Orioles acquired Mark Reynolds over the winter. Bell can still provide an injury fill-in, and might get some reps at third if the Orioles need Reynolds to shore up production at first base. But it does appear a long shot that he gets significant playing time. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Josh Bell was a highly rated prospect heading into 2010, but his poor performance cast some doubt. The Orioles signed Mark Reynolds, so chances are Bell will spend the season in the minors.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 4/24/1977|
Profile: Knee surgery struck down a once elite player, and now Beltran looks to try to salvage what’s left of his career while playing at less than full speed. In his prime, Beltran nearly went 40-40, but he has been limited to just 14 stolen bases over the last two years as his knees have betrayed him. He was able to retain more of his power, and could settle in as a still-productive 25 HR outfielder if he stays on the field with regularity, but his days as a duel threat are probably over. Heading into the final year of his contract, the Mets have fewer incentives to play him every day, so if he struggles and the team falls out of the race, he could find himself on the bench in the second half. There is some upside with Beltran, but he’s probably not a great source of steals anymore, and you could probably get a healthier outfielder with similar power and less name value for a lower price. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A shell of what he once was, don’t bid for Beltran on the assumption that he’s going to reclaim past glory. Knee surgery stole his speed and most of his fantasy value.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 4/7/1979|
Profile: It’s not often that a player with only two outstanding seasons is in line for a big free-agent contract, but that’s Adrian Beltre’s story. After a few decent, if disappointing, years in Seattle, he regained some of his value at Fenway Park in 2010. Despite some good power numbers, 2010 and 2004, and to a lesser extent 2000, remain his only standout seasons. Despite this, he has not dropped below 2.5 WAR in the past nine seasons. That’s because his primary asset is his defense. That doesn’t play in fantasy, though. He could still hit for some power in 2011, but don’t expect the same type of offensive season as 2010. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Adrian Beltre has for the most part been a valuable player for the past decade, but much of that value comes from defense. He could still hit for power in 2011, but don’t expect a year similar to 2010.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 2/10/1976|
Profile: It would be nice to point to all of the statistics that show Berkman could enjoy a resurgence in 2011. There’s his career-worst BABIP (.282), batting average (.248) and ISO (.166) as well as career lows in hits (100), home runs (14), RBI (58), runs (48), walks (77), doubles (23) and stolen bases (3). He also did all of this while walking about the same as ever (16%, 15.5% career) and striking out as rarely as ever (21%, 20% career). There are plenty of reasons to think he can play better in 2011, but most of them depend on the same argument — namely, that he’s done this his whole career, so he should be able to jack 25 home runs with a great batting average because he had done that for nine straight years before last year. The problem is, his back and his knee are conspiring to rob him of his abilities, and age is the great equalizer. Running him out there in the outfield won’t help the knee feel better, either, so expect that, even in a good year, Berkman will have to rest from time to time. Pick him only if he drops to the bench rounds in your draft. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Now 35 going into this season, and on a knee that has arthritic problems, Berkman is no sure bet to bounce back. Now that the Cardinals are playing him in the outfield, that bet is on even shakier grounds.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/12/1984|
Profile: In 2010 Roger Bernadina came into his own. Given regular playing time for the first time in his brief Major League career, he provided ample production for the Nationals. In 414 he hit 11 home runs, scored 52 runs, and drove in 47. His batting average lacks a bit, and his line-drive rate doesn’t seem to indicate that it will get any better. Chances are that even with a regular shot, which he’ll probably get in Josh Willingham’s absence, he could hit 15 to 20 home runs and drive in around 75. That should make him a nice option for a reserve, and a decent fill-in for an injured player. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Roger Bernadina is not spectacular, but he can provide fantasy value. He has a little bit of power and some speed, so he’ll provide some RBI and runs.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/31/1982|
Profile: Betancourt has never had much fantasy value because he has no power, speed or ability to hit for average. In 2010, he found a power stroke and hit 16 home runs and had 78 RBI. The ability for this power to continue is in doubt as his fly-ball distances where similar in 2009 when he only hit six home runs. Using Betancourt against either RHPs or LHPs also cause somewhat of a problem. In 2010, he hit 13 of his 16 home runs versus RHPs, but his average was .039 less against these righties. He really has no platoon advantage that can be utilized. Now with the Brewers, he will have to fight for the everyday shortstop job with Craig Counsell. Unless you’e in an NL-only or really deep league, there’s very little reason to draft him but, if you do have him, you may need to look to platoon him with another shortstop and then look for favorable match-ups versus weak pitchers. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Betancourt’s power surge in 2010 is probably an illusion and his fantasy value is close to zero.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 11/2/1981|
Profile: Wilson Betemit, a (wait for it) former Atlanta Braves prospect signed to a minor-league deal before the offseason by Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, had a shockingly good 2010 season, hitting .297/.378/.511 with 13 home runs over 315 plate appearances. Betemit is horrible defensively at third base, but he played enough games there in 2010 for him to be eligible in most fantasy leagues in 2011. There are other reasons to temper expectations for Betemit’s 2011: his average in 2010 was inflated by an unsustainable .361 BABIP and his minor-league performances in both 2011 and 2010 were nowhere close to what he did in the Majors. While Betemit did show he has a useful bat, his defensive issues make it highly unlikely he’ll get a full-time job in 2011 — he can’t hack it defensively for an extended period of time anywhere but first base, and he can’t be expected to hit well enough to play first or DH regularly. That limits his opportunities to rack up counting stats, and thus his fantasy value. If the Royals bring him back, he might be a third-base stopgap at third base until Mike Moustakas is ready for the big leagues. He’s worth a flyer for the bench. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Betemit had a big half-season in Kansas City during 2010, but his defensive limitations and likely regression make him a bench player in most fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 8/23/1973|
Profile: Casey Blake has quietly been a pretty underrated performer throughout his career. While you wouldn’t think of Blake as any kind of star, he’s been consistently useful since 2003, offering some power and versatility to whatever team he was on at the time. However, it looks like the end is near for Blake, who turned 37 last summer. His power declined while his strikeout rates jumped significantly – a combination that is never a good sign. He failed to steal a base for the first time in eight years, though he was thrown out trying four times – also never a great omen. While his numbers didn’t crater, they’re all pointing in the wrong direction, and given his age, we should expect some fairly rapid decline in the days ahead. Blake has had a nifty little career despite not really breaking out until age 29, but it looks like his run is coming to an end. Draft accordingly. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: There’s a real chance for total collapse here – buyer beware. At least have a really good back-up plan if you’re going to put Blake on your team.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/11/1984|
Profile: In his five-year career, Blanco has close to a full season’s worth of plate appearances (572). In that time, he’s displayed no one fantasy skill that would make you think he’ll ever be even a replacement-level player, posting a .260 average while going 1-for-9 on stolen-base attempts, and hitting just a single homer. UZR, TotalZone, and the Fans Scouting Report all suggest that he’s at least an average defender at short, so between his fielding abilities and Ian Kinsler’s penchant for injury (he’s averaged just 125 games per season since becoming a regular in 2007), Blanco is likely to get something like 50-70 games played; however, if you find yourself in a place where you need to roster Andres Blanco, you have very likely already lost any chance of winning your league. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: You have basically zero reasons to consider Andres Blanco for your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 12/24/1983|
Profile: Gregor Blanco is a useful piece that came over to Kansas City when they offloaded Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel. His real-world baseball value doesn’t readily translate into fantasy value. His good strike-zone judgment enables him to get on base at a decent rate, but traditional 5×5 leagues are just going to see a poor average and a near-total lack of power. Blanco is pretty fast, and over a full season of play he might steal 20 bases or more. However, it isn’t clear if he will get the chance to do so for the Royals, since Blanco is, in many ways, the same player as Mitch Maier. Still, steals are at a premium in most 5×5 leagues, especially AL-only, so Blanco is worth having as a fifth outfielder or bench player in most leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: There is no truth to the rumor that “Gregor Blanco” is Spanish for “Mitch Maier.”
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/12/1985|
Profile: Last year was a tale of two halves for rookie Boesch. In the first half of the season he hit .342 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. In the second half, he hit .219 with two home runs and 18 RBI. Quite a bit of this difference can be explained by his first-half BABIP of .384 and a second-half BABIP of .201. The million-dollar question is which player will show up in 2011. In the minors, Boesch’s average was never greater than .291 in any full season and his BABIP was never over .325. It’s likely that his first-half batting average is not sustainable and will probably fall between the .250 to .275 range in 2011. His power, though, seems legit. He has hit for power at all levels including 28 home runs in Double-A in 2009. His batted-ball data reveals that he hit fly balls on average 50 feet further in the first half of the season compared to the second half. It’s hard to say if this change was due to an unknown injury or if pitchers were able to adjust (he has problems hitting cutters and changeups). He should be able to hit 20+ home runs if he fixes the problems that plagued him the second half of the season. If. Also, he seems to have some surprising speed for someone 6-4 and 235 and should average between five and 10 stolen bases . Expect him to be drafted in all deep-mixed and AL-only leagues. Don’t reach for him, but if it is the point in the draft where guys hitting .260 and 15 home runs are leaving the board, he would be good risk to take a chance on. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Don’t expect 2010’s first-half numbers from Boesch, but also don’t expect the second-half ones. Keep an eye on his projected playing time.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/20/1986|
Profile: Were you to, first, build a time machine out of a DeLorean DMC-12 and then, second, travel back and visit the version of yourself from May 8, 2010, and then, third, tell that earlier version of yourself that Julio Borbon would finish the season batting .276, there’s a chance that the aforementioned Earlier You would slap you right in the face part of your body. Why? Well, for one, because you’d be altering the space-time continuum, but also, for two, because Julio Borbon was batting only .194 (through 97 plate appearances) on that day. The primary culprit for his deflated average — as one might expect — was a disastrously low .231 BABIP, although the 1:15 BB:K certainly didn’t help. The 371 PAs after that date produced this line: .299/.334/.365. His .334 BABIP and overall line over that time are likely more representative of his true talent. Despite seeing a lot of the bench during the Rangers’ playoff run, Borbon is slated to start in center in 2011. He’ll likely bat towards the end of the order, though, which will depress his plate appearances (and stolen bases). (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Was actually pretty decent after horrific start to 2010. Enters 2011 as Rangers’ starting center fielder, although will likely bat at bottom of order.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/31/1987|
Profile: Peter Bourjos is a burner first. His 8.1 speed score last year would have been second in baseball (to Carl Crawford) if he had accrued enough at-bats to qualify, his defense in center field is all-world. Those facts are enough to give him another long chance at the position despite the fact that the rest of his game is missing (check his .204/.237/.381 2010 line). He doesn’t walk (3.1%), strikes out too often (22.1%) and has average power at best (.177 ISO in 2010, but .159 ISO in the minor leagues). With some better luck on batted balls (.228 BABIP), he’ll put up an acceptable batting average based on putting the ball on the ground (51.1% GB) and running like heck, but unless he betters the strikeout rate, he may not have a plus batting average. Still, that speed will play in most leagues and he’ll be so cheap that there are few better wheels-first guys for the money. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Need steals? Bourjos should provide. Need anything else? Just make sure you don’t pay much.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/27/1982|
Profile: The first three full seasons of Bourn’s career have been a bit of a mixed bag. His .276 wOBA in 2008 was light on AVG (.229) but heavy on steals (41), but then his breakout 2009 effort (.342 wOBA) offered both AVG (.285) and steals (61). The 2010 season was closer to 2009 than 2008, a .265 AVG with 52 steals. Bourn has zero power (.085 ISO career) and won’t drive in any runs at the top of the order, but he’ll give you a solid amount of runs scored and no worse than a decent AVG, and of course an elite level of stolen bases. Watch his ground-ball rate, if he continues to beat the ball into the ground and use his speed, he’ll be fine. If he starts putting close to 25% of balls in play into the air again, then the BABIP (and AVG) will suffer. Bourn is worth a high pick on steals along, and at age 28 he should be right in the prime of his fantasy value years. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Bourn is going to give you steals and lots of them, guaranteed, but his output in the other traditional categories has been all over the place in recent years. Luckily, the steals alone make it worth carrying him.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 4/15/1978|
Profile: Given a chance at redemption, Milton Bradley once again fell flat on his face. His offense tanked, he took a two week leave of absence mid-season to seek therapy for his anger issues, then missed the final two months of the season after having knee surgery. During the off-season, he was arrested in connection with a domestic dispute and charged with making violent threats against a woman. All in all, not a banner year for The Board Game. The Mariners claim that Bradley will still come to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, but with only limited playing time in left field available and his litany of off-field problems, it’s hard to see the organization actually going through with that promise. Odds are good that Bradley will be released before opening day, and he may just be out of chances in the big leagues. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Unless your league gives bonus points for crazy, don’t draft Bradley this year.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/15/1987|
Profile: There were a lot of reasons to like Brantley entering 2010. For one, he entered the season as the closest thing the Indians had to a starting left fielder. For two, he’d stolen 50 bases between two levels in 2010. For three, his contact rates in the minors (just a 10.3 K% overall) suggested that he’d be able to sustain relatively high batting averages in the Majors. Unfortunately, whatever the positive indicators, things didn’t work out so great — either for Brantley or his hopeful owners — in 2010. Batting just .156 after play on April 18, he was demoted to Triple-A and didn’t return until July. That’s the bad news. The good? Upon a promotion in early August, he proceeded to slash .292/.332/.390 (.325 BABIP) — going 8-of-9 on stolen-base attempts — over his final 211 PA of the season. He’s likely to enter 2011 as the starting left fielder again. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Has speed, contact skills, and inside edge on starting left-field job. Of course, that also describes Brantley before 2010, and that didn’t end up so good.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 12/19/1975|
Profile: One of the most powerful hitters in baseball, Branyan can light up the night with monstrous home runs, but chronic back problems continue to hamper his career. Even during his breakout 2009 season, a herniated disc limited him to just 116 games played, and questions over his ability to stay on the field kept him from landing a regular job last winter. After another season with frequent health problems, teams have continued to shy away from guaranteeing Branyan playing time, as his inability to promise that he can stay in the line-up on a regular basis offsets the advantages his power presents. As of this writing, he is still a free agent, and he’ll likely have to settle for a platoon DH role once again. He could be a cheap source of 20 home runs, but herniated discs don’t go away, and Branyan will likely never be able to hold a full-time job. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A nice source of cheap power, but not someone you can count on. He could be a nice piece at the end of a roster, but he shouldn’t be a regular for an MLB team or your fantasy squad.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 11/17/1983|
Profile: Braun started slowly in 2010, but by the end of the year he was right back to the elite fantasy player he’s been since entering the league in 2007. For the second straight season, Braun put up a .300-25-100-100-14 season. In four years in the league, Braun has only failed to hit .300 once (2008), failed to hit 30 HRs once (2010), failed to score 100 runs twice (2007, 2008), failed to tally 100 RBIs once (2007), and failed to steal 15 bases twice (2008, 2010, both with 14). That means Braun is an exceedingly good bet to put up elite numbers in all five basic fantasy positions. This year is likely no different. He will only be 28 and entering his peak years. Look for another top-flight season out of Braun. .300-30-100-100-20 is a distinct possibility, and, because of that, he is worth a pick in the late first round this year. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Braun started slowly in 2010, but he still posted elite fantasy numbers. He should be considered in the first round this year.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/16/1986|
Profile: After cups of joe in 2008 and 2009, Brignac got his first substantial big-league playing time in 2010 by subbing in at both up-the-middle positions on the diamond. He looked polished in the field, but the lefty batter was green at the dish. Brignac had a .256/.307/.385 line in 326 plate appearances. Strike-zone control has never been Brignac’s strong suit, as his career 7.4% walk rate on the farm shows, and MLB pitchers exploited his tendency to hack. Opponents threw him a pitch within the strike zone just 42.1% of the time (46.5% MLB average). Brignac jumped at 42.4% of those off-the-plate offerings, which was seventh-highest among hitters with 300+ PA and dwarfed the 29.3% MLB average. Not surprisingly, he walked just 6.1% of the time and struck out 25.6%. Now that Jason Bartlett is a Padre, Brignac is Tampa’s everyday shortstop. He’ll be up to the task defensively, but he needs to lay off those junk pitches to be an option in mixed leagues. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Originally billed as a bat-first prospect who might not stick at shortstop, Brignac is now a defensive standout whose lumber is questionable. He hasn’t shown great offensive potential since 2006, so it looks like Brignac will be more valuable to the Rays than to fantasy types.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/3/1987|
Profile: Brown was probably one of only a handful of people in Philadelphia who was happy to see Jayson Werth end up in Washington. The top prospect, though, is not guaranteed to receive the opportunity to replace the veteran in the outfield. With the addition of Cliff Lee, the club is the favorite to win the National League East so a lot of emphasis will be placed on performance. The 23-year-old rookie had a modest start to his big-league career in 62 at-bats. Brown does project to be an impact player but it could take a year or two. With just 28 career games in Triple-A, he could see a least another half season in the minors unless he has a strong spring. He’s definitely someone you’ll want to monitor in spring training. Brown has the potential to offer an explosive package of batting average, power and speed. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: The loss of Werth should have been great news for Brown but the club isn’t 100% committed to the youngster for 2011. If he does get an everyday role, the prospect could provide both power and speed.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/3/1987|
Profile: After Bruce’s disappointing 2009, there were at least two thoughts about the Reds outfielder in the mind of the saber-oriented fantasy owner. First was the issue of Bruce’s BABIP, which was quite low (.221) in 2009. As FanGraphs’ own Jack Moore noted about Bruce through his first 840 career PAs, “we can’t really say for sure if there’s something about Bruce’s batted balls that lead to outs or if he’s just had poor luck.” So that was one thing. Second was the issue of Bruce’s injured wrist — how much it depressed his 2009 numbers, how much it would heal over the off-season, how a healed wrist might affect his 2010. Whatever the case, Bruce went on to slash a considerably improved .281/.353/.493 with what might even have been an elevated BABIP (.334). As for 2011, “more of the same” is the safest projection, with any decline in batted-ball luck being made up by the sort of improvement a player is likely to see between his age-23 and -24 seasons. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: After entering 2010 with a .261 career BABIP, he left it with a .290 mark — a.k.a. almost entirely normal. A carbon copy of his 2010 would be the least surprising thing.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 7/7/1980|
Profile: After needing four years (2006-2009) and 1,428 plate appearances to amass 3.0 WAR, Buck broke out with a 2.9 WAR season in 2010 that saw him set new career highs in PA (437), AVG (.281), HR (20), RBI (66), R (53), wOBA (.345)… the list goes on and on. His reward was a fat new three-year contract with the Marlins, where he’ll take over as the undisputed number-one catcher. Florida’s park is far more giving to pitchers, though Buck has always had double-digit home-run power and is a safe beat to reach that level in 2011. He is, however, unlikely to benefit from a .335 BABIP again (.289 career), meaning his AVG is likely to slide back to the wrong side of .250. A catcher with 10+ homers and 50+ RBI has plenty of value in all leagues, especially a deep-mixed or NL-only outfit. Buck is unlikely to repeat his 2010 success again, but he’s a solid second- or third-tier fantasy backstop, perhaps even a little undervalued. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Buck turned a career year into a three-year contract, but his homer total will suffer in Florida and his AVG will decline as an inflated BABIP comes back to Earth. He’s still good for double-digit homers and 50 or so RBI, so there’s definite value here.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 10/10/1976|
Profile: Pat Burrell bounced back from a terrible 2009 stint with the Rays, showing similar power and OBP numbers to his previous years with the Phillies. Now with the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants, Burrell hit .266/.364/.509 with the team last season. He still managed to hit 20 HRs and 64 RBIs in less than 400 at-bats, but because the 34-year-old is such a defensive liability in left field, he doesn’t project to get more than 500 plate appearances if he’s with the Giants all season. With the crowded outfield and with more capable fielders in Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz, don’t be surprised if Burrell is platooned or pushed out of a starter’s role. As badly as the Giants’ lineup needs power, it’s hard to justify playing Burrell everyday if management doesn’t believe he’ll hit 30 HRs again. Keep an eye out for Manager Bruce Bochy’s picks for Giants in the outfield, and if it looks like Burrell will get at-bats every day, he can bring much needed power to your fantasy team for cheap. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Burrell bounced back from a terrible 2009 stint with the Rays, hitting .266/.364/.509 with 20 HRs for the Giants. However, as a defensive liability in a crowded outfield, he may get platooned or pushed out of the lineup if his power numbers aren’t there.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/18/1986|
Profile: Billy Butler was one of the few bright spots on a dreadful Royals team in 2010, hitting .318/.388/.469. Butler’s strike-zone judgment continues to impress, combining an above-average walk rate with a very low strikeout rate. He has flaws: fantasy players could care less about his defensive issues, but Butler also a took a step back power-wise in 2010, hitting 15 homers after hitting 21 in 2009. He is young enough that there is still time for development at the plate, but given his high ground-ball rate (which, when combined with Butler’s “speed,” leads to an amazing number of double plays), expectations for monster home-run seasons might need to be scaled back a bit, at least for now. That, along with the poor talent around him holding back his RBI and run totals, keeps Butler from being among the first tier of first basemen. However, Butler has played almost 160 games each of the last two seasons, impressive minor-league first baseman Eric Hosmer won’t pose a threat to him until 2012, and, again, Butler is still relatively young. He should be drafted in all leagues after the big dogs of first base (e.g., Cabrera, Youkilis, Teixeira, and Morneau in the A.L.) are taken. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Despite not yet displaying impressive power and playing for the lowly Royals, Butler is the best of the second-tier first baseman in the American League.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/30/1977|
Profile: Byrd’s first year with the Cubs was a good one, as he posted a .293/.346/.429 line as Chicago’s center fielder. It was a very similar year to 2009 for Byrd, except he traded some power (ISO down 60 points to .136) for BABIP (up 27 points to .335). Byrd’s batting performance, historically, has been remarkably similar to his 2010 season. Possibly, with some favorable wind at Wrigley, we could see another 20 HR season out of Byrd, but he’s much more likely to sit in the 10-15 range. Hitting towards the top of the Cubs order, Byrd should be able to score runs but won’t be much of an asset in terms of RBIs. Despite having a decent amount of speed, Byrd hasn’t ever stolen more than 11 bases in a season, and we shouldn’t expect that to change now. Overall, Byrd is decent in every category and great in none — he should be picked up in every league, but there’s no reason to reach for him. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Byrd had a good debut in Chicago, and there’s no reason to expect much less in 2011. Look for Byrd to be OK in every category, but he doesn’t excel at anything.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 11/13/1985|
Profile: As a switch-hitting shortstop with gap power and good contact skills, Cabrera is a quality piece for the Indians to build around. However, most of his skills don’t translate into fantasy baseball. He doesn’t have enough power to hit many home runs, he doesn’t run well enough to steal bases, and he doesn’t make quite enough contact to be a high average hitter. That said, there is value in having a regular shortstop that won’t kill your offensive numbers, and Cabrera should be able to serve as a stop-loss at the very least. He doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but his floor is higher than most, so a contending team that is strong elsewhere could do worse than let Cabrera fill in at shortstop and ride the rest of his teammates to victory. If you find yourself with strength at other positions and a total hole at shortstop, Cabrera should be a legitimate option for you. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Don’t bet on getting his 2009 performance again, but a decent average and a few steals is likely, and he should play enough to justify a small investment.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/17/1986|
Profile: After a solid 2009 rookie season, Cabrera ran hard into the Sophomore Slump, ending the season as one of the worst hitters in baseball. The Padres showed little faith in him bouncing back, acquiring both Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson to fill their middle infield spots in 2011, and Cabrera is likely ticketed for either a utility infielder job or a trip back to Triple-A this year. He has enough speed to steal some bases even in a reserve role, but the chances that he could end up off the roster entirely make it hard to justify investing too much in Cabrera on draft day. He has zero power and plays half his games in a pitcher’s paradise, so stolen bases are the only area where he might actually help your team. If he was a guaranteed 250 plate appearances, he could be worth a roster spot, but that seems like a best case scenario rather than an outcome you should bet on. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Unless you play in a very deep NL-only league, you can do better.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/11/1984|
Profile: Melky Cabrera doesn’t strike out a ton, and he’s pushed the walk rate to about league average (8.3% last year, 8.0% career), but that’s about it for his tool bag. Even though he picks up the occasional steal, his speed score has been below average for a while and his bad body is statement enough about his athleticism. Since he’s not really a center fielder, and Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur are in the fold, he’ll be in a craptacular battle to the end on the corner outfield. Gordon is the only one signed past this season, so he’ll be the one that gets the biggest benefit of the doubt. Cabrera is slightly better against righties (.314 wOBA), so he may end up in a platoon. But without power (.112 career ISO) or speed, it won’t be a pretty platoon. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Maybe Melky Cabrera will garner 500 plate appearances once again — the Royals outfield looks that bad — but it’s not probable. And even if he does, you probably don’t want the stats that he will provide.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 4/18/1983|
Profile: Miguel Cabrera only turns 28 in April 2011, but this will be at least his fourth or fifth season projected as one of the best hitters in baseball, and only Albert Pujols is obviously better than him. There isn’t much to separate him from Votto and Youkilis among fantasy first basemen, and he and Youkilis should be the top first baseman taken in AL-only leagues. How would you value a player projected to hit .310/.390/.560 with 30 home runs, 90 runs, and 105 RBI? That’s a very conservative projection for Cabrera. He did have some ankle problems at the end of last season, but still managed to play 150 games. There really isn’t anything to pick on regarding Cabrera the fantasy property. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Yawn. Cabrera remains one of the top first basemen in fantasy baseball.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/13/1986|
Profile: Cain burst onto the scene as the Brewers center fielder in the latter part of 2010. His .306/.348/.415 line was reason for excitement in Milwaukee, but his real on-field impact will likely come through his defense. His excellent debut season was supported largely by a .370 BABIP. Cain is a line-drive hitter (20.5%) and has fantastic speed, meaning he should be able to maintain a decent BABIP, but .320 is much more likely than .370. He doesn’t have much power — 23 HRs in four minor-league seasons — and will likely hit towards the bottom of the Royals order (he was acquired in the Zack Greinke deal). Going forward, he is probably near the mean in terms of batting average and well below in RBIs and HRs. He has potential to put up decent run totals and should be able to steal 25-35 bases next season. If you desperately need steals, Cain could have some value in a deep league, but his lack of power severely handcuffs his overall value. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Cain’s defense caught eyes around Milwaukee an the league. His offense is a step behind, but he could be a steal machine in 2011.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 4/19/1983|
Profile: Talk about contact, talk about Alberto Callaspo. He continued his four-year string of avoiding double-digits in either his walk or strikeout rate. While one of those accomplishments is worth more than the other, the potential for great hits totals is one of the fantasy benefits of the approach. He doesn’t have even average power (.109 ISO last year, .115 career, .150 is average), and he doesn’t have wheels (ten stolen bases since 2006), but he does make contact. Give him 650 plate appearances and he’s liable to have 600 at-bats. That puts him within shouting distance of 200 hits (especially when his BABIP is better than last year’s .269), which is probably the only significant single-season counting stat benchmark he’ll ever sniff. Of course, he’s got bricks for hands and is on a team that has shown the willingness to mix and match on the infield, so 650 plate appearances is far from a lock. Treat Callaspo as a deep-league option on draft day, but remember his name for the waiver wire in most leagues. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Though Callaspo is a flawed real-life player that doesn’t walk and isn’t great on defense, his one skill — the ability to make contact — could be useful in some fantasy leagues. Slot him in at second or third in those leagues and hope for hits.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 1/8/1973|
Profile: After four straight years with at least 120 games played, age started to catch up with Cameron, and he managed a mere 180 plate appearances while with the Red Sox in 2010. With four outfielders who are worthy of starting games, Boston will have to make a choice: do they play Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, do they move Cameron to left and Carl Crawford to center, or move Crawford and start Ellsbury in left? Cameron should start against lefties at the very least, and with Ellsbury and J.D. as part of the outfield, he could see time as an injury replacement, as well. Keep an eye on Cameron and the Red Sox during spring training, as Cameron could provide decent home-run and RBI production in AL-only leagues, even if his batting average drags down his value. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Cameron couldn’t even manage 200 plate appearances in 2010, his first year in Boston. Cameron looks to be the Red Sox’ fourth outfielder, but AL-only owners should keep an eye on him during spring training.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982|
Profile: Cano eviscerated pitchers in 2010, leading all second baseman with a .389 wOBA while hitting .319/.381/.534. Pulling 25 of his career-best 29 home runs, Cano established a new personal best in ISO (.214). A positive development for his power output was a lower ground-ball rate — Cano hit a grounder 44.2% of the time in 2010, which is right around the MLB average and far lower than his 49.5% career clip entering the year. Hitting more fly balls (36.5% in 2010, 31.2% career rate entering the season), Cano did more damage when he lofted a pitch. He slugged .827 on fly balls, compared to .684 from 2005 to 2009. Cano’s walk rate also spiked to 8.2%, though much of that can be ascribed to 14 intentional walks (his unintentional walk rate was 6.2%). His 2010 production likely represents his offensive ceiling. But Cano is a second baseman with an aggressive plate approach that works due to plus pop, few whiffs and a career BABIP over .320. He won’t steal bases, but he’ll be a key contributor in every other category. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Even if he doesn’t flirt with 30 homers again next season, Cano is an elite draft choice whose only real competition for best second baseman in the game is Chase Utley. Expect some regression, but Cano will nonetheless remain a superb hitter at a position where power is hard to find.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/30/1982|
Profile: First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the hairiest chest. Children all over America say this for what appears to be no reason at all; however — with the exception of the “hairy chest” part — it actually works as a decent representation of the defensive spectrum. As such, it also helps us understand the fantasy value of Jorge Cantu. Cantu has qualified, at different points in his career, as a first baseman, a third baseman, and a second baseman. Last year, he played those positions 63, 89, and one times, exactly. His career per-162-games line (.274 AVG, 21 HR, 94 RBI, 74 R, 2 SB) would be excellent for a second baseman, pretty good for a third baseman, and borderline non-rosterable for a first baseman (in a standard 5×5 league, that is). So, if that one appearance at second base qualifies him there in your league, he could well have value. There are questions, of course — most notably the fact that, as of press time, Cantu’s a free agent. Only 29, he’s likely to end up somewhere and play 100-plus games. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Could be super-smart pick if he qualifies at second in your league. Otherwise, he’s a late-round pick at best.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/20/1984|
Profile: If you need a poster boy for how hitter BABIP can fluctuate with seemingly few other changes in a skillset, Casilla should be at the top of your list. His batted ball stats were nearly identical to 2009, and yet, his BABIP jumped from .238 to .304, dragging the rest of his line up with it. The rest of his game showed minimal improvement, but the increase in batting average was enough to convince the Twins that he’s ready for an everyday job. Empty average hitters generally need to add value on defense in order to stay in the line-up, and Casilla has never been accused of having too much consistency in the field. He’s shortstop eligible and has a job lined up, but Casilla is more than capable of playing his way right back to the bench, and a fantasy owner who invests too much into him hoping for a breakout season could find himself very disappointed. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: No power, average speed, and a hollow “breakout” season that was based on a big spike in BABIP. He’s not the worst option at shortstop, but he’ll probably be overpriced.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/18/1987|
Profile: Castro had an unspectacular rookie season for Houston. Despite that, he’s pretty much guaranteed the starting backstop gig in 2011 with little depth behind him. With a BABIP of just .250 — which is low for even a catcher — there should be a fair bit of room for him to improve upon his .205 batting average with a simple reversal of fortunes. As it stands right now, Houston will be trotting out a putrid offensive lineup; the most potent bats belong to the aging Carlos Lee and inconsistent Hunter Pence. Castro will likely hit in the bottom third of the lineup and should not see many run-producing opportunities. Castro did produce some good minor-league numbers, so he has the potential to be an above-average offensive catcher. It’s just not going to happen in 2011 so don’t bid more than $1 for him. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Houston’s home park favors hitters but don’t count on Castro for 2011. His greatest fantasy value will come in keeper leagues with an eye to 2012 and beyond.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/24/1990|
Profile: Jason Heyward and Buster Posey stole the rookie show last season. In any other year, a 20-year-old shortstop with a .300/.347/.408 line — particularly one playing in Chicago — creates an incredible media buzz. That was Starlin Castro’s line, and it earned him a mere sixth place in the Rookie of the Year voting. His line was heavily built on a .351 BABIP, but there were other encouraging signs this year. Most notable of these was a great contact rate, as Castro only struck out in 15.3% of at bats. He also was an extreme ground-ball hitter (51%), which plays right into his speedy, relatively low-power skill set. Next year, Castro should only get better, although we shouldn’t expect the BABIP to stay quite so high. With true-talent improvement and some regression combining, look for a similar line out of him in 2011, but more plate appearances should lead to wholesale increase in counting numbers. Castro isn’t an elite shortstop yet, but he’s average or better in every category among shortstops, so don’t be afraid to go out and get him. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Castro’s fantastic rookie season will be tough to live up to, but he should be up to the task. He’s not an elite SS yet, but he provides value in every category, making him a decent early pick.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/2/1983|
Profile: Cedeno’s offensive production improved considerably from 2009 to 2010. Unfortunately, that improvement merely took him from Ray Oyler territory to Jack Wilson territory — his wOBA climbed from .259 to .297. Very little changed in terms of Cedeno’s walk rate (5.1% in 2009, 4.6% in 2010), whiff rate (23.2% to 22.6%) and ISO (.129 to .126). He continues to swing at lots of pitches off the plate — 34%, compared to the 29.3% MLB average. Rather, a 70-plus point increase in his BABIP (.242 to .315) explains his relative rebound with the bat. Though he’s no speed demon, Cedeno did crack double digits in steals, with 12 in 15 attempts. The 28-year-old plays a competent shortstop, the Pirates don’t have a top prospect at the position, and the free-agent and trade market is thin. Therefore, Cedeno’s likely to enter 2011 as a starter. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. What we saw in 2010 is likely the upper limit of Cedeno’s fantasy value, and even then he was a “break glass in case of emergency” option. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Cedeno doesn’t walk, doesn’t steal many bases, doesn’t hit for average and doesn’t hit for power. If he’s your starting shortstop, you’re either in the world’s deepest league or you’re a masochist.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/6/1986|
Profile: With Jorge Posada creeping up on 40 and suffering from foot, knee and shoulder ailments, Cervelli saw significant time behind the plate for the Yankees in 2010. The Venezuelan-born backstop of Italian descent batted .271/.359/.335 in more than 300 plate appearances, putting up a .315 wOBA. On the positive side, Cervelli worked pitchers for a walk in 10.4% of his PA, swinging at just 21.3% of pitches thrown off the plate (29.3% MLB average). But, the catcher with a career .380 minor-league slugging percentage didn’t give Yankees announcer Michael Kay a single opportunity to bellow “See Ya!” Cervelli didn’t go deep in 2010, and his .064 ISO ranked in the bottom 15 among hitters with 300+ PA. Batters with little thump see more fastballs, and Cervelli got one nearly 67% of the time. Per 100 fastballs seen, he was about six-tenths of a run below average. Cervelli’s walk rate could fall some if pitchers challenge him more often. He’s still got a decent bat by catching standards, but the Yankees appear intent on giving towering prospect Jesus Montero a chance to stick at catcher, and Austin Romine is another potential regular close behind. Posada’s supposed to DH more in 2011, but it’s not clear if Cervelli will pick up more playing time. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Cervelli’s plate approach figures to afford him a long big-league career, but he’s not a premium young talent. In New York, he’s keeping home plate warm for one of the Yankees’ top catching prospects.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/13/1982|
Profile: One of the most popular choices for the game’s best hidden talent, Choo is making a name for himself with his all-around production. With back to back 20-20 seasons and a lifetime average of .297, Choo has the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none thing down to a science. He’s not going to lead the league in any one category, but you’ll be hard pressed to find many players who give you more across the board. In fact, the main problem Choo has isn’t of his own making, but that he’s surrounded by less-than-stellar teammates, which reduce his opportunities for runs and RBIs. As opposing teams begin to focus more on Choo as the Indians primary offensive threat, don’t be surprised if his walk rate rises. If you’re in a league that counts OBP, Choo should be highly valued, but traditional roto players might get frustrated by the lack of opportunities for him to swing the bat. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Has value in all formats, but especially ones that don’t penalize him for being as patient as Gandhi.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/18/1985|
Profile: It was a poor sophomore campaign for Coghlan in 2010, who really opened eyes in 2009. His WAR dropped from 2.7 to 0.8. His poor defensive showing in the outfield over the past two seasons suggests that the club should consider moving him back to the infield. It would be a smart move, as Coghan’s offense — even when he’s hitting well — is below average for a corner outfielder. His strikeout rate increased more than 8% over his rookie campaign but his power decreased significantly. Coghlan posted an ISO rate of just .115 in 2010, which suggests he’s good for about 10 homers over the course of a full season. He’s not a run producer, either. Right now, Coghlan is expected to man either third base (not ideal) or he could slide over and fill the hole left by the trade of incumbent second baseman Dan Uggla. It’s also possible that he could end up in center field. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Coghlan could offer some versatility in 2011 but he’s not likely to be much of an offensive threat at third base or the outfield. He has some upside if he spends the majority of his time at second base.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/5/1985|
Profile: Colvin’s rookie season ended early when he was impaled by a teammate’s broken bat but the injury is not expected to have a long-term affect on his playing ability. Unfortunately for fans of the outfielder, he does not currently project to be a full-time player in 2011. Colvin should see time at all three outfield spots, and should still see steady playing time. He’ll likely be the first player into the lineup if any of the starters are injured or ineffective. Chicago is also likely looking for someone to take Kosuke Fukudome off their hands. If he does get significant playing time, Colvin is still not a great fantasy option. His low walk rates and high strikeout rates suggest a low batting average (.240-.260). He does have some power, though, and could hit 20-25 homers with 500 at-bats. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Colvin had some success as a rookie and could provide some home runs during his sophomore campaign in 2011. However, his approach at the plate should lead to a poor average and on-base percentage.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/18/1984|
Profile: The Cardinals used Craig at five different defensive positions last year but on Draft Day he will only qualify in the OF. He is going to be hard-pressed to find much playing time in the outfield this year and his main value will likely come at 3B, especially if injuries knock out David Freese again. Craig saw significant time at 3B in the minors but was moved off the position because of defensive concerns. But Craig can hit. While he batted just .246 last year in the majors, Craig has a lifetime .321 AVG in 871 PA in Triple-A, along with 40 HR. Craig has to battle Nick Punto for playing time in the infield, but Punto’s ability to play in the middle of the diamond may help Craig. He is not draft-worthy at the beginning of the season, but Craig has a shot to end up on fantasy rosters during the season given Freese’s injury history. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: Craig qualifies as an OF but if he is to have fantasy value this year it will be at 3B. He struggled to hit in the majors last year but has a nice track record of hitting at Triple-A.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/5/1981|
Profile: Last year, Crawford scored 110 runs in a line-up that could charitably be described as having some problems; Carlos Pena hit below the Mendoza Line, Ben Zobrist lost his power, and the team used Willy Aybar as their cleanup hitter on 17 different occasions. Now, he goes to Boston, where he’ll hit in front of the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz. Expect a bonanza. His stolen base totals will likely take a hit, as the Red Sox won’t need him to steal second in order to have a shorter trot home on a subsequent home run, but his runs and RBI totals should go up significantly, and his average should get a boost from hitting in Fenway. He might not be the best fantasy asset in the game, but he’s solidly in the second tier, and you could do worse than building your team around Crawford’s all-around excellence. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A legitimate star. Don’t pay for 50 steals again, but everything else makes him worth the premium price.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 11/1/1979|
Profile: In 2010, Coco Crisp brought his trademark glove and lack of health to Oakland. He didn’t disappoint with either, as he was stellar in the field and only appeared in 75 games. In addition, he had his best year at the plate since 2006 with Cleveland. In his limited time, he posted an OBP above his career average, regained his power stroke with eight home runs and a .438 SLG, and swiped a career-high 32 bases while being caught only three times. Duly impressed, Billy Beane picked up Crisp’s $5.75M option for 2011. Obviously Crisp’s performance will be determined by his ability to stay in the lineup. It’s reasonable to expect him to pile up more steals in 2011, as Oakland’s lineup is short of power and he’s likely to see plenty of green lights from the third-base coach when he reaches base. If he plays something closer to a full season, his power could even out a little bit playing in the chilly, cavernous Oakland Coliseum. Then again, a dip in home runs could result in a corresponding increase in doubles and triples. Crisp ended the season a bit of a troubling note, missing the last two weeks of the season with a recurrence of a broken pinky finger that had sidelined him earlier in the season. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Despite injuries, Crisp’s debut in Oakland was his finest season in years. Can he find a way to keep it up over a full season?
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/17/1983|
Profile: Last season was Crowe’s first full one in the Majors and it was a struggle for him. He has little power (four to five home runs a season while in the minors) and it showed with only two home runs in 479 PA in 2010. His batting average was only .256, which was higher than 2009 when he hit .235 with the Indians. These values seem about right for his talent level since he was only able to hit .275 while in the minors. He does like to steal bases and any value he has is tied to his SB numbers. In 2010, he swiped 20 bases. This little bit of value could easily be erased when Grady Sizemore returns for 2011 season. Crowe’s role has not been perfectly defined, but as of now he looks to be the odd man out with Brantley, Sizemore and Choo making up the Indians’ outfield. There’s no reason to draft or pick up Crowe in any league unless he is given a starting job in the outfield and your team is desperate for steals. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Crowe is a speedster, but could have playing-time issues in 2011.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/1/1980|
Profile: The years of languishing in Triple-A are no more for Nelson Cruz. Finally getting an extended look in 2009, Cruz capitalized with 33 home runs and an .856 OPS, paired with good defense in the outfield. This PAST season was an even bigger success, finishing with a .950 OPS. What Cruz could not seem to do was stay on the field. He took three trips to the disabled list in 2010 with a strain to his left hamstring and one the year before to his left ankle. Aside from the official DL stints, Cruz was unavailable on more than a couple days with hamstring problems. When he is on the field, Cruz is a high-powered hitter that will not hurt you with a low batting average. He is even good for 15-20 stolen bases provided the leg injuries this season have not sapped that ability. That’s what it comes down to with Cruz, how much you think he’s going to play. He turns 31 during the middle of the season and with the multitude of recent injuries is no safe bet. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: A bruising outfielder who hits the ball harder than almost anyone, Nelson Cruz unfortunately comes with an Achilles hamstring.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 3/27/1979|
Profile: Cuddyer had a disappointing 2010 fantasy season as his home runs dropped from 32 to 14. He did put up reasonable run and RBI totals with an acceptable batting average. The best trait that Cuddyer will bring to a team is his ability to play outfield, first base and third base. His production for a first baseman or outfielder is sub par, but as a third baseman, he brings a bit of value to the table. Don’t count on Cuddyer as a starter for my team, but he looks to be a solid option as a bench to fill-in when a player has a day off. Also, he should be considered as a third-base candidate in deep-mixed or AL-only leagues if the top tier players have already been taken. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Cuddyer’s versatility and reasonable production make him an intriguing fantasy option.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 1/7/1979|
Profile: Cust’s 2010 experience started in 2009, when he was somewhat surprisingly tendered a contract after the acquisition of Jake Fox, the alleged health of Eric Chavez, and a glut of outfielders pushed him down the Oakland depth chart. The depth chart didn’t change between contract-time and the conclusion of spring training, and he found himself in Sacramento to open the season. Cust was back in Oakland by mid-May though, as Fox was a dud and Chavez’s health was proven fraudulent. The “three true outcomes” extraordinaire didn’t disappoint in two of the three categories: his walk and strikeout rates were 16.0 % and 36.4 %, respectively. The third true outcome was a little unfulfilled, with 13 home runs in 349 at-bats and a .439 slugging percentage. That slugging figure represents a bit of a bounceback from his .417 mark in 2009, but is still well off his peak performances in 2007 and 2008. Cust again found himself down the A’s depth chart entering the ’10-11 offseason, but this time the A’s chose to cut him loose, and he found a new home in Seattle. Cust’s glove limits him to DH/LF duty, but there should be at bats for him in the Pacific Northwest. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Cust still shows at least two and a half of the three true outcomes
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 11/5/1973|
Profile: At 37, Damon is certainly winding down his career, and the move out of Yankee Stadium showed that his power had been fairly dependent on his home park. Don’t expect a lot of thump from Damon, but you might seen an uptick in stolen bases – his decline in that category has been mostly a result of not running rather than getting thrown out frequently, as he’s 22 for 23 in attempts over the last two seasons. Joe Maddon is not afraid of the green light, and since Damon is essentially replacing Carl Crawford, the Rays may ask him to use his legs a bit more frequently. I wouldn’t count on 30+ stolen bases in 2011, but 20 to 25 seems well within reach as long as he gets on base enough to make it happen. Owners looking for cheap speed options could do a lot worse than Damon on draft day. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: His power is mostly gone, but the wheels are still there. As long as he doesn’t completely fall apart at the plate, he could end up being a bargain.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/17/1986|
Profile: In 194 Triple-A appearances in 2009, Davis batted .327. In 444 Triple-A plate appearances in 2010, Davis batted .327 exactly again. His major-league average over those two seasons? Exactly 100 points lower, at .227. “Oops,” is the best word to describe that, probably. Regarding the difference between his major- and minor-league performances, the explanation is twofold. For one, Davis now has a strikeout rate of 34.5% as a big leaguer, versus only 25.5% at Triple-A. For two, his Triple-A BABIP over the past two seasons comes in at .402, versus .311 at the MLB level — the latter of which numbers is likely closer to his true talent. He’s very likely not as bad as last year’s slash-line of .192/.279/.292 — and is still a 26-year-old with prodigious power — but has also likely lost the starting first-base role to Mitch Moreland. Barring a move to another team or an injury to Moreland, he’s unlikely to have much value. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is a 26-year-old with something close to 80 power (on the 20-80 scale), but will need to (a) make more contact, (b) become more selective at the plate, and (c) get plate appearances to become a rosterable fantasy option.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/22/1987|
Profile: Along with R.A. Dickey, Davis was one of the surprise bright spots on the 2010 Mets — and like Dickey, even though the two are twelve years apart, there’s a good chance he’ll carve out a productive Major League career over the next decade. As Eno Sarris has written, “He may never be a superstar, but he’ll put up good numbers.” He ended the year alternating between cleanup and fifth place in the Met lineup, which means that he should get a lot of RBI opportunities, depending on Reyes’ and Pagan’s performances in 2011. But considering the rest of the lineup after him (Thole, Duda, et al) it’s hard to imagine him reaching 100 runs. He may never advance much further than a 20-something homer total, but assuming his numbers are legit — and considering his 16.4% line-drive rate and .321 BABIP, there isn’t much reason to take too much air out of his stats — he should be able to keep up his established level. He’s no Carlos Delgado, but he’s no Daniel Murphy, either. With no disrespect intended, he’s a professional hitter. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: He’s no Carlos Delgado, but he’s no Daniel Murphy, either. With no disrespect intended, he’s a professional hitter.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/19/1980|
Profile: Rajai Davis’s position within Toronto’s outfield is unclear. It partly depends on where Jose Bautista and Travis Snider end up playing since both are ahead of him in importance to the Blue Jays. If Davis can work his way into a regular role, he becomes immediately valuable thanks to his incredibly high steal totals. Davis swiped 50 bags last year and 41 in just 125 games during 2009. Those advancements help him pad his runs-scored total as well and the infield hits have kept his batting average from falling too low. The Blue Jays being such an offensive force should translate to a goodly share of RBI opportunities as well if he can crack the lineup. Davis will not give you anything in home runs but he is worth having for his steals alone. Even as a part-time player with Toronto, he’s likely to see plenty of pinch-running chances and might amass 25-30 steals on those alone, like in 2008 when he stole 29 bases and had just 214 plate appearances. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Keeping an eye on Davis will be hard because of his speed, but it’s worth trying. If he slips in the draft because he lacks a starting role, he could be a cheap source of steals for you.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/20/1979|
Profile: DeJesus is an average to above-average baseball player. The problem is that most of his value — getting on base and playing good defense — doesn’t translate to fantasy at all. He has been fairly consistent over the years and anyone who drafts him should expect about 10 home runs and a .300 average with about five steals. Either his run or RBIs totals could approach 100 depending on how he is used in the A’s lineup. DeJesus also has two knocks against him entering this season. Moving into spacious Oakland Coliseum should have a negative impact on his overall offensive numbers. Also, he broke his wrist on July 23 and those injuries take about a year to recover from. DeJesus’ usefulness will be as a fourth outfielder in shallow leagues and is a decent starter in deep or AL-only leagues. He will not hurt a fantasy team, but he will not win it for you either. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: DeJesus’ on-field value doesn’t translate to fantasy baseball value and he should mainly be used as an outfield substitute.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/15/1980|
Profile: Denorfia’s prospects of returning to the Majors looked dim after he hit just .271/.317/.398 for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in 2009, but the former 19th-round draft pick again exceeded expectations by pummeling Pacific Coast League pitching and earning significant playing time for the Padres in 2010. Called up to the Majors in May after batting .306/.368/.504 in the PCL, Denorfia played all three outfield spots while often shielding Tony Gwynn Jr. or Will Venable from lefty pitching. He had a .334 wOBA in 317 plate appearances in the Majors, showing surprising power (.162 ISO) while slashing .271/.335/.433. Odds are that pop doesn’t carry over to 2011, though, considering that Denorfia’s career ISO in Triple-A is .149 and he has hit a ground ball nearly 59% of the time in the big leagues. The Padres tendered Denorfia a contract while letting Gwynn go, so he’ll return as a reserve outfielder next year. Aaron Cunningham, Eric Patterson and possibly Oscar Salazar will push him for spot starts. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Denorfia power numbers are likely to decline in 2011, and he won’t get as many starts in center field with Cameron Maybin in the fold. Unless your league is Mariana Trench deep, Denorfia’s not a fantasy option.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 2/26/1975|
Profile: DeRosa is one of those rare players who jumps onto the fantasy scene after his peak years have passed him by, thus limiting the time in which he can be fantasy relevant. DeRosa was already 31 when the Rangers gave him his first season with more than 350 plate appearances, and DeRosa made the best of them and translated his performance into an everyday gig. One of the reasons he has sustained a job in the league is his ability to man a multitude of positions on the diamond, as he’s played at least 20 games at every position except for center field, pitcher and catcher. DeRosa’s offensive production slipped in 2009, and injuries limited him to 100 unimpressive plate appearances last season. The Giants have a crowded outfield, but it looks like they plan to give a healthy DeRosa first shot at the left-field gig. If the injuries have passed him by and his power returns at a level closer to his career rate, DeRosa might be worth a speculative grab in the last couple rounds of your draft. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: DeRosa didn’t have a great 2009, and he missed a vast majority of 2010 with injuries. If he’s healthy and his power has returned, he may be worth a speculative grab in the last round or two.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/20/1985|
Profile: All things considered, it was a pretty good rookie year for Ian Desmond: 10 homers, 17 stolen bases, and 65 RBI made him one of the better bargain fantasy shortstops in the game. He wasn’t very good in real life, though, as a poor glove and terrible plate discipline held him to a .308 wOBA and just 1.1 WAR. Still, there were only seven shortstops in all of baseball who posted double-digit homers and steals last year, so as long as you don’t play in a league that measures OBP or defense, Desmond could be one of the better shortstop bargains in all of baseball. He ended the year as the Nats’ No. 2 hitter, which could lead to a lot more run opportunities in front of Ryan Zimmerman, though his RBIs are likely to stay low. Top shortstop prospect Danny Espinosa is being converted to second base, so Desmond has little fear of losing his job any time soon. He could be hacking at ball four for years to come in Washington. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Top-10 fantasy shortstop due to double-digit homers and steals, despite being a mediocre/bad real-life shortstop.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/20/1985|
Profile: If you miss out on a top middle infielder, you want to find a player who can do two things well or one thing very well. Unfortunately, DeWitt offers very little upside for fantasy players. There is no category that he excels in. Last year’s .261 AVG came with a .313 BABIP, 14 points above his career average in the category. Perhaps there is some HR upside with DeWitt. He hit just 5 HR last year, but four of those came after the trade to Chicago. He hit 9 HR in his rookie season with the Dodgers in 2008 and has an outside shot to reach double digits in homers in 2011. But he is not a threat on the bases, with just 1 SB last year. Neither his Runs nor RBI totals are anything about which to get excited. DeWitt is not an option in standard mixed leagues and should only be considered in NL-only leagues or very deep mixed ones. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: DeWitt has little to offer in standard mixed leagues. A chance to reach double-digits in HR makes him an option in deep leagues or NL-only play.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/3/1978|
Profile: It’s tempting to say that Matt Diaz will finally compete for everyday at-bats now that he’s joined the lowly Pirates, but Jose Tabata, John Bowker, Garrett Jones and even the forgotten Steven Pearce will compete for time at the corner outfield positions, so it’s not like he’s all alone at any one position. The role he’s filled in the past — that of the lefty-killing platoon mate — may still be available for him, though. Of course, you can’t just pencil him in for that .389 wOBA against lefties going forward, either. For one, it only comes in 798 plate appearances and isn’t statistically significant. And then there’s the fact that even once you regress that wOBA based on what we know about splits, he has a .363 BABIP against lefties that might add a little swing to that pendulum. His .905 OPS and .198 ISO against lefties may still play in the deepest of fantasy leagues, but he’s a one-trick pony at best, and muted upside like that is best left for the waiver wire or the very end of the bench. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Matt Diaz, pronounced “die-as,” moves to a worse team but a more crowded situation. He’ll be good enough to play against lefties, but will he really garner any more at-bats given his age (33) and the state of his new team?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/4/1984|
Profile: It didn’t seem that long ago that Jason Donald was a semi-decent shortstop prospect for the Phillies. Now 26, he’s battling the likes of Jayson Nix and Luis Valbuena for playing time at second base for Cleveland. Donald’s 2010 Major League sojourn, like his time in Triple-A, showcased his ability to combine lots of strikeouts with a below-average walk rate, so both neither his average nor on-base percentage are likely to excite. He hasn’t show much speed or power (a .400 slugging percentage would be a bit of a surprise). Donald isn’t that young anymore, so there isn’t much upside here. The only way he really is useful is if he manages to get the second-base job over Valbuena, but while their bats are equally depressing, Valbuena is younger and seems to be better defensively. While it isn’t clear how Cleveland will make their decision, both players should be near the end of fantasy draft boards for the middle infield. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Part of the Cliff Lee “bonanza,” Donald was once considered something of a shortstop prospect. Now he’s a marginal second baseman with little fantasy upside.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/3/1981|
Profile: After a wrist injury and a sub-.270 BABIP conspired to make Doumit a non-entity in fantasy leagues in 2009, he improved at the plate in 2010 while logging more than 450 plate appearances for just the second time in his injury-riddled career. The switch-hitter raised his walk rate from 6.6% in ’09 to 9.0%, and his BABIP bounced back to .290. Doumit did a nice job of getting ahead in the count, as opposing pitchers managed to throw him a first-pitch strike just 51.5% of the time (58.8% MLB average). Overall, he slashed .251/.331/.406, plenty useful considering the aggregate line for MLB catchers was .249/.319/.381. Unfortunately for Doumit, his destructive work behind the plate (he cost his club 15 runs compared to an average backstop just with his arm), another injury (a concussion suffered on a back swing) and a salary dump by the Diamondbacks led the Pirates to acquire Chris Snyder on deadline day. Now, Doumit is a backup backstop, right fielder and first baseman who might not see much time at the latter two positions due to the additions of Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Doumit needs a new address to get back on the fantasy peripherary. Even if he is traded (a good possibility, given his $5 million-plus salary), he might not not find an everyday gig — his defense and durability are concerns at catcher, and he’s nothing special offensively in the outfield or at first base.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 11/20/1975|
Profile: Drew is remarkably consistent when it comes to fantasy production, hitting between 19 and 24 homers in four of the last five years while offering either 64 or 68 RBI in the last four. His AVG dipped to just .255 in 2010, his lowest in eight years, and his ISO dipped below the .200 mark for just the second time since 2003. At 34 years old, age-related decline is starting to become a very real concern for Drew. It’s unlikely that he’ll completely fall off a cliff, though his power output will probably continue to slide rather than rebound. The AVG can be hit or miss; Drew could easily climb back into the .270-.280 range with some more BABIP luck. Plate discipline is usually J.D’s strong suit, but in 2010 he swung at an uncharacteristically high 20.6% of the pitches he saw outside of the strike zone, an increase of close to 5% from previous years. The RBI and runs-scored numbers should continue to be there in 2011 because of the lineup around him, but tread carefully with Drew. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The signs are ominous for Drew, who was never a great fantasy buy because of middling RBI and AVG totals. Expect his power to continue to decline, though the chances of a total breakdown are small.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/16/1983|
Profile: After an outstanding 2008 campaign in which he hit more than 20 homers with a batting average north of .290, Drew slipped in 2009 and was a major disappointment to owners across the nation. Most of his decline was due to a drop in power production, which improved a little in 2010. While he wasn’t a stud by any measure, Drew put together a solid 2010, playing at least 150 games for the third time in four years. Drew is just entering his peak, so jumping back to a 20 HR pace shouldn’t surprise us in the least. Throughout his Major League career, Drew has hit much better against right-handed pitching, and that trend continued last year. While he’ll play every day for the Diamondbacks, you can maximize his value by keeping him out of your lineup when he faces a southpaw. If he can combine 20 homers, 10 steals and a .280 average, he’ll be a very good option at shortstop this year. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Drew is one of the more interesting shortstops out there, as he’ll probably be undervalued on draft day and is just entering his peak years. If you keep him out of your lineup against lefties, you can really maximize his value.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 11/9/1979|
Profile: If chicks do, in fact, dig the long ball, then chances are they dig the hell out of Adam Dunn, who’s authored more home runs since 2004 (282) than every single major leaguer but Albert Pujols. After hitting 40 home runs exactly in each of the seasons from 2005 to 2008, Dunn has hit exactly 38 in 2009 and 2010. One might ask, “Will he hit 38 again in 2011?” “Probably not,” is the sensible answer — but only because he’ll probably hit slightly more. This offseason, Dunn signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. Per Dan Turkenkopf’s work on park factors for home runs per fly ball, Nationals Stadium has generally been about five to 10 percent below league average while Chicago’s US Cellular Field has generally been around 15 to 18 percent above it. While it’s true that he’ll generally be facing tougher pitching in the American League, Dunn is likely to finish somewhere above the 40-homer threshold and somewhere around both 100 RBI and runs. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Dunn has hit exactly 38 HRs in 2009 and 2010. Will he hit 38 again in 2011 with the White Sox? Probably not — but only because he’ll probably hit slightly more.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 1/20/1975|
Profile: If you can’t quantify what Eckstein brings to a Major League team, it’s pretty easy to spot what he does (or doesn’t) bring to your fantasy team. He has no power (.059 ISO in 2010, .075 ISO career), little speed (4.0 speed score in 2010 was a three-year high), and has settled in with a batting average in the .260s the last three years. Searching for fantasy value may strain your eyes, but he does have one trick in his bag. By not walking (5.5% BB in 2010, 6.6% career) or striking out (7.9% K in 2010, 8.3% career), Eckstein can accrue many at-bats relative to his playing time. That can mean more hits, relatively, but his three-year high in that category is 131. Still, that’s about the only number that would even play in most fantasy leagues — so there’s your fantasy “value.” (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: What more can be said about Gritty McGritterson than the fact that it just seems like his teams win? In fantasy terms, it doesn’t matter where he ends up: he has no power or speed and only provides value by racking up PAs and hits at slightly above a fantasy-replacement level.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 6/6/1977|
Profile: Last year was another Mark Ellis year for Mark Ellis in Oakland. Like many of his A’s compatriots, he missed time with injuries, playing in 124 games. Ellis has only played more than 130 games twice in his career, a observation that may be hidden by the fact that he’s so reliable when he’s actually on the field. Ellis’s calling card is his steady 2B glove, and in 2010 he committed only three errors for a very Mark Ellis-like .995 fielding percentage. At the plate, his .291 batting average would have placed second among AL second baseman had he qualified for the batting title, and his .358 OBP was his best since 2005. He did lack his Mark Ellis-y middle-infield pop, though, failing to reach a double-digit home-run total for the first time since 2003. At age 33, we should know what to expect from Ellis: about 125 games played, a .265-.275 BA, 10-12 HR, 50 or 60 runs and RBI, and maybe a handful of steals. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: At this point, we know what we’re going to get from Mark Ellis.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/11/1983|
Profile: Ellsbury’s 2010 season was sabotaged by a series of rib injuries that limited him to just 18 games and 84 plate appearances. Now fully recovered, the still just 27-year-old will move back to his natural position (center field) and lead off for a rebuilt lineup. Ellsbury’s fantasy value lies in his legs, as he’s stolen exactly 70 and 50 bases in his last two healthy seasons, and even last year he swiped seven in limited time. He’ll again threaten 70 steals in 2011 as long as he’s healthy, and with that will come a boatload of runs scored. His AVG is a safe bet to reside between .280 and .300, though a little luck on balls in play could have him even higher. Ellsbury won’t ever hit for much power, though he could flirt with double-digit home runs in 2011 since the outfield wall in front of the Fenway Park bullpens are being moved in a bit, as much as nine feet in some spots. There’s a chance that Boston’s center fielder will be undervalued on draft day after such an injury-plagued season but don’t be fooled: Ellsbury remains one of the game’s premier base-stealers. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Injuries slowed Ellsbury down in 2010, but one of the game’s premier base stealers will be back in 2011 with a chance to do serious fantasy damage. In addition to steals, count on a ton of runs scored and a decent AVG.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/7/1983|
Profile: After a brief visit to Oakland during the off-season, Edwin Encarnacion is back to Toronto, where he has spent the past season and a half. As was the case with many Blue Jays in 2010, Encarnacion experienced a spike in his power. This appears to be the philosophy of batting coach Dwayne Murphy, so it might not just be a fluke. Even in limited playing time Encarnacion could hit another 20 home runs and drive in a good deal. The only unknown is his playing time. The Jays signed him as a first baseman and DH, so he could get another 350 plate appearances in 2011. That will probably depend on how hard he hits the ball. He’ll likely never provide anything in the way of average, but he should be good for some power numbers. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: While his playing time remains a question, Encarnacion flashed some serious power in 2011. He could be a decent source of HR and RBI in 2011.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 12/16/1986|
Profile: Escobar was probably the most disappointing player on a disappointing Milwaukee Brewers team in 2010. His defense wasn’t as world-changing as expected and, even though hitting wasn’t a huge part of his game coming up through the minors, nobody expected it to be this bad. Escobar’s 2010 line of .235/.288/.326 was terrible even for the increasingly poor talent-pool of shortstops in today’s Major Leagues. There is room for optimism, however, as Escobar showed solid contact skills, striking out in only 13.8% of at bats. He didn’t show any power (.091 ISO), but that was to be expected. The real driver behind his terrible performance was a .264 BABIP. For a player with Escobar’s speed who hits a lot of ground balls (42%), we probably would expect an average BABIP if not higher. Look for Escobar to rebound a little bit – .270/.315/.360 would be a fair projection, near what the Bill James Handbook expects. This uptick in on-base percentage could also be huge for Escobar’s fantasy value stat: steals. A move to the American League doesn’t bode well for his numbers. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Alcides Escobar had an awful debut season, but there is room for some bridled optimism. Look for Escobar to pick up 20+ steals this year, but otherwise his fantasy value is limited.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 11/2/1982|
Profile: Escobar was a surprise addition from the Atlanta Braves in a 2010 mid-season trade of veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The Jays bought low on the talented Cuban and that’s something to keep in mind, especially in AL-only fantasy leagues. The slick fielder was nearly untouchable in trades in ’08 and ’09 after posting WARs of 3.4 and 4.3. Escobar was in need of a change in scenery and his numbers improved with the move to the tough American League East. When he’s motivated, the former Brave has the potential to hit .290-.300 with 15 homers and score 80-90 runs. On the down side, he’s not likely to drive in many runs and he doesn’t steal bases. Toronto’s lineup has also not improved over 2010 and Jose Bautista will most certainly not hit 50+ homers again. He’ll never be a star player, but Escobar has the talent to be a solid mid-tier shortstop in mixed leagues. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Escobar received a new lease on life in Toronto and playing 81 games in his home park in 2011 could really help his power numbers. Escobar is in the second tier of fantasy shortstops. Don’t over look him.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/25/1987|
Profile: The Nationals like power, and Danny Espinosa has more than you generally see in a middle infielder, which is why he’s being given a chance to win the second base job despite some flaws in the other parts of his game – notably, his pension for swinging and missing. Always a guy who whiffed in the minors, Espinosa carried that over to the big leagues, striking out in 29.1% of his at-bats and hitting just .214 in a trial run last year. However, his defense continued to impress and half of his hits went for extra bases, so there are tools there that could allow Espinosa to succeed in the big leagues. I might be more optimistic about 2012, however – he had surgery on his hamate bone over the winter, and that’s an injury that is notorious for draining a hitter’s power. If he’s not driving the ball, the strikeouts could be tough to handle, and Espinosa might find himself back in Triple-A to get more seasoning. Draft cautiously. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Enough talent to win the starting job, but questionable approach at the plate and the possibility of a lingering injury provide bundles of risk. Don’t target him if you need a guy who will definitely stay in the big leagues.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 4/10/1982|
Profile: Fantasy players value consistency and Ethier’s .292/.364/.493 slash line was nearly a perfect match for his career numbers. But 2010 was a disappointing year, as a fractured pinkie landed Ethier on the DL for the first time in his career, which kept his counting numbers down from the prior season. Before the injury, Ethier was among the leaders in the Triple Crown categories, as he had a .392-11-38 mark through 33 games. But the remainder of the year he hit just .260 with 12 HR in 392 ABs. Ethier really struggled when he first returned to the lineup, as he batted just .233 with 5 HR in his first 225 PA. But the last two months of the season he hit .289 with 7 HR in his final 220 PA. Hand injuries often sap power and Ethier went from a potential 40-HR season to hitting just 23 homers last year. We already saw Ethier’s AVG begin to rebound at the end of 2010. As he gets further away from the fractured pinkie, there is reason to be optimistic the HR will return, too. Neither the Bill James nor the Fans projections have Ethier matching his 2009 power production. He may be a slight value on Draft Day for his age-29 season. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: A fractured pinkie ruined what was shaping up as a career-year for Ethier in 2010. Further removed from the injury, he could be a Draft Day value.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 4/27/1975|
Profile: In his best years, Feliz was a superb fielder who at least offered fantasy players some extra-base thump. But last year, he looked like he was taking cuts with a wet pool noodle. Feliz “hit” .218/.240/.293 between the Astros and the Cardinals. His .234 wOBA was dead last among batters with at least 400 plate appearances — that happens when you walk once a month and struggle to out slug the Ecksteins and Pierres of the world. Sure, his .228 BABIP was low, but Feliz pops the ball up a ton and his career BABIP is just .265. About the best you can say about Feliz’s offensive game is that he can’t possibly be worse next year. Of course, as a player who turns 36 in April and is coming off the sort of season that gives hitting coaches night terrors, there very well might not be a next year. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Friends don’t let friends roster Pedro Feliz. Even if he sneaks onto a big-league roster this spring, it’ll be as a late-inning defensive replacement who will be kept at least 10 feet away from the bat rack at all times.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 5/9/1984|
Profile: If, at the beginning of December, one were to have compiled a preliminary list of the players most likely to be traded at the deadline in 2011 (if not sooner), it’s likely that Fielder would’ve been near the top. The upcoming season represents the Brewers’ last year of team-control over Fielder, and the first baseman will likely command a big (read: non-Brewers-y) contract as a free agent. December, however, brought a great deal of change in Milwaukee, including, most notably, the acquisition of starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Those moves make the Brewers a legitimate contender in the NL Central and, therefore, make it less likely that Fielder will be dealt. As for Fielder himself, the most likely line is probably something similar to his career per-162-game average: .279 AVG, 37 HR, 104 RBI, 92 R, 3 SB. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: With the signings of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Fielder is likely to spend the season as a Brewer. Is likely to produce very similarly to his per-162 numbers.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/22/1978|
Profile: Chone Figgins is a near lock to get full playing time even if he ends up shipped out of Seattle somehow. That opportunity allows Figgins to reach base and proceed to swipe further bases. With at least 34 steals every year since 2004, Figgins is a premier asset when it comes to stolen bases. Spending all of 2010 at second base and penciled in at third base for 2011 could help you out, as well, with multi-positional eligibility. Figgins has no power whatsoever, though, and the Mariners are not going to provide him with many chances to drive runners in. How many chances he gets to score runs will be greatly influenced by where he places in the batting order. When his average is up in the .300 range, he gets to stay in the No. 2 slot and rack up 700+ trips to the plate. Another season of struggling, however, could see him batting last. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Chone Figgins might be a good buy-low candidate after an awful 2010 season. He’ll still get you steals and the run-scoring simply has to be better this time.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/22/1986|
Profile: Fowler hasn’t been bad over his first two seasons of meaningful playing time. But the lanky switch-hitter’s tools haven’t translated into studly fantasy stats, either. His walk rate, while still well above average, dipped from 12.9% in 2009 to 11.3%, and his ISO was nearly unchanged (.141 in ’09, .150 in ’10). While Fowler was a multi-sport prep star who turned down a Harvard basketball scholarship to turn pro, he stole bases at a middling 68.2% rate in the minors. And after a solid showing on the base paths in 2009 (27 for 37), he had just 13 steals in 21 tries this past year. The Rockies banished him to Triple-A from late May to late June after a punchless start. Don’t give up on him, though — Fowler turns 25 this March, he’s got a good eye, and he has the benefit of hitting in the best offensive environment in the majors. There’s still time for further development, and Colorado should be patient enough to give him everyday play again in 2011. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Billed as possessing more tools than Home Depot as a prospect, Fowler hasn’t shown much pop and needs to get better jumps on the bases. He could still become a fantasy asset, but few would call Fowler a future superstar without downing a few too many Coors.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/8/1984|
Profile: Can you believe that Jeff Francouer is just 27 this season? Perhaps the more words written about someone, the older they seem because it sure seems like Francouer is older. Despite entering the physical-prime years, Francouer is no reasonable breakout candidate, no matter what Dayton Moore thinks. In fact, that he signed with the Royals might be all you need to know about Francouer’s value for 2011. Even if he does manage to secure a full amount of playing time, Francouer is not a fantasy asset. He is as likely to drag down your team’s batting average as provide any help from his meager home-run output. He does not steal bases at any meaningful clip and if the Royals offense is good enough to be driving him in or providing him with RBI chances then they might also be good enough to have him on the bench. Jeff Francouer, the catch-22 outfielder. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: If you have anti-OBP as a category in your league, then Francouer would be useful. Back in reality, there’s a slim chance he finds a starting job and tops out as someone who doesn’t actively kill your team. That’s his upside.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/12/1989|
Profile: Despite being just 21-years-old and having all of two dozen plate appearances in the big leagues, the Braves have essentially handed Freeman their first base gig for 2011. He hit pretty well in Triple-A, and saving money at first base gave them the flexibility to pay Dan Uggla to stick around, so it’s probably a gamble worth taking for Atlanta. For your team, though, you can probably do better. Freeman’s more of a doubles guy than a home run guy, and while the power might come down the line, his best case scenario for 2011 is probably something like a normal Lyle Overbay season. He’s got decent skills across the board but no standout tool, and he’s still young enough that it’s easy to find scenarios where he gets overwhelmed and is back in the minors by June. With limited short-term upside and a decent amount of risk, you probably don’t want to count on Freeman to produce for you this year. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Freeman’s more interesting in keeper leagues, where he could develop into an above average first baseman in several years. For now, though, temper your expectations.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/28/1983|
Profile: The question to ask with Freese is not whether he can sustain his 2010 production. It’s whether he can stay healthy. If he can, he’ll get plenty of chances. The Cardinals have a remarkably light-hitting infield outside of their first baseman, so Freese can play an important role. He hit near .300 last year and was a .300 hitter in the minors, so the average should be there. He also might get an opportunity to score some runs if he hits in front of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. If he hits behind them he’ll have RBI opportunities, but his lack of power hurts him in that regard. Still, considering the relative lack of depth at third base, Freese can be a valuable player if healthy. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Health remains a question mark, but if it’s there Freese should get plenty of playing time. His value, however, could depend on where he hits in the Cardinals’ order.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/26/1977|
Profile: Fukudome got off to his customary hot start in 2010, hitting .344/.443/.641 through April. True to his form of the last three seasons, however, his performance tailed off quickly as the season progressed, and he found himself frequently on the bench in June and July. An August resurgence lead to Fuku posting modest career highs in home runs, batting average and slugging percentage, while maintaining a strong 14.9% walk rate, and reducing his K rate to a career-best 18.7%. The rub is that he did it in a career-low 429 plate appearances. What tends to get lost in the shuffle is that Fukudome is actually a solid player who gets on base, has some gap power, and plays good outfield defense. For 2011 there is little reason to expect anything other than Fukudome getting off to another fast start, then settling into a groove resulting in an OBP-driven .800-ish OPS. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Fast starts, long summers have been the book on Fukudome’s tenure on the North Side
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 10/24/1977|
Profile: For the second time in three years, Furcal failed to reach 100 games played. He hit the 15-day DL in late-April with a sore hamstring and missed a month late in the year with a back injury, the same ailment that caused him to miss most of 2008. Prior to the back injury, Furcal was an impact fantasy player with a .316 AVG. Additionally, he was on pace for 113 Runs and 36 SB in 150 games. However, after being activated from his second DL stint, Furcal hit just .237 and scored 9 runs in his final 21 games. On one hand, we have an injury-prone player on the wrong side of 30 who depends on his speed. On the other hand Furcal turned in a top-10 season for a fantasy shortstop despite playing just 97 games last year. He is a high-risk, high-reward player. Furcal might be the third-best shortstop in fantasy but concern over his health will keep his value low on Draft Day. If you can tolerate the risk, Furcal is a good mid-round selection. Just make sure to pick a SS as your MI as insurance. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: Despite being an injury risk, Furcal is a solid fantasy shortstop. If he stays healthy, Furcal should post good numbers in AVG, Runs and SB.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/24/1983|
Profile: Gardner shined as an everyday player in 2010 by owning the zone and running wild on the bases. He might not fit the cookie-cutter image most people have of a corner outfielder, hitting majestic shots into the stands, but Gardner’s plate discipline was sublime. The 27-year-old put up a .277/.383/.379 line with a .358 wOBA. Hacking at just 18.2% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone (third-lowest among qualified hitters), Gardner drew ball four nearly 14% of the time. Once on base, he swiped 47 bases in 56 attempts, good for an 84% success rate. Gardner has next to no power (.103 ISO in 2010), but he should remain an above-average hitter in 2011 thanks to his great eye and ability to beat out infield hits — over the past two years, only Ichiro (another high-BABIP hitter) has a higher percentage of hits on ground balls. Last season represents the upper bound of his skill set, but Gardner will remain a great source of OBP and steals. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: A burner who has a clue at the plate, Gardner’s good for forty-plus steals and an OBP north of .360. He’s not a slugger, but playing Gardner beats the hell out of relying on some Willie Mays Hayes-type in a desperate attempt to boost your squad’s running game.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/30/1983|
Profile: When the Royals traded for Chris Getz, the nominal plan was for him to be their everyday second baseman. Getz’s injury issues, combined with the Royals desire to play Yuniesky “And Plus Hands” Betancourt every day, led to him being put into a quasi-platoon with Mike Aviles. Getz was horrible when he did play, “hitting” .237/.307/.277. It is not clear what the Royals are going to do with their infield in 2011, but they have to reason to just cut Getz. Simple regression means he’ll probably hit better than 2010. More importantly, for all his limitations, Getz is a base-stealing machine, and that alone gives him value in most 5×5 leagues. He should end up on some bench in all but the shallowest leagues, and given the right situation for the Royals, could be a low-end starter as well. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Despite a dreadful 2010 at the plate and an ambiguous 2011 role, Getz has value in many leagues simply because he is a base-stealing machine.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 8/3/1976|
Profile: Has it really only been two years since Glaus hit .270 with 27 homers and 99 RBI for the Cardinals? The big, lumbering third baseman turned first baseman managed to find the fountain for youth for the first few months of 2010, hitting .281 with 14 homers and 55 RBI in his first 69 games, but from that point on he was basically unrosterable: .182/.303/.265 with just two homers in 59 games. Coupled with a long injury history, Glaus’ poor finish led to him announcing that he will take at least the start of the 2011 season off, but I think we all know how these things usually go. There’s a very real chance that he’s played his final big league game, which means he should have already occupied his final fantasy roster spot. Even if Glaus were to return midseason, say signing with a contender as a part-time DH or something, let him show that he’s still got something left in the tank before picking him up. Someone’s going to get stuck with him via autodraft, poor guy/girl. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Glaus is taking at the least the start of the 2011 season off, and if we’ve learned anything from the Jermaine Dye situation, it’s that his career could very well be over. If he does comeback, his performance the last two years make him a questionable option at best.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/22/1980|
Profile: Jonny Gomes played his first full season last year, but did have a little bit of a drop in home-run rate after hitting 20 home runs three times on limited at-bats in previous years. He’s 30 years old now, so it’s hard to expect him to hit 30 HRs. Gomes did have a change in plate-discipline approach, so, although he still strikes out a ton, he did achieve a career low in strikeout rate. Hitting fifth in the lineup did increase RBI opportunities after hitting sixth and seventh for most of his career. The Reds exercised Gomes’ 2011 option so we’ll see more of him batting fifth in a Reds lineup that led the NL in home runs last season. If Gomes continues to decrease his strikeout rate and some of his power comes back, he’ll have value for deep NL-only leagues with a ceiling of 25 HRs and 80 RBIs. Expect more or less the same slash statistics as the .266/.327/.431 that Gomes hit last season, with a tick up in SLG and home-run rate after what was likley an unlucky 9.0% HR/FB ratio. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Gomes had a drop in home-run rate after hitting 20 HRs three times on limited at-bats. The 30-year-old does not have much upside and has a ceiling of 25 HRs and 80 RBIs if he gets his power back while continuing to decrease his strikeout rate.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/4/1985|
Profile: In 2008, Gomez laid down 66 bunts and turned 30 of them into hits, getting on base enough to swipe 33 bases, making himself into a fantasy asset. In the last two seasons, he’s only attempted 50 bunts and converted just 17 of them, and the stagnation in what should be a big part of his game has led to both the Twins and Brewers questioning whether he can be a full-time player. He’s a really good defensive outfielder, but Milwaukee won’t play him unless he can hit, and without the ability to get bunts down regularly, the rest of the package probably doesn’t work offensively. He strikes out at the rate of a guy who can drive the ball, but Gomez has little power to speak of, and he eschews walks to boot. With a sub-.300 on base percentage, he just won’t get enough stolen base attempts to make up for the rest of his deficiencies. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: The quintessential “you can’t steal first base” kind of hitter, Gomez is one more bad year away from being a pinch-runner extraordinaire. The speed is worth a gamble, but you need to have a fallback plan.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/8/1982|
Profile: After being forced to overcome the most pitcher friendly park in baseball for years, Gonzalez will now experience freedom in Boston, and fantasy owners across the globe are dreaming of what A-Gon can do away from Petco Park. His opposite field power should play very well in Fenway, and his numbers should improve across the board. Hitting in the middle of a tremendous Boston line-up should allow him to rack up huge numbers of runs and RBIs, and he should be among the leaders in home runs as well. Off-season shoulder surgery is a concern, but it’s an injury he played through effectively in 2010, and until we see some evidence that it’s a lingering concern, I wouldn’t discount him too much. He won’t come cheap, but he’s likely to be one of the most productive first baseman in baseball. If you need a slugger, he should be near the top of your list. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A guy with huge power to left field moving to Fenway Park is a recipe for a big year. Expect Gonzalez to post better raw numbers than anything he did in San Diego.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 2/15/1977|
Profile: Early last season Alex Gonzalez made a splash when he hit 17 homers and drove in 50 runs during his first 85 games. But then the Blue Jays traded him to Atlanta, where he looked more like the all-glove, no-hit Alex Gonzalez we’ve grown used to. He’ll be back in Atlanta for 2011, so it’s tough to imagine he’ll reproduce those first half numbers from 2010 in Toronto. That means poor batting average, little power, and a lineup spot that likely won’t be conducive to run scoring or driving. In other words, not someone who should start in any league of reasonable depth. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Alex Gonzalez started off 2010 with a bang, but by the end he was the same player he’d always been. He’s an injury fill-in, and not the best one at that.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/17/1985|
Profile: Always viewed as a potential five tool player, the breakout came in a big way in 2010. Gonzalez made a run at the triple crown while also stealing 26 bases, making him among the very best performers in almost any fantasy scoring system. That said, you probably shouldn’t expect a repeat, and you’ll want to include a lot of room for regression in your valuation. Gonzalez’s strikeout rate is simply too high to support a .336 average, even for a player who spends half his games in Colorado. With a drop in his BABIP essentially inevitable, his average will fall, and with fewer opportunities on the bases, his stolen base totals could decline as well. While he may look like a 30-30 player in the making, you should draft Gonzalez mostly for the power numbers and let everything else be a bonus. The overall package is still tremendously valuable, but don’t expect him to be Hanley Ramirez. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A candidate to take a big step back in 2011. You probably don’t want to pay what the going rate for him will be, as 2010 will inflate expectations that he probably can’t live up to.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/10/1984|
Profile: Gordon’s fantasy value has been dropping each year he has been in the majors, as he has not been able to hit Major League pitching. Any fantasy value he has currently requires that he maintain qualification at third base (10 games in 2010). Finding any usable value is tough with Gordon. His Major League batting average has fallen each of the past three seasons (.260 to .232 to .215). This can be linked partially to his BABIP, which decreased in those three seasons (.309 to .276 to .253). His stolen bases have dropped each season he has been in the Majors, while only getting one in 2010. He has maintained decent power in the majors and had eight home runs in only 74 games in 2010. If he could just get some of his minor-league numbers (.321/.438/.578 in more than 1,000 PAs) to translate to Major League success, Gordon could be drafted in all deep mixed and AL-only leagues, but he will probably be taken in the last few rounds as people look for a fill-in at third base or in the outfield. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Gordon’s star has fallen quite far, but there is chances that he will have some fantasy value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/16/1981|
Profile: Yes, it was a bad year for Granderson. He only amassed 528 plate appearances (100 fewer than his previous full-season low) and put up the worst batting average of his career. But he still walked 10% of the time, he still showed an ISO over .200, and he still has great potential for fantasy value because of his combination of legit power and wheels. This year, he’ll probably enjoy a nicer BABIP (.277 last year, .314 career), and a batting average over .260 would make the rest of his line seem much more palatable. Platoon issues (.270 career wOBA versus lefties) will always mute his overall upside — he bats lower in the order against lefties if he’s even in the lineup at all, and that means fewer plate appearances and stolen bases — but he’s a good player. Once the first-tier outfielders are all gone, and your team can afford a bit of a batting average hit, take Granderson for across-the-board goodness. In OBP leagues, he’s a borderline first-tier guy himself. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The worst season of his career still produced 24 home runs and 12 stolen bases. That kind of power and speed will continue to play in all fantasy leagues, and the fact that he has upside beyond makes him a decent sleeper pick.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/21/1979|
Profile: After years of providing solid defensive value and hitting enough to hold his own in a reserve role, things went awry for Gabe Gross in 2010. His batting average occupied its usual spot in the high .230s, but his walk rate plummeted and dragged his OBP down to .290. He did make contact at a higher clip, but this improvement was offset by a precipitous drop in power, resulting in a single home run over his 222 at bats. Gross’s power has been on a steady decline as he’s aged, his SLG dropping every year from a robust .476 in 2006 to a meager .311 last season. Oakland cut bait on him after one year, and at the time of this writing he had not yet found a 2011 home. He’ll likely wind up with a spring training invite from a team needing outfield depth, where he can bounce back. Here’s hoping he does, as by all accounts he is an extremely nice guy. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: A platoon outfielder coming off the worst year of his career, Gross will look to bounce back in 2011.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 2/9/1975|
Profile: After a 2009 that saw Vlad post his first sub-.300 batting average (.295) since a 27-PA cup of coffee in 1996 and his lowest home-run total (15) since the 11 he hit in 354 plate appearances as a second-year player, Guerrero looked more like himself in 2010, his first with Texas. After Guerrero signed with the Rangers, there was quite a bit of talk about Guerrero’s past performance at the Ballpark, where he’d batted .394 as a visiting player; however, any improvement was likely due to two main factors: first, a pretty significant decrease in strikeout rate (10.1% after hovering in the mid-14% range the past two seasons) and, second, a significant increase in plate appearances (643 in 2010 after 407 in 2009). At 36, decline is the likeliest contingency in both categories. That said, he’s still an above-average hitter — and, with 16 games started in the outfield, could qualify there in 2011. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Appears to still be an above-average baseball hitter and, owing to his 16 outfield starts, might very well qualify there in some formats come 2011.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 9/30/1975|
Profile: Guillen had an injury-plagued 2010 season (three trips — hamstring, calf and toe) that left his fantasy value quite low. Injuries have always been a part of his resume, but usually they are only for a few days at a time. His recent stats show that he can be useful when playing. He has not hit over .300 since 2006, but was able to post a respectable .273 in 2010 after a disappointing .242 batting average in 2009. He was also able to hit six home runs in 2010 in 68 games and 11 in 2011. Currently, he has zero value in the base-stealing department. There is a possibility of him hitting .280 with 20 home runs while qualified as a second baseman. Only three second basemen with > 500 ABs reached that level in 2010 (Robinson Cano, Dan Uggla and Kelly Johnson). Guillen could be valuable player on a fantasy team, if he can stay on the field. And that is the big “if” with him this season. He should be considered a starting 2B in AL-only or deeper-mixed leagues, but due to his injury history a backup plan needs to be in place when, not if, he gets hurt. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Guillen could be a nice option at second base if he is able to stay on the field.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 5/17/1976|
Profile: Jose Guillen had been hampered by hip, knee, and hamstring injuries during his time with the Royals, and with reports of buying shipments of HGH, was conspicuously left off the Giants’ postseason roster. Needless to say, Guillen heads into 2011 with very uncertain prospects in the Majors as well as fantasy baseball teams everywhere. Guillen was one home run short of hitting 20 HRs in six out of the past eight seasons, while hitting an unimpressive .258/.314/.416 split between two ball clubs. Because Guillen is an outfielder and/or DH type hitter, he won’t bring you positional value even if he comes close to sniffing 20 HRs and 80 RBIs. Guillen has battled multiple injuries throughout his career, and as he approaches the age of 35, it doesn’t look like it’ll get any better for him. His rate statistics just don’t project well, and uncertainty clouding his Major League status should be warning enough for fantasy owners to stay away. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Guillen has had hip injuries, knee injuries, HGH suspicions, you name it. As a 35-year-old OF/DH with uncertain playing time, 20 HRs and 80 RBIs would be a dream season.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/21/1983|
Profile: Once seen as a potential five tool prospect while coming up through the Dodgers farm system, Gutierrez has settled into the role of defensive specialist. His glove – widely regarded as among the best in the game – keeps him in the line-up every day, but his offense has never developed as hoped. His power is consistent at best, and while he did steal 25 bases last year, that matched the totals he had accumulated in the prior two seasons combined. He’s not a burner with great stolen base potential, but he’ll swipe enough bags to hold some fantasy value, and his defense is good enough to essentially ensure regular playing time. If you need some cheap steals, he’s a decent option, but the idea that he could be a 30-30 guy is mostly out the window at this point. Don’t pay for too much upside here. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A decent source of steals, but not much else unless your league uses UZR as a category.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 3/21/1978|
Profile: In 2008, Guzman posted an impressive line of .316/.345/.440 in 612 plate appearances. Because he’d managed a similarly excellent line — albeit, in limited action — the season before, there was reason to think that the middle infielder had worked through some mid-career troubles to reach a new level of production. Despite those positive signs, Guzman has basically been unrosterable from a fantasy perspective since that 2008 season, batting only .277/.308/.368 in 951 PAs over that span and recording just eight homers and stolen bases. What does 2011 have to offer Guzman and his potential owners? Not too much, unfortunately. After being acquired by the playoff-bound Rangers at the deadline, Guzman compiled only 50 plate appearances. When he did play, he was bad. He’s a free agent as of press time, and is unlikely to start wherever he ends up. “Look elsewhere,” is the best advice to potential fantasy owners. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Has neither power nor speed nor plate discipline. Also, may not play middle infield that well anymore.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/4/1982|
Profile: When is a .204 hitter with no power worth targeting on draft day? When that hitter is moving out of Petco Park, can run like the wind, and is now the fourth outfielder on a team full of guys who play defense like every day is the NBA All-Star Game. Gwynn likely won’t open the year as a starter, but it’s unlikely that Don Mattingly will be able to pencil Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and either Jay Gibbons or Marcus Thames into the same outfield without impaling himself on a spoon. Gwynn’s ability to actually run down balls in the outfield should get him in the line-up enough to steal 20+ bases, and he’s a better hitter than he showed in San Diego. He won’t play every day, but drafting Gwynn may be one of the cheapest ways to get a leg up in the SB category. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A one category player, but it’s an important category and his struggles in 2010 should make him cheap enough to be a real bargain.
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