|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 6/3/1977 | Team: Indians | Position: DH|
Profile: The Pronk of 2004-2006 is gone, but Hafner is re-establishing himself as a viable utility play — when healthy. Last year, the Indians DH hit .280/.361/.449 and added 13 home runs in just 94 games. He’ll likely find himself hitting in the middle of the lineup in 2012, giving him a chance to put up some big RBI numbers, particularly if Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore, two of the players likely to hit in front of him, can stay healthy and get on base. Expecting much more than 100 games is not advised, and his lack of positional eligibility severely limits his value, but Hafner is useful if you use him correctly, particularly against righties. In 2011, he hit over .300 vs right-handers, with a .180 ISO. He probably isn’t destined to be your everyday Util, but as part of a platoon, or as a bench option, particularly in deeper leagues, he is worth owning. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: He may not be the all-world hitter he was a few years back, but Hafner has re-established himself as a solid designated hitter. Particularly if you can play him only against righties, you can expect a high average, solid power, and decent RBI numbers.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1980 | Team: Mets | Position: OF|
Profile: In fantasy terms, Hairston’s pop is just undone by his platoon and playing time issues, as well as his perennial poor batting averages. In real life, though, The Chin’s glove and ability to hit lefties makes him a decent fourth outfielder. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/29/1976 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 3B/OF|
Profile: For just the fourth time in his 14-year career, Hairston posted an above-average wRC+, performing admirably in mainly a reserve role for both the Nationals and Brewers, though he took over for Casey McGehee at the end of the season and started all 11 of the Brewers’ playoff games at the hot corner. The impressive showing earned him one of the two-year deals in the Dodgers’ veteran middle infielder lottery during the offseason. Though he doesn’t have a natural starting position, Hairston should see plenty of action, especially if Juan Uribe battles injury issues once again. Hairston doesn’t do anything well offensively, but he doesn’t do anything poorly either — though he did run far less than he normally does last season. With second, third base and outfield eligibility in most leagues, He should be a decent bench option. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Hairston is past the point in his career where he can be an effective starter, but he has a shot at being a good super sub on your team since he qualifies at second base, third base and the outfield.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/28/1979 | Position: 2B|
Profile: Hall had a surprisingly decent season with the bat for the Red Sox in 2010, hitting .247/.316/.456 in 382 plate appearances. The Astros naturally took this to mean that Bill Hall, Brewer of Yesteryear, was back and decided to bring him aboard for 2011. The 32-year-old Hall promptly tanked with the worst season of his career. He has always struck out too much, but without power to hit it out (and to intimidate pitchers into walking him at an average rate), he really can’t hack it as anything but a 25th man in the majors. That means he can’t hack it at all in fantasy. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Bill Hall might have a place on a major league roster at the end of a bench. He should have no place on your fantasy draft board, however.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/21/1981 | Team: Rangers | Position: OF|
Profile: Hamilton followed up his MVP season with another strong effort in 2011 (.298/25/94), but once again his value was limited by injury concerns. This time it was a fractured arm early in the season and a sports hernia late in the season, making it five disabled list trips in the last five years. Hamilton, 31 in May, is an absolute force when he’s in the lineup, hitting for average (.292+ in four of the last five years), hitting for power (25+ homers in three of the last four years), driving in runs (94+ RBI in three of the last four years), and even stealing the occasional base (eight-plus runs in the last four years). He plays half his games in a great hitters’ park and all of his games in a great lineup, so Hamilton figures to produce big numbers and fantasy value again in 2012, Assuming he stays on the field of course, which is far from a given. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The question with Hamilton continues to be his health, or lack thereof. He’s played more than 133 games in a season just once, but when he is in the lineup, he’s a force that hits for average, hits for power, drives in runs, and even steals the occasional base.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/29/1984 | Team: Cardinals | Position: 1B|
Profile: The 27-year old first baseman will back up Lance Berkman in St. Louis and has shown good power in the minors, though it mysteriously disappeared during his last stint in Triple-A. He could very well get a shot at some playing time if the brittle Berkman has his usual stretch on the disabled list, and he could surprise. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/16/1980 | Team: Reds | Position: C|
Profile: One might think that Ramon Hernandez’s depature for Colorado would make both him and former platoon-mate Hanigan better fantasy options, since they won’t be splitting time anymore. Unfortunately for Hanigan, he loses a partner just in time to gain a protege. 23-year-old Devin Mesoraco got 13 starts in the month of September as the Reds tried to establish how soon he’ll be ready to take over the starting job. Hanigan should start the year off as the Reds’ catcher, but he can’t be blamed for looking over his shoulder; Mesoraco is the future, and the Reds hope that future comes sooner rather than later. Hanigan may be a stable play for the first month of the season, but once Mesoraco establishes himself, Hanigan’s share of the time will drop drastically. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If a star catcher goes down early, Hanigan could be a decent candidate to cover that gap, but the presence of Mesoraco makes it unlikely that he’ll be on sure ground all year. Anyone in need of a full season starter should look elsewhere.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/4/1980 | Team: Indians | Position: 3B|
Profile: All glove and no bat make Jack a dull boy, at least for fantasy players. Hannahan should be back in Cleveland, likely backing up Lonnie Chisenhall at the hot corner, but he will have a chance to win the job if Chisenhall falters. And with Cleveland’s ground-ball heavy rotation, Hannahan could be a valuable piece, as he was one of the top defensive third basemen in baseball last year. Unfortunately for fantasy players, his value ends there. He hit just .250 last year, with eight home runs, two stolen bases, 38 runs, and 40 RBI — and that qualified as a career year. He featured a pronounced reverse platoon split last year, hitting much better vs. southpaws, but that has not been consistent over his career, so you probably can’t rely on it continuing. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The third baseman and leather specialist has far more value to the Indians than he would to your fantasy team. Low average, no speed or power to speak of — there really isn’t much to recommend him to your team.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/19/1982 | Team: Orioles | Position: SS|
Profile: After two sub-par seasons with the Brewers and Twins, Hardy came back onto the scene in a big way in 2012 with the Orioles. In just 129 games he arguably had the best fantasy season of his career, blasting 30 home runs while driving in 80. Those 30 home runs were tied for the most among shortstops. His OPS was .104 points higher at home, but he still put up a respectable .752 on the road. There are legit injury concerns, seeing as he hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2008. Getting 30HR/80RBI production for any position is nice. Getting it from shortstop is an enormous luxury. He’s a top 10 pick at the position. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Hardy has rare power for the position, but his lack of speed and good batting average keep him just outside the top tier of fantasy shortstops.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 6/22/1978 | Position: OF|
Profile: As a part-time player with decent speed, Harris’ fantasy value is already fairly limited. As his career .240/.330/.349 slash line demonstrates, Harris’ main value is tied to how often he can steal bases. But at age 33, his speed may no longer be an asset. Last season, Harris only managed to steal five bases while being caught four times. His ability to take a walk makes him a useful fourth or fifth outfielder on a major league roster, but he won’t produce enough value for your fantasy team. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Due to his poor bat and irregular playing time, Harris has never been a strong fantasy option. Now that he appears to be losing his main asset — speed — he’s fallen off the fantasy radar.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/8/1987 | Team: Pirates | Position: 3B|
Profile: Harrison got regular at bats down the stretch at third base as manager Clint Hurdle employed the “anyone but Pedro Alvarez” philosophy to fill out his lineup card. Not that Harrison did anything to earn it, though. He hit the most hollow .272 you’re ever going to see, walking three times in 204 plate appearances, posting a .281 OBP and slugging .374. Harrison didn’t do himself any favors by chasing 36 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone, but a big part of his lousy walk rate was pitchers pounding the plate against him. After all, why pitch timidly to a five-foot-eight hitter with modest pop? Possessing limited secondary skills and speed, Harrison has the upside of a fringe utility type. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Unless you’re planning on drafting Pedro Alvarez and subsequently burying him on the bench as your team strives for fourth place, avoid Harrison.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/24/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: OF|
Profile: Hart missed some time at the beginning of the season in 2011, but upon his return to action he was exactly what the Brewers paid for. He hit .285/.356/.510 and went over 25 home runs for the second season in a row. A move to the leadoff spot hurt his RBI totals, as he only knocked in 63 batters, but he scored 80 runs in just 551 plate appearances, so it’s all a matter of trade-offs in this case. It remains to be seen where he will hit in 2012, but the top of the order — either leadoff or second — would seem consistent with Ron Roenicke’s orders from last season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Hart thrived in the leadoff role in Milwaukee and appears to have earned his big three-year contract. Expect more of the same in 2012.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 6/22/1979 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Hawpe’s first season as a Padre was a disappointment. After struggling through 216 plate appearances, Hawpe was finally shut down due to injuries. As a result, his availability is in doubt at the start of the season. Between 2006 and 2009, Hawpe was one of the more consistent outfielders in baseball, but he’s slipped the past two seasons. He did sign a minor league deal with the Rangers — which is a nice offensive environment — but he’s going to have to show a lot before he gets another opportunity to be a useful fantasy player. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Hawpe hasn’t been himself the last couple of seasons, and is coming off Tommy John surgery entering 2012. It’s unlikely he’ll receive a prominent enough role to make him a useful fantasy option.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/13/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: C|
Profile: The Marlins traded away John Baker and Brett Hayes is only 28 years old, so he’s not in a terrible position. The right-handed backup catcher hasn’t hit above .240 in Triple-A since 2009, though. Really you should just stay away. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/15/1982 | Position: OF|
Profile: At 29 years old, Head is not really a prospect (and probably never was). He has always been a decent hitter in the minor leagues, but has also always been old for his level. There is some power potential there, as two straight years of .200+ ISO in Triple-A shows, but Head is unlikely to translate that to the big leagues. The Indians dropped Head from the 40-man and he signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers, but he is unlikely to make their 25 man roster and even less likely to have an impact on a team — real or fantasy. The Tigers outfield situation is not completely settled, but the list of names ahead of Head for those spots is long. Outside of the spelling of his first name, there is not much of interest here. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Always old for his levels, Head’s strong minor league numbers probably overstate his case. The Indians decided they didn’t want Head on their roster, and you probably won’t want him on yours either,
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/9/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: 3B|
Profile: Should the San Diego Padres be inspired by the New York Mets and move their fences in, Chase Headley, 27, might look pretty attractive as he hit .330/.399/.465 when not playing at home in 2011. Overall, it was an interesting year for Headley. On the one hand, he posted his highest wOBA of his career at .344 but he also hit just four home runs over 439 plate appearances in an injury-shortened season. It’s worth pointing out that Headley’s batting average on balls in play was a rather elevated .368. He’s maintained a high BABIP on his career, but a bit of regression in the batting average department can be expected. Also notable was his paltry 4.3% home run per fly ball rate, which should also bounce back, and perhaps owners can bank on a dozen or so home runs from Headley once again. Headley provides a cheap option without major holes in his counting stats — he contributes in all typical 5×5 categories, but none of them particularly well. Not thrilling, but nice. More exciting if he’s traded, of course. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Headley doesn’t provide the oomph you’re probably looking for in a typical third basemen, but he still retains value in his ability to provide double digit home runs and steals. If “won’t kill you in any category” is what you have in mind, Chase Headley is your guy.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/14/1984 | Team: Reds | Position: OF|
Profile: Heisey saw his OPS rise 40 points from 2010 to 2011, as he traded a 50 gain in slugging percentage for a 10 point drop in OBP. Owners hope he can solidify those slugging gains, as .250 hitter with eight home runs — Heisey in 2010 — is much less valuable in a fantasy context than a .250 hitter with 18 home runs, which is what he was in 2011. With Yonder Alonso headed to warmer climates, Heisey once again has a shot at playing time, and while there’s less to like in mixed leagues, he’s worth a shot in NL-only. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: 20 home runs seems to be Heisey’s ceiling and the way he hits his max value. In a roster full of high batting averages, perhaps his moderate power would be a welcome addition, but he’s not a piece worth building around.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/12/1976 | Position: 3B|
Profile: Wes Helms hit 23 home runs in 2003. It’s 2012. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 8/20/1973 | Team: Rockies | Position: 1B|
Profile: After an abysmal 2010 that made it seem as though his career was near its end, Helton put together a solid 2011, hitting .302/.385/.466 with 14 home runs, but it’s a far cry from his heyday when he was a lock for 30-40 home runs and 100 or more RBI. Even the enviable durability he showed has left him over the last couple seasons. The Rockies may use the newly acquired Michael Cuddyer at first base to help rest Helton’s problematic back, which will further cut into Helton’s playing time. If you can get him for a buck or two in an auction or in the later rounds of a snake draft, he might be worth leaving in a utility spot, but Helton’s days of being even a second-tier option among the first basemen is behind him. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Gone are the days of Helton as an underrated power option, but that doesn’t make him unplayable in NL-only. Just have sane expectations when considering drafting at 38-year-old with known back issues.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/30/1984 | Position: OF|
Profile: A former fourth-overall prospect per Baseball America, Hermida (who enters his age-28 season) has now posted a 96 wRC+ and 2.7 WAR through 2234 major-league plate appearances. Former top prospect Delmon Young has posted a 98 wRC+ and 1.6 WAR through 2967 plate appearances. The former signed a minor-league deal with the Padres; the latter is Detroit’s starting left fielder. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 5/20/1976 | Team: Rockies | Position: C|
Profile: After sharing the job with Ryan Hanigan in Cincinnati, Hernandez is the sole starter in Colorado. He’s been a solid fantasy option the last two seasons, but his lack of consistent playing time frustrated owners, since it was difficult to use him as an injury replacement. He should continue to put up a good batting average and flash a little bit of power, though the 12 home runs he hit in 2011 were the product of a 16 percent home-run-per-fly-ball ratio, a rate he probably won’t sustain, even with a move into the mountains. He’s a good backup option, and a starter in deeper leagues, but count on an average around the .275-.280 range and consider whatever counting stats he gives you gravy. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: He may not be the sexiest name on the draft board, but if the top tier options are gone, Hernandez might not be a bad handcuff for a high risk/high reward catcher like former teammate Devin Mesoraco.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/3/1984 | Team: Rockies | Position: 2B|
Profile: For the first time, Herrera stuck with the big-league club all season, which was both a blessing and a curse. The curse part was that Herrera’s bat was exposed, as he proved unable to handle a full-time position offensively. He does have a very good batting eye, and he is hard to fool — his swinging strike rate, 3.9%, tied for 17th-best in the game among batters with at least 300 plate appearances. But aside from his good discipline, Herrera offers little offensive production, as he has absolutely no power whatsoever. He will remain part of the Rockies’ infield equation thanks to his good work on the field, but he is not someone you should consider for your fantasy team unless you are in a very deep, NL-only league. Especially now, with Marco Scutaro in town. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Herrera doesn’t take much off the table, but doesn’t really bring anything to either — consider him only in incredibly deep leagues that also count defensive performance.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/9/1989 | Team: Braves | Position: OF|
Profile: What a disappointment. Heyward crashed to earth following a tremendous rookie campaign. For a follow-up, Heyward hit only .227/.319./389 last season. While his walk and strikeout rates remained strong, Heyward’s batting average on balls in play plummeted to only .260. While that explains some of his struggles, Heyward also dealt with a shoulder injury which completely sapped his power. Given that his struggles were injury-related and not a result of decline, Heyward is a good bet to recapture some of the magic from his rookie season. Right now he’s hitting too many ground balls to show plus-plus power, but the entire package (once his speed is factored in) should produce a top-end outfielder nonetheless. Last season was merely a bump in his road to stardom. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Heyward’s stock may be down following a poor Sophomore season, but he’s still an incredible talent. Expect a return to his phenomenal rookie season in 2012.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/9/1979 | Position: C|
Profile: After spending several years as the league’s worst backup catcher, Hill will probably be looking for a Minor League deal or backup catcher job in a weak system. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/21/1982 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: 2B|
Profile: Back-to-back frustrating summers in Toronto after a monster 2009 season led to the trade that sent Aaron Hill to Arizona, where, thanks to a .356 batting average on balls in play, he was worth more with the Diamondbacks (1.6 WAR) in 33 games than he was worth to Toronto in 104 games (-0.8 WAR). Change of scenery, indeed. While Hill regularly sports an above-average strikeout rate, he still refuses to take a walk. He never will. Walk, that is. What’s concerning is that Hill’s power deserted him in 2011, as he stroked only 11 home runs, after seasons of 36 and 26. Hill’s infield fly rate remains high (13.2% in 2011) and ask the fans in Toronto, it’s those infield fly balls that will drive you insane. However, as a starting second baseman in the National League West, playing in the thin air out in Phoenix, and with his 2011 line-drive rates rising from a remarkably low 10.6% in 2010, Hill’s likely got some fantasy value yet. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Hill will be hard-pressed to ever repeat his 2009 season, and even though his power numbers dropped in 2011, his power potential remains, giving him fantasy value as a starting second baseman in the National League. The fly balls really need to stop, but if Hill takes to the desert like he did in 2011, he could be an option in the later rounds of your draft.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/5/1977 | Team: Braves | Position: OF|
Profile: Known by many for his Japanese-style full-back tattoo, Eric Hinske has been in the World Series three of the last five seasons. While he might be the lucky charm for his employers, Hinske hasn’t been terribly useful in anything but deeper leagues since 2009 and he will be losing third base eligibility in 2012, which is were he had any modicum of value. He will likely return to the reserve role he had in 2011 with the Atlanta Braves, playing sparingly at first base and occasionally at the two corner outfield positions to give the regulars a rest. If injury or ineffectiveness thrust him into a starting role, he could have some value on the home run front if given sufficient at-bats as he can still juice a ball now and again. But counting on anything more than the .233/.311/.403 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI we saw in 2011 is probably optimistic. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: The former Rookie of the Year is 34 and hasn’t been fantasy relevant for a while now. He’s a platoon player and pinch hitter with a little pop, but little else in terms of value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/15/1980 | Team: Cardinals | Position: OF|
Profile: Holliday didn’t put up the bulk numbers that he is used to thanks to a variety of injuries, but his rate stats all remained intact. In fact, Big Daddy’s 154 wRC+ was the best mark of his career, and among outfielders with at least 500 plate appearances, it was bested only by Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and teammate Lance Berkman. Holliday doesn’t run like he used to — after swiping 28 bags in 30 tries during 2008 he has only attempted 38 in the three seasons since, including just three last year. Nevertheless, if Holliday can keep himself on the field, he will be one of the most valuable outfielders in the game, even without Albert Pujols hitting in front of him. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Holliday missed some time last season, and the resulting drop in his bulk stats may leave him underrated heading into 2012. Don’t be fooled, he is still an elite hitter.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/24/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: 1B|
Profile: Eric Hosmer became one of the top rookies of the 2011 class and looks to continue this production into 2012 — there is quite a bit to like about Hosmer. While not a true five-tool player, he doesn’t hurt an owner in any one category. He was able to hit 19 home runs for the Royals. His homer total could have been much higher if he didn’t play half his games in spacious Kauffman Stadium. He hit 16 of his jacks on the road and only three at home. Kauffman does play neutral for runs scored so his RBI and run values should be fine, but his home runs may still be limited. He will be hitting third or fourth in the improved Royals’ offense which put up the tenth-highest run total in 2011. He hit near a .300 average and had double-digit steals — worst-case, he’s the Hunter Pence of the first basemen. He has the potential to be a perennial top-five first baseman for years to come. Expect him to garner quite a bit of attention and be gone before the fifth round in this season’s drafts. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Expectations are high for Hosmer in 2012. It seems reasonable to expect some improvement, but his potential of being an elite fantasy player with typical first baseman power is limited by Kauffman Stadium.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/19/1979 | Team: Phillies | Position: 1B|
Profile: The benefactor of one of the worst contracts handed out in recent memory, Ryan Howard left 2011 with a fair amount of uncertainty. Nevermind the fact that his .354 wOBA was a career worst. You can even forget that he was a sub-two-win player for a second straight season. Indeed, the rupturing of Howard’s Achilles tendon has to be especially worrisome for a player that was never particularly mobile over at first base, doesn’t have a designated hitter spot to hide in while he gets his legs back under him, and is owed at least $125 million more entering his age-32 season. And this is in a contract that doesn’t START until this upcoming 2012 season. Step aside Joe Mauer and Vernon Wells, Mr. Howard wants a piece of that action. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Though 5x5ers probably experienced little drop-off for Howard last season, as only his average tailed off in those leagues. His BABIP could rebound, or it could flat-line if his mobility becomes even worse with his injury. If he falls into your lap late, though, then go for it.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/2/1984 | Position: 2B|
Profile: Supposedly Hu’s on short and has a glove to at least back up all the infield positions. Unfortunately his stick has produced a 22 wRC+ so far. That’s not a typo. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/12/1977 | Team: Padres | Position: 2B|
Profile: Despite starting the 2011 season as a 33-year-old with over 1000 MLB games under his belt, Hudson had some surprises up his sleeves for fantasy owners. The switch-hitter stole a career high 19 bases, but he also struck out more often than he ever had before. The result? A poor fantasy season, even in OBP leagues. Hudson probably won’t steal more than 15 bases again, but there’s a chance he could bring his batting average (and OBP) back to his previous career benchmarks. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Hudson showed some speed in 2011, but don’t expect it to continue in 2012. He’s a late-round pick in NL-only and deeper OBP leagues.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 12/20/1976 | Team: Giants | Position: 1B|
Profile: After a stellar 2010 in which he hit .290 with 26 home runs with 86 RBI and a career-best .385 OBP, Huff took a major step backwards last season. With a meager triple slash line of .246/.306/.370, Huff managed just 12 home runs and saw his walk rate drop from 12.4% to 8.1% and his strikeout rate rise from 13.6% to 15.5%. Maybe it was the distraction of being moved into AT&T Park’s perilous right field, or maybe it was just a return to his usual declining numbers after a dream season that saw most of the Giants exceed expectations and win the World Series. Probably the latter and not the former. Huff’s role in 2012 seems a little murky right now as the team looks to find room for first base prospect Brandon Belt while giving Buster Posey some much needed rest from behind the plate. He’ll get the majority of playing time, but is more likely to see his totals hover near last year’s production. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Huff may be in a contract year in 2012, but with the team looking to find room for Brandon Belt and give Buster Posey some starts at first base, Huff could see a big decline in playing time. 2010 is far off in the past and Huff’s owners should expect totals closer to last season’s mark.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/2/1984 | Team: Twins | Position: 1B/2B|
Profile: Hughes was the big story out of Twins spring training in 2011, as he drilled six home runs and looked like a viable option to take one of the last roster spots on the Twins’ 25-man roster. However, Hughes was sent down at the end of spring training, only to be quickly promoted when Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s freak leg injury occurred at Yankee Stadium just a week into the season. Not surprisingly, Hughes failed to regain his spring training magic, and barely outpaced his spring home run total by hitting seven regular season taters on his way to a .223/.289/.338 triple-slash (.280 wOBA). Hughes is out of options, so he has a decent chance to stick at a utility infielder in 2012, but his strongest defensive position is first base, and he certainly doesn’t have the bat for that. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Hughes is versatile enough to be a 25th man on a big league roster, but won’t hit enough to carve out regular playing time, and shouldn’t be on anyone’s fantasy radar.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/8/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: C|
Profile: Hundley came on strong for the Friars in 2011, triple-slashing .288/.347/.477 (.354 wOBA) on his way to becoming one of the better every-day bats in San Diego’s dismal lineup. Hundley didn’t come completely out of nowhere, as his .785 minor league OPS would attest, but it was still a mild surprise on a team that combined to hit .237/.305/.349 and finished worst or second-worst in each triple-slash category in the National League. Petco Park may not be kind to too many hitters, but Hundley found his home park very inviting, to the tune of a .935 OPS and 19 of his 31 extra-base hits on the season. He doesn’t have a ton of home run power, but does use his home park to his advantage, with plenty of line drives and ground balls to complement his park’s longball-suppressing tendencies. As a result, he has maintained a healthy .165 ISO and should continue to thrive in San Diego. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Among all catchers with 200 or more PA, Hundley was fourth in wOBA, which might surprise you. Be wary of the .362 BABIP, but his batted ball mix should ensure his usefulness to your fantasy squad. In 5x5s he may go a little higher than he’s worth, but in saber leagues, he should be a very nice value pick.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 7/18/1975 | Team: Angels | Position: OF|
Profile: Even though Hunter is more well known for his defensive abilities, he’s shown the ability to be a very good fantasy outfielder in years past. Before the 2011 season, Hunter had hit at least 20 dingers in ten of the last eleven years, and the center fielder had hit at least .275 each of the past five years. Age has finally taken its toll on Hunter, as the Angels were forced to move him to a corner outfield spot, while at the same time, his offensive production dipped off. Hunter still hit over 20 homers last year, but his batting average fell to .262 behind an increased strikeout rate. While he is certainly declining, his upcoming age-36 season could be one worthy of fantasy owners’ time. Hunter will still be able to hit about 20 homers in 2012, and if he can simply hit .270, all will be well thanks to his other counting stats. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Hunter is declining, but he still has a good chance for a productive fantasy campaign in 2012. If you think he can play 150 games and hit .270, Hunter will be a nice third outfielder for your squad.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C|
Profile: In over 800 plate appearances at home in Colorado, Iannetta managed a .262/.377/.492 line. In about the same number of PAs on the road, that slash line dropped to .208/.338/.369. Now Iannetta will call a home-run suppressing park in Anaheim home — it won’t play like Disneyland for him. The fly-ball heavy slugger with no wheels will always put up low batting averages on balls in play, and with a league-average strikeout rate, a decent batting average is probably out of his reach. That said, his patience makes him a boon in OBP leagues, and he did show above-average power home and away. Will a .240 batting average and around 15 home runs play in your league? (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: After years of hoping the Rockies would ‘free’ Iannetta and play him for a full portion of at-bats, the team did set him free — by trading him to home-run suppressing Anaheim. Now he should get more playing time, and show worse fantasy statistics.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 6/2/1972 | Position: OF|
Profile: If it seems like Ibanez has been around forever, it’s because well, he has. Since debuting in 1996, Ibanez has kicked around for long stints with three different teams, including separate go-arounds with the Mariners. And for a while there, Ibanez proved himself to be a pretty solid corner outfielder, including 10 straight campaigns in which Raul posted 100-plus marks in OPS+. He’s never once had a four-win season, he slipped pretty badly in 2011 (.306 wOBA), and he’s Cuddyer-esque on the defensive scale (-47.6 defensive runs in his career). As a free agent, he may have trouble finding a big league deal, but if this is it at age 39, it was a pretty good run, Raul. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Ibanez has garnered no interest on the free agent market. As a result, downgrade him to 50th-round material in all of your drafts. Kidding aside, it’s probably the end of the line for Ibanez, who had a nice under-the-radar run.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/5/1990 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SS|
Profile: Iglesias has been seen as the Red Sox’ shortstop of the future for a couple of years now, but the 22-year-old may be stuck in the Minor Leagues even with Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro out of town. Iglesias is still very young, but he’ll need to improve everything about his bat if he ever wants Boston to feel comfortable giving him a chance to be their everyday shortstop. Unfortunately, fantasy leagues don’t tend to incorporate things like UZR and DRS, so Iglesias may never be able to be a roto shortstop even if he finds playing time in Boston. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Iglesias probably isn’t going to be playing much in 2012, and barring a wholesale improvement at the plate, he may never be a fantasy-relevant shortstop.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/26/1981 | Team: Marlins | Position: 2B|
Profile: Omar Infante followed up a terrific 2010 campaign by regressing almost perfectly to career norms in 2011 at .276/.315/.382 (career .275/.318/.393). He strikes out fairly infrequently, walks even less, and doesn’t bring power nor speed to the table. In recent years, he’s demonstrated an ability to hit for a plus average, although that’s heavily reliant on his batting average on balls in play and concomitant hit trajectory. To that end, he was a little unlucky with his .298 BABIP in 2011 as his expected BABIP registered at .332, which is about where he was maintaining from 2008-2010. Infante loses his multiple position eligibility and will only be a second basemen in 2012. That doesn’t leave a whole lot to get excited about. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: If you need batting average and a fist full of runs, Infante might be a decent plug-and-play kind of guy when the need arises. But unless your league runs deep, there are many better options.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 5/19/1977 | Team: Tigers | Position: 3B|
Profile: If you thought watching Brandon Inge struggle in 2010 was frustrating, well, 2011 must have been something else. Inge was awful last season, hitting a putrid .197, thanks in part to a .256 batting average on balls in play, an inability to draw a walk, and a sky-high strikeout rate. Inge is what he is: he’ll give you some power — he’s twice hit 27 home runs and driven in more than 80 runs. But he’ll never hit for a high average or get on base at a high rate. After losing his starting job to Wilson Betemit last season and probably Miguel Cabrera this season, Inge is in a contract year, has apparently added 17 pounds of muscle to his frame. He is trying to get back to basics: play solid defense at third base, hit some home runs and drive in runs. If he can do that again, and there’s no guarantee he can, as his power completely deserted him in 2011, Inge could be a fantasy option for you to consider late in your draft. Yet another gamble, and perhaps only an option in deep or AL-only leagues. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: The bad news: Inge is looking like the backup third baseman behind Miguel Cabrera. The even worse news: if Inge’s power has deserted him for good, he’s got little to no fantasy value. Buyer beware.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/12/1980 | Team: Angels | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: Izturis, 31, has great value in his versatility — he qualifies in most formats at shortstop, second base, and third base. He won’t light up the box score in any particular category with a middling batting average, little power, and possibly double-digit steals. He’s better used as a bench stash in case of emergency as there’s not a single part of his game that is particularly useful to most fantasy baseball formats, unless your league values defense, and even then — Izturis is barely above average. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Izturis is a bench stash at best in most league formats. His versatility could be handy for deep leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/1/1987 | Team: Tigers | Position: OF|
Profile: The ‘Carlos Gomez’ in Jackson’s game reared its ugly head in a big way in 2011, as Jackson took a huge step back from his breakout 2010 rookie campaign. Not only did Jackson’s batting average on balls in play drop by 50 points (still an impressive .340), but pitchers threw Jackson fewer pitches in the strike zone in 2011, and his bat responded by missing seven percent more of those offerings as well. As a result, Jackson went from a passable choice to lead off with a .293/.345/.400 to an indefensible one — who still led off 140 times in 2011 — at .249/.317/.374. The former was a four-win player, and the latter just under three. If the real Jackson lies somewhere in between — and that’s probably a pretty safe assumption — he’ll still be plenty valuable. Just don’t let him lead off. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: How stubborn do you feel Jim Leyland really is? That’s the real question, because if he blindly lets Jackson lead off for the bulk of the 2012 season, there’s a good chance the swift-footed centerfielder could amass 100 runs scored, 25-plus stolen bases, and a passable batting average. All this, while not being a particularly good hitter.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 5/7/1982 | Position: 1B/OF|
Profile: Remember that nice season Jackson had back in 2008 for the Diamondbacks? Yeah, me neither. That is a bit harsh, given that Jackson suffered some pretty unfortunate injuries that derailed his career, but when he has been healthy, he’s simply been awful. There is something there in the plate discipline — he has an average walk rate and great strikeout rates, but a corner outfielder who hasn’t had an isolated slugging percentage over .100 in four years is just, well, useless. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: If, like me, you still aren’t sure Conor Jackson and Chad Tracy are two separate people, you should not be drafting either of them for fantasy.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/12/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: SS|
Profile: Janish was underwhelming in 2011 after looking like he had some fantasy potential in limited playing time in 2010. In truth, even another acceptable-but-uninspiring campaign probably wouldn’t have been enough to keep the starting job for Janish in 2012, as Zack Cozart had already taken some of his playing time before getting hurt just 11 games into his professional debut. Janish will likely be Cozart’s backup, and while he may get a few games a month of playing time, it will take either another injury or a prolonged bout of severe ineffectiveness to get Janish back in the starting lineup at Cozart’s expense. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: There will be unprepared people who take Janish because they know the name and because he was the starter last year. Do not be one of these people. Cozart will be the starter and, unless he is mortally wounded in April, will render Janish a bench bat nearly bereft of fantasy value.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1983 | Team: Mariners | Position: C|
Profile: John Jaso will likely never be remembered for his defensive talents — unless he is remembered poorly — but his hitting has all the potential to make him a valuable catcher in fantasy terms. His on-base skills set him apart, and he should sport about a .350 to .360 OBP if he can stay healthy in 2012. He may even start in Seattle. Call him an OBP-league sleeper. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: He has doubles power and strong on-base skills, but his rough defense may hurt his playing time long term.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/15/1985 | Team: Cardinals | Position: OF|
Profile: Jay will get his first shot at holding down center field all season, but he will have a little help from new RedBird Carlos Beltran, who may spell Jay in center on occasion, probably against lefties. While Beltran is certainly better against lefties, Jay is no slouch — his wRC+ of 106 in two seasons of Major League ball is a pretty decent indicator that he can hold his own against southpaws. In a small defensive sample there last year, he also held his own (and would be better than a weak-kneed Beltran), and if those marks hold over a full season, the Cardinals will have one of the better center fielders in the game and will look even more justified for trading Colby Rasmus. Offensively, Jay probably isn’t good enough to start in your outfield, as while he will hit for a good average and has acceptable power for a center fielder, he isn’t helping the cause on the basepaths — he has been successful in just eight of his 19 stolen base attempts at the Major League level. Jay is a decent sleeper, but he would fit best on your bench. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Jay stands to play more frequently this season — though he will share time in the outfield with Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig — and should be a good option for your fantasy squad’s bench.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/30/1986 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: In less than 300 plate apperances, Desmond Jennings managed to steal 20 bases and hit 10 home runs — that’s the toolsy upside we all heard about while he was coming up in the Minor Leagues. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a downside, as his batting average attested. The Rays outfielder has also put up strikeout rates that are slightly worse than they should be. His debut number was worse than league average, and he doesn’t quite have the power to back that up. He did put up a swinging strike rate that was better than league average and is expected to strike out less next year, and with his wheels and ground-ball-leaning batted ball mix, he could expect better batted-ball luck next year. At the very worst, that should produce a league-average batting average. When paired with his better-than-league-average power and prodigous wheels, that makes him worth a significant draft day investment. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: A few too many strikeouts led to a batting average that took some of the shine off of Jennings’ power and speed totals. That’s okay, his swinging strike rates and historical strikeout percentages seem to suggest he can improve the only part of his game that’s a question mark. He’s worth investing in.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 6/26/1974 | Team: Yankees | Position: SS|
Profile: One of the more controversial players over the past two years, Jeter still provides solid production despite a lack of power. Usually a lock for 12-17 home runs, he’s combined for just 16 over the past two seasons. Despite his relatively advanced (baseball) age he’s still a lock for ~15 stolen bases. Jeter’s main issue is his ground-ball rate. He’s lead the league the past two seasons in GB%, no one else has been particularly close. This is fine when you’re a younger, faster player like Elvis Andrus, but when you have as many miles on your legs as Jeter does it’s a problem. He still plays in New York so scoring runs won’t be a problem. As long as he stays healthy he’ll produce enough to remain a mid-tier fantasy shortstop. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Far from his heyday, Jeter still provides solid counting stats at a position sorely lacking them.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/8/1976 | Team: Cubs | Position: OF|
Profile: Do not let his .394 batting average on balls in play in 2011 fool you: Reed Johnson is very much the strong-fielding, weak-hitting utility outfielder he always was. He hits lefties well, but struggles too much against righties to push for a starting position. The Cubs will likely try to play him as much as possible against lefties, but his value remains as a defender and fourth outfielder. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Johnson may never be a starter again in the majors, but he makes a solid platoon partner and a great fourth outfielder. For fantasy purposes, don’t bother.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/9/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: SS|
Profile: As a utility player coming off a tough season, Johnson may struggle to keep his roster spot in 2012. At the same time, his strong minor league numbers may finally make an impact, which might even give him a timeshare at short. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/10/1979 | Position: 1B|
Profile: Johnson has a WPA of +2.44 in 1520 career plate appearances. Literally about half of those added wins come from late-August or September games against either the Yankees or Red Sox — including his game-tying home run from last season with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Rays’ 162nd game. Otherwise, he’s been mediocre, and is a free agent as of press time. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/22/1982 | Position: C|
Profile: Johnson’s career slash line in the majors is .197/.275/.297. If he stumbles into playing time with the Mets (or on your fantasy roster) something has gone horribly wrong. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/1/1984 | Team: Astros | Position: 3B|
Profile: Johnson had an intriguing 2010 campaign that lead many to consider him a sleeper option going into 2011, but he failed to deliver on that promise, hitting fewer home runs and driving in fewer runs even with expanded playing time. The decline was due in no small part to a 70 point drop in his batting average in balls in play from an unsustainable .387 in 2010 down to .317 in 2011. That second number is probably closer to his true-talent ability in the category, as Johnson doesn’t boast a particularly high line drive rate or get to play against an infield with only three defenders. Johnson is not a sleeper option, at this point: He doesn’t walk, hit for power, or steal bases particularly well, and if you’re counting on his batting average in 2012, you’re hoping against hope. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: He lacks a great tool to differentiate himself from the morass of replacement-level third basemen and now that his batting average on balls in play has returned to earth from orbit, it doesn’t seem as though he will contribute much in any format.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/22/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 2B|
Profile: When the Toronto Blue Jays swapped second basemen with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sending Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the desert for Kelly Johnson, they were hoping to acquire the Kelly Johnson of 2010, who put up career-high numbers two summers ago. There’s no hiding from the fact that 2011 was a nightmare year for Johnson: he hit for the lowest average of his career, and struck out more than he ever had before, with a strikeout rate well above his career average. Johnson’s success seems to hinge on his batting average on balls in play: he emerged in 2007 and 2008 in Atlanta as an everyday second baseman, and re-emerged in 2010 in Arizona, thanks to his above-average BABIP. In 2011, Johnson’s BABIP dropped back down to 2009 levels, and that was paired with the worst contact rate of his career. The move to Toronto, however, seemed to rejuvenate Johnson, and in only 33 games with the Blue Jays, Johnon was worth almost as many wins as he was in 114 games with the Diamondbacks. After accepting arbitration from Toronto to be their everyday second baseman, Johnson will have every opportunity to prove that all he needed, again, was a change of scenery. Should Johnson find himself high atop the Blue Jays batting order, and should he pick up where he left off in Toronto, there’s no reason why he can’t be a solid contributor to your fantasy lineup. Unless his BABIP is low. Then all bets are off. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: A late-August trade to Toronto was the kick in the pants Kelly Johnson needed. As a Blue Jay, and devoid of the pressures of a pennant race, Johnson found his stroke — both his walk and strikeout rates improved. Should he get off to a good start in April and May, as he’s proven to do, there’s no reason why Johnson can’t again become a .280-hitting, 20-home-run man again. Draft him.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/1/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: OF|
Profile: Decent-pop, no-eye outfielders can have a ton of value if they can pick it out in center, but the jury is still out on Jones’ glove. Various metrics peg him somewhere between god-like and god-awful, so that’s not a lot of help. What we do know is this: Jones has good gap power (50-plus extra-base hits in ’11), can run a little bit, and his defense passes the proverbial eye-test (Gold Glove award). He’s only 26, and at times has flashed passable plate discipline (6.9 percent walk rate in 2009). The Orioles shouldn’t be in a hurry to lock him up, but if he can continue to flirt with a .200 isolated slugging percentage and maybe bump his walk rate a bit, he should be in the club’s long-term plans. His fantasy stats should show more of the same going forward, with a little upside to boot. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Jones is pretty helpful in a 5×5; he pops his share of homers, drives runs in, and will swipe a few bases as well. His batting average helps more often than not, as well. Keep an eye on where he hits in the order; he flopped between third and sixth last season, and that may help gauge if he’ll improve on his runs scored.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 4/23/1977 | Team: Yankees | Position: OF|
Profile: He’s effectively deviated from his Hall of Fame path, and he’s no longer suited to play every day or in center field in any form, but Jones is still a plenty useful player in the twilight of his career. Now he profiles as a capable corner outfield backup and lefty masher (.294/.357/.559 in 2011), which is still a relatively valuable commodity in today’s game. He’ll be back in the Bronx again in 2012, spelling a trio of Gardner, Swisher, and Granderson, each of whom, oddly enough, bat primarily left handed. It’s an ideal spot for Jones, even if it doesn’t mean much fantasy value. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: He simply can’t hit righties any more and doesn’t play every day. You can do better.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/21/1981 | Team: Pirates | Position: 1B/OF|
Profile: Garrett Jones has been a useful fantasy player over the last few seasons, but in 2011, his fantasy value declined as his counting stats dropped. Last season, Jones ended up with five less home runs and 43 less RBI plus runs than in 2010. Most of this drop can be attributed to 176 less plate appearances. The main reason for the drop was that the Pirates quit having him hit against lefties. Over his career, he has put up a triple-slash line of .199/.237/.364 versus lefties. Against righties, the line was .275/.354/.483. His plate appearances vs lefties dropped from 230 in 2010 to 72 in 2011 while his PA vs righties remained relatively constant, going from 378 to 356. Besides getting into the game less, he was moved around in the lineup in 2011 instead of hitting in the number four spot like he did for 146 games in 2010. He hit as low as the seventh spot in 2011. Jones has some extra value for being both first base and right field eligibile in 2012. This season, I would not want him as an everyday player to count on. On the other hand, even if he’ll likely sit against lefties, he’ll be useful to plug into a lineup if the Bucs are going up against a right-handed starter. That makes him a decent bench piece in ottoneu, at least. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Going into 2012, Jones is an ideal candidate to play in a platoon situation because of his inability to hit against lefties.
|Debut: 1993 | BirthDate: 4/24/1972 | Team: Braves | Position: 3B|
Profile: Jones has made it known that he plans to play at least one more season, so he’ll be out there again in 2012, a year where he will turn 40 in April. Despite the creaky joints, Jones managed over 500 at-bats in 2011 and even registered a resurgence in his isolated slugging at .196 — the highest it’s been since 2008. When on the field, Jones still has value because of his occasional home run and ability (or opportunity) to drive in runs. But as far as your fantasy draft goes, Jones should only be selected in late rounds as emergency insurance if you’re not comfortable with your current third basemen. At his age and given his history of bumps and bruises, he’s a difficult play when you never know when he’ll take the field. If he’s healthy for another 120+ games, you can bet on another .275/.350/.460 season with 15+ home runs and 70 RBI. Too much risk for too little reward. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: He’s had a terrific career, and if you’re a gambling sort, Jones can tick off the counting stats nicely. But his fantasy usefulness is only when he’s on the field, and age isn’t on his side. Leave Jones for another manager’s migraine.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/3/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: The Rays’ haul from the Tigers in the Edwin Jackson trade looks like a true weapon in the making. Despite struggling against lefties (30% K-rate, 80ish wRC+), Joyce still accrued 500+ PAs, crushing righties to a 135 wRC+ tune. The Rays hope to ease Joyce into more chances against lefties, so it is reasonable to write him in for 20 to 25 homers with 10+ steals in 2012, but the increased work against southpaws might hurt his batting average. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Joyce has all the ability and opportunity to pop a little over 20 homers and swipe 10 bags — an easy win in the mid-rounds of a non-auction draft.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/29/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: 1B|
Profile: Billy Beane traded for player with a .390 career minor league OBP. Say it ain’t so. The Kila will be 28 at the start of the season and should not see much playing time unless several players are moved and/or hurt on the A’s. But stranger things have happened before. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: The on-base machine that is Kila Ka’aihue will need some holes to open up in front of him to succeed in Oakland.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/28/1988 | Team: Red Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: A severe injury to his shoulder and neck after diving for a ball at Triple-A in April essentially turned 2011 into a lost year for Kalish. Even after a failed attempt to return to the field months later, he played in just 24 total games. He had neck surgery in September then followed that up with surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The recovery will eat into the start of 2012, which is unfortunate for Kalish, who would have had a chance to factor into the Red Sox’ right field job after J.D. Drew retired and Josh Reddick was traded. The 24-year-old Kalish impressed in his first shot as a big leaguer in 2010, hitting .252./.305/.405 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases in 163 at bats, but it’s tough to tell how much he’ll struggle coming off two major surgeries. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: After all he went through last year, Kalish is a fantasy wild card. He has enough power and speed to reach double-digits in both categories as a regular, but his recovery from the shoulder surgery is going to put him behind the 8-ball again, so the chance of an impact in AL-only play will likely be in the second half, if at all.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/20/1980 | Position: OF|
Profile: In 2010, the Indians brought in Kearns to help out with the outfield and he played well enough (.272/.354/.419 with eight home runs in 84 games) to earn a trade to the Yankees and an invite to re-join the Tribe for 2011. After the mid-season move to New York, the last year and a half have featured very little from Kearns. He played poorly the rest of 2010, and his 2011 was even worse, as he went .200/.302/.287 with just two home runs in only 57 games. Looking towards 2012, Kearns appears to be out of a job and it does not appear the Indians have space for him in their outfield any more. From 2002-2007, Kearns was a serviceable OF who never played enough to be a true fantasy asset, but could fill in when needed. He was released by Cleveland in August, turns 32 early next season, though, and is just hoping to catch on somewhere long enough to earn a shot as a 4th or 5th OF for 2012. He will likely get a spring training invite, but he won’t be on anyone’s draft board, nor should he be. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Kearns will spend the winter hoping to find a job, and he more than likely will get a shot to catch on somewhere. But if he does, he is unlikely to get enough playing time — or to perform well enough — to make an impact on any fantasy league.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/15/1980 | Team: Tigers | Position: 3B/OF|
Profile: The left-handed-hitting Don Kelly has few if any useable fantasy traits. The 32-year-old can’t hit for average (.240 career average) and is slow (four career steals). He has hit for some power (16 home runs in 626 plate appearances), but all of them have come against righties. He does have a noticeable career split of .246/.292/.380 vs righties and .185/.211/.204 vs lefties. The problem is that even that better split is not going to cut it in the real or fantasy world. There is little, if any, reason to pick up Don Kelly in any league in 2012. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: If you are looking for a useful fantasy player, look elsewhere.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/23/1984 | Team: Dodgers | Position: OF|
Profile: Though he lost out to Ryan Braun in NL MVP voting, Kemp assuredly takes solace in the fact that he was the most valuable fantasy asset in standard (i.e. 12-team, 13-player, 5×5-category) leagues, finishing at least two standard deviations above the mean in batting average, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, and runs scored. Given the unpredictable nature of batting average and the team-dependent nature of RBIs and runs, it’s impossible to state with any assurance that Kemp will scale the same heights in 2012 as he did in ’11. What we know is that Kemp is entering his age-27 year with all the same excellent array of skills that he possessed in his age-26 one. He’s also shown the ability to sustain high BABIPs, now carrying a career mark of .352 in 3158 career plate appearances. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Kemp was the most productive fantasy player in 2011. Given his age (2012 is his age-27 season) and ability to sustain high BABIPs (.352 in 3158 career PAs), he’s likely to be among the league’s most productive players in 2012, too.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/12/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: 2B|
Profile: When Kendrick was originally called up by the Angels in 2006, many regarded him as a future batting title winner, but he has proven to us that he will never fulfill that potential in his 2500 MLB at bats. However, Kendrick showed some added potential in 2011, as he hit 18 balls out of the ballpark in only 140 games on the field. he also raised his line drive percentage last season and maintained a respectable stolen base total. Kendrick is in his prime years for power production, but if last year is any indication, added pop could lead to increased strikeouts for the 28-year-old. Kendrick’s value is going to come from producing in multiple categories, and if you think he can hit .280 while hitting 15 homers and stealing 15 bases, he’s a pretty safe pick to be your second baseman. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Kendrick added extra power to his game last year at the expense of a worse strikeout rate. The 28-year-old is a pretty safe fantasy bet in 2012, and he may still have some upside left in him.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/10/1976 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 1B/2B|
Profile: Adam Kennedy should qualify at first base, second base, and third base headed into the 2012 season, and will provide the Los Angeles Dodgers some nice versatility. But Kennedy is 36 and he’s coming off arguably the worst offensive season of his career, which really should send you looking elsewhere for fantasy baseball solutions. With the Dodgers, he is going to be lucky to sniff 300 plate appearances, so even if he experiences some kind of resurgence offensively, which is remote, his value is limited. Kennedy doesn’t hit for average anymore, has little power, and his speed has evaporated. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: If Adam Kennedy isn’t at the end of his career, he’s staring it in the face — and despite his positional versatility, you should look elsewhere.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/21/1980 | Team: Rays | Position: 2B|
Profile: The danger of going from utility man to starter at one position is that you end up losing fantasy value, and that’s exactly what happened to Keppinger. Keppinger was a great bench bat for a fantasy team when he had third base, shortstop and second base eligibility, but last season he manned only the keystone, which lowers his value even further than a normal switch to one position since second base is the deepest of the three. Besides positional value, he did little else to show his value, posting a woeful .273 wOBA in a Giants uniform. Now a Ray, Keppinger may fall back into his old utility role, but that’s not something that you will be able to reap the benefits of until late in the season, if ever. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Keppinger is coming off of a down season and lost his multi-positional value. He may only find a part-time role in Tampa, too, making him about as bona fide of a “stay away” player as you can get.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982 | Team: Rangers | Position: 2B|
Profile: Coming into the season, the question with Kinsler was health. He’d been on the disabled list at least once every year from 2006-2010, but he managed to stay on the field in 2011 and had the best season of his career. He was one of only nine players to draw more walks (89) than strikeouts (71), and one of only four to go 30-30. Kinsler managed to be one of the very best fantasy second baseman despite his so-so average (.255) because he hit homers (32), stole bases (30), scored runs (121), and drove in some runs (77). Kinsler is still very much in the prime of his career at age 29, and he plays half his games in a great ballpark and all of them hitting atop a great lineup. It’s a recipe for success, and now he has to build on his first full healthy season as a big leaguer to become one of the game’s truly elite perennial fantasy producers. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Kinsler avoided the disabled list and parlayed his health into the best season of his career in 2011. If he manages to stay on the field full-time next season, expect everything but a high average from the Rangers’ second baseman.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/3/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: 2B|
Profile: A converted outfielder, Jason Kipnis is not going to make anyone forget Frank White with the glove. However, while Dustin Ackley justly received accolades for his impressive hitting in 2012, Kipnis has a chance to be almost as good with the bat as Ackely down the road. He always hit in the minors, with a good approach and some pop, especially given his position. Cleveland really does not have any better options, and Kipnis arguably should have been up sooner in 2011. It is hard to get excited about .265/.325/.445, but that is a good projection for a second baseman, and it would not be surprising if Kipnis hit considerably better than that in 2012. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Kipnis is not as good as he showed in 150 major-league plate appearances in 2011, but his offensive potential is very real for a second baseman. He might not be a superstar, but don’t wait too long to get him cheap.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 3/5/1976 | Team: White Sox | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: Konerko is as steady as they come in modern baseball — just twice since 1999 has he failed to play at least 140 games in a season, which is remarkable durability. He’s right where he needs to be to maximize his value at age 36: In the American league with the ability to DH when need be, in a division with relatively weak pitching, and in one of the most home-run-friendly parks in the majors. There’s nothing in his profile that would seem to indicate that he won’t hit 25-30 home runs and drive in a fair number of his fellow White Sox again, so while age may one day catch up to him, it doesn’t seem likely to be coming in 2012. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: One of the last of a generation of slugging first basemen who is, in fact, still slugging, Konerko is the epitome of a set-and-forget player as he’s a virtual lock to be in the White Sox order nearly everyday from April to September.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/22/1983 | Team: Indians | Position: 1B|
Profile: Kotchman’s 2010 season was fiercely unlucky, but in an equal measure, his 2011 season proved surprisingly fortunate with the bat. His greatest asset remains his superior defense, which could get him another starting gig in 2012, but his bat is really just league average — .268/.336/.398 with about 10 homers per 550 PAs. Not a fantasy asset. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Do not think 2011 was a break through — his massive offensive improvement came only from an increase in singles and an increase in batting average on balls in play. His 2012 offering should look much more like his career numbers.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 12/2/1975 | Team: Padres | Position: OF|
Profile: Kotsay showed a bit of pop at the end of the year, but his bat is average at best at this point. Combine this with running form reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables and he’ll remain locked in a bench role for San Diego. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/10/1983 | Team: Brewers | Position: C|
Profile: He shows as much pop as any backup catcher this side of David Ross, but Jonathan Lucroy’s defense has Kottaras entrenched as the Brewers’ backup for the foreseeable future. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/25/1981 | Position: 3B|
Profile: It’s been a slow and steady decline from Kouzmanoff, who has seen his batting average, homerun total, and wOBA decline every year since peaking at .275, 23, and .339 with the Padres in 2007, respectively. He bottomed out with a .235 average, seven homers, and a .288 wOBA for the Athletics and Rockies in 2011, spending some time in Triple-A as well. The decline power and production has to do with an increased propensity to hit the ball on the ground in recent years, as his grounder rate has risen from the low-40% range to north of 50%. Add in some unfavorable park effects out in Oakland, and you have a recipe for declining output. Kouzmanoff refuses to walk (4.6% walk rate), so he isn’t any help in OBP leagues. Without any power, the now 30-year-old hacker is a fantasy afterthought, midseason waiver wire fodder more than anything else. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: An stint in Oakland’s ballpark and an increasing ground-ball rate are the main causes of Kouzmanoff’s decline, which renders him close to useless in fantasy. He won’t help in OBP leagues and is only worth a roster spot when he’s hitting the ball out of the park.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1982 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: DH/OF|
Profile: Jason Kubel’s fantasy value took a hit when he signed with the Diamondbacks. Right now it looks like he sharing time in the outfield with Gerardo Parra. How the playing time situation works out will be key for his fantasy value. In Minnesota, he was a model of consistency with 20+ homers, a .270 average and zero stolen bases most years. The hitter friendly park in Arizona would have been ideal to help his stats, if he is playing every day. The other key to his value is where in the D-Back’s lineup he will be hitting. Expect him to be in the fifth or sixth spot, so RBI will be harder to come by than in Minnesota. Stay away from him on draft/auction day until his role is more defined. He has the chance to put up some great numbers with regular playing time, or only get 300 plate appearances. A good method to value him is to rate his stats to 450 PAs and draft/bid accordingly. Might be a good fifth outfielder in leagues of that type. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: With a new home in Arizona, Jason’s fantasy value is still up in the air because of his unknown role with the team.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/5/1982 | Team: Cubs | Position: OF|
Profile: At age 29, LaHair looks more and more like a Dan Johnson quad-A journeyman than a legit first base prospect. However, his gaudy minor league numbers combined with the general state of flux at the Cubs’ first base position currently make LaHair a favorite to win the job out of Spring Training. If he does get a shot, he could hit anywhere from .330 wOBA to .350 — it is hard to say — but he should mash around 15 to 20 homers pretty easily. If the falters, though, Anthony Rizzo will be in Chicago sooner than LaHair fans would hope. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: If he can win the starting first base job, he could easily crank out 15 to 20 homers, but age (and Athony Rizzo) is working against him.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/13/1979 | Team: Tigers | Position: C|
Profile: Laird returns to the Tigers to back up 2011 breakout Alex Avila. Luckily for Avila, Laird is no threat to his playing time, as he hits too many fly balls for someone with below average power. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/11/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: 1B/3B|
Profile: Often compared to Will Middlebrooks by the statistically inclined, Laird scouts much differently from a physical standpoint. He has a ceiling of a backup corner infielder or second division starter if one squints hard enough. In more than 600 Triple-A at bats, Laird has 20 home runs, but his walk rate plummeted from a manageable 8.4% in Double-A to well under 4% (leading to sub-.300 on base percentages) in the International League. Unless Laird drastically alters his approach at the upper levels, he may be labeled as a quad-A player without enough power or glove to counter an overall inability to reach base. At this point, Laird is not worth owning in even the deepest of dynasty league formats, but is likely to debut sometime in 2012. However, the Yankees are a difficult team to break through with so Laird will need to mash his way into the picture. (Mike Newman)
Quick Opinion: A classic tweener prospect, the Yankees’ Brandon Laird doesn’t hit or field well enough to project as a viable starter at the big league level.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 2/20/1980 | Position: OF|
Profile: Langerhans might be the closest thing we have to Rob Deer right now; sadly, it’s the mid-thirties model. He’s streaky as all get out — look at his numbers with Triple-A Reno if you need proof — so if you’re desparate and he’s in the majors that week, you can go ahead and roll the dice. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 1/8/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: 1B|
Profile: High expectations have been heaped on LaPorta since day one and he hasn’t come close to living up to them. And this isn’t the case of a player being merely good when he was expected to be great — LaPorta has been unplayable. His 2011 OPS+ was 93 and this was an increase over the 84 he posted in 2010. He has 30 home runs in more than 1000 MLB plate appearances after being expected to have 30 per year as a prospect. 2012 will be different for LaPorta, but that may not be a good thing. The Indians intend to have competition for LaPorta in camp and he will have to earn the starting first base spot. Even if he does get that spot, he likely doesn’t get any more than the 385 PAs he had in 2011, as the Tribe will play Carlos Santana at first regularly to keep him in the lineup as often as possible. The potential that made LaPorta a top prospect may still be there, but he’ll play next season at 27 and it is getting harder to believe he will ever live up to the hype. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: LaPorta has been a disappointment ever since coming to Cleveland, and now he is going to enter Spring Training without a guaranteed roster spot. He may be worth a late flyer, but he is probably a better fit on a watch list than a roster.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/6/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: 1B|
Profile: Major shoulder surgery sabotaged LaRoche’s maiden season with the Nationals, forcing him to the disabled list after just 177 brutally ineffective plate appearances (.258 wOBA). Prior to the injury, he was a safe bet for .270/20/80 production, which was hardly elite for first base. Now 32 years old and coming off surgery, LaRoche is also faced with the daunting task of usurping Mike Morse following his full season breakout in 2011. Given the injury, his underwhelming performance prior to the injury, and his competition at first with Washington, LaRoche is an obvious candidate to take off your draft board heading into the season. At best, he’s waiver wire fodder in case of injury should the Nats decide to run with the defensively challenged Morse in the outfield to accommodate their $8M a year first baseman. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Shoulder problems ruined LaRoche’s 2011 season, and now he’s stuck having to beat out Mike Morse for the first base job next season. With mediocre production relative to position before the injury, it’s best to avoid LaRoche on draft day.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1983 | Position: 3B|
Profile: This former top prospect never translated his strong performances to the majors and will now battle for a roster spot on the Indians. Plagued by a low batting average on balls in play, limited power and too many ground balls, there is little hope at this point for a sudden breakout at age 28. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/7/1987 | Team: Red Sox | Position: C/DH|
Profile: Lavarnway hit 34 home runs over three levels last season, and earned a call up to the big leagues in August. His 23.3% strikeout rate was a bit of a concern, but he should walk and hit for enough power to offset his low batting average. That type of skill set works at the catcher position in fantasy (just ask Mike Napoli owners). With David Ortiz re-signing with the team, Lavarnway will have to beat out Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who has one year of team control remaining and an iffy glove) for playing time. If he can do that, his power potential makes him an interesting breakout candidate. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Lavarnway has a similar skill set to Mike Napoli. While he won’t be as good as Napoli immediately, he could be a solid sleeper if he gets the right amount of playing time.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/18/1990 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 3B|
Profile: What a debut. Brett Lawrie came with much acclaim after torturing Minor League pitchers for three years and in just 171 major-league at-bats, he delivered a .293/.373/.580 line with nine home runs and seven stolen bases. He will be just 22 years old for the 2012 season, and yet most projections for Lawrie have him in the 20+ HR range with 30+ steals and a solid batting average. That probably doesn’t begin to sniff his power potential either. His .287 isolated slugging percentage and 17% home runs per fly ball rate are likely not sustainable, so it’s prudent to try and temper expectations, but Lawrie has all the gifts to be a star contributor. With that in mind, you’ll also pay a hefty price for him due to the hype, but by season’s end, he could be a top flight third baseman. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Lawrie may slot behind some of the big guns in third base rankings, but he could join them as soon as 2012. If you own him in a keeper, hold tight and enjoy.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 6/20/1976 | Team: Astros | Position: 1B/OF|
Profile: After a career-worst season in 2010, Lee rebounded nicely for Houston, hitting .275/.342/.446 over 155 games. Somewhat problematically, as his overall line rose, he hit fewer home runs, which diminished his fantasy value, since most owners drafted him more for the 20+ homers he’d hit since his rookie season of 1999 than for, say, the career-best four triples he hit instead. The uptick in his walk rate is helpful for those in OBP leagues, but for most players it’s less helpful than an extra five home runs would be. At 36, it’s not unthinkable that he could hit 20 again next year, but his days of being a consistently strong second-tier power asset are behind him. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: His best days are behind him, but if power is scarce, Lee should provide a decent number of home runs without being a massive drain on his team’s average or OBP. With Albert Pujols and potentially Prince Fielder leaving the National League, Lee should rise marginally on NL-only draft boards.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 9/6/1975 | Position: 1B|
Profile: While the order in which events happened made it seem like Lee had a mini-renaissance after being traded to Pittsburgh, it was more a case of regression to the mean — Lee’s overall 2011 line looks a lot like his 2010 line. The differences though, aren’t particularly encouraging, particularly with his plate discipline, long one of the hallmarks of his game. Lee’s walk rate was the lowest of his 15-year career — even lower than his really brief cup of coffee when he was still with the Padres. Aside from the fall off in his plate discipline, Lee was essentially the same guy, and that guy isn’t a starter at first base on most fantasy teams. (Paul Sywdan)
Quick Opinion: Don’t be fooled by Lee’s resurgence in Pittsburgh, he is still the same guy he was in 2010, and is no longer a good option to start at first base.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/13/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: LeMahieu needs a .350 BABIP in order to succeed with the bat, so if he can recapture that rate in the Rockies’ minors, he could see some utility infield time in 2011. If he dazzles enough, the 23-year-old LeMahieu could be a long-term solution to either third or second base for the Rockies with an ability to maintain a batting average over .300. He doesn’t have much power or speed, though. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: His early minors success could have either been luck or just an unusual hitting profile. If he can recapture that success, his future at third or second can be very bright.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/9/1980 | Position: OF|
Profile: After a few strong years in the Giants organization, Lewis has struggled to find consistent playing time in the majors, bouncing from Toronto to Cincinatti and now into Minor League free agency. He’s just 31, so it isn’t as though he’s pushing Julio Franco territory, but neither is he an intriguing prospect anymore. He wouldn’t be the worst fourth outfield option for the Indians, but when that’s the best thing you can say about a player, it should follow that he’s not really a fantasy option anyone should be actively considering at this stage of his career. He has shown workable stolen base numbers if he’s been given the playing time, but that’s too big an if to count on right now. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If a spate of injuries on the Indians sets him up for consistent playing time, then (and only then) does Lewis become an interesting possibility in deep outfields. It’ll take even more outlandish contingencies for him to become viable in all formats.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/14/1988 | Team: Mariners | Position: 3B|
Profile: At the moment, the Mariners seem to be leaning towards having Kyle Seager as their Opening Day third baseman, but Liddi is an interesting name to watch. There are questions about Liddi’s glove, and while that might not matter directly to a fantasy player, indirectly it makes a difference because clubs (especially one as focused on fielding as the Mariners) are going to be reluctant to put a total butcher out there, especially if his bat is non-elite. Liddi’s bat is decidedly non-elite, with tons of strikeouts in the minors and not enough walks. However, there is some good power there, and third base is weak position these days in both real and fantasy baseball. Kyle Seager is hardly a world-beater himself, so the Mariners may turn to Liddi soon enough if Seager bombs in his trial run. Do not expect stardom from Liddi, but he could turn into a solid contributor who could give you 20 home runs over a full season, if not much else at the moment. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Liddi is currenlty not slated to start the season as the Mariners third baseman. But the player currently slated to start, Kyle Seager, is no great shakes, either, and Liddi might have the opportunity to step into the role sometime in 2012. He has some power potential.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/18/1983 | Team: White Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: We can’t really expect a 5’11”, 185-pound former middle infielder to keep putting up a near-.250 isolated slugging percentage, can we? Not after so many years of below-average power. And then we see that he strikes out nearly 30% of the time, and we’re even less excited about his prospects. Lillibridge is a decent platoon outfielder — he can hit lefties and play a little D once he’s liberated from the infield — but that doesn’t have much value in most fantasy leagues, at least not beyond the occasional plug-and-play. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Lillibridge busted out in 2011, hitting 13 home runs in just over 200 plate appearances. Too bad he never showed power like that before and strikes out way too much to be anything other than a platoon outfielder against southpaws.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/17/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 1B|
Profile: The 2011 season was a frustrating one for all parties invested in Adam Lind: the first baseman himself, the Blue Jays, their fans, and Lind’s fantasy owners. That’s back-to-back disappointing seasons for the Toronto first baseman, as 2009 — Lind’s coming out party — slips further out of view. Lind’s far too impatient at the plate, his walk rate too low, and his strikeout rate too high. In the American League East, his .295 OBP simply isn’t cutting it. The power’s still there; there’s no reason why Lind can’t hit 25 home runs and drive in 75 runs year in and year out, but he continues to look completely over-matched against Major League left-handed pitching. Keep an eye on him, though; he put up great numbers in between an injury through the first three months of the 2011 season, before completely falling apart in the second half. Should Lind ever find the holy grail that is consistency, he could be a valuable fantasy option. Maybe. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: After another inconsistent and disappointing season at the plate, the jury’s out on Adam Lind. His 2009 season might have been a mirage, an outlier season. He’ll get his at-bats as the Blue Jays’ starting first baseman, and will get help your power numbers, but beyond that, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/20/1988 | Team: Nationals | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: On his steady climb through the minors, Lombardozzi showed a solid ability to put bat on ball, never hitting below .283 or striking out more than 80 times in any of his four seasons. What he lacks in power (17 career MiLB homers), Lombardozzi makes up for by being an above-average runner who averaged nearly 20 stolen bases per year, topping out at the 30 he swiped in 2011 before making his big-league debut last September. A capable defender, the 23-year-old was primarily a second baseman coming up, but he also should be able to fill in at third and even short in a pinch. His makeup and versatility –- he’s also a switch hitter –- should help him have a longer career than his father, also Steve, who played more than 400 games in the bigs. The younger version is ready to help the Nationals as a utility man in 2012, perhaps as soon as Opening Day. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: Lombardozzi should be roster-worthy in deep NL-only leagues as a middle infield reserve with eligibility at multiple spots. If Washington decides to unload Ian Desmond and move Danny Espinosa back to short, Lombardozzi could even become the starting second sacker.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/7/1984 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 1B|
Profile: He did bat .288 with 12 home runs in 2011, so at least Loney showed that he is about as steady as you can get. There has been very little fluctuation in his overall statistics over the years. However, he also showed that there is very little hope for improvement when he, even at the magical age of 27, failed to show any growth as a hitter. Still, the Dodgers tendered him a contract in the offseason and seem resigned to move forward with him as their starting first baseman in 2012. Perhaps if he played a different position, one that wasn’t so plentiful with power hitters, Loney would have more value as he maintains a solid 12.4% strikeout rate and usually hits for a decent average. Unfortunately, with sub-standard power, minimal speed, and a walk rate that does nothing to improve his OBP, Loney will remain a low-end option at first with modest value as a complementary corner infielder. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: After tendering a contract to him in the offseason, the Dodgers appear satisfied heading into 2012 with Loney at first. You’ll get a decent average from him, but with minimal power for a first baseman and no signs of improvement, he remains a low-end option at best.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: 3B|
Profile: A perennial top-three player at his position, Longoria ranks third in home runs and first in RBI among third basemen since 2008. Foot and oblique injuries caused him to miss time last season but he still managed 31 home runs in just 133 games. The foot injury caused him to steal just three bases, down from 15 in 2010. He also overcame a .239 batting average on balls in play – one of the lowest in the game – which is well below his career number of .319 coming into the season. His plate discipline is impeccable, as his walk rate has increased while his strikeout rate has decreased in each of his four seasons. Fully healed, and due for better batted ball luck, Longoria is poised for another huge season and will be among the top players in the game once more. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: There are few, if any, better at third base than Longoria. He’s a constant source of power, runs, runs batted in, and a decent-to-good batting average. Third base is thin, and he’s worth every penny.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/24/1983 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: It’s no small feat for a right-handed batter to hit 25 home runs while playing half his games at Safeco — especially for a middle infielder. That’s what Lopez did in 2009, en route to his second consecutive 2.0-plus WAR season. In the meantime, however, he’s slashed just .233/.263/.348 in 864 plate appearances while playing for Seattle (in 2010) and then Colorado and Florida (in 2011), amounting to a wRC+ in the low 60s. A .243 BABIP doesn’t help, but it also highlights the problem with Lopez: his plate discipline is so poor (just a 3.7% career walk rate) that, if he’s not fortunate with his balls in play, his value evaporates entirely. Signed to a minor-league deal with Cleveland in December, Lopez is blocked at both second (Jason Kipnis) and third (Lonnie Chisenhall) by promising young players — with Jason Donald, Jack Hannahan, and Cord Phelps also in the mix. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: There’s probably still some power here, but a lack of secondary offensive skills and opportunity limit his value in 2012.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 5/12/1980 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: Lopez is a free agent headed into 2012, and unless a team envisions him as a starter, he’s likely to occupy a utility or bench role, limiting his value. Should he secure an assignment that will garner him 400 at-bats, he could have some worth as he should qualify at first base, second base, and perhaps even third base depending on your league rules. Lopez, who will be 32 for most of the 2012 season, shouldn’t be counted on for much in the counting stats with just a fist full of home runs and steals with a batting average that could be a significant drag on your squad. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Unless Lopez is handed a starting role, you should look elsewhere. Even with a starting role, his value is limited to deep league formats.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/17/1984 | Team: Astros | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: Finally getting his shot at a starting job, Lowrie has plenty to prove in 2012, namely that he can stay healthy. He’s played in just 173 games over the past three seasons and has missed 258 due to injury. When he has played, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire offensively. Whether or not that’s due to nagging injuries is anyone’s guess. If he’s healthy he provides double-digit home run power, a middling batting average and zero speed. His brief display in 2010 tantalized us while 2011 let us down. He’s lost the sleeper label he had coming into last season and with no one in Houston standing in his way he should play every day if he stays off the trainer’s table. Outside of the top 5-6 players shortstop is a very thin field. If he plays he’s an ownable asset, maybe even startable. That’s a big if, though. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Keep an eye on his health. If he’s on the field he has the chance to be a productive player for such a thin position. He’s worth a one dollar flyer late in your draft.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/13/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: C|
Profile: Lucroy completed his first full season as Milwaukee’s starting catcher and should hold the position for the foreseeable future. Although he doesn’t do anything particularly well behind the plate, he doesn’t do anything particularly poorly either. However, the discipline which brought walk rates of 10% or higher in the minors appears to be gone. For the second straight season, Lucroy posted a walk rate in the 6% range. Given his low spot in the batting order, he isn’t likely to post much in the way of counting stats, but unlike many of the catchers in the league, he isn’t going to kill a single stat either — he even stole two bases last season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: For most statistical categories, Lucroy defines average. As a hitter who squats behind the plate during the other half of the game, that makes him serviceable both for fantasy and the actual game.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 7/13/1978 | Team: Reds | Position: OF|
Profile: My mother always taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all, so here goes — Ryan Ludwick accumulated six more RBI in 2011 than 2010. That’s about the nicest thing that can be said about Ludwick’s season, who was simply dreadful in all phases of the game last season. It has now been two seasons since Ludwick hit 20 homers, driven in 90 runs or posted a .330 wOBA. Last season, he was still barely a league average hitter, but he slipped under that bar last season. Drafting Ludwick on your fantasy team this season is an admission that you stopped following baseball in 2008. You can do better. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: It looked like Ludwick had some decent bulk numbers last season, but on a rate basis he was horrible, and now that he’s a free agent he might not find a role that allows for a full season worth of plate appearances anyway — avoid the Ludwick.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 11/16/1975 | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: With a .250/315/.337 slash line over the last five seasons, this looks like the end of the line for Lugo. A free-agent at press time, Lugo no longer hits for average, and has lost most of his speed. Not the ideal fantasy option. (Chris Cwik)
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