|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/2/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: C|
Profile: It was a strange season for Saltalamacchia. In April and September, his OPS was below .600 but it averaged .835 for the four months in between. That OPS is buoyed by a high slugging percentage, seeing as he walked just 6.2 percent of the time. Also, among catchers with a minimum of 300 plate appearances his .215 isolated slugging percentage ranked fourth. He’ll likely still receive the majority of time behind the plate in 2012, but may be platooned more with newly acquired Kelly Shoppach. He’s never hit left-handed pitching particularly well, despite switch-hitting. He’s not among the top fantasy catchers, but should provide a solid back-up option with 15-20 home run power. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Salty’s main obstacle will be playing time. Expect him to top out around ~100 games and ~325 plate appearances. The power is very real, with a 20 home run season a real possibility.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/20/1983 | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: The 28-year-old shortstop finally received an opportunity at a full-time gig last season and proved to be nothing special. He posted decent averages throughout his Minor League career, but Sanchez’s performance in the power and speed departments will be nearly non-existent. In 328 plate appearances last season, Sanchez only managed one home run and three steals. The shortstop position is thin — as usual — but you can do better than Sanchez. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Clint Barmes’ departure gives Sanchez a starting opportunity for the Astros, but it’s unlikely he’ll produce enough to be a factor in fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/2/1983 | Team: Marlins | Position: 1B|
Profile: After a solid rookie season, Sanchez delivered eerily similar stats in his follow-up. While he matched his home runs (19) and runs scored (72) from his rookie campaign, Sanchez finished with just seven fewer RBIs and a .266/.352/.427 slash line. He also displayed some improvement at the plate, upping his walk rate to 11.2% while cutting his strikeout rate to 14.7%. He’ll only give you modest power for a first baseman, but might have more RBI opportunities with Jose Reyes at the top of the Marlins lineup. Even if he doesn’t offer much upside, Sanchez looks like a safe bet to repeat last season’s line. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Sanchez doesn’t provide enough power to be relied on as a starter in mixed leagues, but he’s a solid second-tier first baseman. He’s a safe bet to repeat his 2011 numbers.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/21/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: 2B|
Profile: A former National League batting title champion, Sanchez’ biggest problem has been his ability to stay healthy. He played in just 60 games last season for the Giants and managed just 111 in each of the two seasons prior. Shoulder surgery back in early August to repair a torn labrum will make for a tough offseason, but as of early December he began a throwing program and could be back in time for spring training. When healthy, Sanchez can be relied upon for a strong batting average and decent OBP. He doesn’t draw many walks, but a high contact rate, both in and out of the zone, helps make up for it. If the shoulder is fine come the spring, then Sanchez should be the Giants starting second baseman, but be wary of drafting him given his vast history of injuries. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Sanchez is rehabbing his shoulder in the offseason after surgery to repair a torn labrum, but is expected to be ready for spring training in 2012. When healthy, he can provide a decent batting average with minimal pop for a second baseman. “When healthy” is the key phrase though as that hasn’t been a fact for the last three seasons.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/11/1986 | Team: Giants | Position: 3B|
Profile: After hitting .315 with 23 home runs and posting an OBP of .357 last season, Sandoval’s dismal 2010 is but a distant memory. And just imagine how much better a year it would have been had he not missed more than a little over a month with a broken hamate bone in his wrist, an injury that often hinders power after recovery. The portly third baseman, lovingly referred to as Kung Fu Panda, will continue to man the hot corner for the Giants in 2012, and expectations are fairly high. His walk rate of 6.9% is particularly special, but he doesn’t strike out a lot (12.9%) and makes above-average contact. A lack of lineup protection hindered him for most of the season, but hopefully that won’t be a problem again this year. Consider Sandoval a top-five fantasy third baseman. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Sandoval returned to form last year producing numbers almost as strong as his 2009 campaign — .315-23-70 — and did so despite a wrist injury that shelved him for over a month back in late April. With a full season in 2012 and a better surrounding lineup, the potential for the 25-year-old Sandoval could be even greater this year.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/28/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: OF|
Profile: So, did anyone hear how that Jay Gibbons-Marcus Thames platoon in left field worked out for the Dodgers in 2011? The Dodgers are bringing back Juan Rivera in 2012, which is pretty funny (unless you are a Dodgers fan), but there are indications that they want to give Jerry Sands, who just turned 24 in September, a shot at being their primary left fielder in 2012. Sands never hit for much average, and had only decent walk rates to go with slightly high strikeout rates. However, Sands has always hit for power, and if he gets a full-time job, he could conceivably hit .250/.330/.470 for the Dodgers, with 25+ homers. If “sleepers” were a thing, then Sands might be one. Keep your fingers crossed. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: If the Dodgers can avoid doing something silly like giving Juan Rivera the starting left field job, the young Mr. Sands could provide surprising power out of left field.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/8/1986 | Team: Indians | Position: C/1B|
Profile: Santana built on his solid rookie season with a successful sophomore follow up. Yes, the .239 batting average wasn’t great, but he contributed (supernaturally) in every other offensive category. While he may never hit for a great average — his plate discipline suggests the OBP will be fine, but the batted ball mix says maybe not the batting average — there’s enough power here to make Santana one of the top fantasy catchers. Unless Mike Napoli has another wacky season, there’s a good chance Santana will lead all catchers in home runs next season. He’s young, bats in the middle of the Indians lineup and has great power and patience at a premium position. His team will even get him extra at-bats by playing him at first base some. What’s not to like? (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: A premium performer at a weak fantasy position. There’s a good chance Santana leads all catchers in home runs next season.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/31/1979 | Team: Tigers | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: In 2008, Santiago was worth less than a win with his bat, 7.7 runs to be exact. It was the most value he’s ever given a team offensively. If he hit his career high in every traditional category next year, he’d have a .284 average, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 41 runs, and 10 stolen bases, and he’d still be a pretty middling option. At age 32, even that mediocre line is unlikely for Santiago, who will continue to be one of those players who is more valuable to his actual team than he is to anyone’s fantasy team. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Santiago could play the game of his life for a month straight and still not crack the top tier of shortstops. He’s an option only in deep AL-only, and even then it’s only by default. Make other plans if it’s at all possible.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/2/1987 | Team: Cubs | Position: OF|
Profile: In the upper levels of minor league baseball, there’s no denying the fact new Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Dave Sappelt has raked. However, even with his success, a split still exists as to whether Sappelt’s ceiling is that of a big league regular or “tweener” which is not entirely surprising considering he physically fits the classic speedster profile, but offers little in terms of speed. This immediately raises questions as to whether he can hit at the top of a lineup and man centerfield. With the Cubs organization in a state of transition right now, more roster purging should lead to increased opportunity for playing time. Just keep in mind Brett Jackson is considered the centerfielder of the future in Chicago and is a more highly regarded prospect than Sappelt. Avoid him in all but the deepest of dynasty leagues as Sappelt’s stat lines offer value he’s unlikely to live up to as a professional. (Mike Newman)
Quick Opinion: Dave Sappelt fits the classic “tweener” profile at the big league level and profiles as more of a fourth outfielder until he proves otherwise.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/23/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: 1B|
Profile: As a second baseman, “Smooth Like” Satin has enough stick to be interesting. The problem is, the Mets had a chance to try him there and only played him at first base. And Ike Davis owns first base. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/19/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: OF|
Profile: Set the minimum plate appearances to 150 and you’ll find that Saunders was the worst hitter in baseball last year, worse than Jeff Mathis and Chone Figgins and any full season Mario Mendoza ever played. It’s been 635 plate appearances now for the Condor’s career, and it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen; the plate discipline and power he flashed in his early years never developed further. One year, he had decent batted ball luck and no power, speed or contact. The next year, he made more contact and showed good patience, with league-average power, but his batted ball luck disappeared. Last year, he had no power, patience or contact ability. He’s a Mariner, so there always a chance he might find some plate appearances, and he’s still young enough (25) and good enough at defense to buy a little more time to figure things out. Unfortunately, there may just be too many things to figure out in this case. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Saunders is a Mariner, so there always a chance he might find some plate appearances, and he’s still young enough (25) and good enough at defense to buy a little more time to figure things out. Unfortunately, there may just be too many things to figure out in this case.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/4/1986 | Team: Astros | Position: OF|
Profile: Ostensibly, Jordan Schafer’s weapon of choice is his glove, but he doesn’t rate all that highly as a defender, and his bat rates even worse. What’s more is that Schafer’s only plus tool offensively — his speed — is possessed by his main competition for playing time in Houston, Jason Bourgeois. And Bourgeois not only runs better, but he hits better as well, so it may only be a matter of time before Schafer is back to riding the pine. But if Schafer’s offseason arrest for possession of marijuana is any indication, he may be laid back enough to accept a small role. He might be worth a late-round flier in deep NL-only leagues thanks to the stolen base potential, but the total lack of batting average or power kills his value in any standard league. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Schafer has speed, but his offense is putrid and to date his defensive reputation is not backed up by his statistical resume. It may only be a matter of time before he loses his job to Jason Bourgeois.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/8/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: OF|
Profile: Schafer was one of the Brewers’ September callups in 2011 and recorded more games played (eight) than plate appearances (five). That statistic succinctly describes where his value comes from: defense in center field. Schafer has hit all of 15 home runs in the Minor Leagues since 2008 and his five at Triple-A in 40 games was considered a power explosion after he didn’t hit a single one in the previous 50 games at Double-A. He shows decent plate discipline and rarely strikes out, recording a strikeout rate around 11% in the minors last season. If he can maintain those levels, he’d make a fine defense-first fourth outfielder, but he simply doesn’t look to have the power to play every day in the majors. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Schafer earned a cup of coffee in 2011 and may break camp with the Brewers in 2012, but his value is strictly on defense, as his bat lacks the pop to create fantasy value.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/15/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: OF|
Profile: Traditionally stuck as the Giants fourth outfielder and late-inning defensive replacement in right field, Schierholtz finally earned starting role by mid-season last year. With a triple slash line of .278/.326/.430 and nine home runs in 2011, Schierholtz was well on his way to posting career-highs across the board. Unfortunately, a broken foot suffered in late August put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year. Defensively, he is above average and plays the treacherous right field corner of AT&T Park better than most, but offensively he lacks the usual pop of a corner outfielder. He could also stand to draw more walks (career 5.5 BB%) which would certainly help raise his OBP totals. Manager Bruce Bochy has still given him his endorsement as his starting right fielder in 2012 which means he’ll have fantasy relevance in both NL-only and very deep mixed leagues. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: For the first time in his career, Shierholtz walks into spring training with a starting job. He’ll provide low-level power and minimal speed, but should hit for a decent average. Consider him a decent play in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues in 2012.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 11/26/1976 | Team: Phillies | Position: C|
Profile: Brian Schneider, 35, will once again back up Carlos Ruiz in 2012. You can expect to spot him in the lineup about once a week, and you can expect that he will once again totally underwhelm you in every measurable category. There’s just not much to see here. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/3/1980 | Team: Cardinals | Position: 2B/OF|
Profile: Schumaker has played himself into a platoon role in St. Louis, but he is well worth playing against right-handed pitching, owning a .359 OBP and .405 SLG in nearly 2000 career plate appearances in the split. With Allen Craig out for around the first month of the season, Schumaker should have a spot either in the Cardinals’ outfield or, more likely, at second base, and he should be counted on to continue his solid production against righties. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Schumaker has value against right-handed pitching, and he could have a chance to start at second base for the Cardinals on Opening Day.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/25/1978 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: By no fault of his own, Scott has been a professional hitter on some really awful teams since debuting in 2005. A bit of a late bloomer, Scott came up as a 27-year-old and hit .268/.354/.503 prior to 2011. However, 2011 was pretty rough on Scott, as he was limited to just 63 games and 236 plate appearances due to right shoulder injuries that ended his season in July. And when Scott played in 2011, he didn’t exactly play well either, hitting .220/.301/.402, which was good for a .307 wOBA, by far Luke’s lowest as a big league regular. Non-tendered by the Orioles in December, Scott was picked up by the Rays to be their designated hitter, but his worries are not over. He enjoyed home cooking Baltimore to the tune of a .944 OPS (.843 OPS total), and his new home park is not as forgiving to fly ball sluggers. Still, he’s a yearly threat to hit 20-25 home runs and if the batting average roulette wheel ends up in the right place, he’ll be a great late-round value in deeper leagues. In ottoneu leagues, he’s OF-eligible and has a strong platoon split worth taking advantage of on a contender’s deep bench. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Tampa is not the best landing spot for Scott and his lefty power (his new home park suppresses lefty home runs by 11%), and his batting average is wildly unpredictable. He could still be valuable late in your deeper league draft.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/30/1975 | Team: Rockies | Position: SS|
Profile: Now in Colorado, Scutaro looks to be the starting second baseman. And why shouldn’t he be? Since 2009, Scutaro has ranked eighth among all Major League shortstops with 9.8 WAR. A slow start and an injury meant 2011 got off to a rocky start for Scutaro, but he rebounded and finished the season on a tear. Even as his team collapsed around him, he hit .280 in August and an incredible .387 in September, a month in which Scutaro drove in 21 runs. Over the past few years, as a starter since playing in the AL East, Scutaro’s proven he can hit and get on base at an adequate pace. Scutaro’s 2011 strikeout rate of 8.1% was the lowest of his career, and he rarely fails to make contact. He can start for your fantasy team. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Scutaro’s proven to be a reliable starting shortstop, worthy of a draft pick in any fantasy league. Even if he plays second base for the Rockies, he’ll be your fantasy shortstop.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/3/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: 3B|
Profile: Seager was part of the wave of youngsters the Seattle Mariners turned to when the wheels started falling off in 2011. His future is probably as some kind of super-utility player as he can handle second base, third base, and even shortstop in a pinch — but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he enters 2012 as the everyday third baseman in Seattle. Should he be able to nail down 500 plate appearances, he could give you double digit home runs and steals to go along with a respectable batting average. Not many peg him as having a particularly high ceiling, but he should qualify at third base and shortstop in most leagues, so consider him a fringe value pick if you need a capable bench stash at one or both slots. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Seager may not find himself in the lineup on a daily basis, and even when he’s penciled in, he’s not going to bring much more than a league-average bat with him.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/1/1986 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: Sellers has seen a nice power output his last two seasons in the minors, but can’t seem to get a Major League job. If his power surge is legitimate, he’ll hit enough to be an effective utility infielder for the Dodgers. He’ll have to compete with Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. for playing time, however, so he probably won’t get enough at bats to be a factor in most fantasy leagues. With playing time, Sellers might hit double digit home runs and won’t kill your average. He’s far from the best option in the middle infield, but you could get by with him for a few days. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Sellers is a low-upside middle infielder who hasn’t received enough playing time to show what he can do. The Dodgers seem unsure of him, signing Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. this offseason.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/29/1980 | Team: Red Sox | Position: C|
Profile: The lefty-killing, strong-throwing Shoppach is not much more than a platoon player at this point in his career. Even in the case of injuries, Shoppach’s average defensive abilities and massive platoon split will keep him stuck as a backup. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/18/1987 | Team: Astros | Position: OF|
Profile: The 25-year-old Shuck showed good plate discipline in the Minor Leagues, something that would make him an intriguing option in OBP-based leagues if he can translate it to the majors. Power has never been part of his skill set, nor has blazing speed, even if he did steal 20 bases in 108 games at Triple-A in 2011. If he played a defensive premium position, perhaps he’d be worth a flyer, but as a outfielder without a dominant fantasy tool, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he’s a really compelling option. Better to take Jason Bourgeois and hope he gets enough playing time to run wild than to hope Shuck can keep drawing walks. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: On-base percentage is an important component of being a well-rounded player, but it can’t be the only skill a hitter has. Shuck needs to steal bases in order to have any sort of value outside of very deep OBP-based leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/4/1985 | Team: Athletics | Position: 3B|
Profile: Although Sizemore was a butcher with the glove at third base for the Athletics after being traded from the Detroit Tigers, he did start to flash the bat that he demonstrated throughout his Minor League career. He hit .249/.345/.433 with the A’s over 350+ at-bats with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. He’s entering his age 27 season, and unless the A’s upgrade defensively at third base, you can expect Sizemore to enter Spring Training as their regular third baseman. If he gets 500+ at-bats, he very well could approach 16-18 home runs and he has a little speed, too. He needs to cut down his strikeout rate (career 25.7%) and iron out some possible platoon issues, in order to avoid being a drain at batting average, but he walks enough to guarantee something in the 70 run range. He’s surely a deep league (and ottoneu) sleeper. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Better as a corner infield option than your starter at third base in most leagues, Sizemore could be a sneaky above-average grab in the very latest rounds.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/2/1982 | Team: Indians | Position: OF|
Profile: Injuries have derailed what was once the very promising career of Grady Sizemore, who returned to action in 2011 following 2010 microfracture surgery on his left knee. Last summer, a right knee injury, and eventually sports hernia surgery, limited Sizemore to only 71 games, in which he struggled, hitting only .224, with a very un-Sizemore-like .285 on-base percentage. Cleveland declined Sizemore’s 2012 option, understandably so, but are giving him one more shot, having signed Sizemore to a one-year contract worth $5 million. When it comes to Sizemore’s fantasy value, that’s probably what you should do, too: give him a shot late in your draft. At a low price, he could be worth the rewards. Somewhere — deep inside, I believe — must remain the Sizemore of 2006 through 2008, when he was healthy, hitting for power atop the Indians’ lineup, scoring runs and runners, and getting on base at a most productive pace. While injuries seem to have robbed him of his speed on the basepaths, should his injury troubles be behind him, Sizemore might just be worth taking a flier on for some power in your deep (ottoneu?) outfield, at the right price. It all depends on his health, and, by all accounts, he’s fully healthy heading into 2012. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Sizemore struggled in his return from injury in 2011, but has one more shot to prove that he be the man in center for the Indians. The power is likely still there, but Sizemore’s days as a no-doubt fantasy addition seem to be behind him. He’s a gamble, depending on his health, but, at the right price, is likely worth the risk.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/30/1982 | Team: Athletics | Position: OF|
Profile: Smith is a mighty useful bat to have in the lineup in a couple of ways. For one, he absolutely pounds right-handed pitching, to the tune of a .881 OPS. He has to be shielded against lefties, however, as he’s flailed away to a .588 mark versus southpaws in his brief five-year career. Similarly, Smith is absolutely dazzling at Coors Field, with a .925 home OPS versus a .750 road mark. The latter probably explains why he might drop in 2012 drafts due to calling Oakland home now. Still, Smith’s 2011 triple-slash of .284/.347/.483 (.357 wOBA) speaks volumes. Don’t forget about him. Especially in leagues like all ottoneu formats, where a deep bench can allow you to plug him in during the right matchups. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: He’ll absolutely murder righties again in Oakland, but it’s a tougher park and he’s still in a crowd. If you can afford to platoon him in leagues with deeper benches (like ottoneu), he absolutely makes a good late pick.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/5/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: 1B|
Profile: Smoak’s rookie season is tough to analyze considering he dealt with a nagging thumb injury and the death of his father. While we can’t quantify the effect of the latter, we can certainly see the effects of the former. Smoak’s OPS gradually declined from April-July before finally recovering over the last two months of the season. He’s still a promising young player, but he strikes out too much and may not post a high average. Still, there’s a good chance he’ll be undervalued on draft day. He’s worth a shot in the later rounds and could provide some cheap (modest) power. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Smoak had a tough rookie year and is likely to be undervalued this season. He could be a cheap source of power and should bat in the middle of the Mariners lineup (whatever that’s worth).
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/2/1988 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: OF|
Profile: Travis Snider: Toronto’s enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a prospect. A wrist injury ended yet another frustrating season in Toronto in 2011 for young Snider. If you’d have told somebody — perhaps the Blue Jays fan in your life — that Eric Thames would play almost double the number of games Snider did in the Toronto outfield in 2011, and that Thames might supplant Snider on the Toronto depth chart, that somebody — especially the Blue Jays fan in your life — wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are. Snider’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors over the winter, but should he come into spring training a Blue Jay, he’ll be fighting for a job in the Toronto outfield. Snider was awful in 2011, and he struggled more last year than in any of his previous stints with the Blue Jays, in 2010, 2009 and 2008. Yes, he’s played now in four seasons in Toronto. Working against Snider moving forward: his 2011 5.4% walk and 27.7% strikeout rates. Working for Snider: he’s far superior defensively to Eric Thames, and will only be 24 years old in February. Time’s running out, though, for Snider, that’s for sure, but keep your eye on him in spring training. He’s got the talent, should it ever come together, or should Toronto trade him. Blue Jays fans keep hearing good things about a change of scenery. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Snider’s one of those can’t-miss prospects that might, you know, actually miss. After his disaster 2011 was ended by a wrist injury, Snider will come into 2012 fighting for a job in the Toronto outfield. He could be a guy you take a chance on late, or keep an eye on in deeper leagues, but based on his 2011 numbers, he offers little in fantasy value.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/23/1986 | Team: Rangers | Position: 1B|
Profile: Snyder will have to compete with the Orioles’ log-jam of Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis for playing time. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit for power and has the lowest upside of the four players. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/12/1981 | Team: Astros | Position: C|
Profile: Snyder began the season on the disabled list with lower back soreness, and while he managed to hit .271/.376/.396 through early June, his season ended as chronic back problems led to a second surgery in the past three years. Pittsburgh cut him loose by declining a club option for 2012, and the former University of Houston Cougar signed a make-good deal with the Astros with a club option for 2012. Snyder is expected to split time with fellow walking wounded backstop Jason Castro, who missed all of 2011 after tearing his ACL and then had surgery to remove a bone from his foot in December. Maybe Sig Mejdal and Houston’s new Decision Sciences team can conjure up a FrankenCatcher with what usable body parts these two fellows still have. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Jason Castro won’t be healed up in time for spring training, giving the 31-year-old Snyder a chance to earn significant playing time if his back holds up. The ‘Stros spent a top-10 pick on Castro in 2008 and the 24-year-old still has some potential, but the new regime might not be as beholden. Snyder’s pull power should play pretty well at Minute Maid.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/22/1986 | Team: Athletics | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: Sogard is exactly what you would expect from a Billy Beane middle infielder. Throughout his stints in the minors, he has shown the ability to take a walk and limit strikeouts, allowing him to post solid batting averages despite any real power to speak of. He will likely be the A’s utility infielder to start 2012, but if guys like Scott Sizemore and Cliff Pennington falter, the bespectacled one could end up with extended playing time. Sogard should be good for walks with a few steals mixed in, but he’s not exactly draftable in any format due to his position on the depth chart. If he does see extended playing time, look for him to hit about .270. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Sogard will likely be the A’s utility infielder to start 2012, but if guys like Scott Sizemore and Cliff Pennington falter, the bespectacled one could end up with extended playing time. Sogard should be good for walks with a few steals mixed in, but he’s not exactly draftable in any format.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/7/1976 | Team: Cubs | Position: OF|
Profile: Paying eight figures for a .289 on-base percentage is certainly not what the Cubs were hoping for with Soriano, but tales of his bat’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Soriano continued his 10-year streak of 20 home-run seasons and clubbed 88 RBIs despite just 508 plate appearances. His contract will go down as one of the worst in the game’s history, but Soriano still deserves a spot on fantasy rosters this season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Soriano remains a punch line due to his contract, but his bat isn’t dead yet. Look for solid power out of the former star.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/20/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: C|
Profile: If you believe in “every other year”-itis, than Geovany Soto is a “sleeper” (another curious thing to believe in) for you, as he hit very well (especially for a catcher) in 2008 and 2010, but not so well (if still good for a catcher) in 2009 and 2011. Predictably, his true talent is likely somewhere in between. The patience still seems to be there in general, but the walk rate has gone down and the contact issues seem to be catching up with him. He will be 29 in January, so it is not as if he is a young player with tons of upside. However, the power is still there, and is rare among catchers. The Cubs are appear to be entering a full-scale rebuild with new management, so no player is safe from being traded. That is not necessarily bad, but that is something to keep in mind with a guy like Soto, especially for those in NL-only leagues. He’s not going to help your batting average in leagues where that counts, but there are far worse fantasy picks than a catcher who can be expected to hit something like .240/.330/.420 with 15-20 home runs (and the added bonus of no credible threats to his playing time on the bench). (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Soto probably isn’t the superstar he looked like at times in 2008 and 2010, but he’s better than he showed in 2009 and 2011. Don’t go crazy, but he’ll give you power at the catcher position.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/27/1984 | Team: Twins | Position: OF|
Profile: If the 2010 season was tough on Span, 2011 was nothing short of cataclysmic. For the second straight year, Span sputtered to a high-.600s OPS, but this time the cause for worry was Span’s bout with a concussion and vertigo-like symptoms that have actually been worse for him. Span jumped in an attempt to make a leaping catch one the eve of the season finale, and in doing so bumped into the wall and was out of the lineup yet again for the final game of the season. As a result, a cloud of doubt has to not only be hanging around in Denard’s head, but also GM Terry Ryan’s head as to what he can expect out of Span after two rough years. Span’s still an elite defensive centerfielder, but with Justin Morneau also on the mend for a particularly debilitating concussion himself, perhaps the Twins can be forgiven for not wanting to hear the ‘c-word’ again any time soon. If he can get right, he’ll provide average, steals, and runs scored in very good supply to a fantasy team. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Even if Span is healthy in 2012, the onus is on him to prove that the last two seasons were a fluke, rather than his minor league self rearing its’ ugly head. He’s a bit of a gamble, so you may want to insure him with Ben Revere, just to be safe.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/5/1979 | Position: OF|
Profile: A drop in effectiveness coupled with better play from the Rockies’ starting outfielders conspired to limit Spilborghs’ role, and rather than pay him in arbitration, Colorado chose to cut him loose in December. He used to stay in the lineup because of his ability to mash lefties, which he did particularly well in 2007 and 2008, when he posted .431 and .399 wOBAs against them, respectively. Since then however, it has been a much different story, and that story took a dark turn in 2011, when his wOBA against lefties dropped to .265, which looked a lot like his .266 wOBA against righties. The drop was seen when he pinch-hit as well. A .326/.426/.454 hitter in 169 pinch-hit appearances entering the season, Spilborghs hit just .212/.350/.303, and while pinch-hitting obviously is a series of small samples, it is another example of how he was ineffective in the part-time niche that he had carved out for himself in Colorado. Spilborghs’ major league days may be numbered. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Spilborghs’ performance and playing time nose dived, and as a result he is most likely going to have to earn his way back to the majors on a Minor League deal and is probably not a viable fantasy option in any format heading into the season.
|Debut: 1992 | BirthDate: 2/27/1968 | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: Stairs retired last August, so he’s probably not a lot of help in your fantasy league — unless you invite him to play in your fantasy league, that is. In that case, he’ll bring the beer. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/8/1989 | Team: Marlins | Position: OF|
Profile: Between his 2010 rookie campaign and 2011 sophomore effort, Stanton increased his walk rate (8.6% to 11.6%) and decreased his strikeout rate (31.1% to 27.6%), while also increasing his rate of home runs on contact (9.3% in 2010, up to 9.7% in 2011). That’s basically all you could ask from a player who’s already All-Star level at age 21. Mitigating the gains we might reasonably expect to see from Stanton’s third year in the league is the prospect of Stanton’s new home park. In a piece at RotoGraphs from November, Eno Sarris compared the new Marlins Ballpark to Sun Life Stadium (where Stanton played in 2010-11) and found that the new park is bigger in every direction but down the right-field line. And yet the left field walls are shorter. The addition of shortstop Jose Reyes and a healthy Hanley Ramirez should provide more RBI opportunities in either case. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Stanton’s new home ballpark might not provide any sort of advantage relative to Sun Life Stadium, but he’s a 22-year-old who’s already become an elite power hitter.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/5/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: 3B|
Profile: It would be hard to imagine having a worse year than the year Stewart had. The third baseman was injured on literally the first play of Spring Training, and it was all downhill from there. He posted a 13 wRC+ at the major league level, which was the worst in the Majors (minimum 100 plate appearances). Much of this can be attributed to the poor fashion in which the Rockies handled him. The Rockies hedged their bets from the beginning of the season, carrying three third basemen, and then overreacted to a slow start and sent Stewart to the minors after just 28 PA. Stewart certainly didn’t do himself any favors in his two other brief forays in Denver, but this is a player who had a three-year track record of being worth at least a win — he is better than what he showed last year. The Cubs agreed, and will give him a shot to be their third basemen. If he wins the job, he could be a good sleeper. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: While he had an abysmal 2011 campaign, a fresh start in a new organization may be just what the doctor ordered for Stewart, and he could get that start on Chicago’s north side.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/19/1982 | Team: Giants | Position: C|
Profile: A career minor leaguer, Stewart started 51 games behind the dish for the Giants after Buster Posey was lost for the season in late May. His defense was very good, but his wOBA of .259 was not. He will compete with Eli Whiteside to back up Posey in 2012. (Wendy Thurm)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/4/1984 | Team: Reds | Position: OF|
Profile: Stubbs has turned himself into a unique fantasy player — he has speed and power and not much else. Over the past two seasons he averaged 18.5 home runs and 35 stolen bases. If he could put up a decent average, he would be an elite player. The problem is that he can’t raise that average much when he strikes out 30% of the time. Even with a .335 career batting average on balls in play, his career batting average comes in at just .251. In 2011, his inability to get on base cost him the leadoff spot in early August. Leading off for the Reds should lend itself to plenty of run-scoring opportunities with Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce hitting behind him. Before August seventh, when he was moved lower in the lineup, he averaged one run for every 6.6 plate appearances. After moving down in the lineup, it dropped to one run every 10.8 PAs. In 2012, I expect he will have between 15 and 20 home runs, 20+ stolen bases and a low batting average. Stubbs’ value will take even more of a hit if he is no longer at the top of the Reds lineup. Be wary of drafting him too high. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Strikeouts are limiting Drew Stubbs’ upside by destroying his batting average even though he has double-digit potential in home runs and stolen bases.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/30/1983 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: He strikes out too much, doesn’t walk enough, and only has average-ish speed and power. He might not even be a shortstop. At least Drew Sutton is now on the Braves (Minor League deal) and they don’t have a shortstop. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/4/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: C|
Profile: If Suzuki is drafted in your league, it will be due to the fond memories of his 2009 campaign and not his recent years of mediocrity. The 28-year-old has not put up good fantasy numbers over the past two seasons, and he hasn’t showed many signs of coming back to form. Suzuki will provide owners with a handful of homers and a batting average around .250, but Oakland’s offense won’t allow the catcher to post good runs scored and RBI. He doesn’t have enough power to make a real impact in those categories, and not enough speed to put up decent batting averages despite an ability to make contact. Meh. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: If Suzuki is drafted in your league, it will be due to the fond memories of his 2009 campaign and not his recent years of mediocrity.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 10/22/1973 | Team: Mariners | Position: OF|
Profile: It was a hard to find an Ichiro owner who wasn’t complaining in 2011, as the Japanese outfielder had easily the worst season of his career. While it may have seemed like it at the time, Ichiro wasn’t completely worthless last year. The 38-year-old still managed to hit over .270 and steal 40 bases, making him an ultimately valuable fantasy asset, but one that you likely overpayed for. The days of Ichiro compensating for your high-strikeout hitters are probably over, but that in no way means he’s done being a productive fantasy tool. If the Mariners’ offense can show any kind of improvement this year, Ichiro could still produce a .270+/35/90 line that makes him worthy of a starting job in any league. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Ichiro isn’t going to be a fantasy superstar anymore, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore him. Draft him as the player he is now and not the ageless wonder he’s been in the past.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/20/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: Squeezed out of Oakland’s starting outfield picture last season, Sweeney figures to regain a semi-regular spot in 2012 following his trade to the Red Sox. He’s never provided much fantasy value as a defense-first outfielder, but he did manage to hit a solid .291 batting average in just shy of 1,300 plate appearances from 2008-2010 before dropping to .265 in part-time duty last year. Sweeney has hit just 14 homers (.107 isolated slugging percentage) and stolen just 17 bases in 472 career games, which is right in line with his Minor League track record (.114 ISO and 32 steals in 408 games). Still just 27 years old, Sweeney is just about to enter his peak years and could see a bit of a power spike going forward, especially with the move to Fenway, but we’re still talking about what, maybe ten homers over a full season? Barring an unexpected power or speed spike, he’ll only have fantasy value if he gets some luck and hits over .300 for most of the season. In that case, he’s still a third or fourth outfielder on a typical fantasy squad. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Sweeney figures to regain at least a platoon outfield job after being traded to the Red Sox, but with just a solid batting average and little power or speed, he’s nothing more than a spare part in most leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/25/1980 | Team: Yankees | Position: OF|
Profile: The switch-hitter with the perpetual Cheshire Cat smile had another typical Swisher season, drawing lots of walks and hitting for good-not-great power while slashing .260/.374/.449. Swish seemingly traded free passes for more pop in 2010, walking 9.1 percent of the time and slugging a career-high .511, but he reverted to his high-OBP, moderate slugging ways in 2011 (15 walk rate, .449 slugging percentage). A career low fly ball percentage may have been the culprit in 2011, but since he just turned 31, it’s also possible that Father Time is starting to get his grips on yet another player. Most projection systems call for a power rebound in the coming season, but in leagues that use batting average, Swisher’s upside is limited and now his downside seems ever more probable. In all ottoneu formats, however, his positional eligiblity and strengths can be more rewarding than usual. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: He’s not an elite outfield option, but Swisher is a stalwart in leagues that count OBP and is a lock for another .800+ OPS. Maybe he can charm his way on to Modern Family to redeem his sit-com cred.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/12/1988 | Team: Pirates | Position: OF|
Profile: In 2011, Jose Tabata was to be the Pirates starting left fielder for the season. Instead, injuries to his hamstring and hand forced him to play in only 91 games. When healthy, the 23-year-old can be a decent late-round fantasy pickup. First, he as shown very little power in the minors (29 home runs over seven seasons) and majors (eight home runs in two seasons). Don’t expect this to change. He does have the ability to get on base with a .297 batting average and .366 OBP while in the minors. In the last two years he has almost identical OBP (.356 vs .349), but he has changed how he has gotten on base. In 2010, he had a .299 average and a 6.3% walk rate. In 2011, it was a .266 AVG and a 10.5% BB%. His 2011 average could have taken a beating from his injuries. Besides the ability to get on base, he can steal a few bases — he stole 19 in 2010 and 16 in 2011. If he continues to hit lead off, he will continue to see the high stolen base and runs numbers. If just a few things go his way in 2012, he could easily be a .300 average, 100 runs, 25 stolen base man. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Injuries derailed Tabata’s 2011 season. He could break out nicely in 2012 if he stays healthy and continues to develop.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/19/1985 | Team: Athletics | Position: OF|
Profile: Taylor has been in three big league organizations, and at 26 years old, he may finally be getting a chance at the big leagues. It sounds like Oakland would like to give him a little more time in Triple-A, but he’s getting a bit long in the tooth to keep sending him down. At 6’6”, Taylor has great size, and he may be ready to mature and use that size to mash taters at the MLB level. His swing could still use a little bit of work, but his strikeout rates in the Minor Leagues were never alarming, and his walk rates were certainly promising. If he’s given an opportunity to play everyday in the bigs, Taylor is worth an add in larger AL-only leagues, and he should already be owned in dynasty leagues. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Taylor may finally get a chance to play at the big league level, though Oakland has admitted they would like him to start the season in the minors. He has great size and emerging power, but he’s only worth an add in larger AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 12/21/1983 | Team: Orioles | Position: C|
Profile: Part of a triumvirate of catching prospects — along with Max Ramirez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — that came up through the Ranger system in the late aughts, Teagarden’s contact problems (he’s posted a 36.2% strikeout rate in 392 career plate appearances) have limited his offensive production. Signed by Baltimore this offseason, he’ll back up Matt Wieters there. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/6/1981 | Position: 1B/3B|
Profile: Mark Teahen should have third base and outfield eligibility headed into 2012. The positives end there. Teahen’s once promising career hit a new low in 2011, hitting .200/.273/300 over 177 at-bats. He was part of the many moving parts involved in the Colby Rasmus trade which saw him going from the Chicago White Sox to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he was going to be a utility player at best, and possibly simply a bench player. There are no indications that Teahen was unlucky in 2011 nor are there any signals that he’s a good candidate to rebound. Teahen, 30, isn’t likely to get many more than 150 at-bats unless injuries decimate his new team’s depth charts. Toronto let him go and so should you. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Teahen is only relevant in the deepest of leagues, and shouldn’t be part of your fantasy strategy.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 4/11/1980 | Team: Yankees | Position: 1B|
Profile: Have you seen Tex’s batting average? Over the past four years, Teixeira’s average has tumbled from .308 to .292, .256 and just .248 in 2011. His batting average on balls in play has gone from .316 to .239. While his patience and power remain intact (an 11.1 percent walk rate and 39 homers), Teixeira’s drop in average has taken him from a best-in-baseball-type bat (a .410 wOBA in 2008) to merely good (.361 in 2011). The vast majority of the switch-hitter’s BABIP decline has come from the left side of the plate (from .314 in 2008 to .222 in 2011). Texieria has hit more pop-ups and fly balls in recent years, both of which harm a hitter’s BABIP, but nothing even close to suggesting a 90 point drop off. His career BABIP is .296, and Bill James projects a .281 mark in 2012, so you have to think he’ll at least crack a .260-.270 average next year instead of sitting in the low-.200s. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Teixeira turns 32 in April, and his days as a top-level first baseman may be on the wane. Even so, he’d be plenty useful if he can rebound to a .270/.370/.520-type level.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/27/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: Coming up in the minor leagues, Tejada made a lot of contact, flashed a plus glove, and stole some bases. When he joined the Major Leagues, he added above-average patience to the package. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer a ton in fantasy, where his patience and glove are less useful and his lack of power is more glaring. According to the Mets hitting coach, he should start the season in the eighth spot in the order, too, so there might not be a ton of stolen bases coming. Sorry Mets fans and fantasy players, the Jose Reyes replacement will have you pining for days of yore, even if the player is decent enough in real life. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Ruben Tejada won’t manage half the speed or power of his predecessor in New York, and it’s unclear if his patience would survive a move to the top of the lineup. Still, he’s a warm body that might manage a decent batting average at the shorstop position, so that has some fantasy value.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 5/25/1974 | Position: 3B/SS|
Profile: Tejada’s been on the down slope of his career for a while and 2011 may have been the final nail in the coffin. Signed to be the Giants’ everyday shortstop, Tejada lost that job to rookie Brandon Crawford after hitting.217 through May. When Pablo Sandoval got hurt, Tejada shifted to third base, but his offense never picked up. He ended the season with a wOBA of .253 and a wRC+ of 56, second worst for National League shortstops. The Giants cut Tejada in late August. He is a free agent looking for at least a Minor League deal, but will he find one? (Wendy Thurm)
Quick Opinion: The second worst offensive shortstop in baseball is looking for a Minor League deal. Don’t sign him to your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/24/1987 | Team: Padres | Position: OF|
Profile: With the trade of Aaron Cunningham to the Indians, Tekotte moves up the ranks a bit and starts to get rather interesting for 2012. He likely enters the season as the fourth outfielder, but should Kyle Blanks falter or if there’s any injuries to deal with, Tekotte could see some significant playing time. Tekotte, 24, showed some good power and great speed at Double-A in 2011, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 36 bases in fewer than 500 plate appearances, posting a triple-slash line of .285/.393/.498. He has demonstrated a good eye at the dish, walking about 12% of the time, although he strikes out enough to make his batting average a question mark going forward. If he completely collapses during the spring, it’s possible he doesn’t even break camp with the big squad, but should he stick as a fourth outfielder and put together 350 plate appearances, Tekotte could do enough to warrant fantasy consideration in deep leagues and outfield-specific formats. In keeper/dynasty leagues, he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Barring some kind of injury in the Padre outfield, Tekotte likely won’t have enough playing time to be relevant in standard leagues. But should he find himself regular playing time, he has that unique power/speed combination to make him pretty interesting, although his batting average is likely to be a drag.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/10/1986 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: OF|
Profile: In 2009, Eric Thames played both Rookie and High-A ball for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2011, he played 95 games in The Show. Thames has come a long way fast, and, after hitting Triple-A pitching to the tune of .352/.423/.610 to start 2011, he didn’t look too out of place with the Blue Jays once he was promoted. While Thames struggled to hit Major League left-handed pitching in his first go-round, his success against right-handed pitching makes him a platoon outfield option for Toronto. He’ll come into spring training competing against Travis Snider for a job in left field. While Thames showed power by hitting 12 home runs, his very low walk rate and adventures in the outfield are holding him back. At 25, with Thames about to hit his peak, his mountain doesn’t seem too high. But keep your eye on him, and if he’s playing, he could be an inexpensive platoon option for your own bench. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Thames made the most of his promotion to Toronto in 2011, batting .262 and hitting 12 home runs in 95 games. Thames is intriguing, and will be competing for a job in Toronto’s left field in 2012. He’s got some pop, and some value as a platoon option off your bench, but his walk rate must improve.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/7/1979 | Team: Giants | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: Theriot’s bat might play at shortstop these days — a .321 on-base percentage is well above the positional average — but unfortunately he simply can’t hack it there with the glove. As such, without any real power — three home runs the past two seasons — he’s limited to a utility role. His shortstop qualification could have use in some deeper leagues, but that’s about it, and he probably won’t get enough plate appearances to really pay it off. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Theriot’s time as a starter is mercifully over. Look for him to languish in a utility role, likely somewhere in the National League.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/28/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: C|
Profile: Josh Thole doesn’t strike out much. His strikeout rate is about half the league average, and his swinging strike rate tells the same story. He does walk at an above-average rate, so his plate discipline is a strength. Unfortunately, part of the way he achieves those rates is by choking up on the bat. Predictably, his power is non-existent. He’s a catcher, too, so stolen-base speed is not coming. With league-average batted ball luck he’s managed .270ish batting averages. If the ball bounces his way for a season, he could be a batting average specialist deep-league catcher or ideal second ottoneu catcher, but without that luck, he’s replacement level in fantasy (at best). (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Josh Thole doesn’t have power or speed. He does have patience and makes contact, so he could manage a mediocre batting average for your deep league with two starting catcher slots.
|Debut: 1991 | BirthDate: 8/27/1970 | Team: Phillies | Position: DH|
Profile: The White Sox let Jim Thome walk after 2009, and he proceeded to sign with Minnesota for cheap and absolutely mash the ball for one of his best seasons ever in 2010. He did not hit nearly that well in 2011, but he still hit. He would have made great sense as a left-handed platoon DH for many teams, as he still takes his walks and hits for power. Naturally, he signed with the Phillies, a National League team, where his primary job will be pinch-hitting. Thome supposedly is “working out” to play some first base now and then, but we will see how that actually “works out.” He would be a nice buy if he were on an American League team, but on an NL team, he’s worth maybe a dollar in deep leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Thanks, Jim Thome, for doing the one thing that could kill your otherwise-decent deep league fantasy value: signing with an National League team.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/4/1982 | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: A Gardenhire favorite who earned his stripes by hustling and playing hurt, the wheels finally fell off for the scrappy switch hitter. Lauded as the possible poor-man’s Nick Punto, Tolbert was simply poor in 2011, as his .234 wOBA and 42 wRC+ would attest to. Never particularly adept with the mitt, the Punto comparisons were always a bit puzzling. Nevertheless, Tolbert was part of the 40-man roster expunging at the end of the season, and will likely need a good spring training to find his way onto someone’s bench. It won’t likely be with the Twins, who have plenty of candidates in-house for utility infielders. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Tolbert may start on Ron Gardenhire’s fantasy team, but we aren’t talking about that sort of fantasy. Without a team, or a big league contract, Tolbert can safely go undrafted and into fantasy baseball purgatory.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/19/1978 | Team: Rangers | Position: C|
Profile: When he’s not busy striking umpires in the Venezuelan League, Yorvit Torrealba is a limited fantasy contributor as the backup catcher to Mike Napoli in Texas. Torrealba’s .273 batting average in 2011 was good for his third straight season hitting above .270, something I consider quite an accomplishment for a backup catcher, but his on-base percentage slipped to a very backup catcher-like .306. Torrealba’s walk rate was well below his career average last year. While that may correct, unless you’re extremely desperate for limited offensive production from a backup catcher, you probably won’t have to worry about Torrealba. Unless you upset him. Then I’d be worried. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Torrealba’s set to be the backup catcher in Texas in 2012 and, while he can hit for a better average than most backup catchers, he’s likely only worth consideration in deeper standard leagues.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/26/1978 | Team: Mets | Position: OF|
Profile: All shoulders and little wrist, Torres’ swing might not ever make enough contact to put up a plus batting average. But the new Mets’ center fielder still has some things going for him. In 2009 and 2010, he showed plus power (.210+ isolated slugging percentage) and stole bases at a strong clip (~30 per 600 plate appearances). He’s also walked at an above-average rate his whole career. All indications point to the Mets trying Torres in the leadoff spot, and with the other center field options either too old for the position (Jason Bay) or still in need of Minor League seasoning, he’ll have a season’s worth of leash. If you can handle the batting average, the power and steals should give you some deep league value, especially in leagues with separate positions in the outfield. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: More a deep leaguer than a mixed leaguer, Torres’ swing won’t ever produce a strong batting average. But a good eye at the plate, combined with power and speed, should make him a decent value pick in the right leagues.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/2/1986 | Team: Twins | Position: OF|
Profile: Tosoni scuffled in just under 200 plate appearances at the big league-level in 2011, posting a .271 wOBA and .618 OPS. It’s hard to blame Tosoni; he had a .626 OPS in Rochester in 2011 and was clearly not ready for the promotion. He’s got a nice swing from the left side, and the Twins likely see him as a fourth outfielder/spot starter. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Tosoni may well carve out a future role as a fourth outfielder/occasional starter, but that won’t be until a while down the road. Keep an eye on him at Triple-A, as he’s yet to master that level, and could make things interesting late in the year if he does just that. Still, he’s at least a year from fantasy relevance, if ever.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/11/1984 | Position: C|
Profile: It was not so very long ago that Towles was a legitimate prospect with good Minor League numbers and a bright future ahead of him. Now, after posting a .187/.267/.315 line in 484 plate appearances over the course of five seasons in the bigs, the luster is well and truly gone. He won’t outhit Joe Mauer or shut down the running game as well as Drew Butera, which makes him a long shot to make the Twins’ roster out of Spring Training. The best thing for Towles at this point may be to play a full, healthy season at Triple-A and rebuild his value, then make a play for a starting job in 2013. He’ll be 28 in 2012, so he’s getting out of the prospect age range, but he still has a few more seasons to reclaim some of the potential he once had. He’s unfortunately a non-entity even in AL-Only unless Mauer and Ryan Doumit both get hurt in camp. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: It’s unlikely that Towles spends more than a month in the majors, with injuries being his quickest path to success. However, given that the two catchers ahead of him played a combined 108 games behind the plate in 2011, maybe there’s a chance he does see time with the big club.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/3/1976 | Team: Dodgers | Position: C|
Profile: Treanor! Matt Treanor was an afterthought acquired by the Royals in desparation at the end of Spring Training in 2011. He actually hit surprisingly well, given the expectations. Of course, his walks were probably boosted because he was hitting in front of Offensive Sinkhole Alcides Escobar, but that did not bother Ned Colletti. Treanor is a useful backup catcher in the big leagues, but not even that in fantasy. Indeed, his numbers are likely to be so bad that you will be hoping that he doesn’t play if he ends up on your team. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Just because the Dodgers think Matt Treanor is worth more than the minimum does not mean that you should.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/7/1991 | Team: Angels | Position: OF|
Profile: With the addition of Albert Pujols to the Angels roster in the offseason, Mike Trout is probably now only the second-most talented field player in the organization. There are two curious things about that. For one, Trout only just turned 20 years old in the beginning of August; for two, he may not even break camp with the team. The Pujols signing adds to what was already a substantial logjam for the Angels at the DH and outfield spots. It’s likely that, with Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and even Mark Trumbo all likely to play some outfield, Trout would be unable to receive the sort of PAs a prospect needs for proper development. If and when he does play, he’ll likely be excellent, with potential to produce mid-teens home runs and mid-30s stolen bases, were he given a full-time role. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Opportunity, and not talent, is the issue for Trout in 2012. An outfield logjam in Anaheim means that the org’s second-best field player might start the season in Triple-A.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/16/1986 | Team: Angels | Position: 1B|
Profile: Even after signing Albert Pujols, the Angels have made it clear that they are going to do everything they can to get Trumbo’s overrated bat into the lineup on an everyday basis. The big boy has impressive raw power, but his refusal to take pitches and draw walks effectively kill his value in OBP leagues. Trumbo’s value in standard leagues is going to come from his home run total and his positional flexibility. The 26-year-old masher should already be outfield (LF) eligible in your leagues, and if the Halos decide to move him to the hot corner, he’ll be third-base eligible, as well. If you draft Trumbo for his power and RBI numbers while hoping for a batting average of .265 or better, you’re in the right frame of mind. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: If you take Trumbo with the expectation of a higher average or above-average OBP, you’re doing it wrong. If Trumbo becomes third-base eligible, his value gets a boost that rivals his waistline.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/10/1984 | Team: Rockies | Position: SS|
Profile: With another banner campaign, Tulowitzki has erased all doubts — he is now the game’s top shortstop. He doesn’t steal bases like he once did, but he was efficient when he attempted to, and everything else is running on all cylinders. He was three home runs in 2010 away from three straight seasons with 30 home runs, and was just three percentage points in 2009 from three straight seasons with a .300 average. He upped his walks per strikeout, something that doesn’t appear to be a fluke, as he once again lowered his swinging strike percentage. Over the past three seasons, Tulowitzki’s wOBA and WAR are both top 10 marks in the game and easily tops among shortstops. Given the scarcity of good shortstops, Tulowitzki is a legit candidate for first pick in any draft. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Over the past three seasons, Tulowitzki has proven to be the cream of the crop at shortstop. If he isn’t one of the first few picks in your draft, he has fallen too far.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/23/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: Last season the 27-year-old Justin Turner finally got regular playing time when Daniel Murphy was felled at second. Then he spent about 500ish PAs putting in a league-average line for a second baseman, which doesn’t play in most fantasy leagues. He doesn’t have much power or speed, and his glove is either scratch or bad in the middle infield. The ginger infielder can take a walk and doesn’t strike out much, but that doesn’t give fantasy owners much except RBI on a good team. Maybe he can show a little more power in the future — especially if the rumored trade to Colorado goes through — but he’s pushing up on his ceiling and has better prospect Reese Havens coming up behind him. And Murphy is back too. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Known in college for a famous hit-by-pitch that left his cheek fractured and his ankle torn up, Turner finally fought his way to the big leagues once injury took Daniel Murphy down last season. The results were unimpressive, his upside is muted, and now Murphy is back.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/11/1980 | Team: Braves | Position: 2B|
Profile: Despite starting slow, Uggla would eventually post some pretty Uggla-like numbers, smacking 30 homers for the fifth consecutive season. Apart from a drop in walk rate, his 2011 campaign looked a lot like his 2009 campaign. Now with six seasons under his belt, it appears that the .287 average that he posted in 2010 is an aberration, as it is the only season in which he has hit better than .260. Still, he has been an above-average offensive performer throughout his career, and if he continues his recent pattern of posting wRC+’s at least 20 percent better than league average in even-numbered years, 2012 could be another great year from him. But while he is still productive enough to be a top tier second baseman, it is such a deep position that you don’t have to jump on Uggla early. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: What you see is what you get with Uggla — great power for a middle infielder packaged with a subpar batting average. If you nab him, make sure you can make up for the average elsewhere.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/25/1987 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: OF|
Profile: There are very few people who can claim, in all honesty, to have hit a ball into a restaurant. Fewer still have performed this feat of strength during the course of a Major League game. Of this exclusive club, Justin Upton is decidedly a part, confirming his membership on April 12, 2011, when he hit a Chris Carpenter offering into a Chase Field Fatburger location — the third-longest home run of the season, according to Greg Rybarczyk’s Home Run Tracker. That homer is an illustration of the sort of raw power Upton already possesses as he enters his age-24 season — a tool he augmented in 2011 with an improved strikeout rate (18.7%, versus 25.9% career entering 2011). Upton also averages about 20 stolen bases per season and has demonstrated an ability to sustain higher-than-average BABIPs (.337 in 2402 career plate appearances now). He’s really good and young, is the point. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Justin Upton is a legitimate five-tool player — six-tool, if you count Fatburger-attacking as a tool. Also, on account of he’s just 24, some improvement wouldn’t be surprising.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/21/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: OF|
Profile: The ultimate tease year after year, Upton is now coming into his sixth season and has seemingly settled into his place in the fantasy landscape. He has 20-home-run power and 35-45 stolen base potential. His 23 home runs last season were his most since his 2007 break-out campaign. He strikes out more than you would like, but his 11% walk rate over the past two seasons helps to ease that pain and keeps his on base percentage in the .330 range. He’s locked into the second spot in the Rays order behind speedster Desmond Jennings and ahead of Evan Longoria, providing ample opportunities for both scoring and knocking in runs. While not a star, Upton is one of only 12 players to post a 20HR/30SB season in 2011, putting him in the upper-middle group of outfielders come draft day. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: You know what you’re getting with Upton; solid power, lots of stolen bases, and a ~.240 batting average. He’s more reliable than maddening in fantasy as opposed to reality.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 3/22/1979 | Team: Dodgers | Position: 3B|
Profile: Uribe was hurt for much of 2011 and his offense suffered considerably as a result. His .204 batting average was a career low. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (.28) was his worst since 2006, with the White Sox. His power all but disappeared; his isolated slugging percentage fell to .089, another career low. After hitting 24 home runs for the San Francisco Giants in 2010, Uribe hit just four home runs for the Dodgers in 295 plate appearances. And power is Uribe’s game — even in good years, he walks at below league-average rates and hits in the .250 range. Uribe’s season ended for good in early September when he had surgery for a sports hernia. There’s been little information since the surgery on how Uribe’s rehab is progressing. Nevertheless, the Dodgers are counting on Uribe as their everyday third baseman in 2012. (Wendy Thurm)
Quick Opinion: There’s nothing more ‘emo’ then being an all-power middle infielder who’s lost all his power and is suddenly the Dodgers’ starting third baseman. Still, he might get every-day at bats, and if he’s healthy, that would mean fantasy value in the deepest of leagues.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/17/1978 | Team: Phillies | Position: 2B|
Profile: Only Albert Pujols accumulated more WAR (43.1) than Chase Utley (39.1) from 2005-2009, but thumb and knee problems have hampered him the last two seasons. The 33-year-old still plays great defense and draws plenty of walks, but his ground ball rate has jumped to 41% over the last two years after sitting in the low-30% range in previous years. More grounders means less power, as his isolated slugging percentage has gone from .210+ regularly to just .165 the last two years. His batting average has also dipped from consistently over .290 into the .260-.275 range, and for the first time in his career, Utley was mortal against left-handed pitchers in 2011. Luckily, a second baseman with a decent batting average, 15+ homers, and 15+ steals still has a lot of fantasy value, but the Phillies stalwart is now a bit of a question mark because of his injury troubles and age. A .290/25/90/20 season in 2011 isn’t entirely out of the question, but the odds are against it. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Injuries have limited Utley’s once elite production in recent years, but he still figures to provide a solid batting average (.270+) with close to 20 homers and 20 steals next year. He’s no longer the slam dunk, elite fantasy performer he was from 2005-2009, however.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/30/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: 2B|
Profile: Rarely do you want a guy traded for the infamous “cash considerations” on your fantasy team, but Luis Valbuena may have taken a step towards relevance with the move to Toronto. A second baseman who never proved himself in Cleveland, Valbuena had been relegated to a utility role for the Indians and wasn’t even their first choice in that role (he was behind Jason Donald). Now he is a potential starting second baseman in Toronto (pending another pick up this off-season) and while the Major League numbers are not pretty (.209/.227/.279 in 43 PAs in 2011; .193/.273/.258 in 310 the previous year), Valbuena has been a terrific offensive middle infielder in Triple-A (.302/.372/.476 with 17 HR and 6 SB in 2011). If he ends up the starter in Toronto, he probably still isn’t worth drafting, but he might be worth a late round flyer in deeper leagues, and is definitely a guy to keep an eye on as the season progresses. The potential for a solid AVG/OBP and double-digit home runs is there — if he can put it together. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Valbuena has consistently hit Triple-A pitching going back to 2008, but that success hasn’t translated to the majors. If he gets a shot, there may be some upside here, but he probably isn’t worth a draft pick in most leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/20/1978 | Team: Reds | Position: 2B/3B/SS|
Profile: Wilson Valdez has played for twelve different baseball organizations, and there’s a good reason why: what he can do is pretty easy to find. He’s a utility infielder who can be relied on to not totally butcher second base, third base, and shortstop in a pinch — but doesn’t bring much of anything to the table with his bat. He hits for poor average, walks almost never, and if he happens to hit a home run, watch for flying pigs. You really ought to be aiming higher than Valdez on your fantasy team unless injury brings him a starting role — and even then, his value is only in the deepest of leagues. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: I would recommend you start Valdez at shortstop if I played in a money league with you.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/19/1984 | Team: Twins | Position: 3B|
Profile: Danny Valencia, 27, is coming off a .246/.294/.383 campaign with 15 home runs and 72 RBI. He really only had two productive months all season, that being July and August where he hit a combined .294/.335/.448. His .275 batting average on balls in play is well below his .300 career level, but his expected BABIP was just .279, so you shouldn’t expect major regression in the luck category. There’s really no evidence in his Minor League performance that suggests he’ll be much more than what we saw in 2011. You might not be able to count on a batting average north of .260 with Valencia, but he’s able to contribute double-digit home runs and a good number of RBI, simply based on opportunity. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Valencia is entering his age 27 season, so there’s potential for upside, but a solid bet is a repeat of his 2011 performance which is probably a good fit for deeper leagues only.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 4/11/1972 | Position: C|
Profile: If your league has a guts category, Varitek is your guy. Otherwise, he’s a broken-down 39 year-old catcher whose batting average has topped .250 once since 2005. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/29/1982 | Team: Padres | Position: OF|
Profile: Max Venable’s son has the tools — power, patience, speed and defense — but has had a hard time putting them all together so far. Strikeouts have been part of the problem, as he’s struck out in over a quarter of his Major League plate appearances so far. Even last year, when he made some improvement in that category (22.4%), his swinging strike rate was almost 40% worse than league average. We just can’t expect a good batting average from Venable it seems. He’ll still steal you close to 30 bases, and if he was ever moved out of San Diego’s lefty-killer park, he might even hit you 20 home runs. But in San Diego, it looks like another year of the heavy side of a platoon, ten-ish home runs, thirty-ish stolen bases, and a poor batting average. That still has its’ use in some leagues — especially all ottoneu formats other than 4×4 — even if the massive breakout is not coming. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Forgive us all our unreasonable man-crushes. Venable still has all the tools, but another year of platooning and producing so-so results in a power-sapping park makes him less exciting.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/10/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: OF|
Profile: Even if you took Viciedo’s good first 100+ plate appearances from 2010 and add his poor second 100+ plate appearances from 2011 and smush them together, you still wouldn’t get a great half-season of fantasy value. Maybe he can give you exactly-average plate discipline stats with about average power and an average batting average as an outfielder. Don’t get too excited, unless you can get him cheap and stick him on your deep league infield for a season. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Viciedo has muted upside and is settling into his corner outfield role. He might put up a decent batting average, but his power probably won’t help much.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/30/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: OF|
Profile: By WAR, Victorino was the best field player on the Phillies by a considerable amount, compiling a figure of 5.9 to Chase Utley’s next-best total of 3.9. It was the best season of his career, the result of a career-best walk rate (9.4%), career-best home-run rate (2.9% of all plate appearances), excellent strikeout rate (10.8%), decent BABIP, and above-average UZR (+4.4) at a challenging position. In standard fantasy leagues, where defense is immaterial and center fielders belong just under the umbrella of Outfield, Victorino was a bit less valuable. Nor is he likely to reach the same level of production in 2012: at age 31, Victorino is on the wrong side of the aging curve — something that his deflated stolen-base total (19, after averaging 33 each of the previous four season) might already suggest. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Victorino is an excellent, and likely underrated, player in real baseball. Not all those skills translate to fantasy, and Victorino’s age (31 in 2012) suggests he’s reached his peak.
|Debut: 1989 | BirthDate: 4/24/1967 | Position: 2B/3B|
Profile: It’s remarkable to think that children born during Vizquel’s first plate appearance in 1989 will be able to legally raise a beer to the long-lasting shortstop during his first plate appearance this year. He has had a remarkable career and given five franchises tremendous effort in the field, but it has been more than half a decade since he was a legitimate fantasy asset, and that’s not about to change in 2012. If he does get a contract for the upcoming season, it isn’t likely to be a starting job, making him tough to roster, even in deep or AL-only leagues. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Any chatter around Vizquel’s name in 2012 is likely to be regarding his eventual Hall of Fame case rather than his current on-field performance. He was a wizard with the glove, but fantasy just never really fit his skills.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/10/1983 | Team: Reds | Position: 1B|
Profile: Was that a bad year? Votto came within one home run of 30 and two stolen bases of ten. He hit over .300 once again, with great patience and defense. With his plate discipline and batted ball mix, the batting average is sustainable going forward. Even if the stolen bases continue to decline, he’ll still have all those runs and RBI to drool over. He seems immune to the bad year, even if he doesn’t quite have Albert Pujols power. Where you take him just depends on how much you want to pay for a stud player that doesn’t play a premium position. But in NL-only leagues, remember that two studs left the league this year, making Votto even more special. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: If that was a bad year from Joey Votto, then it’s probably a good idea to keep signing up for more of that production going forward.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/10/1985 | Team: Pirates | Position: 2B|
Profile: Neil Walker is an average second baseman. The 25-year-old has been fairly consistent in his first two seasons. He will likely put up low double-digit home runs, 80 runs and RBIs, a little less than 10 stolen bases and a .280 batting average. None of these stats are going to be enough to win a league, but they won’t lose it either. If you are in the situation where you can afford to platoon at the position, Walker hits right-handers better. He hits .281/.342/.435 with a home run every 43 PAs vs righties and .276/.327/.391 and a home run every 76 PAs vs lefties. Also he is fairly young and has the chance to develop some more power as he matures. He would be a good addition to a team that is set in the rest of their positions and needs to solidify second base. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Neil Walker is the average/boring second base candidate and sometimes that’s all that you need.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/26/1986 | Team: Astros | Position: 1B|
Profile: The oft-traded former prospect finally received a shot at extended playing time in 2011, but the results were shaky at best. Wallace walked at an acceptable 9.5% rate, and managed to cut his strikeout rate to a borderline acceptable 24%, but his power was non-existent. It’s time for the 25-year-old to start producing, and he should have an opportunity to play on the rebuilding Astros, but he’s no more than a deep sleeper in deeper leagues. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: If you look closely, there’s some growth in Wallace’s 2011 performance. But until he starts hitting for more power, he’s nothing more than a speculative sleeper.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/13/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: 2B|
Profile: “Rickie Weeks is good, but he always gets hurt.” Both clauses are true or mostly true. But so what? Even in only 118 games last season, he still managed 20 home runs as a second baseman, where his defensive issues aren’t a problem in the vast majority of fantasy leagues. Yes, there are better options in mixed leageus, but he’s still one of the best fantasy players at his position in NL-only leagues. That does not mean you should pay him as a top player overall, but while his injury issues matter, do not over-react to them. His counting numbers probably go down with the departure of Prince Fielder and the likelihood of Ryan Braun being suspended for the first third of the season, but there aren’t many (any?) other second basemen in the NL who are likely going to give you .275/.360/.470 with 20 homers, 80+ runs, 80+ RBI, with a few steals thrown in. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: There is always an injury concern with Weeks, but even so, he’s probably the best fantasy second baseman in the National League.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/26/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: 2B|
Profile: The A’s appear to be enamored with Weeks’ skill set — declaring him the only player off limits during this offseason’s talent auction — and they have good reason to. Weeks hits from both sides of the plate and hits for a high average due to his low strikeout rate and speed. Weeks even showed a tendency to walk a good deal in the minors, though he didn’t show that skill in his first Major League season. On the downside, Weeks doesn’t have any real power to speak of and his frame suggests he won’t be developing any. Also, Oakland’s offense is going to be mostly anemic in 2012, hurting Weeks runs scored and RBI. He is still going to be a nice second base pick, as he’ll be undervalued in most drafts because he plays in Oakland and went mostly unnoticed last season. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Weeks hits for a high average and steals bases, and he’s even showed a penchant for walking while in the Minor Leagues. He may not hit .300 again in the near future, but Weeks will be a relatively cheap option to fill your second base spot next season and provide steals.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/23/1984 | Team: Mariners | Position: OF|
Profile: After showing incredible promise as a rookie in 2010 with Detroit, Casper Wells suffered through the infamous sophomore slump in 2011, and was eventually traded to Seattle in the package that sent Doug Fister to the Tigers. On a young Mariners team, Wells is an intriguing player to watch, but he’ll likely be used as a bat off the bench, meaning he won’t have much fantasy value. His high strikeout rate and inability to hit right-handed pitching are holding him back, and, in his time with Seattle in 2011, he simply didn’t make enough contact, hitting only .216 in 31 games. By all accounts, Wells is healthy coming into 2012, after missing the last few weeks of the 2011 season with “vertigo-like symptoms.” But unless Wells can somehow steal Mike Carp’s job in the Seattle outfield, he probably isn’t worth your fantasy consideration. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Wells struggled in 2011, and, though he showed promise as a rookie in Detroit two years ago, he isn’t worth serious fantasy consideration as a fourth-outfielder with the Seattle Mariners until he recaptures the magic of 2010.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 12/8/1978 | Team: Angels | Position: OF|
Profile: There was always a chance that Vernon Wells moving away from homer-haven Toronto could hurt his fantasy value, but it really didn’t. Wells hit 25 homers in only 131 games last season. Instead it was his approach at the plate that killed his batting average and OBP. Wells’ batting average on balls in play may have been obscenely low, but a good portion of it was earned through his fly ball rate and wide body. Wells has sporadically shown the ability to be a good fantasy contributor, but betting on him on draft day is typically a fools’ errand. At the very least, Wells will give owners good counting stats in 2012, but expecting anything else could get you in a lot of hot water. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Wells’ 2011 was filled with home runs and nothing else. Expect good counting stats in 2012, but not much else.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/20/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: OF|
Profile: The baseball nerd community uttered a collective “Wha-?” in December of 2010, when GM Mike Rizzo and tbe Washington Nationals extended to Werth a seven-year, $126 million contract with a full no-trade clause. It wasn’t that Werth wasn’t good: he had, in fact, been (ahem) worth more than 15 WAR between 2008 and ’10. Rather, it’s that he would have to continually reach the upper fringes of his ability for those seven years to justify his compensation. There was, in short, no margin for error. Said error came quickly: in 2011, Werth slashed .232/.330/.389 (.286 BABIP), for a .323 wOBA — this, after having posted wOBAs of at least .382 for four consecutive years. The main culprtis were a lower-than-usual BABIP (.286, versus .336 in 2007-10) and home-run rate (3.1% of all plate appearances, versus 4.5% in 2007-10). Some of that is maybe the change in park and maybe bad luck, but it could also be a thing that happens to a 32-year-old. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Especially after his disappointing 2011, Werth probably won’t be worth the $126 million that the Nats gave him in December of 2010. Still, he hits home runs, steals bases, and has generally posted high BABIPs — all helpful in standard fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/22/1979 | Team: Giants | Position: C|
Profile: A backup catcher, Whiteside was pressed into regular duty in 2011 after Buster Posey suffered a horrific season-ending injury in a home plate collision. He ended the year with a slash of .197/.264/.310. The Giants non-tendered the white-haired backstop but then signed him to a one-year contract. He will compete with Chris Stewart to be backup catcher to Buster Posey. (Wendy Thurm)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/21/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: C|
Profile: In his second full season, Wieters lived up to some, but not all, of the hype bestowed upon him. His isolated slugging percentage rose .60 points from 2010, thanks in large part to doubling his home run total from 11 to 22. The power came on strong in the second half of the season, hitting 14 home runs after the break. His splits are concerning, however. He destroyed lefties (1.124 OPS) but suffered greatly against righties (.665 OPS). He also benefits from a hitter friendly home park where his OPS was .134 points higher than on the road. Those splits keep him out of the top tier of catchers. He’s young, plays a premium position and could easily improve, making him one of the most tantalizing players in the game. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Power hitting catchers are hard to come by. Wieters has some of the biggest upside in baseball, meaning he’ll likely go earlier, or for more money, than he rationally should.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/11/1977 | Team: Phillies | Position: 1B/3B|
Profile: Wigginton’s value, both to the Phillies and to most fantasy owners, is his versatility. He’ll retain first base, third base and outfield eligibility next year no matter where the Phillies decide to play him, which makes him a nice injury replacement to have stashed on the bench. Extended use can lead to unhappy consequences, though. Wigginton has never failed to hit double-digit home runs in a season in which he played at least 100 games, which is a nice bonus, but he doesn’t really have much foundation. He hit below .250 both of the last two seasons despite being a career .265 hitter, and when the power bursts are so infrequent, there just isn’t much incentive to actively roster him. If you’re faced with a short-term hole at a corner position, you’d do well to check in on Wigginton’s recent form, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be worth a roster spot over the full season. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: He’s streakier than a naked man in a trench coat, but if he’s available when his bat is clicking, he’ll earn his keep for a while. Beware, though: when it comes to Wigginton, the other shoe always drops.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/17/1979 | Team: Twins | Position: DH/OF|
Profile: Despite playing in Oakland’s cavernous stadium, Willingham was able to hit 29 homers and slug .477 last season. Now, he’s off to play in Minnesota, where the confines are unfriendly, but not equally so. While the move will help his home run totals a little bit, playing for the Twins could mean more chances for driving in runners and crossing the dish himself, compared to the Athletics. If guys like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span can be reasonably healthy and productive, Willingham could have himself a field day when he manages to stay on the field. The 33-year-old has never played 145 games in his career, though he has always managed to appear in 100 or more. If he plays his normal number of games — let’s say 130 — he could post a .255/25/70/85 line without much difficulty. That’s going to be pretty darn good in AL-only and OBP leagues, and worthy of a roster spot in most standard leagues. Any ottoneu format, with five outfield slots and a deep bench, would enjoy this obligant pork. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Willingham’s move to Minny should help him hit a couple more homers and boost all of his counting stats, but injuries are always going to be his biggest issue. He’s pretty darn good in AL-only and OBP leagues, and he’s worthy of a starting spot in most standard leagues.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/30/1981 | Position: OF|
Profile: Willits has 12.7% career walk rate in just over a thousand career plate appearances — truly amazing for a player who has literally zero career home runs. A free agent as of press time, his serious lack of power condemns him to fourth outfielder-dom, at best. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C|
Profile: Wilson actually has some decent age- and level-appropriate numbers on his minor-league record — even including his time at the Angels’ pitcher-friendly Double-A affiliate. A combination of Hank Conger, Jeff Mathis, and Mike Napoli have limited his at-bats. This year, the newly acquired Chris Iannetta will have the honor of doing that. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/29/1983 | Position: OF|
Profile: While Wilson’s 28 plate appearances in the majors were a disaster, his track record in the Minor League offers some hope for his future. He’s hit for power and displayed a decent walk rate in Triple-A the last two season. He’s 28, however, so his ceiling is pretty limited. He should be able to hit for some power, but his strikeouts will limit his batting average. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Wilson posted decent minor league numbers the past two seasons, but he’s old for his level. He has limited upside as a low-average, power-hitting outfielder.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 12/29/1977 | Team: Braves | Position: 2B/SS|
Profile: Wilson remained jobless late into the season, but his slick glove landed him a job in Atlanta. He’ll likely serve a utility role, unable to advance any further due to a combination of poor health and a worse bat, but Atlanta does provide an opportunity. In front of him is only Tyler Pastornicky, a rookie, and not a no-doubt prospect. Wilson hasn’t seen an on-base percentage north of .300 since 2008 and he hasn’t seen a home run off his own bat since 2009. But he could see some playing time. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Wilson remains a solid defensive shortstop, but he provides neither a bat nor a reliably healthy body at this point in his career.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/26/1981 | Position: 2B/3B/SS|
Profile: Even if Wilson finds playing time, he has no fantasy value. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/2/1985 | Position: 3B|
Profile: Where did it all go wrong for Brandon Wood? Who knows. It would be too easy to say that he was just a Pacific Coast League creation, but maybe that is just the truth. The Pirates have been the last stop for many an ex-prospect the last few years, but this was yet another dice roll that came up snake eyes for the Bucs. Wood did, I guess, manage to get over the Mendoza Line, but barring a stunning miracle, at this point he is just another cautionary tale for both real and fantasy baseball about the volatility of prospects. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Brandon Wood was one of the most hyped prospects in baseball five years ago. Now, he is struggling to find a team that will take him. You certainly should not.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 7/24/1972 | Position: 1B/DH|
Profile: When Barajas signed a one-year, $4M deal with the Pirates this offseason, the 35-year-old journeyman backstop joined his eighth organization in 13 Major League seasons. With a predictably low average and sub-.300 OBP, Barajas has been able to earn his living by providing decent power at the catcher position. Fantasy owners can expect roughly 15 home runs with a .250ish batting average as the Pirates primary backstop in 2012. Not much more, but certainly the potential to be less. Barajas has always been a hacker, but last season saw another decrease in his contact rate and a spike in his strikeout rate to a mark of 21.1%. His increased walks helped maintain his usual strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the chances of him repeating a 6.5 walk rate seem slim. He should still be able to provide decent pop, but he is certainly on the downside of his career. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Barajas comes to Pittsburgh as the primary catcher and should provide fantasy owners with his usual range of 15 home runs and .250 batting average. Just remember that he’s 35 years old and time appears to be catching up to him, so proceed with caution.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/20/1982 | Team: Mets | Position: 3B|
Profile: Mr. Wright has mostly been wrong over the past two years. In 2010, it was a hole on the outside part of the plate that led to the worst strikeout rate of his career. In 2011, he covered up the hole, but some of his power disappeared. That might have had to do with the stress fracture that they discovered in his back — presumably suffered while carrying the team for all those years. If he can pair the career-level strikeout rate that he showed in 2011 with the career-level power that he showed in 2010, he can re-discover his early career form. He’s only 29, and his contract year is fast approaching, and his team just moved in the walls. At the very least a healthy year should produce .280 20/20… on the infield. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Don’t forget that David Wright has power and speed and plays third base. As free agency approaches, he also has plenty of reasons to push through the pain and play a full season — which could easily produce 20/20 numbers and plenty of fantasy value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/15/1979 | Team: Red Sox | Position: 3B|
Profile: Kevin Youkilis is rather difficult to predict. In 2011, he had his worst offensive year in five seasons, posting a .258/.373/.459, but that’s still a line that a lot of third basemen would kill for. He played through multiple injuries in 2011, as he seemingly often does, and managed to still hit 17 home runs and drive in 80 runs. Youkilis continued to flash his great batting eye with a walk rate over 13% and his isolated slugging of .202 was right in line with his career averages. He might have a body that seems older, but he’s only going to be 33 in March, and if he can avoid all barrage of ailments, I’d consider him a good bounce-back candidate — but there’s not a single year that Youkilis has been injury-free, so you have to prepare for his absences. If he can stay healthy for 150 games, Youkilis is a top five third base option, but prepare for the possibility that you have him for just 100. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Kevin Youkilis is a top-five third basemen if healthy, but the chances he stays healthy are slim. He is a classic high-risk and high-reward player.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/3/1982 | Position: OF|
Profile: Young has speed — 175 steals over his minor league career — and some patience at the plate. But he’s already 29 years old and fighting for a Major League job. He might be a solid fifth outfielder for a team this season, but he’s not worth a spot on your fantasy team. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 10/19/1976 | Team: Rangers | Position: 3B/DH|
Profile: A career-high batting average on balls in play led to a career-high batting average and a career-high in MVP votes for the divisive Rangers stalwart who doesn’t really have the glove to stick at any position on the infield any longer. He does put up good batting averages even in neutral-luck years, but he has to get lucky to be helpful in home runs or stolen bases. Still, don’t let your saber-aware league drop Young too far in your next draft. He’s got eligibilities all over the diamond, should manage at least ten home runs and five stolen bases, and his worst batting average since 2004 was .284. That’ll play in your league, somewhere, as long as the price is right. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Now no longer the shortstop, Michael Young has been reduced to super-utility work for the Texas Rangers. His loss is fantasy’s gain: he can now give you a good batting average and runs and RBI from multiple positions around the diamond, as long as you don’t pay too much.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/5/1983 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: OF|
Profile: A couple of years ago Young looked like a guy whose contact issues were going to make it hard for him to translate his power and speed into performance. In 2010 and 2011 he increased his walk rate substantially, which has made all the difference. Young is going to be lucky to hit even .250, but he has hit 20 or more home runs four of the last five seasons, and has had 20 or more steals the last two. Sure, he’s helped a great deal by what is probably the most hitter-friendly homne park other that Coors Field, but that’s not your problem. He’s a good bet to go 20-20 again, and that has value in all leagues, particularly NL-only leagues or leagues that specify outfield positions. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: The likelihood of another 20-20 season gives Young good fantasy value despite the low batting average. Being the National League’s version of B.J. Upton is a good thing.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/25/1985 | Team: Rockies | Position: OF|
Profile: Young made a great deal of progress at Triple-A, hitting .363 in his 42 games down in Colorado Springs, a great improvement over the .299 and .252 marks he had posted there the previous two years. His improved work showed at the majors, though aside from his stolen base total, the improvements didn’t show up in the superficial categories to which Rockies manager Jim Tracy pays attention. Young has improved his wOBA and wRC+ in each of his three Major League seasons to the point where he is now nearly league average, but it appears the Rockies have run out of patience with him. Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, and now Marco Scutaro seem to have leapfrogged Young on the depth chart, and there is talk that he could be traded before the season starts. If that happens and he ends up with more playing time, he could be a sleeper just based on his stolen base count. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Young is never going to be very good, but if he can improve to league average and net additional playing time, he could steal 60 bases in a season, something that will always have value on a fantasy squad.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/14/1985 | Team: Tigers | Position: OF|
Profile: Young was not able to build on his breakout 2010 season, as his wOBA bottomed out to a career-worst .302. While his season wasn’t super in the aggregate, he was better after being dealt from Minnesota to Detroit, as his power came back strong. That’s not to say you can blame his problems on Target Field. Of the nine ballparks where Young has at least 100 plate appearances, his .761 OPS at Target Field ranks second in the group. He gained a little notoriety, and likely some decent job security, by returning from injury to play hurt in the American League Championship Series, but while that sentiment may help him stay in Jim Leyland’s good graces, it won’t help you much in 2012. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Young may post a decent batting average, but his counting stats will be woefully inadequate for a starting outfielder — consider him a bench option only.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/28/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: 3B|
Profile: This might be the perfect storm. Ryan Zimmerman has probably been a little over-valued for a few seasons with all of his potential and high-ceiling-ness and after coming off an injury-riddled 2011 campaign without much to point to in the way of counting stats, Zimmerman might be as cheap as ever — and at age 27, could be primed for a great comeback season. It’s tough to pin down the effects of an oblique injury, but after what was a terribly disappointing June, Zimmerman actually hit .302/.365/.455 with nine home runs and 17 doubles. Given a full and healthy season, that projects out to be awfully similar to the Ryan Zimmerman of old, and at age 27, if all is skookum with his health, we could see another .290/.370/.490 kind of year with 25 home runs and buckets of runs and RBI to compliment. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Don’t be afraid to jump on Zimmerman if his price is suppressed by injury concerns or managers that can’t look past his 12 home runs in 2011. Zimmerman is just 27 and a big year could be ahead.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/26/1981 | Team: Rays | Position: 2B|
Profile: One of the league’s elite multiple-position defenders, Zobrist also is a doubles machine and strong hitter. He has had a few down seasons with the bat (or just one, if we disregard his first two, partial years), but he is yearly a threat to go 20-20. In 2011, he hit 20 homers and stole 19 bases and should do much of the same in 2012. Think something in the 130 wRC+ range, with a lot of his value coming from doubles — which hurts his fantasy value. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Zobrist is a great real-life player, but his doubles talent hurts his fantasy value. His flexibility and near-20-20 ability will make him an asset to most fantasy teams nonetheless.
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