Hope you all enjoyed the holiday break, now let’s dive back into the rankings. The pickin’s are pretty slim in Tier Five, with two young upside players among a trio of still useful veterans. There will probably be one more tier after this just to tie all the loose ends together, but there’s not much sense in going any deeper. As always, I’ve included Zach Sanders’ end of season player values for reference.
Paul Goldschmidt – N/A
Power is sexy, and there aren’t many players out there with more of it than Goldschmidt. The 24-year-old clubbed 83 homers with a .303 ISO in 315 minor league games before getting called up in early-August and hitting eight homers with a .224 ISO in 177 late season plate appearances for the Diamondbacks. He fills out the three-true outcomes checklist nicely with a 12.6 BB% and a 23.6 K% in the minors. I suppose there’s a chance Lyle Overbay will steal some playing time from Goldschmidt early in the season, but that should be a non-issue later in the summer. The fans project a .254/26/83 line as of this writing, which is right in line with what I expect next year. Count on a Trumbo-like year with some more usefulness in OBP leagues.
Justin Smoak – -$5
The 2011 season was a brutal one for Smoak, both on and off the field. A thumb injury limited his production (.316 wOBA) and the loss of his father in April was surely difficult. A fresh start and a new year is just what the switch-hitter needs, especially after he was hitting a respectable .252/.348/.486 with a dozen homers through the team’s first 66 games before the injuries and stuff set in. The fans project a line similar to Goldschmidt’s — .264/22/88 — though I’ll take the slight under given the difference in ballparks. Safeco eats up righties, and Smoak figures to bat from that side of the plate at home about 30% of the time next year. There’s definite breakout potential here, just don’t expect many runs or RBI given his teammates.
Todd Helton – $7
Helton has a real nice dead cat bounce year in 2011, providing value in the rate stats (.302 AVG and .385 OBP) while being useful in the power department (14 dingers). The end is near at 38 years old, but the best player in Rockies’ franchise history still slashes enough line drives (27.1% in 2011 and a position best 24.9% from ’09-’11) and draws enough walks to remain useful in the rate categories. He’s not a starter in most leagues, but Helton is still a top notch injury replacement.
James Loney – $5
From likely non-tender to a potential $6 million payday, Loney kept his job with a dynamite finish to the season: .388/.438/.679 with seven homers in 147 plate appearances. Of course he was hitting just .254/.305/.327 with five homers in his first 434 plate appearances of the season, as well as .267/.329/.395 with ten homers in 2010. Loney’s line drive rate started to recover from its 2010 nose dive last in the season, and he is right in the prime of his career at age 27, so a return to his .296/.355/.444 form from ’07-’09 isn’t completely out of the question. The only problem is that he’s never hit for power (career high 15 homers came in 2007), so you’re counting on that batting average and the potential for 80+ RBI.
Derrek Lee – $3
Another one of those mid-.200 batting average, ~20 homer guys, wrist and thumb problems (and age) have sapped his Lee’s production in recent years. His walk rate also cratered last season (just 6.9% after essentially ten straight years of 10.0%+), making him less valuable in OBP leagues. Lee still has some pop and could contribute those 20 homers with good health (he hit 19 in 477 PA in 2011), but he’s still without a home for the season and home ballpark matters. Like Helton, I’d consider him an injury replacement only.