Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Small-Market Gems to Reach for
Not playing in a big market makes it easy to fly under the radar, but don't be caught with your pants down when it comes to these big-name studs. The numbers will be there at the end of the year for these guys, even if you don't see a lot of them on national television.
Note: All rankings are according to Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN's Top 250 Player Rater.
No. 23 Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Your draft plans probably center around picking up Matt Kemp, but guess what, if you don't pick in the top three (conservative guess), you're not getting him. Fortunately, McCutchen will be there for the taking, and he is an admirable fill in, to say the least.
If you're picking towards the bottom of a deep league with more than 12 teams, I would take him in the first round. Otherwise, he is a middle second rounder and should easily be in any draft's top 20.
While Kemp has the misfortune of playing roughly 100 games at Dodger Stadium, PETCO Park and AT&T Park and in the division with the best pitching in baseball, the National League Central's stadiums are at at worst neutral for hitters.
McCutchen is a real 30-30 threat that will help your scoring in runs, homers, RBI and steals. Even his 2011 average of .259 will bump up, as McCutchen had hit .286 in each of his prior two MLB seasons.
No. 42 Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals
Who will be the better fantasy player in 2012?
Don't look now, but the Royals are slowly assembling a lineup that will be awfully hard to pitch against. What that means for Gordon, who is a part of that lineup, is that he will have men on base to drive in and hitters behind him for protection.
With the exception of the Tigers, there isn't a team in that division that you think of as boasting a classic shutdown pitching rotation.
This is all going to work in Gordon's favor. The Royals aren't a high-profile team, but his numbers will be up there with some of the best outfielders in the game. Don't plan on him going beyond the top 36 in your draft. If he does, consider it an absolute steal.
No. 110 Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF Colorado Rockies
Michael Cuddyer will have over/under 99.5 RBI in 2012?
Making the move from Minnesota to Denver will be good across the board for Cuddyer. His big power swing will play extremely well at Coors Field and the Rockies are undeniably better than the Twins. The chances will be there, as will the pitches.
Cuddyer doesn't have the overall game of either McCutchen or Gordon as he's not going to steal bases, but his power numbers will be among the better ones in the league.
Do yourself a favor and don't let him slide behind the 95th pick, 100th at the absolute worst. You don't want to see those power numbers going to your opponent. What makes Cuddyer even better is his versatility.
He played 17 games at second base a season ago. While that's probably not enough to use him there at the beginning of the year, it's not inconceivable that he will pick up midseason eligibility. That will only make things better.
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