Our late round option series of articles continues this week with five options to help you in average. It is not usually easy to come up with guys in those last few rounds that are going to be an asset here, but here are a few names worth considering.
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
If he had catcher eligibility, he would likely be a pick made in the top 12 rounds, but as a 3B he just doesn’t carry much weight. He did show some power last season, with 23 HR between Double A, Triple A, and the majors (three in 145 major league AB). The major league total is scary and not what any owner wants to see from a corner infielder.
His average is an entirely different story. He hit .350 in the minor leagues, which he followed up with a .345 clip in the major leagues. For those who want to believe that it was just one hot stretch, he carried it over to the Venezuelan League, hitting .396 in 192 AB (along with 12 HR actually).
Obviously, a decrease could be in order, considering his .367 BABIP, as well as his minuscule walk rate (2.7 percent) in the major leagues. It also should be noted that in 2006 and 2007, he posted averages of .264 and .287 in the minor leagues. He’s a great hitter, and one that should certainly help your team late in drafts with the ability to hit right around .300, but I wouldn’t take him expecting the moon.
Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers
If your team is in need of anything besides average (and maybe runs), this is a player that I would avoid at all costs. He hasn’t reached double-digit HR since 2004 or double-digit SB since 2003. What he can do, however, is hit.
A career .306 hitter, Polanco has hit over .300 in three of the past four seasons, including .331 in ‘05 and .341 in ‘07. Those numbers certainly would help to offset a .240 or two you have from a few of your sluggers, wouldn’t it?
He rarely strikes out, posting a K% over eight percent just once (and that was way back in 1999), which certainly aids in his average. He’s got a career BABIP of .317, showing that as long as he doesn’t suddenly fall off the table, he should continue to hit for a higher average.
Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers
Another player who you shouldn’t gamble on if you are looking for power or speed, though as an OF'er he has some potential value. He showed 20/20 potential in 2006, with 19 HR and 20 SB, but after a 10 HR, nine SB campaign in 2008, you have to temper your expectations, especially given his back problems.
The guy still has the ability to hit for average, however. Before last season’s dip to .286, he had posted four consecutive seasons at .296 or better. A decreased BABIP was part of the reason, as he posted a .321 (compared to being above .350 from 2004-2006).
A rebound could be in order, and when you throw in the fact that he should have eligibility at 1B, 3B, and in the OF, he’s worth consideration. Just don’t look for him to give you any help in the power department.
Ryan Church, New York Mets
He hit .319 in April, followed by a .299 May. He was on the verge of becoming a tremendous breakout story when he suffered a concussion, sending his season into a tailspin. He hit just .219 in the second half of the season, giving the impression that it was just an ordinary season for the career .272 hitter.
That really was not the case, and you’d be remiss to think in those terms. His biggest question during his tenure with the Nationals/Expos franchise was playing time, and he showed that with regular AB he has the potential to be a solid option for fantasy owners in leagues that require five OF’ers.
It is not often that a player is considered a sleeper in back-to-back seasons, but to me that’s exactly what we are looking at here. Church showed that last season's claims were not unfounded, but his injury has caused owners to once again look away, scared of his potential to return to what he showed in early ‘08 (similar to the fears regarding Aaron Hill).
Church once again enters the season with the potential to fully break out. That makes him a tremendous pick in the last few rounds.
Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
I spoke about him as one possibility as a late round power option a few weeks ago, meaning Butler is a rare mix late in your draft. A lack of a true position hurts his value, but he should have eligibility as a 1B in most leagues. In 1,532 career minor league AB, he posted an average of .332, including hitting at a .337 clip after being demoted to Triple A last season.
Don’t believe in the translation of numbers from the minor leagues to the majors? Then you would be much more interested to hear about his .305 average after the All-Star Break last season, showing that he has the ability to hit at the major league level as well.
I know he struggled early on last season, posting a .249 average prior to the Break, a number that many people are pointing to as a reason to avoid him. Given his minor league track record and the incredible progress he showed in the second half, there’s reason to believe that 2009 could be the year he finally puts it all together.
Remember, he made his major league debut at just 21 years old, so it shouldn’t be completely unexpected that it took him some time to get accustomed to the situation. Now, at age 23, he appears primed for success.
So, there you have a few options that may be available to you in the late rounds of your draft. Do any of them appeal to you? What other options are you looking at? Let’s hear it!
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