Fantasy Baseball: 10 Players Whose Values Will Skyrocket After Free Agency

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Players Whose Values Will Skyrocket After Free Agency

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    A change of scenery can do us all some good at times.

    With the MLB free agency period ready to kick off, fantasy baseball owners should take notice of offseason moves to determine how it could shape up 2013 draft boards.

    Switching area codes can sometimes hurt more than help. If Josh Hamilton leaves the Texas Rangers or any of the New York Yankees' available hitters skip town, their fantasy appeal will take a hit next spring.

    There are, however, several players who can reap major rewards from offseason happenings. Middle relievers such as Mike Adams could finally capture a spot in the ninth innings, and players blocked from a roster spot could benefit from a teammate's departure.

    If everything falls the right way, these 10 players will rise up fantasy baseball cheat sheets after free agency.

Melky Cabrera

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    Ethics isn’t a category in fantasy baseball.

    After serving a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test in 2012, Melky Cabrera fell off the fantasy radar. Once a team signs him anyway, owners will have no choice but to also reconsider the outfielder.

    Before his season ended prematurely, Cabrera was hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 13 stolen bases, 60 RBI and 84 runs through 113 games. He probably won’t compete for a batting title again or wow owners in any one category, but he’s dependable for production across the board.

    According to Joel Sherman of The New York Post, the New York Mets could pursue the 28-year-old this winter. More teams in a similar position as the Mets will likely attempt to obtain Cabrera at a bargain and hope the negative press from his suspension dissipates.

    Why not do the same thing in fantasy leagues? I’ve never loved him as a fantasy option before his image took a hit, but now he might come at a nice price.

    Are you willing to get your hands dirty to win your league?

Mike Adams

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    Mike Adams picked the worst possible time to have a down season.

    The usually dominant middle reliever produced ordinary numbers in 2012 that could inhibit his chances of receiving a big pay day and job working the ninth inning. Some teams, however, might look at his full body of work and roll the dice.

    In 52.1 innings last season, Adams earned a 3.27 ERA, but his 1.39 WHIP and 45 strikeouts fell way below his typical standards. Since arriving in the majors during 2004, Adams has posted a career 2.28 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 365 strikeouts in 363.2 innings.

    This offseason, Adams will get surgery to combat thoracic outlet syndrome, which leads to arm fatigue, according to MLB.com. Any squad looking for a premier reliever should forgo expensive closer options such as Jose Valverde and sign Adams at a discount.

    The 34-year-old looked poised to inherit the San Diego Padres' closing gig before they shipped him off to the Rangers. He could have then received a shot at Texas, but they picked up Joe Nathan last offseason.

    Next season, Adams could finally get the chance he deserves to become a fantasy superstar.

Jonathan Broxton

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    Then again, some people can’t cut out old habits. Decision-makers with an old-school mindset still seek relievers with saves attached to their stat line.

    Jonathan Broxton returned from a rough two-year stretch to seize the Kansas City Royals’ closing gig. He recorded 23 saves for the Royals before the Cincinnati Reds acquired him ahead of the trading deadline to support closer Aroldis Chapman in the late innings.

    Although Broxton did not accumulate saves for the Reds, he boosted his resume prior to hitting free agency by striking out 20 batters with only three walks.

    He’s not the same dominant power arm that fanned 114 batters in 2009, but Broxton is still a solid fantasy option if someone signs him to work the ninth inning.

Leonys Martin

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    Hitting 43 homers with a .577 slugging percentage apparently doesn’t take you as far as before. Despite those dazzling numbers, Josh Hamilton’s time in Texas appears to be over.

    The ultra-talented, yet inconsistent slugger fell out of grace by contributing to a late-season collapse culminating with a loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the new one-game playoff.

    Although Texas will struggle to replace that power production, it does have a rookie waiting for the chance to man center field in Arlington. Leonys Martin presents a much different repertoire than Hamilton, but it’s one that a squad loaded with power bats could afford to gain.

    The 24-year-old could serve as a more conventional leadoff hitter in a spot that’s a gold mine for runs. Martin registered a .422 on-base percentage in Triple-A last season and has a career .388 mark through 603 minor league plate appearances.

    Not known for his power, Martin smacked 12 bombs last season during 55 games, albeit in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He struggled to conquer the big leagues, producing a .174/.235/.370 slashing line in 24 games, but prospects have recuperated from porous debuts before.

    Don’t expect him to fill Hamilton’s shoes, but Martin could supply a few steals and a bounty of runs if given the opportunity.

Hiroki Kuroda

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    Any decision Hiroki Kuroda makes this offseason can garner a positive outlook.

    If Kuroda stays with the New York Yankees, he will continue to receive the run support that helped him win 16 games this season.

    Placing a fly-ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium had disaster written all over it, but Kuroda excelled while pitching in the Bronx. There’s no reason to make the same mistake from last year and overlook Kuroda because of his new location.

    If he leaves, then he will almost certainly pitch in a more favorable stadium. He actually performed better at home this year, but that does not ensure repeated success in the bandbox adjacent to the House that Ruth Built.

    Either way, Kuroda is a sturdy veteran worth all drafters’ attention next season.

Scott Hairston

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    Calling all teams looking for a platoon player to start against left-handed pitchers: Sign Scott Hairston.

    Hairston excelled in a limited role for the Mets last season, slugging .550 with 11 home runs off southpaws. While he only hit .239 against righties, he still hit nine home runs.

    Very rarely does a 20-homer, eight-steal season fall through the cracks so quietly, and he only needed 377 bats to tally those totals. What if a team signs him to play every day?

    The 30-year-old offers little plate discipline, but the power has always existed. When he received 326 at-bats in 2008, Hairston slugged 17 home runs. And that was while he played for the Padres.

    Unless he stays for a home-town discount, Hairston probably won’t play for the Mets next season. As a guy who played in pitchers’ parks since 2007, he might be tempted to test his power swing in a more desirable location next year.

Roy Oswalt

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    At first glance, Roy Oswalt’s abbreviated 2012 season seems awful. Take a closer look, and there’s hope for him to return with a vengeance next season.

    Arriving late to the Rangers, Oswalt posted a 5.80 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 59 innings pitched. The opposition treated his pitches like a piñata, piling up 79 hits and 11 home runs.

    But it still is not as bad as it seems. Oswalt also notched a strikeout per inning and only allowed 11 free passes. An incredibly high .378 BABIP and 18.6 percent home run/fly-ball rate explain some of his horrific results. Through all that perceived failure, he earned a 3.27 xFIP.

    Although Texas can hand Oswalt run support, moving away from the small, AL stadium would help him return to normalcy in 2013.

Miguel Olivo

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    Those of us in two-catcher leagues know that you can’t get too greedy searching for your second guy.

    He won’t help in the average department, but Miguel Olivo has reached double-digits in home runs during each of the last seven seasons. Only one of those years resulted from playing with the Colorado Rockies.

    For the past two years, Olivo struggled with the Seattle Mariners, where hitting 12 round-trippers just might be enough to assert Olivo as one of their top hitters.

    According to R.J. White of CBSSports.com, the Mariners have already decided not to pick up Olivo's $3 million option for next season. A starting role in a new destination could catapult the veteran back into fantasy relevance.

    Asking for a return to Colorado would be demanding too much (and also a poor choice since they have youngster Wilin Rosario), but moving to a decent offense at a neutral park would boost his power stats and guide him toward a 15-20 homer season.

Francisco Liriano

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    No matter where he goes, Francisco Liriano’s value probably shouldn’t budge. We should all remember the pain he’s inflicted among naïve fantasy owners over the years and officially part ways with the talented headache.

    That probably won’t happen. Not yet at least.

    Liriano fits the prototype of a change-of-scenery player who needs a new location to mend his declining career. All this time he pitched to an ERA above 5.00, all he really needed was a shift to the National League.

    Somebody will inevitably incite the call to give Liriano one more chance. He received this opportunity when he jumped ship from the Minnesota Twins to the Chicago White Sox midseason, but he produced the same results with his new team.

    While Liriano struck out 167 batters in 156.2 innings, he still posted a 5.34 ERA and 1.47 WHIP caused by 87 walks. He also fanned 15 Oakland A’s in July, so somebody will bite one more time.

    I’m not endorsing Liriano in 2013. I’m just afraid that some drafters will be blinded by the promise of a fresh start.

Jason Giambi

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    Colorado is a great place for an aging power hitter looking to remain relevant, but Jason Giambi belongs in the American League.

    Although the 41-year-old faced a power outage last season, it’s hard to place too much onus on a .303 slugging percentage that came in only 89 at-bats. He caused much more damage in 2011, hitting 13 homers in only 131 at-bats.

    Somebody in the AL might be desperate for a designated hitter who can clear the fences. Perhaps the Yankees bring him back after four poor games result in the team pressing the panic button.

    Or maybe another former AL team can give him another shot. After all, you know what he still does at the ripe old age of 41? That’s right Jonah Hill; he gets on base.

    Trusting Giambi at this point in his career is a stretch best saved for a desperate major league squad and an AL-only fantasy gamer. With regular playing time (at least against righties), Giambi could offer 20 home runs.