The MLB season doesn't start until March 31, but the offseason is when we start calculating players' fantasy stock.
Where a player signs or gets traded can make all the difference come draft day. A simple change of scenery can bump a player from the seventh round to the fourth. Likewise, a player who stayed put but saw additional talent added around him can also benefit.
Jason Grilli is a prime example this season. He decided to stay in Pittsburgh, and a few months after that decision, the Pirates traded away closer Joel Hanrahan. Grilli will take over closer duties, making him much more valuable.
Here's a list of 10 players whose fantasy stock skyrocketed this winter.
Jason Grilli, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jason Grilli was sensational in 2012. He picked up 32 holds and two saves while recording a 13.81 K/9 and 2.91 ERA. And after trading away closer Joel Hanrahan, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Grilli will start 2013 as Pirates closer.
Last season, Grilli was useful for leagues that incorporated holds, but this season, he'll make a huge jump up the draft board. There's some risk given that Grilli is 36 years old, but his resurgence cannot be overlooked. The average velocity on his fastball has increased every season since 2009 and his BB/9 has decreased every season in that span as well (stats courtesy of Fangraphs.com).
Sergio Santos, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
In 2010, Sergio Santos came out of nowhere and saved 30 games with a 3.55 ERA for the Chicago White Sox. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2012 season, hoping to repeat that success. Unfortunately, his season ended before it really started.
After pitching just five innings, Santos needed shoulder surgery. Since he last threw a pitch, the Jays have vastly improved. They'll present a powerful offense and show off an upgraded rotation. And apparently his health isn't anything to question. Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com wrote that Santos is expected to be 100 percent for Opening Day.
Ryan Madson, RP, Los Angeles Angels
It's very hard predicting saves, but there was a common theme to last year's top five save leaders: They played on teams that won 88 games or more. The Angels have high expectations after making a big splash this winter.
Los Angeles won 89 games last season, and even if it doesn't improve that number, that puts Ryan Madson in a good situation. For his career, Madson has been good. He owns a 3.59 ERA, but he hasn't had an ERA over 3.05 since 2006. He possesses very good control (2.7 BB/9 for his career) and his K/9 is 9.61 from 2009-11. Madson might show some rust at the beginning, but he'll be a reliable option for a loaded Angles squad.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds want to transition lights-out closer Aroldis Chapman into a starter and that opens the door for Jonathan Broxton. Before being traded to the Reds last year, Broxton saved 23 games with a 2.27 ERA with the Royals. Then, as a setup man in Cincinnati, Broxton notched 10 holds with a 2.82 ERA.
Broxton is a little inconsistent, but he is capable of closing out games on a regular basis. His 2012 campaign was a great bounce back from arthroscopic elbow surgery that he received in September 2011. The Reds have a great team, and Broxton will get plenty of save opportunities. Last year, Chapman and Sean Marshall combined for 56 save chances.
Dan Haren, SP, Washington Nationals
Last year was a season to forget for Dan Haren. In 176.2 innings, Haren went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA and a 7.23 K/9 rate. It was the first time Haren was under .500 since becoming a full-time starter, and it broke a string of seven consecutive seasons of compiling 200-plus innings pitched. It was an injury-plaguged season, and ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that his hip was a real concern.
With all this said, Haren will be a value in 2013. Much was written on his health risks and that could potentially scare fantasy owners away. One person who isn't afraid is Bill James. According to his prediction, Haren will have a monster bounce-back season. Even if he falls short of James' projection, he is still in line for a solid season as a back-end fantasy option.
Brett Myers, SP, Cleveland Indians
After being traded to the Chicago White Sox last season, Brett Myers became fantasy irrelevant. He saved 19 games in 21 chances for the Houston Astros, but he only picked up eight holds as a setup man in Chicago. Now, after signing with the Cleveland Indians, Myers appears back on the fantasy radar.
According to a Washington Post article, the Indians promised Myers a starting pitcher role. And, according to MLB Depth Charts, Myers will serve as the Tribe's No. 3 starter. The move back to the rotation obviously raises Myers' fantasy stock. Don't forget that he was 21-22 with a 3.79 ERA in 2010 and 2011 as a starter for the Astros. Myers is 32 years old and is capable of winning eight games with a sub-four ERA.
Anibal Sanchez, SP Detroit Tigers
Anibal Sanchez has a career record of just 48-51, but he owns a 3.75 ERA that proves he's been pretty unlucky. When he decided to stay with the Detroit Tigers, his fantasy value took a boost. Comerica Park is a spacious field that he'll benefit from and he'll have a loaded offense that features Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.
This Tigers team is capable of winning 90-plus games, and Sanchez should reach the double-digit win total for just the second time in his career. You can expect Sanchez to win 12-14 wins with a mid-three ERA for the 2013 season.
Scott Feldman, SP, Chicago Cubs
Scott Feldman's numbers weren't pretty last year: He went 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA. There's more behind those statistics though. He had an FIP of 3.81, an xFIP of 3.87 and a 2.3 WAR. With a discrepancy that big between his ERA and FIP, he was obviously very unlucky last season. And now, he'll be leaving the bandbox in Texas to join a more pitcher-friendly stadium in Chicago.
Not only will he benefit from the stadium change, but he's also be moving to the National League. Feldman's track record isn't the best, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.com points out that his 3:1 K:BB ratio and average ground ball rate put his xFIP with pitchers like Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren.
Lance Berkman, DH, Texas Rangers
Last season, Lance Berkman was an absolute mess. He played in just 32 games and made more stints on the disabled list (three) than he hit home runs (two). Berkman considered retirement after opting for knee surgery last September, but he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers. Since he signed in the American League, he'll be able to DH the majority of the time, and that helps Berkman's fantasy stock immensely.
In his career, Berkman has thrived in the DH role. Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com points out that Berkman is a .322 hitter with a .909 OPS and six home runs in 39 games as a designated hitter. It doesn't look like he'll have a hard time getting adjusted to the league change. A 20-home run season is certainly attainable this year.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Last year, Shin-Soo Choo hit .283 with 16 home runs and 21 stolen bases for the Cleveland Indians. A blockbuster deal sent the outfielder to Cincinnati, where he'll look to find similar success. There's no reason to think he can't improve on those numbers. For one, he will be leading off for a much better offense. Choo will have Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce hitting behind him, so he should rack up runs scored.
Additionally, according to ESPN'S Park Factors, Great American Ballpark ranked second in homers while Progessive Field was 20th. There's plenty to love about a guy joining a better team with a hitter-friendly home stadium.
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