Fantasy Baseball 2013: Can't-Miss Hitters You Must Draft to Win
Every year, a player drafted in the late rounds turns out to be a difference-maker. For example, Mike Trout's ADP last season was 218 and he turned out to be the fantasy MVP (stats courtesy of Rotochamp). Guys like Trout, Bryce Harper and Billy Butler were "can't-miss players" last year who certainly helped their owners.
With a fresh new season rolling upon us, it's time to analyze 2013's crop of can't-miss players.
The guys who make this list aren't going to be the usual suspects. Of course Ryan Braun is a can't-miss player who will help you win, but I'm digging deeper. I'm going to point out guys who are being undervalued, and I will help you win the draft in the later rounds.
Without further ado, here are can't-miss players hitters at each position who will help you hoist your championship next fall.
(ADP numbers in the following slides are courtesy of Mock Draft Central)
Catcher used to be a shallow fantasy position. It's not loaded with superstars, but it isn't as scarce as it used to be either. Don't feel the need to reach for a catcher because there's plenty of depth that will provide serviceable players.
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
ADP: 138.87 overall, 12th catcher taken
Lucroy was off to an incredible start last year until a freak accident derailed his season. In 96 games, he ended up hitting .320 with 12 home runs, 58 RBI and an .881 OPS (which would have been the second-higest mark amongst MLB catchers had he registered enough at-bats).
He was widely overlooked last year, but don't make the same mistake in 2013. He's only 26 years old and has improved his batting average in each of his three MLB seasons. Furthermore, according to ESPN's Park Factors, Miller Park ranked first in home runs last season.
2013 Prediction: .290 BA, 14 HR, 55 R, 65 RBI
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
ADP: 235.63 overall, 24th catcher taken
For the majority of the 2012 season, Martin struggled. From April to August, he hit .198 with 14 home runs. Then he got hot in September and October. In the final two months, Martin raised his average to .258 and blasted seven home runs.
Now he's in Pittsburgh, where he won't have as good as an offense, but he'll bat higher in the lineup. According to MLB Depth Charts, Martin will hit sixth, which is much better than the nine-hole he was hitting out of last season.
2013 Prediction: .250 BA, 16 HR, 55 R, 55 RBI
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
ADP: 312.27 overall, 32nd catcher taken
Ramos will have to battle Kurt Suzuki for the starting role, but I don't think he'll have a problem with that. Suzuki is coming off a season in which he hit .235 with six home runs. Plus, Ramos is having a much better offseason. In November of 2011, he was abducted in Venezuela, which certainly shifted his focus away from baseball related activities.
Ramos is also coming back from a torn ACL, but MLB.com's injury report shows that he's been completing full-body workouts since early November. He is just 24 years old, and he has shown the potential of providing solid fantasy numbers.
2013 Prediction: .265 BA, 14 HR, 45 R, 50 RBI
Others to consider: Brian McCann (174.08 ADP) and Carlos Ruiz (211.04 ADP)
First base is a stacked position. In 2012, there were 14 first basemen who hit 20 or more home runs, and six of those 14 hit 30-plus. Obviously you don't want to wait too long to snag one, but the added depth will allow you to address other needs.
Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers
ADP: 239.89 overall, 26th first baseman taken
Berkman struggled to stay on the field in 2012. After making more stints on the disabled list than hitting home runs, Berkman opted for knee surgery. Berkman contemplated retirement, but he signed a one-year deal with the Rangers—a move that will be both beneficial to him and fantasy owners alike.
Since he signed with an American League team, he'll be able to DH the majority of the time. Any way you can limit the wear and tear of his fragile body is a plus.
Secondly, he'll have first base eligibility. Berkman played 23 games at first base last year, meaning he won't bog down your DH or UTIL slot. Lastly, MLB Depth Charts lists Berkman as the No. 3 hitter, which is a great spot on that team.
2013 Prediction: .275 BA, 20 HR, 65 R, 70 RBI
Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
ADP: 326.74 overall, 31st first baseman taken
Since having a breakout season in 2009, Lind continues to disappoint fantasy owners. In '09, Lind hit .305 with 35 homers, but he hasn't hit higher than .260 since then. Lind's annual underachievement has dropped him down the rankings, so now you can get him at a value
Lind reached an all-time low last season when he was demoted to the minors. The move seemed to motivate him. He hit .392 with eight homers at Triple-A and then hit .304 with four home runs for the Jays after the All-Star game. The average might never hover around .300 again, but he still provides a nice source of power.
2013 Prediction: .265 BA, 22 HR, 60 R, 65 RBI
Others to consider: Ryan Howard (127.39 ADP) and Adam LaRoche (134.67 ADP)
Second base remains as a shallow position. There's a huge drop-off from the guys at the top: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Brandpn Phillips. Unfortunately, you might have to reach for players like that, but if you miss out, here are a couple players to look out for.
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
ADP: 75.51 overall, seventh second baseman taken
Zobrist isn't spectacular in any category, but he's above average in every one. Last year, Zobrist hit .270 with 20 home runs, 88 runs scored, 74 RBI and 14 stolen bases. With numbers like that, he will help you fill up your offensive stat line week in and week out.
Zobrist's versatility is another reason why he's so valuable. He'll have outfield, second base and shortstop eligibility for 2013. Not many people realize how important that is. Your team will most likely suffer a key injury, and Zobrist allows you to plug him in several positions.
2013 Prediction: .270 BA, 20 HR, 90 R, 85 RBI, 15 SB
Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
ADP: 149.46 overall, 10th second baseman taken
Seager broke out in 2012, hitting .259 with 20 homers and 13 steals. While those numbers might seem a little unimpressive, keep in mind that Seager was just one of four second-base-eligible players to hit 20-plus home runs and steal 10-plus bags.
There's also reason to think that Seager's average will rise. His BABIP was 17 points lower in 2012 than it was in 2011. If you couple a better BABIP with improved plate discipline (he walked more and struck out less in 2012), Seager's average should be higher. His home runs might come down a bit, but he's a value because he has second and third base eligibility.
2013 Prediction: .275 BA, 17 HR, 70 R, 70 RBI, 12 SB
Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals ... ADP: N/A
When the Cardinals missed out on signing Marco Scutaro, Wong's fantasy value skyrocketed. The 22-year-old's path is blocked by Daniel Descalso, but it will just be a matter of time before the highly touted prospect is called up.
Wong was ranked as the No. 5 prospect by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus in 2012. He spent the entire year at Double-A and hit .287 with nine homers, 79 runs and 21 steals. He was invited to play in the Arizona Fall League and he raked. In 17 games, Wong hit .324 with a home run and five stolen bases.
2013 Prediction: Look for Wong to be called up before the All-Star game. It could be sooner if the Descalso experiment doesn't work out.
Others to consider: Aaron Hill (93.90 ADP) and Chase Utley (190.56 ADP)
Like the catcher position, shortstop is developing more depth. There used to be a huge discrepancy from first to tenth, but with the emergence of guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Ian Desmond the gap has shrunk. Waiting a long time for a shortstop isn't suggested, but if you do, here are few late-round guys to help you out.
Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies
ADP: 223.69 overall, 15th shortstop taken
When Troy Tulowitzki went down with an injury, Rutledge filled in beautifully. As a 23-year-old, Rutledge hit .274 with eight home runs and seven stolen bases in 73 games. With that performance, he will be the Rockies' Opening Day starter at second base.
His MLB success last year wasn't a fluke. He hit .346 with nine homers and 16 steals at High-A in 2011 and then hit .306 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases at Double-A last year before getting called up. What's there not to love about Rutledge? He's young with potential, and he calls his home stadium Coors Field.
2013 Prediction: .285 BA, 15 HR, 70 R, 65 RBI, 15 SB
Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros
ADP: 256.43 overall, 22nd shortstop taken
Lowrie was well on his way to having a monster year—until injuries ruined his season. In 97 games, he hit just .244 but belted 16 homers with 43 runs and 42 RBI. Despite missing 65 games, Lowrie still ranked fourth amongst all MLB shortstops in home runs and OPS.
It's becoming a theme for Lowrie to land on the DL and perhaps he's too risky. I would say Lowrie has been unlucky, and it's hard to look away from a shortstop who has 20-homer potential. There were just three shortstops who reached that mark a year ago.
2013 Prediction: .260 BA, 20 HR, 70 R, 60 RBI, 2 SB
Others to consider: Andrelton Simmons (252.38 ADP) and Yunel Escobar (292.62 ADP)
Third base has a few superstars (Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, David Wright), but there's a lack of talent outside of the top 10. Do you really want to trust Pedro Alvarez or the aging Marco Scutaro and Michael Young? Address your third base situation early, but if you miss out, look for these players.
Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox
ADP: 176.14 overall, 12th third baseman taken
I'm a little surprised that Middlebrooks isn't drawing more attention. As a rookie, he hit .288 with 15 homers, 54 RBI and four stolen bases. He filled in nicely when Kevin Youkilis was injured, and then he did a great job of securing the position when Youkilis was traded.
Right now, MLB Depth Charts has Middlebrooks batting fifth, behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. He's got a ton of talent hitting in front of him, so he'll have plenty of RBI opportunities. As a 24-year-old, you can expect Middlebrooks to mature in all facets of the game, especially in the power department.
2013 Prediction: .275 BA, 28 HR, 75 R, 90 RBI, 10 SB
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
ADP: 324.68 overall, 28th third baseman taken
I put Chisenhall on a list similar to this last year, and he failed to break camp with the Indians. So let's try this again. When Chisenhall eventually got called up, he hit .268 with five homers in 43 games. Like, Middlebrooks, he's just 24 years old, so he's got plenty of upside.
He proved that he belongs in the MLB. In 30 games at Triple-A last year, Chisenhall hit .314 with four home runs and an .858 OPS. Right now, guys like Mike Olt, Jordan Pacheco and Matt Carpenter are going ahead of Chisenhall. Don't make that mistake. He's capable of a 20-homer season.
2013 Prediction: .270 BA, 18 HR, 55 R, 65 RBI
Others to consider: Todd Frazier (205.20 ADP)
Outfield is always a loaded position. Every year, an outfielder comes out of nowhere and puts up very respectable numbers. Last year, two-thirds of my outfield corps came from the waiver wire.
Slightly after the midway point, Torii Hunter and Ryan Ludwick earned a spot on my squad and stayed there for the rest of the season. If you decide to wait on an outfielder, here a few options that will produce.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
ADP: 27.30 overall, 11th outfielder taken
When I first started writing this article, I never anticipated Giancarlo Stanton would find a place here. After looking at Mock Draft Central's numbers, I was very surprised. Stanton is roughly being drafted 27th overall, which I find insane. In my mock draft written a month ago, I ranked Stanton 17th.
Some of the guys going ahead of Stanton are: Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton. I'm not saying any of those players are bad, but they shouldn't be drafted higher than Stanton. Maybe Miami's fire sale situation is scaring owners away, but there's nothing to be afraid of a 23-year-old physical specimen.
2013 Prediction: .280 BA, 43 HR, 85 R, 100 RBI, 5 SB
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
ADP: 228.46 overall, 66th outfielder taken
Myers dominated in the minors last season. Across Double-A and Triple-A, Myers hit a combined .316 with 37 homers, 98 runs, 109 RBI and six steals. Many have been anxiously awaiting Myers' call up, and it seems like it's just right around the corner.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he won't rush Myers, but I don't expect the highly-touted prospect to get too comfy in Durham. Back in 2008, Evan Longoria started the year at Triple-A, but he was called up in April, in the Rays' 11th game of the season. And remember, Mike Trout started last year in Triple-A and completely dominated the MLB the rest of the season.
2013 Prediction: .255 BA, 20 HR, 55 R, 60 RBI, 5 SB
Darin Mastroianni, Minnesota Twins
Who's Darin Mastroianni? Well, according to MLB Depth Charts, he's the guy who will be the Twins' starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. He was called up last season and had an impressive rookie campaign. He hit .252 and stole 21 bags in 77 games.
His speed will be his obvious asset. His 21 steals in just 186 plate appearances last year projects very well. If he can register 450 at-bats in 2013, 35 stolen bases is certainly attainable.
Monitor the situation more closely as the season comes closer. Mastroianni will be battling Aaron Hicks for the starting gig. If he wins the job, he'll be a nice source of stolen bases, runs and batting average.
2013 Prediction: .285 BA, 7 HR, 75 R, 35 RBI, 35 SB
Others to consider: Adam Eaton (204.33 ADP) and Domonic Brown (ADP unavailable)