The MLB off-season can set up a player for success or disaster. Some teams made a big splash, while others are still looking for a solution. Each team has the potential of making 2011 a season to remember, but which players are looking to take the fantasy scene by storm?
Postion changes or calling a new town home can be just the spark a player needed to become an elite fantasy option. Understanding exactly which off-season moves impacted which players is the key to a successful 2011 fantasy baseball campaign.
On a team that lacks much of anything outside of a strong farm system—that's what years of holding the Majors worst record will do for you, Billy Butler is really the only guy that can be counted on to produce for the lowly Royals.
David DeJesus and Zach Greinke are no longer with the team. DeJesus signed with the A's and Greinke was sent to the Brewers this offseason.
Butler will have to be called upon more often to hopefully lead his team to a winning record. He proved that his 2009 stats—.301 BA, 21 HRs and 93 RBIs, was not a fluke by going out and bringing his batting average up to .318, slugging 15 HRs and knocking in 78 runs.
On a team with out many bright spots, Butler will once again be called upon to carry this young and hopefully improving team.
The Pirates have a few young guys on their roster who can really play. Just being on one of the most pathetic franchises in recent memory does not help their cause. Everyone knows Andrew McCutchen, but someone who really stepped up in his first year at the major league level is Neil Walker.
The Pittsburgh native, posted a .296 BA in 110 games and hit 12 HRs. Walker spent a majority of the season hitting out of the three spot in the lineup which provides him with plenty of opportunities to hit with runners on base. I definitely expect to see an increase in his 66 RBIs as long as the Pirates get on base in front of him. That might be a rather daunting task. With McCutchen batting ahead of him, Walker could be the man to knock in the speedster.
The Pirates might lose for years to come, but owning Walker will make you a winner.
For years we have heard about this young man in the Indians farm system. His minor league stats live up to his drat hype. At AAA, he posted a .299 BA, 17 HRs and 60 RBIs in one full year.
His first full year with the big boys proved to be less than stellar. LaPorta only hit .221 with 12 HRs and 41 RBIs. That is not the kind of production Indian fans are looking for from their future.
Now the Indians seem to be selling off more players than they are bringing in, but with a full year at the majors already under his belt, LaPorta will reach his potential.
Figgins had a horrible first season with the Mariners. Seattle doesn't boast too many bright spots outside of King Felix and Ichiro, but Figgins was suppose to bring some life to the Mariners' lineup. In 2010, he did anything but.
With the Angels, Figgins hovered around .300 and eclipsed 100 runs twice. He might not have the same opportunities to produce from a runs stand point since the Mariners are at the bottom of he majors in runs scored, but he can get his average much closer to .300. He only hit .259 in 2010.
As the batting average goes up, so will the stolen bases since Seattle will need to find ways to manufacture runs and Figgins is one of the best base stealers in the league.
Figgins is also moving back to third base, which is where he is most comfortable. Hopefully easing his mind in the field will ease his mind at the plate.
Dustin Ackley will also bring more fire power to the line up along with Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo which will give Figgins more opportunities to score.
Figgins failed to impress in 2010, but expect a much better output in his second year in Seattle.
Cody Ross hosted a coming out party in the playoffs for the Giants. After coming over from the Marlins, he was a force. Ross seems to have found a home with the Giants and with the return of nearly all of the key parts from the championship winning squad, 2011 looks fantastic for Cody.
Even with out Juan Uribe next season, the Giants line up is packed with talented hitters. Huff is back, Posey is ready for a fantastic sophomore year and Miguel Tejada still has some pop left in his bat.
With the players surrounding Ross, the RBI opportunities will be limitless. He fits in perfectly in San Fran and is poised for a great season in 2011.
Ty Wigginton slugged 22 HRs in Baltimore in 2010. He moved over to Colorado this offseason. I see a recipe for success brewing.
With Todd Helton at the twilight of his career, Wigginton will surely take over the first base position early in the year. If that does not play out, Wigginton can play virtually anywhere on the diamond and the Rockies did go out and sign him for a reason.
He will get his fair share of playing time and with Tulo, CarGo, and himself in the lineup, Coors field will surely witness plenty of long balls.
Wigginton cracked the All-Star team for the AL squad last year and could definitely do it again in 2011 for the NL. The Orioles will be said they let this guy slip through their fingers.
Juan Miranda never had much of a chance with the Yankees. There was a guy name Mark Teixeira who had first base pretty much locked up and from what I hear he's pretty good. Nonetheless, Miranda ran out of options with the Bronx Bombers and now finds himself a starter in Arizona. Once Adam LaRoche left, the spot was his for the taking.
Arizona is a launching pad and Miranda has a pretty sweet left-handed stroke. In three years at AAA, Miranda amassed 42 HRs, a .287 BA and knocked in 177 RBIs. When given the opportunity, Miranda can play. He know joins another former Yankee, Ian Kennedy, in Arizona who has seen his career turn around while with the D-backs. The same could be in store for Miranda.
Keep this guy on your watch-list this season. He will make his presence felt.
Kendry Morales was on a tear in 2010 before he was a little too excited after hitting a walk-off homerun. He tried to show off his hops, hit home plate the wrong way and the rest is history. Game won. Season over.
Before his freak injury, Morales was hitting .290 with 11 HRs and 39 RBIs. Morales' return seems to be the only bright spot going into 2011 for the Angels. Mike Scioscia's squad was burned by Carl Crawford when he signed with the Red Sox and fell short in the Beltre sweepstakes. Without much else to look forward to, even more weight will be on Morales' shoulders.
Let's not forget that this team was in the ALCS in 2009. They have a fantastic coach and a good group of players. Morales is the cream of the crop and he will rise to the top.
Jon Garland was the final notch in a deadly Dodger starting rotation. Garland pitched great for a Padres' staff that will regret letting him become a free agent. He posted a 3.47 ERA and had a 14-12 record. The Dodgers' already boast the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda and adding Garland to the mix makes this staff one of the best going into 2011.
The Dodgers' have a young, strong line up as well, so the win total will only rise for Garland. He no longer has the pressure on him to try to be the ace or the number two man on a staff and can flourish as a third or fourth starter.
The Dodger front office made a great move by adding Jon Garland to their staff and he will surpass expectations.
Theriot went from the Cubs to the Dodgers last season and now finds himself clad in Cardinal red. This could be the best situation he could find himself in.
In a lineup with names such as Pujols, Holliday, Rasmus and up-and-coming David Freese, Theriot could wrack up the runs. I wouldn't be surprised if he eclipses 100 runs this season in this potent lineup.
His BA has hovered around the .280 mark and I would say it finishes around there again. Theriot has always been an above average player, but 2011 is the year he becomes one of the best second basemen in the National League.
Travis Wood will make a major impact for the Cincinnati Reds this season. In 17 games, Wood finished with a 5-4 record coupled with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Wood is the southpaw the Reds need in their rotation.
Wood held opposing batters to a .222 BA in 2010 and kept lefties at a ridiculously low BA at .136.
Right now Wood is down in the minors, but with a strong spring training, Wood will be back in the majors. He has big league caliber stuff and will make his mark in the bigs.
Ike Davis might play in the confines of the pitcher friendly Citi Field, but that did not stop him from blasting 19 HRs in 2010. His average leaves room for improvement at .264, but for a rookie, those are some stats we can deal with.
Jason Bay will be returning next season and be looking to improve on a horrible first year with the Mets. This will only open the door for Davis, who will look to avoid the "sophomore slump." I player of his caliber will definitely only improve next year.
The Mets need a glimmer of hope and Davis is that. He will be one of the best first basemen in the NL next year. This ball club will go into 2011 with something to prove under new manager Terry Collins and Ike Davis will lead the charge.
Cameron Maybin might have never lived up to his hype in Florida, but a change of scenery will bring a breathe of fresh air to Maybin. He goes from a losing team, to one only two games away from winning the NL West.
Maybin put up huge stats in the minors, but never lived up to the billing with the Marlins. In only 82 games in 2010, he posted a pitiful .234 BA with eight HRs and 28 RBIs. Smells like a major bust. The Padres swept him up and this is the year Maybin becomes the star he has always been predicted to be.
Sometimes a new place to call home is all a player needs to break out of their shell. This years break out player will be Cameron Maybin.
Logan Morrison was rather unknown until last year. He came up for the Marlins and in 62 games had a batting average of .283. Pretty good if you ask me.
What stands out to me is the way that he hits left handed pitchers. Usually a left-handed, rookie especially, well struggle hitting southpaw pitchers. Not Morrison. He actually faired better against them than he did against right-handed pitchers hitting .342 and .257 respectively. That shows me that he some real potential. It is harder to teach a player to hit against like-handed pitchers. With some grooming, he will be able to slug righties.
Maybin has left for the Padres and Morrison as the starting left fielder. Uggla also signed a mega-deal with the Braves and Florida needs someone to fill the void. Look no further then Morrison.
Delmon Young is a beast. He bats with his tongue hanging out of his mouth similar to Michael Jordan did as stepped back to nail a fade-away jumper with time expiring. With Justin Morneau out of the lineup with a concussion and Joe Mauer not performing at his usual super-human level, it was up to Young to carry this team on his back.
He did this and then-some.
Young finished the year with a .298 BA, 21 HRs and 112 RBIs. The boy can rake. He doubled his homerun and RBI production from 2009.
With Morneau coming back and Mauer looking to get back to his MVP form, this lineup looks dangerous.
There was a reason that the Phillies tried so hard to keep Happ on their roster and likewise there was a reason that Astros pushed so hard for him in the Oswalt deal.
With the Phillies in 2009, Happ started 23 games and finished with a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA. In 2010 with the Astros, he went 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA. Happ does pitch in one of the most pitcher friendly ball parks and with a full season with the Astros ahead, look for that ERA to finish below three.
He might not win as many games as he would have with the Phillies, but his WHIP and ERA will be one of the best in the National League.
The Brewers went from a one man staff to a three-headed monster. With the likes of Shaun Marcum and Zach Greinke taking the pressure off Gallardo to win games, Yovani finds himself in a fantastic situation.
At only 24-years old, Gallardo has a bright future ahead of him. In 2010, he went 14-7 with a 3.84 ERA pitching for the lowly Brewers and being the only true ace on the staff.
The Brewers are looking to make a splash next year, Gallardo will not have the full wait of the team on his shoulders with will correlate to a exceptional 2011 campaign.
Billy Bean is known for stealing players in the draft based on his sabermetrics. This year he landed a nice steal in free agency.
DeJesus was being looked at by plenty of teams this offseason, but it was the A's who landed the underrated outfielder. Before breaking his wrist against the Yankees in 2010, he was putting together a nice season. Batting .318 with five HRs and 37 RBIs on a lowly Royals squad is pretty impressive.
He now finds himself the starting left fielder for the up and coming A's who finished second in the AL West. Going from a perennial loser to a near playoff contender will help this 31 year-old have a career year.
Hey, if the Yanks were looking at him, he must have something to bring to the table.
Ryan Raburn has become a popular pick for a breakout year in 2011 and rightfully so. In 113 games last sesaon, he posted a .280 BA with 15 HRs and 62 RBIs. Don't forget the fact that he was one of the hottest players after the All-Star break hitting .315 with 13 of his 15 HRs.
Cue in Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson and this line up will provide Raburn with plenty of opportunities to make some noise. With the departure of Johnny Damon and the likelihood that Magglio Ordonez goes down with an injury, this team will be looking for Raburn to really step up.
Mike Napoli has pop in his bat. He swatted 26 HRs for the Angels last season and now finds himself in Arlington where balls fly out like no one's business. This Ranger squad could take down Toronto for the most homeruns in the league next season. The bats in that lineup are potent.
Napoli can DH, play behind the dish or take on duties at first base making him an everyday player one way or another. His BA might make you hesitant as it was a mere .238 in 2010, but his power makes up for it quite nicely.
The Rangers brought Napoli in for a reason and that reason is to hit long balls. You should do the same.
If arm strength was able to get you points in fantasy, Nick Markakis could be a No. 1 pick. The man has a rocket for an arm, but that is off topic. Markakis has been a steady performer in a Orioles team packed with potential, but always falls so, so short.
In 2011, the Orioles brought in power hitting Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee. Two guys that will bring more pop to this line up. Markakis will not be more protected in the lineup which will allow his BA and RBI totals to soar. In 2010, he hit .297 and knocked in 60 RBIs. I'm predicted .315 and 85 RBIs in 2011. He is that talented.
Matt Wieters has not come into his own yet and Luke Scott is not enough of a threat in the line up on a daily basis to help Markakis out. With this years off-season moves, I'm seeing Markakis' stock sky rocket.
Zimmerman has been the only bright spot on a young, but promising Nationals roster. Looking to take 2011 by storm, they went out and inked Jayson Werth to a mega deal hoping to go from the cellar of the NL East to the top.
Even though Adam Dunn has since departed from DC, the Nats have some other big time bats in their line up to protect Zimmerman. Adam LaRoche, Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth will provide Zimmerman with plenty of opportunities to come up with men on base.
At the ripe age of 26, he has a Carlos Gonzalez-like season written all over him.
Matt Garza was dealt to the Cubs in a mega deal this winter. The Cubs unloaded their farm system to bring this guy in and the move will pay dividends. The AL East is the hardest division in baseball and AL pitchers always fare better in the NL. Take out the AL East and put in NL Central and you have perfect situation.
Garza had his best season in 2010, going 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA and let's not forget the fact that he threw a no hitter last season. The 27-year old has nasty stuff. His off-speed pitches fall right off the table leaving hitters lunging at thin air.
Imagine what his ERA and wins total will look like next season? One can only guess, but I'm looking at a near 20-game winner.
With Andy Pettitte still contemplating hanging up his spikes, it is time for the "Super Nova" to take center stage. Don't let the 4.50 ERA and 1-2 record catch you off guard. This guy can pitch. Last year in AAA, Nova posted a 12-3 record with a 2.86 ERA.
The Yankees need a young pitcher to step up and help everyone forget about that Cliff Lee character. With the Yankees line up, Nova should be able to have a high win total based solely on the run support he will receive.
Nova showed flashes of brilliances in his stint at the major league level and will have the opportunity to showcase his ability. He is a player who will cost a late round draft pick, but will produce like a mid round gem.
Jeremy Hellickson is another product of the superb Tampa farm system. Breaking onto the scene in 2010, Hellickson started in four games and won each of them, going 4-0 on the season. He is a rare talent, that will have to fill the void left by Matt Garza. David Price and Hellickson will be a fantastic one-two punch next year.
Hellickson keeps his walks low and posted a 33:8 K/BB ratio in 2010. That ratio will be even better with a full season at the Major League level.
He will have his stumbles and have his "Welcome to the Big Leagues" moment, but there will be plenty more positives than negatives for this young stud.
With the departure of Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton finds himself as the closer of the Chicago White Sox. This team boasts a lethal line up which will provide Thornton will plenty of opportunities to tally up the saves.
A left handed closer is a rarity in the Majors and could really work in Thornton's favor. Ozzie Guillen has shown confidence in the lefty by already naming him the closer and not having him battle for the position.
This team will pile up the wins in 2011 after missing the playoffs in 2010. Matt Thornton could fly under the radar going into next season, but everyone will know his name quickly because of his lock-down closer abilities that will be on display.
The Cliff Lee saga ended with him turning down millions of dollars to pitch where he felt the most at home. Got to hand it to the guy. When you are in a place that you love, the perform at your highest level. Cliff Lee on this roster is a scary thought and him on your fantasy roster will be just as scary.
In his short stint with the Phillies in 2009, Lee went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA. With Lee, you know what you are going to get. Since turning his career around in 2008, Lee has become a pitcher who out smarts you. He doesn't walk batters and knows how to make opposing hitters look like Little Leaguers.
The might have lost some firepower on the offensive side of the ball, but they will make up for it with one of the best rotations of all-time. Lee will be the center piece of a championship season for many fantasy owners.
J.P. Arencibia has power. That might be an understatement. His AAA stats speak for themselves. Arencibia finished with a .301 BA, 32 HRs and 85 RBIs. Say hello to the next big catching star. Scouts might have fallen in love with Jesus Montero of the Yankees, but J.P. deserves some love too.
In his first game at the big league level, Arencibia went 4-5 with two HRs. He might have faded after that performance, but with a full spring in the Majors and with Joe Buck down in Florida, the stage is set for this young man.
The Blue Jays are a power hitting team and Arencibia fits right in. Mark my words, Arencibia will be a top five catcher by the end of the year.
As much as it pains me to write this—I am a die-hard Yankee fan, the Red Sox found a premier first baseman who will flourish in Boston. The short porch in right field will be home to plenty of Gonzalez's moon shots.
Even though he is coming off shoulder surgery, I expect the 28-year old to bounce back in a big way. Gonzalez hit 28 HRs in the pitcher-friendly PetCo Park. Fenway is anything but pitcher-friendly. His swing was meant for this park. I wouldn't be surprised if he eclipses 35 HRs in 2011.
The Red Sox look scary good and Gonzalez will have an MVP type performance in his first season with the Bo Sox.
Dan Uggla signed a massive extension this off-season with the Atlanta Braves. He is in his prime and coming off a massive year where he hit .287 and blasted 33 HRs. I only expect those numbers to increase as he goes from a pretender in the Marlins to a contender in the Braves.
Uggla will fit in perfectly in a line up that already includes Jason Heyward and Brian McCann. With a chance to play in the postseason, Uggla will have that extra incentive to perform at a higher level than he already has.
Uggla already had one of his best statistical seasons in 2010 and he will surpass it in 2011. New scenery is just what this star needed to become one of, if not the best, second baseman in the Majors.