Any casual fantasy baseball player can rattle off the names of the surefire first and second round picks. These guys are household names that, health permitting, will almost certainly produce big time stats.
But fantasy championships are not won during the first few rounds of any draft. Instead it is the value owners can get later in the draft that can prove to be the difference between disappointment and glory.
Every year players come out of nowhere and lead fantasy teams in ways no owner could have imagined. In 2010 Jose Bautista was off everybody's radar until he mashed 54 homeruns in Toronto. Meanwhile Paul Konerko was left for dead by most owners but had a renaissance season with 39 HR and 111 RBI.
The key in fantasy is to try and figure out who these surprise stars will be and get great value at a discounted price. The price could be down because they are yet to emerge, coming off an injury riddled campaign, or simply due to an uncharacteristic down year in 2010.
These players are ones you should consider reaching a round early in draft formats or going the extra dollar in any auction leagues.
Without further delay here are the top ten under the radar fantasy stars that could lead your team to a 2011 championship.
With 2010 closer Billy Wagner retired and top setup man Takashi Saito now in Milwaukee, the door is open for Kimbrel to take over closing duties in Atlanta.
At just 22 years old Kimbrel was dominant at AAA in 2010 posting a 1.62 ERA with 23 saves. Kimbrel had similar success when he got a late season opportunity on the big stage.
In just 20.2 IP Kimbrel tallied an astonishing 40 K's to go with a 4-1 record and a 0.44 ERA. he then showed he was not scared of the big stage when he struck out seven in just 4.1 innings pitched during the Braves playoff series.
Obviously these numbers are not sustainable over the course of a big league season, but they still show that he has the arsenal to get people out in the big leagues.
Kimbrel is the perfect example of why fantasy owners should wait to draft closers. He will likely be taken after all the closers who have a track record and solid job security, but could outproduce all of them.
On what figures to be a much improved Atlanta Braves team there will be plenty of save opportunities and Neftali Feliz showed last season that rookie closers can succeed. Don't shy away from Kimbrel in the late rounds while seeking a second closer.
Just a few years ago it would have seemed absurd to suggest drafting a pitcher who will start half his games in Coors Field. However, now their rotation is full of fantasy options.
Chacin went 9-11 with a 3.28 ERA during his 137 innings pitched while with the Rockies. Colorado struggled to find him a full time role in the rotation so he was back and forth between the big show and AAA in 2010.
After a September that included a 1.78 ERA and 29 K's in four starts that will definitely not be the case in 2011.
With a spot in the rotation all but secure fantasy owners need to start looking at Chacin, who recorded an impressive 9.0 K/9 during his time in the big leagues last year.
Currently Chacin has an ADP of 313 according to MockDraftCentral, which would put him after the 25th round in standard twelve team league.
Seems like a price worth paying for a 23 year old pitcher poised to break out.
Hill will be atop many Don’t Draft Lists after blowing up in the face of owners who deemed it wise to spend an early round pick on the breakthrough second baseman.
However, by many accounts he was unlucky, as he was bad in 2010. Hill was consistently a player that was said to be a good add after unhappy owners cut bait.
This was in large part due to his unusually low BABIP of .196. It was something that most fantasy analyst thought was due for a turnaround in the later half of the season.
The brighter days never came for Hill in 2010. But he is still just a season removed from a 36 homer and 106 RBI campaign as a second baseman.
If Hill can come anywhere close to these totals then he will be a huge steal for 2011. If you miss out on the top second basemen then wait to draft Hill and expect a different season and he could come at a very reduced price.
Depending on your league settings Raburn could be eligible as a second basement which would up his value even more heading into 2011.
At 30 years old it may seem too late for a coming out party but Raburn could definitely have just that as he finally gets a full season of at bats.
Over the last two seasons he was in a part time role with the Tigers but still managed to swat 31 homers in 632 at bats. That translates to a HR every 20.4 at bats which is sweet music to fantasy owners ears.
Raburn also went off after the All Star break last year and was a key component of many fantasy championships in 2010. Following the Midsummer Classic he batted .315 with 13 HR and 46 RBI.
When Raburn finally he gets a full share of at bats in 2011 he should make the Tigers, and his fantasy owners, very happy. Make sure to look his way for great value late in the draft.
The departure of Jayson Werth has opened up the door for the Phillies top prospect to start the season in right field.
Last year Brown struggled in his 62 at-bat audition in the big leagues which hopefully will keep some fantasy owners from selecting the talented prospect. However, the Phillies still thought highly enough of Brown to include him on their
Many question whether Brown will be able to sustain a legitimate batting average but few question his combination of power and speed.
Last season Brown hit 20 HR and stole 37 bases in just 389 AB between the Phillies' AA and AAA affiliates.
If things break right for Brown he could make a run at a 20/20 season in Philadelphia. If he is somehow able to maintain a respectable batting average then he will also tally RBI totals with Victorino and Ibanez likely hitting in front of him.
Sounds like the possibility of great value for a player being ranked in the same tier as the likes of Tyler Colvin, Carlos Beltran, and Marlon Byrd in some circles.
After the trade of Garza it now seems official that Hellickson has solidified a spot in the Rays rotation for 2010. Hellickson’s talent was showcased with a brief stint on the big stage for the Rays in 2010.
After dominating in AAA with a 2.45 ERA and 9.4 K/9, he finally was rewarded with a chance to pitch in the bigs and he certainly took full advantage.
He gave up no more than three earned runs in any of starts and won three of his first four decisions.
This season Hellickson should be able to build off his numbers due to the experienced he gained in his callup and as a reliever during the Rays chase for the pennant.
According to MockDraftCentral, Hellickson's ADP is 213 which puts him around the 17th round in standard 12 team league. At that price Hellickson is definitely worth the gamble and could be as high as a number three fantasy starter to end the year.
Santana is overshadowed by that other rookie catcher that broke out last year and went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. However, few people remember that Santana was every bit his equal before he was lost for the season due to a knee injury.
In 2009 Santana hit 23 homers and had 97 RBI during a full season at AA. He was then well on his way to similar production last year in AAA before being called up to the Indians.
Many people have considered him a Victor Martinez clone partly because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate and hit for power. Yet his ADP has him as the seventh catcher coming off the board after the likes of Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto.
Hope that others look too much into his 2010 injury and pass on him for lesser talent at the catcher position. Draft him and expect big things that includes an upside as a top three catcher heading into 2012.
Stanton's name is one that many people have heard so he may not seem like a player that is flying under the radar. After all he was one of the top tier prospects in baseball heading into 2010.
However, based on where he is being ranked compared to his potential output that is exactly what he is. Stanton is rarely seen as a top twenty outfielder and according to MockDraftCentral his Average Draft Position is 135, which places him outside of the first ten rounds.
Nobody can doubt that Stanton’s power gives him home run upside that few outfielders can match. In just 359 big league at bats he hit 22 HR.
But his batting average and alarming strikeout rates make Stanton a player some fantasy owners might avoid. Don’t be one of them.
A .316/8/19 September shows a player who started to figure out pitching at the big league level. Do not rule out a 40 HR campaign.
How quickly fantasy owners seem to forget. Ellsbury entered last year as baseball's stolen base king and a consensus top ten outfielder.
In the two season before 2010 Ellsbury had 96 runs scored and 60 stolen bases. Unlike other stolen base leaders, such as Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn, he was not a one trick pony either. Although not overwhelming numbers, Ellsbury still managed to contribute an average of 9 HR and 54 RBI.
Undeniably Ellsbury's value deserves to take a hit after a forgettable 2010 season. But currently many people don't rank him as a top twenty outfielder and he can be had after round five of a standard twelve team draft.
His dropoff is not from a lack of production, but rather several freak re-occuring rib injuries. Barring a major setback Ellsbury will be ready for spring training and should have no lingering affects during the year.
His spot in the batting order is yet to be determined, but if he does return to the leadoff spot of the lethal Red Sox lineup he should have a good shot at a career year.
A full season of at bats could reasonably come with a .300 batting average, 100 runs, and 60 stolen bases. The opportunity for excellent value in Ellsbury is evident by the groups of players being selected in the same vicinity. Go get him.
Heading into 2010 it seemed like Bruce had been a longtime fantasy disappointment but he was still just 23 years old. Once a premier prospect he had fallen out of favor in many fantasy circles thanks in large part to huge strikeout totals and a low batting average.
However in 2010 Bruce reminded everyone why the Reds rushed him to the majors in the first place by setting career highs with 25 homers and 70 RBI. Meanwhile he was able to raise his batting average to a respectable .281.
Many people may find his batting average to be a fluke after two seasons where he combined to hit a meager .240. But Bruce perennially hovered around a .300 average during his days in the minor leagues.
Keep in mind that his struggles at the plate happened at such a young age. Last season after the All Star break he managed to hit .306 with 15 homers and 34 RBI.
Next season with another year of experience under his belt ,and playing in the bandbox in Cincinnati, Bruce could easily approach 30 homers. Act accordingly.