2011 Fantasy Baseball: 15 Players I Like More Than Most and Why

Nathan PalatskyCorrespondent IIFebruary 23, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball: 15 Players I Like More Than Most and Why

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 11:  Former MLB player Gary Carter and former MLB player Ozzie Smith congratulate Softball Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch after she hit a home run during the MLB All Star Game Celebrity Softball Game at Angels Stadium of Anaheim on
    Michael Buckner/Getty Images

    As mock drafting continues, there are certain players falling down the draft boards that need to be noticed and grabbed by savvy owners. There's no excuse for some of these players being casually passed up.

    These are simply the 15 players that jump out as people being drafted way lower than they should be, for the return they provide, and the upside for even more. This isn't an excuse to reach way overhead for them, as that defeats the point. But definitely grab them a round or two earlier than they are listed, and enjoy the bargain. 

Kendry Morales

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 29:  Kendry Morales #8 of the Los Angeles Angels at bat against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on May 29, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Freak injuries don’t generally reoccur. I feel pretty safe expecting .285, 30, 90 RBI and I think he’s at least a better than 50% bet for 100 RBI. After the 1B tier with Morales and Morneau, there isn’t a lot of legitimate power after them. If you see Morales coming up, and don’t have a first baseman yet, I wouldn’t pass.

    The gap between Morales and the next tier of 1B is cavernous, with, perhaps, Ike Davis Billy Butler or Gaby Sanchez next in line. 

Ian Kinsler

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Ian Kinsler #5 of the Texas Rangers warms up during batting practice against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

     Yes, he is injury prone. But he is only one year removed from 31 HR and 31 SB. There just aren’t 30/30 guys around the league anymore, so I don’t understand why people have him outside the top-5 at a weak 2B position.

    Considering the people above him, if he plays 145+ games, I feel confident saying he would end the season as the #1 2B in fantasy. He is still young, still posses the 30/30 talent, and Michael Young is in town still, so Kinsler could see a bunch of games at DH to keep him well rested.  

Pablo Sandoval

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 19:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the San Francisco Giants takes a few warm up swings prior to batting practice at Scottsdale Stadium on February 19, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

     He has lost 30 pounds, and reports out of San Francisco say he looks amazing. He’s moving his feet better, which makes him less of a defensive liability, and means less late-game replacements.

    If he keeps it off, he could go back to being a .300+ hitter with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI. There is the question of protection in the lineup, but this is a guy that batted .330 just one year ago. If he has truly gotten in shape, this could be a huge year for a young guy at a very weak position. 

Jose Reyes

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    PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Shortstop Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets throws to first base during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 25, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mets won 5-2. (Photo by Hunter Ma
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    I’m buying. The guy stole 30 bases with a bad oblique last season. I’m also buying because after Hanley, Tulo and Reyes, there is a Grand Canyon between him and next shortstop, whoever you have fourth.

    He is more expensive than most guys on this list, going in the third to fourth round of many 12-team drafts, but if he stays healthy, expect worst-case-scenario numbers of .280, 10 HR, 40 SB and 90 R. And I see potential for .300, 15 HR, 60 SB and 100 R. 

    It wasn't long ago, Reyes was a top-5 overall pick. He is still young. And Citi Field works very well with his speed, to provide lots of extra base hits, getting in scoring position for the thumpers behind him.

Danny Espinosa

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 15, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In 2009, Espinosa had 22 HR and 25 SB in the minors. There will be an adjustment period to the rigors of playing full-time in the majors, and his batting average isn’t likely to help you, but this is another guy with a power/speed skill set that can be had very late in drafts.

    And he is a second baseman to boot. How many other owners will be getting 20 HR from their middle infielders? Maybe four or five. Be patient with the slumps that are sure to come, but there is tremendous breakout potential here. And if he works his way to the top of the order, he will be batting ahead of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman who could translate into 80 runs scored for Espinosa.  

Mark Reynolds

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    PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mark Reynolds #27 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on September 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

     In 2010 Carlos Gonzalez was the only player with over 30 HR and 20 SB. Only two players had over 40 HR at all. In 2009, Reynolds had 44 HR and 24 SB. And that was with a respectable .260 average.

    As long as your league doesn’t penalize for strikeouts, Reynolds’ 40/20 ability just doesn’t exist in today’s game. There are a few guys today with 20/40 ability (Hanley Ramirez, Andrew McCutchen, BJ Upton, maybe Matt Kemp) but there doesn’t seem to be anyone with a realistic 40/20 shot.

    Power is on its way down. Even if he bats .250, you can live with it for the rest of the stat-sheet stuffing. 

Jay Bruce

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    CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Houston Astros at Great American Ball Park on September 28, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 3-2 to clinch the NL Central Division title. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Gett
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Bruce hit .280 with impressive power at 23 years old. What else can you ask for? I compare his numbers to Jason Heyward and wonder why the gap in projections for this season.

    Just watch someone take Heyward early, and chuckle to yourself when you get Bruce, and very similar 2011 numbers, for a serious discount. It's not crazy to see .280, 35 HR and 100 RBI, and there is a 40 HR season in his future, perhaps a couple years off.

Adam Jones

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 31:  Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles is congratulated by teammate Adam Jones #10 after scoring in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards on August 31, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Ge
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Jones has repeatedly said he knows he can steal bases. Some young players take a while to learn the baserunning side of things. Perhaps this year he puts it together. There is .280, 20/20 potential here for this season, and there is 30/30 talent if he develops in the next couple seasons.

    The exciting thing for Jones this season is the offensive improvements in Baltimore. He could score 100 runs batting at the top of the order, or knock in 100 batting in the middle. Either way, there will be runs on the board this season. 

Franklin Gutierrez

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Franklin Gutierrez #21 of the Seattle Mariners strikesout with base runners in front of  Bobby Wilson #46 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the eighth inning at Angel Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Anaheim, Califor
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Power and speed are something I simply refuse to pass up. Gutierrez has struggled to get on base, but in 2009 he batted .283 with 18 HR and 16 SB. And he is going at the tail end of 12-team mocks.

    Don’t feel bad if you get to the end of the draft and need another outfielder. Take Gutierrez and enjoy the multi-category production. He has 20/20 ability, with a very respectable average. The problem for Gutierrez will be scoring runs in that offense, but he has the skills to create runs for himself. 

Jair Jurrjens

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens #49 of the Atlanta Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals at Turner Field on September 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Regression should have been expected after he burst onto the scene in 2009, but Jurrjens learned a lot from his struggles, and is under the radar as the Braves’ #3 SP. Don’t be surprised by 15 wins and an ERA 3.50 or lower.

    That wouldn't be particularly special, except that he's going several rounds after most of the guys in his tier, like Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, etc. You can get AT LEAST the same numbers, for a significant discount, and that means spending that earlier pick on something else. 

James McDonald

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    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  James McDonald of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses during media photo day on February 27, 2010 at the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch, in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    He wont win many in Pittsburgh, but he will strike a lot of people out, and I expect an ERA around 3.50-3.75. Considering he can be had at the far back of most drafts, and sometimes is going undrafted, this is a bargain, and another sign of how truly deep pitching is. 

    McDonald was a colossal bust with the Dodgers, struggling until he was traded last season. But in 64 innings pitching for the Pirates, McDonald registered a 3.52 ERA and 1.297 WHIP along with 8.6 K/9. Those are very useful numbers to be going undrafted. Don't let it happen to you.

Brandon Morrow

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    NEW YORK - JULY 04:  Brandon Morrow #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on July 4, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Morrow will strike out 200+ batters this season, if he stays healthy. Just accept that. He will give you solid ERA, 12-15 wins, and a good WHIP, but draft him for the 9-10 K/9.

    Let's be clear, this is a top-25 SP for 2011 if he stays healthy. He is the ace no one knows about. He needed 16 more innings last season to qualify for starting pitcher rankings, and if he had, he would have let the entire major leagues with over 10 K/9. 

Drew Storen

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    CLEVELAND - JUNE 13:  Drew Storen #58 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the game on June 13, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Storen was drafted in the same first round as a certain injured Nationals starter. The Nats know their team is building for a 2012 with that guy topping the rotation, and perhaps a certain 2010 #1 overall pick in the middle of the order.

    So, Storen is likely to have a long leash, and should collect 30 saves with a surprisingly useful ERA. He will have some up and downs as he learns his own strengths and weaknesses, but the overall numbers will probably please you compared to the price. 

Brad Lidge

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 21:  Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after defeating the San Francisco Giants 4-2 in Game Five of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 21, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ha
    Harry How/Getty Images

    I see a lock for 30 saves. And he has the ability to provide a sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIP. I’m not saying you should expect it, but its definitely possible. I see a top-5 closer. People project the Phillies for 100+ wins, but still let Lidge fall past the first 15 RP off the board. Don’t!

    It wasn't long ago that Lidge was a perfect 41 of 41 in save opportunities. He still has the tenacity of that dominant closer, and, if healthy, should get plenty of chances with the Phillies offense getting older and the notable rotation likely to hand him many 2-1 or 3-2 type leads. He is among the most likely candidates for 40 saves, although no one is a safe bet for the number.

Mark Prior

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    PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 5: Pitcher Mark Prior #22 of the Chicago Cubs pitches during a play against the Seattle Mariners during Spring Training at Peoria Sports Complex March 5, 2007 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

     I know, I know. But the Yankees are giving him a chance at a rotation spot. He is young enough to re-emerge given the right circumstances. I don’t have statistical proof that he will earn that spot, but call it a gut feeling he matters in fantasy at some point.

    He is still just 30 years old. At 22, he had 18 wins, an ERA of 2.43 and 245 strikeouts. A guy that can do that, might be worth an add (he won't be drafted) in any league 12 teams or deeper, and certainly in AL-only leagues.