MLB Fantasy: AJ Burnett and 11 Players Who Will Be Worth a Gamble in Your Draft
Spring training is upon us, and for baseball nuts like me, it's time to start scouting for fantasy baseball. Whether you like the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees or even a random team like the Arizona Diamondbacks, there's no denying that fantasy baseball is tons of fun! Soon the trash-talking will be flying high in the draft room and new rivalries will be forged.
I could go on and on about which players are a lock for a good season, which players will get the most home runs, etc. But let's instead take a look at players who are solid but are still a question mark in terms of effectiveness in 2011. Should the pitching staff be supported by tricky Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly or unpredictable AJ Burnett (pictured at left) of the New York Yankees?
Here are 11 players from around the league who, despite an off 2010, are worth a shot this season.
No. 11: Mark DeRosa, OF, San Francisco Giants
It's probably unfair to say that Mark DeRosa had an off 2010. Yet, based on stats alone, he kind of did.
In the first year of a two-year deal he signed with the Giants, DeRosa only hit .194 with one home run and 10 RBI. Those numbers weren't exactly what team management was expecting from a guy who hit .250 with 23 homers and 78 RBI in 2009. It was later determined that DeRosa had a serious wrist injury that would require season-ending surgery. He had the procedure in June.
Still, DeRosa is a valuable fantasy player when he's healthy. He won't give much in terms of batting average, but he's good for power and he might even help in runs scored. Give him a shot if he's available in the later rounds of your draft.
No. 10: Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves
For the past few seasons, Chipper Jones has clearly been slowing down. He has only appeared in more than 140 games once since 2003, and he hinted he would retire last season after going down with a knee injury. Today Chipper is in camp and "feeling good".
Even though he'll probably miss a lot of time with various aches and pains, Jones is still a good option for any fantasy team. He is only two seasons removed from a year in which he batted .364, and he still has decent power from both sides of the plate. If you're desperate for a third baseman, he's always a good choice.
Just make sure you have a solid backup infielder.
No. 9: Lance Berkman, OF/1B, St. Louis Cardinals
There's no other way to say this. Lance Berkman had an awful 2010. He only hit .248 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI, not what one would expect from a switch-hitter with the ability to hit 40-plus home runs.
Still, it must be remembered that Berkman played most of last season with a bad knee and was later slowed by a sprained ankle. This year he has lost some weight and he is looking for a fresh start in St. Louis.
Age may be taking a toll on him, but Berkman is still solid. He's much better suited in the National League. Now that he's healthy, he will surely bounce back. Give him a shot if he's available in the middle rounds and you need an outfielder.
No. 8: Russell Martin, C, New York Yankees
For the past couple of seasons, Russell Martin has not looked like the man who batted .293 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI in 2007. Since that year, his offensive numbers have declined. Maybe it was injury problems, maybe it was Joe Torre's managing style. Regardless, I'm convinced that Martin will bounce back.
He missed most of 2010 with hip and knee injuries. With both repaired, it's time for him to make a statement in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. In leagues in which on-base-percentage count, give Martin a shot. His career OBP is .365!
No. 7: Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets
The 2010 season was cruel to Jason Bay. After a stellar 2009 that saw 36 home runs and 119 RBI, Bay only hit .259 with six homers and 47 RBI. To add insult to injury, he also missed the entire second half with a concussion.
The fact of the matter is that as long as Bay is playing in Citi Field, his power numbers are going to be low. Still, this should be a bounce back year for him, as he will be better accustomed to the park's dimensions.
Keep an eye on Bay in spring training. If he does well and you're in need of a power-hitting outfielder, take him in the middle-to-late rounds of your draft.
No. 6: Chone Figgins, 3B, Seattle Mariners
If there's anyone who is a pest on any team, professional or fantasy, it's Chone Figgins. He scores runs, hits well for average and, most importantly, steals bases. That's why the Mariners signed him to a long-term deal after the 2009 season, but his 2010 was not what one would expect of him.
Figgins only hit .259 (down from .298 in 2009) with one home run and 35 RBI (down from five and 54). He only scored 62 runs on an underachieving Seattle squad.
On top of that, he often clashed with then-manager Don Wakamatsu. It was their altercation in the dugout that ultimately led to Wakamatsu's firing. This season he has Eric Wedge and should definitely see a comeback.
Give Figgins a shot in the early-to-middle rounds of your draft if you need steals. Remember, he also gets a lot of hits and scores a lot of runs when he's on his game. If the Mariners' offense is running on all cylinders, Figgins will be a benefit to any fantasy team.
No. 5: AJ Burnett, P, New York Yankees
I'm going to be blunt. AJ Burnett had an awful season in 2010. He went 10-15 with a career worst 5.26 ERA.
People can go on and on about how Burnett is done, how the Yankees wasted their money, etc. But the big right-hander deserves the benefit of the doubt in this case.
Not many people know this, but 2010 was a rough year for Burnett off the field too. His grandfather passed away, his father has had health problems and on top of that his pitching coach, Dave Eiland, just flat out left him for a "leave of absence." This year he has a new pitching coach in Larry Rothschild and he should hopefully rebound.
Fantasy drafters must remember that AJ Burnett is essentially a two-pitch pitcher. That's hard to do in the American League. This year he has a tested NL veteran behind the plate for him who knows how to handle those types of pitchers. Give Burnett a shot if he's available in the middle rounds and you're in need of strikeouts.
No. 4: Dan Haren, P, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Even though he went 12-12 with a 3.91 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 2010, Dan Haren's year was off. His ERA the previous four seasons was in the mid-threes or lower, and his stuff just wasn't there last year.
The Diamondbacks traded him to the Angels at the trade deadline to cut costs, and he saw improvement on a team that actually provided him with run support. The Angels are expected to take the American League West this year, and Haren will be a big part of that.
Simply put, this man does it all. He has a great ERA, strikes hitters out, and he has phenomenal WHIP. If you're looking for a staff ace in the early rounds of your draft, give Haren a shot.
No. 3: Carlos Zambrano, P, Chicago Cubs
Now that Lou Piniella is retired, it's time for Carlos Zambrano to go back to being his old self. Sure, his 2010 was less than memorable, but let's take a look at the numbers anyway.
Big Z went 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA and 117 strikeouts in a season that was marred by a slow start, a shift to the bullpen, clashes with his manager and then a team suspension. Yet, upon his return and over his final 11 starts, Zambrano went 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
With Mike Quade now at the helm, it's time for Zambrano to continue that hot streak. He won't be the opening day starter this year, but look for him to re-establish himself as a top ace in 2011. If you need strikeouts and/or quality starts, take Big Z in the middle rounds.
No. 2: Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco Giants
After the Giants won the World Series last season, team general manager Brian Sabean issued an ultimatum to Pablo Sandoval. Report to spring training in better shape or you're out of here.
Sandoval answered the bell as he weighed in at 245 pounds, down from last year's 278. Hopefully, the man they call "Kung Fu Panda" will have a comeback year in 2011. He has the ability to go deep from both sides of the plate and he hit well above .300, so he's a valuable asset in any league.
Given his poor 2010, chances are that Sandoval will be available towards the final rounds of most drafts. I wouldn't take him as a starter, but he's a great bat to have on the bench. If he gets off to a good start, by all means move him up in your lineup!
No. 1: Zack Greinke, P, Milwaukee Brewers
After an unbelievable 2009 (16-8, 2.16 ERA, 242 strikeouts) that ended with his winning the AL Cy Young Award, Zack Greinke regressed in 2010. He went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA and only 181 strikeouts. With no talks of a new contract brewing, he asked to be traded and ultimately was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Now that he's in Milwaukee, Greinke should have another Cy Young-caliber season. He's on a team that's sure to provide him with tons of run support as well as one that is ready to win rather than "rebuild".
Even though his numbers weren't great in 2010, snag Greinke in the early rounds if you can. He's got great ace potential and should do nothing but good things as a member of the Brewers.
Anyway, end of countdown. That's all, folks...and good luck in your drafts!