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I outlined the unique way I approach head-to-head hitter rankings a bit in this column. Basically, I value HRs and SBs above all else. Carlos Gonzalez (#3 Hitter, #2 OF) was littered all over that column. He has the seventh most HRs + SBs since 2010 and has been pretty steady. Sure, he hasn’t come all that close to his amazing 2010 – but that is mostly due to injuries. Certainly staying healthy is a skill, but Gonzalez is young (27) and could be entering his prime. Gonzalez is also a lot more than just a power and speed guy – he is tied for the eighth best average, has scored the ninth most runs and has the 10th most RBIs since 2010. In short, he’s an all-star in each and every fantasy category.
A majority of the column on power/speed guys focused on B.J. Upton (#25 Hitter, #14 OF). For a more in-depth view check there, this snippet will provide the highlights. No one has more HRs + SBs since 2010 than B.J. Upton. He can help you dominate 40% of the offensive categories. Upton, 28, saw his HR/FB rate rise for the third consecutive season in 2012. This hasn’t helped his batting average much and you have to worry about his aggressive approach last season, but even with a sub-.300 OBP, he nearly went 30-30. For his career, Upton has hit slightly better away and he is switching to a slightly easier league, so there’s a chance he gains a little in the batting average department. I’ve long been an Upton believer for h2h leagues and 2013 is no different. He should come close to 30 HRs again and swipe 30+ bags easily. It’s foolish to take the over on a .250 average, but, at worst, he’ll come close.
Clearly, in h2h leagues, I’m looking for guys who can chip in across the board, especially with power and speed. Shin-Soo Choo (#29 Hitter, #16 OF) fits this mold pretty well. Aside from his crappy 2011 (injuries and trouble with the law), Choo has been a 20-20 guy since getting full time playing duties in 2009. He has posted steady and superb OBPs and stolen bases at a decent clip. He probably won’t improve much on his 16 HR, 21 SB campaign last season, but there is a chance the move to Cincinnati will up his HR/FB rate. Even still, we’re talking about potentially 20 HRs, nothing overly special. However, the move to the Reds should get him to 100 runs without a problem. He’ll lead-off in front of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, etc. Look at Choo as someone capable of 18 HRs, 21 SBs, and a .285 average. He’ll be a solid four-category guy.
For some time, I’ve been higher on Hunter Pence (#39 Hitter, #25 OF) than most. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well and hasn’t reached double digit SBs since 2010. However, he has hit between 22 and 25 HRs every season since 2008. While Pence really cratered with the Giants, he had a .261 BABIP despite pretty consistent line drives. Perhaps my ranks have Pence a bit high, relying too much on his track record in the midst of his changing scenery. Still, he should come a lot cheaper than I have him and should be a lock for 20 HRs (heck, his relatively poor pace in SF last season was to 19 HRs) and his batting average should bounce back to .280. The RBIs will be there as well, and he’s no slouch in the run department (he’s scored at least 84 since 2010). Again, Pence isn’t spectacular, but will be solid in four categories – that ain’t bad for a low end #2 OF.
Drew Stubbs (#51 Hitter, #29 OF) was also profiled a decent amount in the power/speed article. Stubbs strikes out a lot, surpassing a 28 K% the last three seasons. In two of those seasons, he posted alright averages: .255 in 2010 and .243 in 2011. He had reasonable BABIPs those years. Last season his BABIP was .290 (career = .323) and his average cratered. Stubbs is 28 so he’ll likely never change his approach and limit the K’s. That said, Paul Sporer found an interesting nugget on Stubbs offseason: “Drew Stubbs is looking to discard his leg kick in hopes that it might boost his batting average and more importantly cut his vomit-inducing strikeout rate.” Regardless, he has the ability to use all fields and didn’t benefit a ton from playing in Cincinnati. Given 156 games, you’re looking at 18 HRs, 36 SBs and a .248 average.
Since 2010, Chris Young (#105 Hitter, #57 OF) has just two less HRs and SBs combined than Miguel Cabrera. His 119 HRs and SBs is the 25th most over the past three seasons. While Young has been on a downward trend the last three seasons (average has gone from .257 to .236 to .231 and SBs have gone from 28 to 22 to 8), some of that can be blamed on various injuries he has suffered and he is only 29. If you give him a prorated credit for 2012, his 162 game average over the last two seasons is 22 HRs and 19 SBs. A 20-20 player is nothing to scoff at (just nine players did it last season). His batting average might not get back to .250, but you can sacrifice batting average if you are getting steady contributions in HRs and SBs. A healthy Young is capable of batting .242 with a .330 OBP – this should get him to a decent amount of runs and RBIs (perhaps 80+ of each), nearly 20 steals and he should come close to 20 HRs. Given his lack of success lately, he is probably an afterthought in most leagues.
For some reason, Yahoo! is far higher on Nick Markakis (#110 Hitter, #60 OF) than I or ESPN. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Markakis though. Despite multiple injuries last season, Markakis upped his ISO to near 2007-2008 rates (when he hit 23 and 20 HRs, respectively). At 29, it’s time for Markakis to hit his power peak. He had an 11.1% HR/FB rate last season which can certainly go up. With a healthy season, Markakis will hit 25+ HRs. He’ll also continue to get on base, top 100 runs for the second time in his career and knock in his fair share. The SBs won’t be there, but he’ll be a four category contributor, who is looked at as a fourth OF right now.
Matt Joyce (#120 Hitter, #65 OF) looked to have turned the corner early in the season, but finished up with his same struggles against southpaws (he batted .209 against them and has a .201 career average against lefties). Still, even in part time duty, Joyce came close to 20 HRs – only 32 OFs hit 20 or more bombs last season. Joyce provides a clear blueprint for usage – against righty starters. If you bench him against lefties, you’ll get a far better line than what his 2013 ends up looking like. With some judicious roster utilization, Joyce could be a .260 hitter for you with 18-20 HRs. In addition, he is 28 and could see another step forward in his HR/FB rate, which might add 3-5 more HRs to the docket.
A lot of people are at fault (including myself), but Denard Span (#135 Hitter, #71 OF) doesn’t get a ton of respect. In 2009 and 2010, he stole 23 and 26 bags, respectively. Since then, he hasn’t had a full season due to various ailments. Span gets on base though and should be able to improve a tad on his recent walk rates in the National League. He’ll also be batting atop a pretty feisty Nationals line-up. If healthy, he seems guaranteed to cross the plate 100 times. He can chip in a handful of HRs and 21 SBs as well. He’ll benefit you in runs, SBs and average – not bad for a guy who is a sixth-ish outfielder by most (mine included) ranks.
Tyler Colvin (#139 hitter, #73 OF) was covered in the first base preview.
Norichika Aoki (#150 Hitter, #78 OF) provided a ton of value once he secured fulltime at bats, posting a .295/.360/.442 line after May 8. He chipped in 30 SBs in that time. According to Mr. Sporer, “He hit just .653 on line drives. And yes, it’s only because the league hit .718 on them. If he had matched league average he’d have gained 10 points pushing his average up to .298 last year.” You can even be a bit more optimistic on Aoki than Paul. He has a legitimate chance to bat over .300, steal around 40 bases and he should come close to 100 runs. I have him ranked so low given his lack of plate appearances and the uncertainty that comes with that, but he should be fine and worth reaching for a bit earlier than where I have him.
Carlos Gomez (#169 Hitter, #82 OF) did something rather magical last year, posting a near 20/40 campaign, while hitting 19 of his career 44 HRs. The quantity was odd, but the rates were similar to his 2011 (11.4% HR/FB rate and .177 ISO). In fact, his 162-game average since 2011 is 19 HRs and 38 SBs. There is even more evidence that his power is legit, to quote Mike Podhozer at Rotographs: “But get this — his average fly ball plus home run distance has been 288 feet the last two seasons, a jump from the 274 feet he posted in 2010.” It does appear that the power can be trusted but not the batting average. With his speed, you’d expect Gomez to post a solid BABIP, but, as Pod notes, he doesn’t really hit the ball on the ground, which negates his home to first sprint. Gomez will post a pretty poor average (I’d take the under on .250) and OBP, but that hasn’t stopped him from stealing 35+ bases in the past. I’m also inclined to believe in the power – and wouldn’t be surprised with 15 HRs. The runs/RBIs won’t be there in big quantities, so he’s a two category player – albeit one that looks a lot like Cameron Maybin who is my 50th OF and 89th hitter. Begrudgingly, I’m buying Gomez.
Michael Saunders (#175 Hitter, #87 OF) was all over (sort of) my column on power and speed combo players. I’ve long been a Saunders fan in head-to-head leagues and finally got a near 20/20 season out of him. It should be noted that he hit 10 HRs and stole six bases in just 100 games in 2010 as well. Saunders has been a solid, if unspectacular, minor league performer, who may have gotten a little help last season in the majors. He had a .297 BABIP (.279 for his career), despite hitting a healthy amount of infield flies. Still, he upped his line drive and HR/FB rates and is still just 26 – so he has room to grow. Saunders did take a big step forward in K% and upped his contact rate – however he still swung and missed a ton (11.4%). There is a solid chance, his .247 average last season might be his high watermark for some time, but a .240 hitter with 24 HRs and 15 SBs, as an afterthought on draft day, can really fill out a roster in deeper h2h leagues.
If Lorenzo Cain (#186 Hitter, #93 OF) could stay healthy, he’d obviously be ranked a lot higher. However, despite being 27 in April and having three seasons under his belt, he has just 110 career games. He limped to 61 games last season, but did add seven HRs and 10 SBs. It’s a bit hard to parse his major league track record given it’s spread across so many years, but he has shown power and speed promise throughout the minors. Later in the draft, you can take chances on health risks and unproven “youngsters.” While Cain is both, he could end up providing 12 HRs, 26 SBs and a .268 average. Depending on where he hits in a solid Royals line-up, he could also come close to 100 runs.
I’m typically down on those with little service time and I certainly haven’t ranked Adam Eaton (#226 Hitter, #111 OF) aggressively. Certainly the Diamondbacks seem to be hedging their bets on him by bringing in Tony Campana. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to be optimistic about Eaton’s game. Eaton has routinely posted impressive walk rates. His lowest in the minors was 9.4% at AAA. He puts the bat on the ball as well. With a superb contact rate and good speed, Eaton is able to generate really good BABIPs. Indeed, adding together his walk rate and BABIPs, Eaton hasn’t posted a sub-.400 OBP at any level in the minors. He doesn’t have any power, which is a little worrisome as he’ll have to provide value with singles and SBs, but a decent BABIP (say .315) should get him to a .280 or better average. If that’s the case and he plays a full season, you’re looking at 40 SBs. In OBP leagues, you should reach for Eaton even more.
Given how hard it is to spell his name, I probably should have just bypassed Darin Mastroianni (#251 Hitter, #117 OF), but he did steal 21 bases in just 77 games last season. He isn’t assured of playing time and Aaron Hicks is lurking, but there isn’t a ton of talent on the Twins, so he could find himself filling a super utility role at worse. At best, he’s the starting centerfielder out of Spring Training. There are some concerns with Mastroianni, though. He doesn’t hit righties very well and has very little power. In addition, his .328 BABIP last season led to just a .252 average. He has posted similar BABIPs in the minors, but hasn’t exceeded .330 much. Consequently, it’s hard to count on him duplicating that success on batted balls, which would make him a danger to bat .240 or worse. Still, he has shown the ability to walk a bit, so his OBP won’t be terrible. If he can get a decent amount of games (125 or so), you’re looking at 35+ steals. If he doesn’t reach those games, you’ll have dropped him long ago.
Hot potato Collin Cowgill (#301 Hitter, #145 OF) was traded in each of the last two Decembers, eventually landing in the OF-lite New York Mets organization. Cowgill put up impressive numbers in his first stint at AAA (but that was the Pacific Coast League) and definitely held his own in AA. He was also decent in his debut with the A’s last season: .269/.336/.317 in 38 games. The power was nowhere, but he has posted far better ISOs in the minors (.179 in AA). While he strikes out a bit too much, he walks a good deal and really cut down on his swinging strikes last season (albeit in a small sample). Cowgill should have every opportunity to spend most of 2013 in the majors. While he might not do anything overly special, with 140 games, he could hit 10 HRs, bat .265 and steal 12 bases. In a lot of leagues that is a pass, but don’t ignore him in deeper formats.
The reason Jarrod Dyson (#371 Hitter, #176 OF) is mentioned is the fragility of Cain. Dyson stole 30 bags in just 102 games last year, but, right now, is just a fourth OF behind Cain, Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur. As noted, Cain isn’t the healthiest and Francoeur does suck, so there’s a solid chance Dyson finds his way to a decent amount of playing time. He’s probably not someone to draft unless you’re in a super deep league. However, you should know his name if anything happens to Cain or Francoeur. For his career, Dyson has 50 SBs in 146 games. He won’t provide much else, but that’s Juan Pierre-level value and, in actuality, nothing to scoff at.