Buy Low, Sell High: Underdrafted fantasy stars offer hidden value
There's a name for people who don't make trades during the year, but it's not fit to print on a family-friendly website. A healthy league is one with many trades, and all season long you can come here to get the kind of edge you need to get ahead.
Draft season is just about wrapping up, so it's a good time to look at what players are being misvalued coming into the year. This week, it's the Underdrafted All-Stars. If you got some of these guys, go get yourself a celebratory meal (Arby's?) and a good ol' pat on the back. And if you didn't, it's not a bad time to see if you can swipe one of them on the cheap.
It's no fun to draft an old man. And how old is Posada? When he was a kid he never blew out candles on his birthday cake; they didn't have fire yet (Cliff Clavin?
Look above for my dissertation on ageism in fantasy baseball. And Huff isn't even that old (34). He was quietly magnificent last year, becoming more patient but still ripping the ball. He's a middle of the order bat in a good lineup who still has legitimate 25- to 30-HR pop, not the kind of guy who should be going 133rd in drafts, and 15th among first basemen. He's had some down years in the past, but there's no logical reason to expect one in 2011.
Beckham is another one of those prospects who everyone gives up on after a slow start. He's 24-years old and hitting second in front of the likes of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. After a slow start last year, he batted .310 with a .380 OBP after the All-Star break, and he's flashed enough power over his pro career to make 15 HRs a realistic possibility. If anything, he should be getting overdrafted based on his ceiling. Instead he's sitting out there until pick 157, with 13 second basemen getting tabbed ahead of him.
I'm getting tired of defending Encarnacion (well, mostly I'm getting tired of being wrong about Encarnacion when he inevitably lands on the bench every summer). But this is why I'm sticking with him. First, he's only 28. It only seems like he broke into the league with the Iorg brothers. And second, he hits for power. He hits for a lot of power. If he keeps his job for the majority of the season, he'll hit 30 homers. And while he'll do some damage to your batting average, he won't do enough to cancel out those home runs. I'm not saying the guy's Evan Longoria, but he's significantly better than the 241st-best player in fantasy baseball, which is where he's being drafted (in 6 percent of leagues!). Deep mixed and AL-only leaguers should be all over this guy, especially considering this year's third-base crop gets very thin very quick.
Target Field is where home runs go to die. It's an almost comically pitcher-friendly park. Hardy hit one home run and slugged .240 in 159 at-bats there last season. On the road, he hit five HRs in 181 at-bats. Hardy is 28 and has always shown decent pop for a middle infielder, and now he's playing his home games in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Another Han-Ram? No. But a 15-HR guy who won't hurt you anywhere else? Yes. And as a shortstop, that should land him in the top 175 or so picks, not 247th.
Collective fantasy baseball owners, I want to punch you in the face for this one (but I won't, because I'm not violent and I don't punch very hard anyway). Fowler is a 25-year-old switch hitter with power and plenty of speed. In past years, he couldn't be relied on as Colorado's fourth outfielder. But now, he's playing everyday. And hitting leadoff! And he's going 243rd in drafts!?! He should be going top 100 in most leagues.
Yeah, he's a risk considering Cito Gaston's trippy lineup cards (not to mention the holes in his swing). But Snider's another guy who came up too young (he's only 23) and didn't deliver immediately, and now the fantasy community is giving up on him. He has 30-home run power and, with even a little bit of luck, won't hurt your batting average. He's falling out of the top 200 in most drafts (an ADP of 217.9 right now) when he should be gone 50 spots higher.
Is it the 12-13 record? Is that what you can't get past? Because Lewis is an All-Star-caliber pitcher, sporting a 3.02 K-to-BB ratio with one of baseball's best defenses behind him. You'd be right to be a little nervous about his HR rate (21 allowed last year, but as a flyball pitcher in Arlington that could go through the roof), but with any luck he would have won 15 last year. His upside is 18, to go along with 200 or so strikeouts. And he's sitting out there for more than 175 picks in a lot of leagues (178.8 ADP). He should be gone 50 picks earlier.
I know, I know, 2010 was a weird year for Jackson. He was the worst pitcher in the world in Arizona (6-10, 5.16 ERA, 1.73 K-to-BB). Then he gets traded to the AL and the ChiSox's homer-happy home park, and he puts together the best stint of his career (4-2, 3.24 ERA, 77 Ks and only 18 walks in 75 IP). It's important to remember that most pitchers are better at 27 than they were before that. Jackson hasn't peaked yet. Considering his numbers over the past two years, excluding that disaster in the desert, he was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA and 2.30 K-to-BB ratio with Detroit in 2009, and the fact that he'll be backed up by one of baseball's best lineups makes him a risk worth taking. And it's worth taking well before the 250th pick of your draft.
There's just not that much separation between closers when it comes to fantasy leagues, and Perez is the perfect example of a guy who could give you top-five closer value despite coming off the board 90 picks later than the elite guys. The job is clearly his, he won't have a ton of pressure pitching for an Indians team that has no expectation of contending, he strikes out a batter an inning, and he's gotten his walk rate under control. That's fine if you want to take Carlos Marmol 60th because you know he's going to pile up the strikeouts. But it makes much less sense when you consider you could have Chris Perez 151st.