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AL Central: Value Picks, Up-and-Coming Players and Red Flags in Fantasy Baseball

Tuesday March 13th, 2012


Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Prince Fielder teams up with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, as the Detroit Tigers are the home of the Al Central’s three biggest fantasy stars. While the rest of the teams in the division are “rebuilding” (I don’t really know what the White Sox are doing), there are many promising youngsters and other players to target as value picks in the AL central on your draft day.


VALUE PICKS


Despite a 15-9 record Max Scherzer, disappointed many owners in 2011 with a 4.43 ERA. However, his 3.7 XFIP indicates that we can expect a lower ERA in 2012. He will get plenty of wins with the high-powered Detroit offense and I expect him to end the season closer to 9.0 k/9 than his 8.03 k/9 rate, which still made him an asset in 2011. Scherzer has trouble staying consistent, but could be a great number three fantasy starter.


Adam Dunn statistically had one of the worst seasons in major league history in 2011, after being a model of consistency for nearly a decade. The good news is he cannot get any worse. He also rededicated himself this offseason and now physically resembles teammate Chris Sale, and not a beer league softball player. I don’t expect the 40 home runs and 100 RBIs that we were used to, by would not be surprised if he exceeded thirty. Take a flier on him because he will be cheap and has looked good this spring.


Alex Rios was nearly as miserable as Dunn in 2011, but this has been a reoccurring theme in his frustrating career. Expect Rios to bounce back as well, as his .237 BABIP was almost 70 points below his career average. The pressure will be off Rios as the White Sox are not expected to compete for a division title, and he could easily hit .270/20/80/20. Just temper your expectations and benefit from his down year. To provide some optimism, he finished the season with a .307/5/12 stat line in his final twenty games. Again, unlike Dunn, we have seen this from Rios in the past, but we have also seen him recover (after 2009)- and he is still only 31 years of age.


Gordon Beckham has done nothing but regress since his impressive rookie campaign. The hope in Chicago is that he will learn from former White Sox infield great and now manager, Robin Ventura. The good news is that he is no longer overvalued after his 2009 season, and he is still only 25 years of age. He clearly has talent, and now forgotten by many owners, has the potential to provide above average production at a weak position.


Ryan Doumit can rake, but was never given a chance to play everyday because of his weaknesses behind the plate. However, he is now out of the national league and is expected to see a lot of the time at DH for the Twins. He still has catcher eligibility and could easily produce top-ten numbers in this thin position. Doumit mashes right-handed pitching (.800 OPS) and now with the opportunity to get consistent at-bats, he could be a lesser version of Mike Napoli.


Matt Thornton struggled as a closer in 2011 and quickly lost the job. However, he settled down and his post all-star numbers (.206 batting average against and 31/6 strikeout to walk ratio) were more reminiscent of the Thornton we have come to know in a White Sox uniform. He has the stuff to be a quality closer, and with the Santos departed, the job is up for grabs. Monitor this situation over the course of the rest of spring training, as teammate Addison Reed could earn the job as a rookie. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict how rookie manager Robin Ventura will deal with this situation. Reed has had Kimbrel-like success throughout the minors, and will certainly be a fixture in the White Sox bullpen throughout the season. However, do you really expect a manager to make a rookie with seven career major league innings a closer? Thornton should get more than the five innings Ozzie gave him in 2011. My suggestion is to draft both, which will likely come at the cost of one closer. Both players will be useful for their strikeout/ERA/WHIP totals, even if they are not closing.


Jason Kipnis is a great option at second base if you miss out on the Pedroia, Cano, Kinsler types. He dominated after a July call up, but struggled after injury over the course of the reason of the season. Still, between AAA and on the Indians, he hit 19 home runs and swiped 17 bases. At a very thin position, he has the potential to provide quality power and speed.


BUYER BEWARE


Despite his consecutive save streak, Jose Valverde is due for some serious regression after his .247 BABIP and 82.9% LOB and 6.4% HR/BB rates in 2011. With an absurd 2.24 ERA, his XFIP of 4.01 indicates just how fortunate Valverde was in 2011. This is the problem with relievers, who are subject ot a much smaller sample size, and as a result Valverde will be grossly overvalued in 2012. Also, his K/9 rate has steadily decreased since 2006.


Paul Konerko will be 36 years of age in 2012. It is unfair to expect the first baseman with degenerative hips to have a third consecutive season of .300/30/100. At such a deep position, there are many safer options available. He is only a career .280 hitter and has benefited from inflated BABIPs in each of the last two seasons.


Asdrubal Cabrera is a great option at shortstop, but will certainly be overvalued in 2012. His power was definitely fluke-ish, as he only hit 18 home runs in his first 1400 at-bats after hitting mashing 25 home runs in 600 at bats in 2011. His 13.3% HR/FB rate will certainly decline and he will not sustain a .187 ISO (career .133).


Joakim Soria is nowhere near as dominant as he used to be, but he has a lot of name recognition that makes him overvalued. For what he will cost, there are better options out there, although he did not pitch as bad as his 4.03 ERA indicates. However, the declining K/9 rate (11.72 to 9.73 to 8.95) tells the story.

 

UP-AND-COMING


Eric Hosmer is a first baseman that can give you the average, power, and production, as well as double-digit steals. The power is only going to continue to develop, and although he might have some “sophomore struggles”, expect .290/20/90/10 from the 22-year-old. The future is exciting for this lefty masher, who also showed by season’s end that he has the ability to hit left-handed pitching.


Unlike Hosmer, Mike Moustakas struggled during his first taste of the major leagues. However, he turned it on at the end of the season to a tune of a .352 average and 4 home runs in his final 88 at-bats. He is only 23 years of age and last year was regarded equally as high as Hosmer.


Lorenzo Cain has the opportunity to earn a starting job during spring training. He doesn’t have great power or speed, but with 16 home runs and 16 triples in AAA last season, he as the ability to provide just enough of each to be useful in fantasy formats


Jacob Turner, the 9th overall pick in 2009, could earn a job in the Tigers rotation to open the year (monitor this over the rest of spring training). He is still 20 years of age, but has all the tools to dominate in the major leagues. Don’t expect instant success, especially as there are questions of durability and struggles during the second and third times through the lineup.


Addison Reed, discussed earlier, certainly belongs in this category. Even in his brief 7-inning stint in 2011, he proved that he has the ability to be an elite end of the game option. Think Craig Kimbrel junior.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 

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Posted on March 13, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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