What’s a good way to spend your Christmas vacation? Researching and writing about fantasy baseball for the upcoming season. What’s a great way to spend your Christmas vacation? Barreling through all three seasons of a wonderful show your parents turned you on to: Burn Notice. I was hooked after one episode and just couldn’t stop until about 10 minutes ago when I finished the season 3 summer finale. I wish it was coming back tomorrow. Alas, I’ll have to wait. That leaves me ample time to finish my third basemen up.
17. Kevin Kouzmanoff, San Diego Padres – I will admit up front that Kouz is likely the beneficiary of my spite towards Jhonny Peralta (#18). I’d have probably had them flipped if I could get over my disdain for Peralta after his flop in 2009. Maybe the slight of being ranked behind Kouzmanoff will light a fire under Peralta for 2010. Kouz isn’t anything special and he has a home park liability in San Diego, but he’s delivered 18-23-18 home runs the last three seasons with rising RBI totals each season (74-84-88) to go with the power. You could do worse for your corner infielder. One caveat with Kouz is that you need to have a strong stomach and endure the ride start to finish. Suffer through a 1 HR/8 RBI April and you will be around for the 10 HR/32 RBI results the following two months. Trying to time his hot and cold streaks is futile.
16. Casey Blake, Los Angeles Dodgers – Want Kouzmanoffian results with a lengthier track record and a better batting average? Go for Blake then. The downside is that at 37, he’s eight years older thus his skills could cliffdive without warning. I don’t believe they will, but the possibility lurks with someone pushing 40. Given that a large portion of the fantasy baseball populous is age averse, Blake usually comes at a great price.
15. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox – On August 4th, Beckham’s batting average was at a season-high .316. He had just finished a blistering July during which he hit .330/.382/.526 in 97 at-bats. This is also about point where memory of Beckham’s season seems to go blank for many. At least that is what his 95 ADP would suggest. He hit a whimpering .225 the rest of the way leaving him with a .270 for the season. He did manage eight more home runs over those final two-plus months for a total of 14 on the year. But 378 solid at-bats with various peaks and valleys hasn’t earned him top 100 placement in my book. Not ahead of the likes of Torii Hunter or teammates Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez. Even I don’t think the hot corner depth is that desperate. Beckham will get his 600 plate appearance season and we will see how he holds up to the rigors of a full major league season when the league has a book on him. I wouldn’t go in expecting much more than slight improvements on his 14 home runs and seven stolen bases. The runs scored and driven in totals will be around 85 if he holds the 2-spot in the lineup (218 of his 378 ABs were at #2) while the average can range from the .270 he ended with in 2009 up to .290 if things break his way. After all, the difference between those two figures is a mere 10 hits over 550 at-bats. Be reasonable with your expectations of Beckham in 2010.
14. Jorge Cantu, Florida Marlins – Cantu might as well be the Hispanic Rodney Dangerfield of corner infielders because he just doesn’t get much love. After re-breaking out in 2008 with a 29-home run season, Cantu’s HR output slid considerably in 2009 with just 16, but he still managed 100 RBIs and raised his batting twelve points to .289. He was still hitting the ball well with 42 doubles (41 in ’08), but just as his HR/fb rate was a bit lucky in 2008 (13%), it was equally unlucky in 2009 at 7%. Cantu is a very good 20 HR/90 RBI corner infield option whose lack of respect drives down his price. And hey, if things break his way in 2010 he could have another home run season pushing 30 as he has done twice now in his career.
13. Adrian Beltre, Free Agent – If you thought Beltre was undervalued coming into 2009 on the heels of three straight seasons averaging 25 home runs, 88 RBIs and 11 stolen bases, wait until you see how disrespected he gets after an injury-plagued that relegated him to an 8-44-13 season. Even if he does land somewhere favorable, at best he will get back in the undervalued zone he inhabited last year. Mind you, this is good news for those of us paying attention. When Gordon Beckham has an ADP of 95 and Beltre sits at 205, you can bet that I’m going to take Beltre 110 picks later every single time.
12. Michael Young, Texas Rangers – Young left the shortstop pool with a bang. He put up third baseman numbers giving him remarkably valuable dual-eligibility. In addition to his always potent batting average, he had a power resurgence clubbing 20+ home runs for the first time since 2005. But I would temper any expectations of that continuing. Both power surges were caused by an abnormal HR/fb rate. During those seasons he had 14% and 15%, respectively while he’s regularly more of a 7-9% guy. While I’m very bearish on his HR output, he still holds plenty of value with his .300 average and 80+ runs scored and driven in totals. Bet on those figures with 11-13 home runs as a baseline and enjoy anything more as a bonus.
11. Ian Stewart, Colorado Rockies – My worst fear realized this offseason? Stewart’s stock skyrocketing before my eyes. Second and third base dual-eligible 25 year olds with legitimate 30 home run power don’t grow on trees. Unfortunately for me, many others are noticing that very same thing. A .524 slugging percentage in 2297 minor league at-bats proves the power potential is legit. His big deficiency at the majors has been a poor batting average. He posted a .259 in 81 games in 2008 and then fell to .228 in 147 games last year. This next season could very resemble Mark Reynolds‘ 2008: 28 HR, 97 RBI and a .246 average. For this kind of power production and positional eligibility, it’s not terribly hard to overlook the batting average.
Next: the top 10.