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The Ones That Got Away


The Ones That Got Away

I will be playing in about 15 leagues this year (I haven't done the final count, but I stop counting after 10) in various formats, including Scoresheet, Strat-o-matic, Ottoneu in addition to a number of different roto-style formats. You would think that with as many leagues that I'm in, I'd own pretty much anyone that I like, aside from maybe a couple of the elite guys thanks to my draft position or that player being kept in all of my keeper leagues, limiting my shots at him. But, this player pool is so vast that there are plenty of my pet players that I annually get locked out from getting. Here are some of those that got away.

Freddie Freeman - At first glance, Freeman's 2011 line .282/.346/.448 with 21 homers and 76 RBI doesn't look all that impressive, especially as a first baseman. But there's another number you should be looking at - 21. As in how old Freeman was while holding his own at the major league level. The career-path track records of hitters that can perform at the major league level at that age is fantastic. There's a breakout season coming, and it could occur this year.

Pablo Sandoval - Sandoval is free and clear of the shoulder woes that limited him to 117 games last year. When he was healthy, however, he was back to his free-swinging-but-high-contact ways, hitting .315/.357/.552 with 23 homers. Third base isn't terribly deep, at least if you're looking for some safety at the position. It drops off roughly at 11 or 12 on the list, with Sandoval among those in the top tiers. He's not without risk, given his conditioning concerns and injury history, but he's been a trendy pick nonetheless, usually going before the 70th overall pick in most mixed league drafts. Part of the reason why I haven't gotten Sandoval has been my one-man crusade to elevate Brett Lawrie's ADP, but the other part has been that I haven't been willing to give him a full 150-plus game projection to take him in the fourth round.

Asdrubal Cabrera - Those that have doubted whether Cabrera's season last year was legit often cite the jump in homers to 25 from a previous career-high of six in two different seasons. However, when Cabrera first made a splash with the Indians in 2009, he hit 42 doubles and had an .799 OPS for the season, slightly higher than last year's breakout. My bigger concern about him is not whether he was for real, but can he stay healthy. Some regression from last year might happen, but I don't think it'll be nearly as steep as many project. His Average Draft Position on MockDraftCentral.com is 79.

Wilson Ramos - If you miss out on getting one of the top eight catchers in the player pool, or if your league requires you to start two catchers, you could do worse than to take a chance on Ramos. He'll likely shoulder a heavier load behind the plate this year with Ivan Rodriguez no longer in Washington to steal playing time from him. Many of the leading indicators (batting eye, swinging strike rate, HR/FB ratio) point toward an impending breakout for Ramos. His ADP for mixed leagues is 213, but in many of my leagues I've seen him go earlier, at least those that require two starting catchers.

Jayson Werth - Typically players with bad real life contacts get undervalued in fantasy leagues, especially when those leagues are populated by those with some semblance of sabermetric chops. Yes, Werth's contract is hideous and he probably won't ever match his peak years in Philly, but he also isn't as bad as he was last season, and the lineup around him should be improved as well. Another outfielder who fits this profile is the Angels' Vernon Wells, who I have acquired in a couple of leagues.

Yu Darvish - Count me among the believers that Darvish will be worth the hype. While it's dangerous anyhow to evaluate a player merely on his nationality, Darvish does stand apart from his peers that have made the conversion. First, he's bigger than most of the pitchers that have come over and throws harder. He's dealt with plenty of media attention, too, so the "rock star" treatment that he'll get in the baseball press is less likely to affect him. And while Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is less than ideal from a park effects standpoint, in other ways landing with the Rangers is ideal for him. The combination of pitching coach Mike Maddux and Nolan Ryan in the front office has been ideal for the team in developing pitchers over the last few years, and they've had success scouting in Japan, too, most notably with Colby Lewis. I have two more shots to land Darvish in my leagues, and I hope to get at least one share of him by the time the drafting is done.

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