Overlooked and under-appreciated. That could be the nameplate on the back of Michael Saunders jersey.
My name is Michael Saunders. I'm a pretty fair baseball player. No one seems to care in the game of fantasy baseball though so I'll just continue to hide in my little corner and not talk to anyone.
I feel like that could be a note written by Saunders to his wife.
Here is why you should care about Michael Saunders.
(1) His ADP is just 312 according to the NFBC. You'll see why that number means he's a strong bargain for 2014 as you keep reading.
(2) Saunders will be playing nearly every day, or at least he should be. The Mariners continue to give Abraham Almonte lots of work in CF, but they have to realize that he's just not ready for full-time work at this point (look at his struggles this spring). Have to think that Saunders ends up being the center fielder, and this will be key as we will see below (playing time is vital to his performance being fantasy worthy).
(3) You may not realize it but Michael Saunders was one homer away from a 20/20 season in 2012. Read that sentence again and let it sink in for a moment.
The more time that goes by, the more I realize that women are exquisite creatures. Even the ones that annoy me usually have something to offer – if you look close enough. Just having a moment there, sorry. Oh, and love the day drinking everyone was doing St. Paddy's Day. I got to the bar at 5:45 and pretty sure I was the only sober one in the packed pub. I also found out that every woman that hits on me is from San Diego. True story --- three of the last five times I've gone out the woman I ended up talking to was from S.D. Universe telling me I should move down south perhaps? I just can't wear flip flops though which might kill my San Diego cred. That damn thing between my toes, just can't get used to it.
Let's break down Saunders skills.
I noted the near 20/20 effort in 2012. That's big. Even last year when he battled to stay on the field he went 12/13. You can feel pretty comfortable that he's a 15/15 performer who could go 20/20. Given his draft day cost, remember he's got an ADP outside the top-300, this is a great guy to target late. Skills wise...
Saunders owns a 10.6 percent HR/F ratio. A wee bit over league average but nothing overly exciting. His 1.04 GB/FB ratio is also league average stuff. That's why I said 15 homers is probable with 20 homers being possible. If the Mariners give Saunders 500 at-bats he could reach the larger figure, but without them he's not going to go deep 20+ times, his skills don't warrant that faith. He needs the work to produce.
As for the wheels, again we're talking solid but nothing that will make you want to pull out your stopwatch and try to figure out his 40 time. He's averaged 17 steals the past two seasons, and as I noted in Adam Jones' Player Profile, Jones' career best in thefts is 16. That should put what Saunders can do on the base paths in perspective.
So if it's all ginger bread houses and bottles of expensive vodka – and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to how/why I just compared those two – why is Saunders not being taken more seriously in fantasy? Three reasons jump out.
1 – He plays for the Mariners so no one cares, no one sees him play, and everyone thinks the ballpark has fences that are 500 feet from home plate.
2 – Not everyone is convinced that he will get 500 at-bats in 2014.
3 – Though Saunders has some strengths he's also not elite in anything he does. Moreover, there are some concerns. I already wrote about how important playing time is for him, but there is also this – his batting average is bad. For his career Saunders is a .224 batter. Yugly. His 0.35 BB/K ratio is below the league average that is about five hundredths better. His strike rate of 26 percent is poor. We're not exactly building the profile of a batting average champ here. Saunders is also the owner of a 19.1 percent lifetime line drive rate and that .284 BABIP is also nothing to write home about.
Saunders fantasy outlook boils down to two things – cost and playing time. The cost is so low right now that he will end up being a free agent in a lot of leagues. You don't have to invest anything for his services so even if he struggles it won't be a blow to your club. As I noted above, I expect him to see enough playing time that at least 450 at-bats are coming. If that's the case Saunders will end up being a solid late round addition, even if he struggles to maintain something close to a league average batting average.
Searching for answers for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide powered by BaseballGuys. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship. Not just that, you will have access to my Player Rankings – over 600 of them folks – for NL, AL and Mixed leagues. The best part? They are updated daily so you never have to be left guessing how to reassess after that injury or positional battle resolution effects how the players should be lined up.
Ray - I'm in a 16-team mixed league. I have Ethier and RGrossman on my bench - would you drop those 2 to pick up MSaunders and Ruggiano??
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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