Dumpster Diving: Five Underrated Players In 2012
Anyone can make selections in rounds 1-15 in a fantasy baseball draft (pull up a top-200 player list and you can field a decent team, barring major injury or “Carl Crawford-like” campaigns). But when all the Pujols', Jeter's, Upton's, and Hamels' fly off the board, many drafters go into an indifferent, almost passive mindset. Maybe it’s the sense of unfamiliarity with the remaining names on the board, or the lack eye-popping numbers that players left in the draft tend to have. Whatever the reason may be, rounds 15 and on (or what I like to call “Garbage Time”) can be what differentiates a championship team from the Chicago Cubs….I mean… uh… an underachieving team.
Alex Cobb Cobb comes into 2012 an unheralded prospect partly because of a bizarre season-ending rib injury, and partly because of the highly proficient Rays farm system. A prime example would be the emergence of super-prospect Matt Moore overshadowing what Cobb did during the 2011 regular season. Cobb’s 2011 cameo appearance drew many parallels to what Jeremy Hellickson and David Price did in their first respective tours for the Rays. Cobb posted a 3.42 ERA in nine starts in 2011. If you remove his last start against Oakland in which he was hampered by that rib injury (five earned runs in 4.1 innings), he would have finished with just a 2.79 ERA. Only giving up three homers through 52.2 innings of work isn’t too shabby either, which aligns pretty accurately with his HR/9 in the minors (0.7).
Bud Norris Go grab yourself a Bud – Bud Norris. A Houston product that goes under the radar because of his team, Norris has shown signs of greatness over his short career. With a K/9 rate of 8.85 over his past two seasons, Norris finds himself among an elite group of starters in the punch-out department. The Houston offense and a less than great WHIP (1.33) will likely keep fantasy managers at bay until much later in the draft, putting a smart manager in a position grab some late round value. Normally caution is warranted with a Minute Maid pitcher but, with the number of strikeouts he gets, taking a shot seems warranted.
Jason Kipnis Kipnis made quite a bit of noise when he smashed six home runs in ten games a week after he was called up from Triple-A Columbus (three of them coming against the Red Sox). He hit a bit of a snag after a hamstring injury sidelined him for nearly the whole month of August. Although it appeared as if he was never able to fully revive his power numbers (one home run in 18 games upon his return from injury), he was still able to consistently reach base (four multi-hit games and a near .900 OPS), establishing himself as a staple atop the Indians lineup. Kipnis also has the ability to swipe a handful of bags, making him a solid source of runs and stolen bases as well. With everyone getting on the Brett Lawrie and Dustin Ackley bandwagons, waiting to take Kipnis at a much later part of the draft could result in better value for your club.
J.D. Martinez If there’s one person in Houston who thoroughly enjoyed the dive-bomb season Houston had it would be Martinez. After the Astros jumped ship by unloading Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, Martinez catapulted to the bigs after posting a .342/.407/.551 line with 43 homers over 298 minor league games. If there is one thing that we can say for sure about Martinez, it’s that he has performed at every level, even though he doesn't have a single at-bat in Triple-A. In just 208 at-bats at the major league level, he clubbed six homers and drove in an impressive 35 runs. Don’t be too bashful on the young Astros talent simply because he’ll be in the middle of the depressing Astros' order. Look for Martinez to deliver some much needed pop to one of the worst lineups in baseball next season, giving Houston fans a small ray of hope (or is it shooting star?) for the future.
Zach Cozart The emergence of Cozart means Cincinnati fans can kiss the Paul Janish era goodbye. Run production should be rampant in Cincinnati with the likes of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips batting behind him (Cozart hit second in 10 of the 11 games he played with the Reds). In his 2010 Triple-A campaign, Cozart belted 17 home runs to go along with 67 RBI and 30 steals. While his .255 BA wasn’t anything to write home about, his combination of speed and power cannot be ignored. Consider his season ending elbow injury a fantasy blessing, as he will slide under the radar in most drafts because of his lack of exposure last year. At the ripe age of 26 and virtually no roadblocks in his way, expect Cozart to make an impact during the 2012 season.
By Matt Bonini
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own 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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