**Pictured Above: Diamondback Outfielder, Justin Upton**
Written By: Matt Vereb
Players I Like For the 2010 Season:
*Disclaimer*: I like these players given their average draft position and relative value to a fantasy team. Players who I feel will exceed expectations and are currently under-valued, make this list. Just because Albert Pujols isn’t on this list, doesn’t mean I don’t like him in fantasy.
Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: The 22-year-old Upton hit 26 home runs and stole 20 bases in only 138 games last season. He also posted an impressive batting average(.300) and slugging percentage(.532). Upton has a world of talent. If he plays the entire season, consider 30-30 to be his basement. Upton is being selected in the 3rd-4th rounds(25 Average Draft Position(ADP) in fantasy drafts when he has 1st Round potential. Consider that a good value.
Projection: .295 BA, 35 HRs, 105 RBIs, 32 SBs.
Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Lind broke on to the scene with Toronto to the tune of 35 HRs and 114 RBIs. Lind also hit .305 for the Blue Jays. Many wonder if this is a one-year fluke. I don’t think so. Lind and team mate, Aaron Hill, are the lone bright spots for a struggling Toronto club. Lind is being taken as in the 5th-6th rounds of fantasy drafts(ADP 52). I like him more than similar counterparts, Jayson Werth and Carlos Beltran who are being selected a round earlier.
Projection: .298 BA, 37 HRs, 120 RBIs
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: Many casual baseball fans may be unfamiliar with Reds First Baseman, Joey Votto. Votto hit .325 with 25 HRs and 84 RBIs through 131 games last season. Votto finished 4th in the NL in OBP(.414), 5th in Slugging(.567), 3rd in OPS(.981). These figures alone show promise for the 26 year-old Votto. Votto will begin his 3rd full-time season in 2010. Look for him to have numerous RBI opportunities with Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce hitting in front of him. Votto currently ranks around the 8th-10th position among First Basemen. For those of you drafting at the end of the first round debating between a middle infielder and 1st basemen, take a moment to consider the depth at First Base and the position scarcity in the middle of the diamond. Votto should be there in the 5th-7th round of the draft. Draft him accordingly and you won’t be disappointed.
Projection: .315 Batting Avg., 31 HRs, 110 RBIs
Jason Heyward OF, Atlanta Braves: One word: Youtube. 447 foot blast. He’s only 20-years-old, is the #1 prospect in baseball and has a Justin Upton-type of hype surrounding him. He should start the season in right field for the Braves. Grab him late(ADP: 225) and enjoy the show.
Projection: .285 BA, 20 HRs, 20 SBs.
Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox: I have to put my Yankee-biased aside to give Lester his fantasy due. The guy is a stud pitcher for the Sox and fantasy teams, but isn’t getting that respect. Lester struck out 225 batters in 203 innings to go along with 15 wins and a 3.41 ERA. Impressive numbers within the AL East. His K/9 ratio topped out at 9.96. Lester is currently the 10th pitcher selected(ADP: 59), however, I’d take him over Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, and Adam Wainwright.
Projection: 17 Wins, 220 Ks, 3.30 ERA
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics: Don’t be fooled by Anderson’s 2009 ERA of 4.06. The 22-year-old Anderson had a great second half last season. In 14 starts after the All-Star break, Anderson posted a 6-4 record, striking out 86 hitters in only 80 innings. After mid-season,Anderson’s ERA dropped from 5.45(June 29) to 4.06(Oct 1). Anderson also benefits from playing in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. Anderson’s ADP of 150 is a no-brainer for a 15th round selection.
Projection: 15 wins, 180 Ks, 3.85 ERA
Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees: Surprised? Owners are drafting Dodgers closer, Jonathan Broxton and Twins closer, Joe Nathan over Mariano. (Jonathan Papelbon as well, sigh) Rivera is 40-years-old and some pundits are calling for a down season. But when has Rivera ever had a bad season? He was 44 for 46 in save opportunities last season. His 1.76 ERA was best among full-time closers and he even had an impressive 9.77 K/9 ratio. He isn’t going to give you big strikeout numbers like Broxton will(13.50 K/9), but Rivera is as solid as they come. Don’t overpay for Broxton’s or Nathan’s gaudy strike out totals. Go with the sure thing with a lower ERA and WHIP.
Projection: 42 Saves, 2.00 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 76 Ks
Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox: Jake Peavy’s last two seasons have not been ‘Peavy-esque’. Fantasy owners have been spoiled with Peavy’s dominance in the NL. From 2004-2007, Peavy has averaged 15 wins, 190 innings, 210 K’s and a 3.15 ERA. Peavy has suffered from elbow problems in the past, but he has seemed to move beyond those issues. Last season, Peavy was 9-6 for the Padres and White sox, recording 102 innings and 110 strikeouts. More importantly, Peavy was 3-0 in 3 starts for the White Sox in September with 18 K’s over 20 innings. This sample size should tell fantasy owners that Peavy is past his elbow concerns heading into the 2010 season.
I don’t expect Peavy to have his sub-3 ERA that he had in San Diego. US Cellular Field is a hitters park and the AL features tougher lineups. However, I think Peavy should far surpass his 15-20 ADP among pitchers. Paired with Mark Buerhle at the top of the rotation, Peavy does not have to be the horse he was in San Diego. I still expect a big season from Jake.
Projection: 15 Wins, 3.60 ERA, 210 K’s
Who are some of your sleepers this season?