We all have our favorites, those chosen few we covet come draft day. Some of them we have had on our roster before. We’ve grown fond of and are familiar with them and what they can (and can’t) do. Others could be rookies, young players that have enamored us with their upside and potential. Regardless of the reason that we are drawn to these individuals they all have one thing in common, we’ll all reach to get them; sometimes well beyond what their ADP says. It’s not the smartest thing to do, but sometimes your heart overrules your head in the draft room. With that said, here are 7 players each of us like more than you (maybe).
1. Matt Adams – He can hit.280+ with 25+ home run power. 25 Homers would have been enough to rank him 8th among first basemen last year, and you can have him 10 rounds after Votto, Fielder & Freeman.
2. Kole Calhoun – Kole showed a nice power/speed combo in the minors, has a good batting average, acceptable walk and strikeout totals. He could outperform your #3 outfielder and you can get him later in the mid to late rounds (depending on any hype this spring).
3. Jose Altuve – He barely has enough power to reach double digits on a good year, he’s not going to generate a lot of home runs hitting at the top of the order and with little talent around him his run totals won’t go above 80. He does hit for a good average and when it comes to speed players at second only Kipnis comes close as far as fantasy relevant players go. Plus the possibilities of the potential team that could be around him intrigue me.
4. Allen Craig – I think my favorite thing about Craig is that he qualifies for first and outfield. I know a lot of players qualify for these two positions, but how many of them have been a .300 hitter at every stop of their career. He hit .378 with runners in scoring position in 2013, second behind only Matt Carpenter. He gives you insurance if your first baseman goes down, is a terrific plug and play if you have a CI slot and can slid into the OF in case of emergency.
5. Shin-Soo Choo – He wasn’t kept in one of my leagues and I scooped him up with an early pick in 2009, and he’s been on that team since. And the past 2 years when I had no choice but to released him, I used my first pick to get him back. He doesn’t do any one thing great, but he gives you points in every category while quietly churning out a 20/20 season. You may like Choo, but I REALLY like Choo.
6. Ben Zobrist – He’s averaged 80 runs and 75 RBIs with a .270 average for 3 straight years. Combine that with double-digit power and speed and you’ve got a nice package. People downplay his abilities because of the lost power and speed, but it’s really not that big of a loss for a guy who qualifies for shortstop or second. Let everyone else spend big on players like Kipnis, Reyes and even Elvis, I’ll take the cheaper infielder. He may have less power, but the rest of his numbers won’t be far off your high-priced player.
7. Sergio Santos – Sergio has big strikeout ability and is slowing getting his walks under control. While he’s just another bullpen arm to start the season, he will be the closer come September. The closer position is one of the hardest to predict, especially when talking about a relief pitcher with no closing experience. Santos is one of the few exceptions to that rule, at least in my world.
1. Kevin Gausman – his first attempts as a SP at the major league level were not pretty. That said, the gas is still easy with great movement and the changeup is ridiculous enough to outshine the slider. I’m a sucker for awesome changeups (Hamels almost made this list). I think 2014 will be the only chance we get to buy low on Gausman.
2. David Ortiz – he is being discounted for every reason other than his actual production and abilities. Sign me up.
3. Alex Rios – He was a top 20 player the past 2 seasons because, get this, he is a top 20 fantasy talent. Now he gets to bat 2nd-5th in a Ranger lineup in Arlington, what more can you ask for?
4. Hiroki Kuroda – while his K% does nothing to excite, his 5.2 BB% is incredibly tantalizing. Grab him late and watch him be a steward for your WHIP and ERA. There is even some possible upside in wins with the Yankees improved lineup.
5. Doug Fister – the stuff is nasty and he’s already a WHIP and ERA steward a la Kuroda above (his 2013 BB% of 5% was even better than Kuroda’s). The difference is that his stuff has the potential for an improved K%. Even if that does not happen, you still have a pitcher that should help you dominate the ratio categories.
6. Brandon Belt – filling you corner infield spot with a 1B who hit a career high 17 homers last year does not seem ideal. However, Belt is one of the few young hitters whose upside you will not have to break the bank to pay for on draft day. Turning 26 next year, I feel Belt is a safe bet to match next year with a good shot of improving.
7. Elvis Andrus – He is a 25-year-old SS who has already proved he can be a top 10 positional play in every category sans HR at the major league level. He also bats at the top of Texas’s offense. Enjoy.
1. Xander Bogaerts – I’ll just list him at #1 so there’s no question in anybody’s mind. You can exercise more caution than I do in redraft leagues, but Bogaerts will be baseball’s best SS before too long.
2. Christian Yelich – Yelich has one of the best swings in baseball. The power is still developing, but he’s a 15/20 guy as soon as 2014. Moving forward the power should only get better to go along with a very good batting average.
3. Martin Prado – Multi-position eligibility and he hits in a great ballpark with a very good lineup.
4. Austin Jackson – a homer pick, perhaps, but he if can score 100 runs in 130 games as he did in 2012 and 2013, what will he do in 160? (answer 123) Add 10-15 HR and 10-15 SB and you could do a lot worse.
5. Don Kelly ha, not that big of a homer.
5. Oscar Taveras – Yes, he lost a year, but I haven’t soured on him. Run for Billy Hamilton or Georger Springer; I’m taking Taveras. Awesome hit tool and some power to boot. Could be a top 15 outfielder before too long.
6. Nolan Arenado – I don’t think he’s ever going to great in Roto leagues, but I do think he’ll be a points monster in the not-too-distant future. He’s young and as safe a bet to stay at 3B as any young third basemen out there. The power may not fully develop, but he should be a doubles machine.
7. Francisco Lindor – The general feeling is that he’ll be a better real-life player than a fantasy one. Well, that’s true because of his stellar defense, but he should be a very good fantasy contributor too. Very good on base guy with speed that will play. If he bats leadoff, there will be runs galore as well. The window is closing on buying him, don’t miss out.
2. Jed Lowrie – Lowrie is undervalued as a dual eligible MI with good pop. He has the ability to hit 20+ HRs with a solid BA. He deserves to be ranked in the same range as players like J.J. Hardy, but he is not because of injury risk. Bottom line, he is potentially a top 100 overall player eligible at 2 scarce positions.
3. Koji Uehara – I don’t expect Uehara to pitch as well as he did in 2013, but he if he is available more than a few picks after Holland and Chapman get selected, you are getting outstanding value. Uehara’a ratios are awesome and he holds down the 9th for a 90+ win team. What more can you possibly want from a closer?
4. Brian McCann – McCann has been very consistent with his power production over the years. Now, the move to the AL and to Yankee stadium brings him back into the discussion as a top 4 catcher. He may grab a few extra ABs as a DH.
5. Brandon Belt – Belt is not going to win your league for you, but he should certainly outproduce his ADP. The light bulb started to turn on for him during last season’s second half. He has the ability to produce numbers similar to Hosmer’s, but without the steals.
6. Brandon Beachy – Beachy is an injury risk for sure, but he has tremendous upside towards the end of the draft. He looked like a Cy Young candidate before TJ surgery in 2012 and he pitched well before being shut down again last summer. He expects to be ready for spring training since the latest procedure was just a minor clean-up.
7. A.J. Griffin – Griffin seems to get lost in the ultra deep SP pool. His solid ERA and WHIP numbers along with a K/9 of 7.7 make him an ultra safe option for the back-end of your rotation. There is not a ton of upside here, but you could do a lot worse with an SP4 or 5.
1. Matt Carpenter: I will go into some more detail on why I like Carpenter in an article coming soon, but safe to say, he is a solid average hitter who will score a lot of runs in the Cardinals lineup. While I don’t expect a repeat of 126 runs in 2014, I certainly see 100+ runs scored. He has added value in points leagues where his ability to hit doubles will reward his owner.
2. Alex Rios: In 24 games with the Rangers in 2013, Rios stole 8 bases and hit 3 homers. He drove in 10 runs while scoring 15 runs. He moves into a productive lineup where he should have ample opportunities to score and drive in runs.
3. Adrian Beltre: I know he is 34-years old, but Beltre is one of the most consistent 3B options you can find. He bats 0.300, drives in 100 runs, scores 80 runs and hits 30 homers. I am taking him early and banking on those numbers for his 4th season in Texas.
4. Hanley Ramirez: The knock on Ramirez is that he cannot stay on the field. But when he is on the field his numbers are elite, and he plays a position where there are not many elite options. And let’s not forget that he is only 29-years old. I like a healthy Ramirez in a stacked Dodger lineup to produce the elite lines owners have been expecting since his 2008 season.
5. Matt Moore: Moore had issues with his command in 2013, walking 76 batters in just over 150 innings. If he can command his pitches better and return to throwing first strikes 60% of the time and not 50%, he has a dominating arm and will be one of the top pitchers in baseball.
6. Jose Altuve: Second base, and middle infield in general, is a top-heavy position, with a few elite stars and then a collection of declining veterans and rising young players. Altuve is certainly a riser, and I am probably higher on him than most. Over the past 2 seasons in Houston, Altuve has stolen 68 bases, while getting caught 24 times (92 attempts). He needs to improve his techniques, but there is certainly a willingness to let him run. He has scored 144 runs. Over the past 2 seasons, he has scored 12% of Houston’s runs and stolen 31.5% of their bases. He has shown double-digit power in the minors, and has hit for a solid average (0.280 or so). I expect Houston to be a better offensive team in 2014 (they really can’t be much worse) and Altuve will be a prime benefactor of that.
7. Evan Gattis: One question heading into 2014 was whether Evan Gattis was going to win the Braves starting catching job. Well, with Brian McCann signing with the Yankees, the job belongs to Gattis. While he will struggle with batting average, Gattis proved highly productive when in the lineup in 2013. He hit 21 homers in only 105 games, so there is a chance he could approach 30-homer power. He drove in 65 runs, and the Braves have a very productive lineup. He strikes out a bit too much and his average will drag you down a bit in roto, but a catcher who hits 25+ homers is hard to find (there were 6 in 2013: Wieters, Arencibia, Rosario, McCann, Santana and Gattis).
1. Anthony Rizzo: Slight homer pick, but also factor in the following stats from 2013: bad-luck BABIP; improved walk rate and higher FB% than 2012. These could combine for a .280 BA and 30 HR in 2014 with just a little positive luck.
2. Brad Miller: He was an unknown in Seattle, but with Cano there the rest of the team may get more attention moving forward. He’s a nice help across the board, with the potential for double-digit HR/SB, a decent BA, and lots of runs if he stays in the leadoff slot.
3. Jay Bruce: He didn’t turn into the 30/20 guy we hoped for when he first came up, but I really enjoy his consistency in an often volatile market. Three years of 30+ HR and 95+ RBI, plus a BA that doesn’t hurt too badly.
4. Kaleb Cowart: He was a touted 3B prospect before stumbling in 2013, but I have faith that he can bounce back in 2014. Freese is keeping the position warm until this kid is ready; it may simply take an extra year after the stumble.
5. Chris Sale: Everything he did last year proves he’s an ace among SP: 9.49 K/9 (9th), 6.9 rWAR (4th), 77% QS% (tied 6th), 3.07 ERA (17th) but 2.95 xFIP (9th), 7 tough losses (tied 1st). His frame deters people, but I’m happy having him as my #1 SP, and he’ll earn a Cy Young soon.
6. Danny Salazar: Absorb these stats: 3.10 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9. Those are his MLEs from 2013. And then in his 10 MLB starts: 3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9. No real loss of skill in his transition. Cleveland anonymity might obscure his value entering 2014, but you’d better grab him early or you’ll miss out on a breakout performance.
7. Kyle Zimmer: I live in mid-Missouri and get interested in the Royals farm system. This kid struggled early and then figured things out, ending the season at AA. From June 12 onward: 55.2 IP, 2.43 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9.
Jim and Peter both like the speedy Altuve along with an improving Houston lineup. Jeff and Peter favor the five tool Alex Rios playing a full year in Arlington. Finally Jeff and Tommy prefer Brandon Belt for his draft position and room for growth. There are only a few players that one of us likes just as much as the next guy, but overall the lists are unique and quite diverse as talent goes.
Did we mention one of your favorites? Do you have a personal preference that you like more than us? Have any comments about the players that we like? Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section below.