The 2013 James Loney All-Stars
Welcome to the 2013 MLB Season! I personally couldn’t be happier it’s Opening Day, and I’m excited to be joining the staff here at Baseball Revival! I hope you’ll join me here every Monday where I’ll be talking Fantasy Baseball (as well as on Thursdays for a weekly Yankees recap/State of the Empire and any other posts I write in between).
For today’s first post, we’re going to dive into what I like to call The James Loney All-Stars, named after the current Tampa Bay Rays and former Los Angeles Dodgers first basemen who, while never a stand out, delivered above replacement-level performance with solid counting stats. That kind of performance may not single-handedly win you your league, but as an injury fill in or bench stash it could keep you afloat when needed, sometimes offering surprising upside in counting stats like RBIs.
This is a team of unsung heroes that can come from a variety of categories – former top prospects that haven’t panned out like they should, overlooked but steadily contributing veterans who go overlooked because they aren’t “sexy” picks with much upside, mid-20 something contributors about to enter their age 26-28 seasons when power and overall production typically peak, or even players beginning the season on the DL that are worth stashing or monitoring for if/when they get healthy. Most of these players probably went undrafted in your league, but warrant consideration as injury replacements, for empty bench or DL spots, or simply to keep on your watch list for down the road. Since it’s already Opening Day some of these may be guys that have been brought up by other fantasy writers over the past few weeks of research and draft analysis, but if I’ve included them it’s because I heavily agree with those write ups or was thinking along the same lines prior to reading about them. Without further ado, let’s meet the 2013 James Loney All-Stars.
C: Ryan Doumit. Both catchers I drafted last season, Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy, went down early to injuries. Enter Ryan Doumit, who I’ve long been a distant fan of but who could never stay healthy behind the dish. That’s old news. You know what else is old news, but also new news as well? The guy can flat out hit. And now that his body is being treated more carefully by spending time in the OF, at 1B, and DH-ing, he’s doing a better job of staying in the lineup. Don’t be surprised if he’s easily a top 10 catcher by year’s end, though fair warning – he can be extremely streaky with hot and cold streaks that can last for several weeks.
Honorable Mentions: Alex Avila, JP Arencibia
1B: Adam Lind. Adam Lind’s catastrophic, minor league assigned 2012 season screwed me last year, but I don’t care. With the Blue Jays completely reloaded, there’s even less pressure on him to be a major contributor this offense, so he can do what he specializes in: mashing righties. He may only be a part time DH/1B, but facing righties he should get enough AB’s to bounce back to his 20+ home run days of 2010 and 2011. We may never see another 35 HR season like his 2009 campaign, but if anyone expected that he wouldn’t be on the waiver wire.
Honorable Mentions: Garrett Jones, Yonder Alonso
2B: Gordon Beckham. Similar to Adam Lind, I just can’t quit Gordon Beckham. He has the pedigree of being a former first round draft pick in 2008, and despite three very disappointing seasons in a row from 2010 – 2012, I can’t help but hope and wonder when that talent will show face considering his very good 2009 rookie season when he hit .270/.347/.460 in 378 at bats. Entering his age 27 season, I think it comes back this year, especially when you look at his misleading 2012 season that saw a 30 point rise in his ISO power from his 2011 campaign. At a very thin position, he’s definitely worth taking a flier on.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Murphy
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall. His hype and potential as a sleeper has been getting a lot of buzz of late, but that is not going to stop me from including him here. I’ve owned Lonnie as a minor league keeper for what is now a third season and this is the one I expect him to put his skills together and stay healthy. He actually got off to a good start in 2012 before injuries derailed his season, and with Tito Francona in town and the Indians being my pick to surprise baseball and challenge for one of the AL Wild Card spots, I think he benefits from a lot of factors to live up to the first round draft pick hype he carries with him.
Honorable Mention: Matt Dominguez
SS: Eduardo Nunez. Tough call on whether to go with Nuney or the honorable mention, Dee Gordon, here but ultimately my Yankee fandom won out. Really I think it’s a toss-up between the two as they are both in the same situation with injuries allowing them to step into unexpected starting roles. Both can run, Gordon probably more so, but Nuney’s got the better bat. Both should be a source of steals at another thin position (though not as thin as 2B), but both will most likely be relegated to garbage time when Hanley Ramirez and Derek Jeter return from injury. However both Jeter and HanRam could easily wind up back on the DL down the line.
Honorable Mention: Dee Gordon
OF: Jackie Bradley. I admit it that this one is probably passed the point of being here as many went out and grabbed him after it was announced he is the 2013 Boston Red Sox starting left fielder. However, if he hasn’t been grabbed, do so right now. A standout in college who’s draft stock fell due to being injury prone, Bradley tore through a season and a half of minor league ball before his 2013 spring training forced the Sox to start his service time clock early and bring him north with the big boys to start the season. I find it very interesting and intriguing that a young kid like Bradley will learn how to hit with the Green Monster instead of learning how to hit major league pitching and then learning how to hit with The Monster. That could just be me picking nits, but this kid has a ton of talent and upside regardless and at age 22 he could be on the precipice of a long and impressive career.
OF: Carlos Quentin. Another player who struggles to stay healthy (only 130 games played twice in his seven year career), but when Quentin does so all he does is mash. Maybe you’ve heard, but they moved the fences in at Petco Park this season, so hopefully a lot of his long fly balls will be home runs and not warning track outs now. The only season he’s had an ISO below .200 was his second major league season in 2007, so if he can stay healthy he may finally be poised for the 40 home run season Matthew Berry predicts for him what seems like every season.
Honorable Mentions: Peter Bourjos, Colby Rasmus, Dom Brown
SP: Tommy Hanson. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for the 4th year in a row, and maybe I shouldn’t be writing a fantasy baseball advice column. Call me crazy, but I think Hanson delivers a season of relative full health, especially when compared to his last few injury plagued ordeals. A California native, I think the SoCal weather plays a completely un-substantiated factor in keeping him healthy now that he’s away from those humid Atlanta summers. Angel Stadium of Anaheim plays slightly bigger than Turner Field, and Hanson was once a pitcher that looked on the verge of being an ace before those injuries took hold. I expect a decent bounce back from him as a guy who seemed in dire need of a change of scenery. Especially considering the run support this offense should get for him, and the wins that will come with it.
SP: Dan Straily. A cheap source of strikeouts and, thanks to playing his home games in O.co Coliseum, hopefully ERA too. The A’s infield may not be quite as defensively built like Moneyball teams past, but their outfield offers a ton of range that will should prevent some line drives and fly balls from falling in as hits, another perk for him to benefit from. If you’re looking for a pitching candidate whose peripheral stats and advanced metrics such as FIP and K% don’t quite match up with the on field results (like, say, Jeremy Hellickson), this is your guy.
Honorable Mentions: Dillon Gee, Felix Doubront, Jamie Garcia, David Phelps
RP: David Hernandez. Anyone likely to get a decent amount of saves barring injury is probably already on a roster in your league, so I offer another alternative: high strike out set up men. No, they won’t offer much in the way of saves or wins, but they should help keep your ERA low while piling up a ton of k’s. I’ve found this strategy to be quite useful when in need of a relief pitcher, and hopefully you can too. If your league is one that counts holds and/or K/9, then there’s even more upside here.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Cook, Sean Marshall
Finally, here are some guys starting the year on the shelf that could also pay off down the line if you stash them in any available DL spots you might have.
DL: John Danks. He may not be an ace, but he is a capable lefty starter with plenty of experience. He’s only 2 years removed from a 3 year run where he averaged over 5 WAR and an ERA around 3.60, and if his arm gets straightened out he could make for a huge comeback.
DL: Cory Luebke. A great 2011 and hot start to 2012 left many thinking he’d be the next ace for San Diego during their rebuilding, or at least would bring in plenty of prime prospects if dealt to a contender. Unfortunately he got shut down last season for Tommy John, and doesn’t project to return until June/July. However if he comes back the same pitcher he left you’ll be glad you stashed him.
DL: Almost Every Current Yankee. On the offensive side there’s the guys that are probably not available: Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and A-Rod. Despite regression from all four, when healthy they’ll play in what should still be a potent offense leading to a good change for high runs scored and RBI totals. And on the pitching side, Phil Hughes shouldn’t be out too long and he’s in a walk year, looking to cash in on free agency in the off-season. Michael Pineda also offers an opportunity to build on his rookie success if he can come back mid-season healthy and able from last year’s shoulder surgery. By the time these Yankees return the real team may be too far gone to make a come back, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you make a run at your league title instead.
Agree? Disagree? Anyone I left out but should have included? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you have any suggestions for future columns.
Posted on April 1, 2013, in 2013, Fantasy and tagged Adam Lind, Carlos Quentin, Cory Luebke, Dan Straily, David Hernandez, Eduardo Nunez, Fantasy Baseball, Gordon Beckham, Jackie Bradley Jr., James Loney, John Danks, Lonnie Chisenhall, Opening Day, Ryan Doumit, Tommy Hanson, Yankees. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.