Fantasy MLB: Stock Shift & Free Agent Pick-Up
By Michael Jokinen 4/24/13
(Kevin Millar says Napoli’s hitting is directly proportional to how unbuttoned his shirt is)
Yep, value is on the move. Already some players are making it known that they’re in for big seasons … or huge disappointments – here’s looking at your Eric Hosmer. I’m not here to tell you that Justin Upton is good at baseball. Anyone with eyes can figure that out. Instead, I’d rather take a more subtle look at some sneaky-hot players, or guys I feel good about investing in the rest of the way. Or names that are suddenly popping up on some fantasy radars. Here are a few names that I like from hereon out, and some free agent news and notes …
C/1B – Mike Napoli, Red Sox
I love my duel eligibility, but I’m really feeling Mike Napoli for a different reason. He’s a fantasy catcher but he’s playing exclusively at first base. In fact, he has yet to play a single game behind the dish. Not coincidentally, he just collected his major league best 26th RBI – playing strictly first base allows him to be an everyday player and minimize his injury risk. Where most fantasy catchers customarily get days off, Mike Napoli is playing every day and getting separation in the counting stats. Most catchers only have a shot at 60-70 RBIs. Mike Napoli has a good chance at 100. He has great career numbers at Fenway, and it seems he’s fitting like a glove in Boston. It seems obvious in retrospect, but it’s a strategy to keep in mind for future drafts: attempt to procure a “catcher” who really plays elsewhere.
2B/SS – Josh Rutledge, Rockies
I already told you he was my number one sleeper coming into the year, and he’s only validated my freakish crush so far. He’s been the #3 fantasy shortstop, and that’s before accounting for his effort today (1-for-5, 1 HR). He’s also stealing bases (5 so far) at a clip better than I had anticipated. Buy, buy, buy. Did I mention he’s eligible at both second base and shortstop?
SS – Jean Segura, Brewers
Who’s the #4 fantasy shortstop? This dude. Hitting .377 and has five steals in his last five games. Segura-Aoki has to be the most underrated leadoff-two hole offensive combination in baseball. Firmly planted at the top of the Brewers order, expect him to continue swiping bags, scoring runs, and hitting for a passable average.
RP – Jose Valverde, Tigers
I’M ONLY INCLUDING HIS NAME FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. IN NO WAY DO I ENDORSE ROSTERING JOSE VALVERDE … I just think you should know that in the latest chapter of the most soap-opera closer situation around, Jim Leyland just named Valverde the closer out of left field. He owned in hardly any leagues, and with good reason. Last year was the demise of Jose Valverde, and it was fairly sudden. Though he posted a 3.78 ERA, his xFIP (5.01) and copious blown saves were exceedingly troubling. Equally troubling was his strikeout rate which dipped from 8.59 K/9 in 2011 to 6.26 K/9 last year. All that said, a closer is a closer is a closer in fantasy. Pick him up if you’re desperate, but be as leery as humanly possible. Ideally, trade him micro-seconds after you pick him up off free agency.