Fantasy baseball 2013 draft preview: Super sophomores
Everyone loves the idea of the "next big thing" in fantasy -- so much so that the former "next big thing" is often overlooked and forgotten. Well, here's a tip to keep in mind: Last year's rookie trash can be this year's sophomore treasure.
As part of our ongoing series on drafting sleepers, let's examine the overlooked sophomores. Last year's phenoms who didn't quite pan out will come at a reduced price on draft day because of the disappointing numbers they produced a year ago.
Brett Lawrie exemplifies this well, although he wasn't technically a rookie a year ago. After a smashing second half in 2011, Lawrie was expected to produce huge returns as an elite fantasy third baseman at top-five if not top-three status. Instead, he was merely marginal, hitting .273 with 11 homers, 48 RBI, 73 runs and 13 steals, putting him 15th among third basemen in a standard head-to-head points league.
Owners who reached for Lawrie were left bitter. But that makes this the time to pounce on a talent like Lawrie, whose hype is in the past, whose luster is tarnished and whose draft position is now at a reasonable level.
Ah, but that player is still capable of going .290/30/100/100/20.
If you need further examples of how this draft strategy can pay off, take a gander at how the owners who drafted Chris Sale, Mark Trumbo, Aroldis Chapman and Paul Goldschmidt fared. All were sophomore monsters last season. Things tend to be easier the second time around in the league, and those guys crushed it relative to their draft position -- as did Kyle Seager, Freddie Freeman, Salvador Perez, Greg Holland, Trevor Plouffe and Mike Moustakas.
Here are the top overlooked sophomores to draft at a discounted rate this spring, listed by position:
Jesus Montero (23), Seattle Mariners: As a relatively full-time DH and part-time catcher, Montero hit just 15 homers and drove in 62 runs -- numbers barely good enough to slot even at one of the thinnest fantasy positions. He should expand those totals in his second year, particularly with Seattle's fences moving in. Montero also improved as the year wore on, which is a sign that he's becoming comfortable as a big leaguer. Becoming a full-time backstop will be more physically demanding, but Montero is capable of some huge things for his fantasy owners out of the middle rounds.
Other sophomore catchers to consider: Wilin Rosario, COL; Yasmani Grandal, SD; Derek Norris, OAK; Erik Kratz, PHI; Martin Maldonado, MIL; and Ryan Lavarnway, BOS.
Anthony Rizzo (24), Chicago Cubs: Rizzo has long been hyped as the next monster at first base, and we finally saw what he's capable of in the second half of last year, when he totaled 15 homers and 48 RBI. Rizzo could slip into the middle rounds due to the depth at first base and because he took a couple of seasons to match the hype. He is capable of posting fantasy Utopian numbers of .300/30/100/100, though, which would make him an early round pick in 2014.
Other sophomore first basemen to consider: Chris Carter, HOU; Yonder Alonso, SD; Chris Parmelee, MIN; Tyler Moore, WAS; and Taylor Green, MIL.
Matt Carpenter (27), St. Louis Cardinals: The transition from first base to second is very rare in baseball, but Carpenter's move is reportedly going so well that the Cardinals named him the Opening Day starter. For fantasy, that means a bat good enough to play at first base is now going to become eligible at the thin second base position. Carpenter also retains eligibility at third and outfield and has the potential to go .295/15/70/70 in his first full season in the majors. He's going to be a handy late-round pick in leagues that require players with versatility.
Other sophomore second basemen to consider: Josh Rutledge, COL; Brian Dozier, MIN; and Donovan Solano, MIA.
Andrelton Simmons (23), Atlanta Braves: Simmons barely burned his rookie eligibility with 166 at-bats last season, and didn't quite show enough to be picked as a top-10 fantasy shortstop this spring. Consider him a poor man's Elvis Andrus. We got a glimpse of the potential in WBC play, and Simmons is slated to lead off in front one of the best lineups in baseball. A .290 average, 100-plus runs and 30-plus steals are not out the question in his first full season in the majors. That type of production would make him a top-five fantasy shortstop pick next year.
Other sophomore shortstops to consider: Zack Cozart, CIN; and Jean Segura, MIL.
Todd Frazier (27), Cincinnati Reds: In addition to Frazier, younger and more elite prospects Manny Machado and Will Middlebrooks are also capable of being sophomore smash hits. However Frazier comes with the least hype and the best numbers from last year, and as a bonus, he's the prime age of 27 -- an ideal mix for a fantasy breakthrough. He will be one of the last starting third basemen picked in drafts; yet, he is on his way to a .280/25/90/75/5 campaign in his first full season as a starter.
Other sophomore third basemen to consider: Middlebrooks, BOS; Machado, BAL; and Jordan Pacheco, COL.
Yoenis Cespedes (27), Oakland Athletics: The Cuban defector was anything but disappointing last year, but he wins our pick at outfield because he's not Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, the reigning rookies of the year. It is a bit overlooked how good Cespedes was in his pro debut (with no minor-league experience). In almost any other year, .292/23/82/16/.356/.505 would be good for Rookie of the Year honors. Instead, Cespedes will be picked many rounds behind Trout and Harper. At the prime age of 27, Cespedes is capable of performing on the level of either to the tune of .300/30/100/100/20.
Other sophomore outfielders to consider: Trout, LAA; Harper, WAS; Starling Marte, PIT; Norichika Aoki, MIL; Quintin Berry, DET; Darin Mastroianni, MIN; Jordany Valdespin, NYM; and Anthony Gose, TOR.
Matt Moore (23), Tampa Bay Rays: Moore's a shining example of the sophomore phenomenon: As good as his rookie year was, it didn't match the elevated draft position that stemmed from the hype of his eye-opening postseason for the Rays the prior October. It's somewhat possible his 175 strikeouts will get overlooked among the top 30 starting pitchers in drafts. Moore is capable of posting an ERA almost one run lower than his 2012 mark of 3.81 and a WHIP far better than his below-average 1.35 -- he just needs to curtail his walks. His second full season in the majors should feature better command, a lot of strikeouts and fewer base runners. This is a fantasy ace in waiting.
Matt Harvey (23), New York Mets: Why is a former first-round amateur draft pick coming off a 2.74 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning as a rookie overlooked? Well, he pitches for the lowly Mets, that's why. It's improbable Harvey can sustain that dominance over 180 innings, but even if he posts those numbers in the first half of the season, allowing you to deal him before he hits the proverbial wall, he will be well worth his modest late-round draft position. This is a future ace, just be wary of him getting arm weary just after the All-Star break.
Other sophomore starting pitchers to consider: Yu Darvish, TEX; Jarrod Parker, OAK; Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA; Wei-Ying Chen, BAL; Wade Miley, ARI; Tommy Milone, OAK; Lucas Harrell, HOU; Joe Kelly, STL; Michael Fiers, MIL; Scott Diamond, MIN; Nathan Eovaldi, MIA; Drew Smyly, DET; Jose Quintana, CHW; Hector Santiago, CHW; Patrick Corbin, ARI; Randall Delgado, ATL; and Drew Pomeranz, COL.
Addison Reed (24), Chicago White Sox: Despite posting 29 saves as a rookie and boasting a lightning arm, Reed has a modest draft position this spring because of a very un-closer-like 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He was also particularly underwhelming in the second half last season, blowing three saves and posting a 5.63 ERA and a .313 batting-average against. However, he did cut down his walks in the second half, and is just getting started as one of the best young late-inning relievers in baseball. Reed is capable of a monster breakthrough in his first full season as a closer to the tune of 40 saves and an ERA two runs lower (2.75). You are going to like this pick in the later rounds.
Other sophomore relievers to consider: Ryan Cook, OAK; Kelvin Herrera, KC; Junichi Tazawa, BOS; and Jared Hughes, PIT.