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April 24, 2013

Free Agent Watch

National League, Week Four

by Josh Shepardson


Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Ownership: ESPN: 0.3% Yahoo!: 1% CBS: 10%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .281 AVG

Often in the fickle world of fantasy baseball, yesterday's highly touted prospect is tossed aside for the newest shiny toy. In the case of Mesoraco, it is more understandable than in the case of many others. Mesoraco struggled last year, hitting just .212/.288/.352. Meanwhile, incumbent starter Ryan Hanigan was coming off a solid season where he held his own at the plate, largely due to his .365 OBP, but he was even more valuable to the Reds because he cut down 48 percent of attempting base stealers. Hanigan was placed on the disabled list on April 21, and according to Drew Silva of NBC Sports, he could miss about three weeks.

Mesoraco is playing much better this season than he did last. He has reached base in all nine games he's played in this year, and has tallied multiple hits in three of his last five games played. It took a while for Mesoraco to get his bat going in his minor-league career, and he did his best work in the upper minors, triple-slashing .294/.363/.594 at the Double-A level and .279/.359/.472 at the Triple-A level. Our prospect staff here at Baseball Prospectus, namely Mark Anderson, liked Mesoraco enough coming into the season to rank him fourth on the Reds top 10 talents 25-and-under list. That fourth-place ranking is one spot ahead of everyone's favorite burner, Billy Hamilton. The list takes defense and position into consideration, which have little to no fantasy value, but Anderson noted Mesoraco's potential to pop 15-20 homers. 

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Ownership: ESPN: 16.1%, Yahoo!: 33% CBS: 52%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB, .222 AVG

I swear, Belt was included in this week's article prior to his homer heroics last night. With that out of the way, on to the analysis. Belt's ownership has plummeted across all major fantasy baseball providers since draft day. His draft stock rose in some leagues that drafted late as a result of a sizzling spring. Spring stats mean very little, but that doesn't mean that Belt was bad candidate to project to improve this year.

He'd gotten off to a slow start this season, but some poor luck was at least partly to blame. Prior to last night, Belt put 47 balls in play and 15 (31.9 percent) were line drives. However, despite the hard contact, Belt's BABIP sat at .255. Highlighting Belt's lin- drive rate isn't meant to suggest he'll continue to rip them nearly one-third of the time he puts the ball in play, but rather to point out that he's making hard contact. Belt has been on the bench at the beginning of the Giants' last three games, but they've faced three consecutive left-handed starters. The days off are likely matchup-based, and Belt will sit on occasion against southpaws. If Belt was cast aside in your league, and the league is a 12-team mixed league or larger with a corner-infield position, add him. He's not a conventional slugging first baseman, but 10-15 homers become acceptable when they are accompanied by a dozen or so stolen bases. 

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Related Content:  Ownership,  Andrew Cashner

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Western Front: The Roc... (04/23)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Amer... (04/23)
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Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Amer... (04/30)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/24)

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