That gives each new Eastern import something to prove, whether it’s the value of a different Asian league, a new way to reach MLB, or just that he’s the next Asian star. Today, I’ll look at what five prominent Asian imports have to prove—and whether they can prove it.
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Which Asian stars will shine in the WBC—and maybe one day in MLB?
In the first two editions of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), Asian teams have consistently outperformed their foreign counterparts. Japan won both the 2006 and 2009 tournaments, and Korea’s 12-4 record is the best of any country. Korea won a bronze in 2006 and a silver medal in 2009’s extra-inning, all-Asian final against Japan. There are several reasons for this apparent dominance, mainly arising from how much more seriously the Asian teams view the tournament than their Western counterparts.
Major-league players and managers see the tournament as an extended spring training, or an exhibition akin to an All-Star Game. Players are substituted not for strategic purposes but to ensure that everyone “gets their work in.” Instead of using an active manager, the U.S. team has been coached by two managers—Buck Martinez and Davey Johnson—who hadn’t worked in several seasons, making rapport with players more difficult. Additionally, many major-league players declined to participate, leaving the best players off the rosters of Western teams.
Adam Lind is fantasy’s version of Michael Corleone in Godfather Part III: just when you think he’s out, he pulls himself back in. Lind has bounced in and out of fantasy relevance—and the minor leagues—tantalizing with just enough (occasional) productivity to keep him in a big league uniform (well, that, and the misbegotten four-year, $18 million deal he signed after his breakout 2009 season). It would be easy to call BABIPhis Joey Zasa, the nemesis who keeps him down, since Lind’s seasons since 2009 are paralleled by diminishing BABIP returns, but there’s more to the story than that:
Lawrie had an excellent 2011 major-league debut (albeit one tempered by two separate hand injuries that cost him more than a month’s worth of games), posting a .293/.373/.580 line with nine homers and seven steals in 171 plate appearances. Fantasy owners gobbled him up in the early rounds of the 2012 draft—even in expert leagues—and Lawrie seemed to be paying them off over the first half of the season. Through the end of June, he was hitting .293/.341/.438 with eight longballs and 11 steals in 320 plate appearances.
Surely the switch-hitting first baseman and middle-of-the-order slugger for the Evil Empire is a top-notch fantasy pick, right? Wrong. True, he was once such a hot commodity that he was part of a deadline deal in successive years. And one year later, the Yankees signed him to an eight-year, $180-million deal that Christina Kahrlcalled “a huge bit of overpayment to keep a guy who should probably be okay over the lifetime of the deal.”
A late start and slow fade kept Todd Frazier from doing better in the Rookie of the Year balloting, but the Reds’ third baseman still had a fine season, earning $13 in NL-only leagues and $2 in mixed leagues. From the start of May to the end of August, Frazier hit .290/.347/.540 with 18 homers in 369 plate appearances. Among players with at least 450 plate appearances for the season, his .225 overall ISO ranked him 27th overall and sixth among third base qualifiers.
Next season, Youkilis changes from one set of pinstripes to another, a move that will have Sox fans of both colors, and even Yankee fans, trying to adjust to the change. For fantasy owners, however, a far more important question is whether the Greek God of Walks will change from the player who earned just over a buck in Medium leagues last season.
Michael kicks off his keeper analysis with a look at corner infielders involved in notable offseason deals, including the redoubtable David Wright and the eminently doubtable James Loney.
With the Winter Meetings in the rearview mirror, the Hot Stove League continues to crank up, and big deals seem to appear every day in Transaction Analysis. To start our own Hot Stove League, I’m playing Keeper Reaper catch-up by looking at some of the bigger deals that went down during our postseason fantasy hiatus. Each of the keeper league designations is linked to a PFM page with 2012 dollar values for that size league.
If you’re interested in hearing about a corner infielder or designated hitter, please leave a suggestion in the comments section.
Michael looks at his best and worst Value Picks for the 2012 season.
As the season winds down, Value Picks takes a fond look back at our picks from the season, looking at the hits and misses we collected in our efforts to find value among the overlooked players on your league’s waiver wire. As with assessing fantasy players, the notion of “value” can be slippery to pin down, especially when looking at players who are largely castoffs from other fantasy squads.
Value Picks gets the Disney treatment this week as the season winds down to the final week.
This column is coming a few days late since I spent a week with my brother’s family in Orlando—a trip that, of course, included a day at Disney World. Inspired by the visit, I’m giving this week a Disney theme (instead of the other video I introduced my nephews to). After all, sometimes Value Picks makes me feel like WALL-E, sifting through the discards of other teams to find something worth saving. With only a dozen games to play, we’re all hoping to run across the final piece of the puzzle to put us in the money for our fantasy league and make our dreams come true.