Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs
Rizzo’s 2013 season boils down to a lack of singles. He notched 65 extra-base hits and generated a healthy 11 percent walk rate, but those types of things get mitigated in a big way fantasy-wise when you hit .233. His ADP is typically in the 100 range, and I think he can outperform that position this year. He has his issues with left-handed pitchers, but he also posted a .258 BABIP, which I think points to at least a bit of bad luck. If he gets the average in the .260 range, he makes a big jump in value considering the power potential. I think it’s a jump he can make considering the plate discipline and manageable 18.4 percent strikeout rate.
Rizzo is being judged off of what can only be described as a disappointing 2013, and that’s fair. But that assessment also creates an attractive value pick in the middle rounds of drafts.
Jayson Werth – Washington Nationals
Werth’s ADP is all over the map, as I think owners are unsure what to think about a 34-year-old coming off of what can be called a career year. Werth missed 28 games with a right thigh strain, yet he still posted a .318/.398/.532 slash line with 25 HR and 10 SB in 11 attempts. Werth’s plate discipline is a known commodity, and it’s doubtful that it’ll disappear on him this year, so he will still have tons of value in OBP leagues. The main question regarding Werth is whether you can believe in the average. If you do, he’s a .300 hitter with 25-plus HR and 10-plus SB potential. If you don’t, he’s closer to .270 with the same power/speed potential.
There’s a slim chance he repeats the 26 percent line-drive rate he posted in 2013, so I think the average comes down a bit but not enough for me to drop him much below the sixth or seventh round. Werth provides a lot of help in three categories, and he can pitch in for SB and AVG. This is a guy you want to keep in mind when the first wave of outfielders is off the board.
Jay Bruce – Cincinnati Reds
Bruce never turned into the superstar we were all hoping for back when he was the no. 1 prospect in baseball, but he has put together valuable fantasy seasons the past two years. There are a few warning signs that might scare some owners off—his walk rate has been in decline the past three years and his strikeout rate has been inching up during that same time—but I think he’s still going to be a valuable play this year as a second outfielder.
Bruce hits for power, and he’s in a good hitters’ park, so I would expect another 30-plus HR season with good R/RBI stats mixed in. Per 162 games, Bruce has produced an average of 90 R, 33 HR, and 105 RBI over his last three years. He’s a bit of an average drag, as he’s hit .257 in that span, and he’s no longer super-valuable in OBP leagues, but he’s still got a lot of value.
Jedd Gyorko – San Diego Padres
Second base isn’t terrible, but after the first two tiers of players go off the board, it can get really easy to fall into the Marco Scutaro tier of regret and sadness. Don’t do that; go get Gyorko instead. Recent history is lousy with young, disappointing Padres, but I think Gyorko is going to be different. Really, I swear. He had a higher slugging percentage at home than he did on the road in 2013, and he hit three more homeruns at home. He’s going to be an average drag, but he has 25-plus HR potential, and that’s a nice bonus from a late-round 2B/MI.
Ben Revere – Philadelphia Phillies
Revere is going to be there for you really late in most drafts. He’s a zero-power hitter whose value is solely tied into his legs, but .290 and 35 steals isn’t anything to write off immediately. Outfield can get thin fast if you aren’t careful in a five-OF league, and Revere can provide you with a solid average and a good amount of stolen bases.