All of us who participate in fantasy sports, whether it’s baseball, football, or basketball, the thing we all look forward to most is the sudden surprise of an unknown athlete.
Who doesn’t love it when a random player comes out of nowhere each year, and establishes a name for himself? Everyone loves the underdog. Including me. After participating in a few fantasy baseball drafts for the upcoming season, I’ve seen “so called experts” make their predictions on who will come out of nowhere in 2012. So I have decided, why not make my own assumptions on who I believe has the capability to reach greatness. My top 5 players “under the radar” are as followed:
5. Vance Worley SP Philadelphia Phillies: Many of you may not recognize who the 4th starting pitcher is in Philly. When you have three number 1 aces on one team, it’s hard to even consider a guy like Vance Worley. The 24-year old right hander has a ton of potential pitching behind veterans in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. He has an advantage over other young, unproven, up and coming pitchers. He can learn from these 3 aces, who’ve dominated for so long in the majors. A year ago, Worley started 21 games for the Phillies, ending the season with an 11-3 record and a 3.01 ERA. I like Worley’s potential this season for the Phillies, a team who I believe will return to World Series form.
4. Dustin Ackley 2B Seattle Mariners: The 24-year old second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, began the 2012 season on the right foot. Many may not know that the 2012 MLB season opened up in Japan between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s. Dustin Ackley was a key component in the series, smashing his first homerun of the season, opening day. Ackley reminds me a lot of a Chase Utley, but the only difference is, he’s 9 years younger. He’s also one of the few power hitters at the 2nd base position. Last year, the rookie homered only 6 times with 36 RBIs. Not bad for winning the job midseason. Now with last year under his belt, I believe Ackley will emerge as a perennial all-star 2nd baseman in the American League.
3. Starlin Castro SS Chicago Cubs: Castro is in his third year in the Majors, and he’s only 22 years old. He will be participating in a big role for Chicago this season, batting in the 3rd spot of the order. That is a lot to ask out of a 3rd year player who is that young! Do I believe he will step up to the plate and emerge as a great talent? Absolutely. I have him 3rd on my “under the radar” list for a reason. Castro is a career .304 hitter, and each of his last two seasons, his statistics are only increasing. The Cubs are one of the youngest teams in baseball, with lots of room to grow. Castro is one of their key players looking forward.
2. Freddie Freeman 1B Atlanta Braves: Freedie Freeman, along with teammate Jason Heyward are a great duo for the Atlanta Braves this season. Since I could only pick one of the duo, I would role with Freddie Freeman. Another 22-year old with All-Star potential is residing in Atlanta. Sometimes I wonder why the Mets can’t ever get their hands on these type of players. Last year, Freeman batted .277 with 21 homeruns and 76 RBIs. His role will expand, now that he has a year of experience in Atlanta. Some believe in the sophomore slump, Heyward engaging in that a year ago, but I believe Freeman will have an even better year than his rookie campaign.
1. Madison Bumgarner SP San Francisco Giants: One guy I was targeting this season in my Fantasy Baseball draft was the next Lincecum out of San Fran. Bumgarner is projected to be a top 20 pitcher entering the season. You can’t look at his numbers from a year ago (13-13, 3.21 ERA), because him, Lincecum, and Matt Cain all had off years, due to the struggles of the Giants offense. The Giants are expected to have a bounce back season, and I believe they are favorites to win the very weak National League West. What makes Bumgarner even more special, is him being a left handed pitcher. Facing studs like Lincecum, and Cain in back to back nights, and then a lefty like Bumgarner makes the Giants contenders, and atop the National League in a trio of starting pitchers.
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