The 2013 MLB season is right around the corner, which also signals the return of one of the most addicting things in all of sports.
No, not ballpark franks, though they are quite delicious. I’m talking about fantasy baseball.
With that being said, a handful of players are seeing their stock significantly rise and fantasy owners should keep them in mind on draft day. Some are building off impressive 2012 campaigns while other are in a new environment, making them much more fantasy relevant. So who are these guys? Let’s find out, shall we?
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds: Choo had a bounceback season in 2012, batting a solid .283 and hitting 16 home runs. And that was while playing with the Indians. Now he is a member of the Reds, and I absolutely love the move for his fantasy value. It appears he will be the team’s leadoff guy, which allows him to bat in front of studs such as Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Expect him to score a boatload of runs. His combination of power and speed is quite rare, making him a very possible 20/20 candidate. Choo’s fly ball rate dropped last season, resulting in a regression in the home run department. Now, he will be playing his home games at Great American Ballpark, arguably one of the most home run friendly stadiums in baseball. He will hold tremendous under the radar value at the outfield position.
Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies: Fowler’s value his rising each and every second, if you ask me. In 2012, Fowler saw career highs in home runs, RBI and batting average. His patience at the plate has improved tremendously, as Fowler ranked 10th in the NL in walks (68), leading to a walk rate of 12.8 percent. Oddly enough, he has only stolen 24 bases over the past two seasons combined, despite being known for his speed. I feel like he is definitely fast and athletic enough to steal at least 20 bags and his power already seems to be improving. Don’t be surprised if Fowler becomes a 20/20 guy in 2013, especially since he seems to get on base quite often (.389 OBP in 2012). Also, if guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can stay healthy, it only boosts Fowler’s value more.
Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox: Middlebrooks was one of the only exciting aspects of the Red Sox a season ago. He batted .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 75 games before breaking his wrist after being hit by a pitch. Kevin Youkilis assumed the third base position, but guess what? Middlebrooks’ wrist has healed and Youkilis has joined the Yankees (wrong isn’t it?). Right now, his ADP in ESPN leagues is around 196, making him a potential steal for fantasy leagues. Expect Middlebrooks to bat in the heart of the order and become a featured part of the Red Sox lineup. A realistic projection would be a batting average around .270, 25 home runs and 80-90 RBI. He has power but needs to work on his plate discipline a bit more. Still, going that late in drafts, I am in love with that potential.
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers: Based on just the last two-and-a-half months of 2012, Gomez’s fantasy value is on the rise. During that span, he finally saw regular playing time and he took advantage of it, hitting .278, 14 home runs and stealing 26 bags. Remember, that’s in less than three months of action. Scary good, no? He ended up finishing the season hitting 19 home runs and stealing 37 bases in 137 games. The Brewers clearly recognize their up-and-coming talent, as they gave him a three-year, $24 million contract extension. In 2013, he’ll be the guy in Milwaukee, a very solid complement to superstar Ryan Braun. Gomez could very well post at least 20 home runs and 30 steals, making him a heck of an asset for your outfield.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.