It doesn’t take a genius to do well in the first few rounds of a fantasy baseball draft. Picking Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Roy Halladay, Jose Bautista, and Miguel Cabrera—that’s easy. However, that is not where championships are won.
Everyone will have a handful of stud players on their team, but if you want to win you have to get the studs that no one knows about. You have to pick up the players that have yet to make their name known, but are set to break out as soon as they get their chance. Some people like to be cute and call these guys ‘diamonds in the rough’ (because they play on a baseball diamond—cheesy, right?).
I like to call them dark horses.
You will not know when these guys are coming. Some may open the season with a starting slot; others will be that guy the team is going to call up from the minors early on. Either way, you’ll want to use a late round pick on one or two of them (or at the least keep a close eye on them). That is, if you want to win!
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals: If you just look at what he did during his very short stay in the Big League last season including Cain on this list does not make sense (6-22, 1 RBI, 4Ks). However when you look at how he crushed the ball in AAA (.312 BA, 16 HRs, 16 SBs) it begins to make sense. He’s expected to win the starting job in centerfield and bat at the top of the line-up. Don’t expect him to be your best outfielder, but he certainly will not be your worst.
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants: Last season this guy was being touted as one of the next great players. Alas, when he had his chance to play, he did not play like one losing the power that made him one of the best minor league players in 2010. The Giants are hoping that the rash of strikeouts (no matter what level he played at) in 2011 are the product of a young player trying to do too much. Should he settle down and get his swing back under control he’ll be a steal off the waiver wire.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: When you hit home runs you are going to get your shot in the Big League sooner rather than later. After doing that in the minors for a couple of seasons, the D-backs decided to give Goldschmidt his shot towards the end of the 2011 season. He did well enough to be penciled in as the starter going into spring training (39-156, 26 RBIs, 8 HRs, 4 SBs, 20 BBs, and 53 Ks). For him to keep the job, the team will want to see fewer Ks and a better batting average, but as long as he keeps hitting home runs they’ll give him a chance (so should you in the late rounds of the draft).
Dee Gordon, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Considering how he did after getting called up he might not be a true dark horse, but when you keep in mind how weak the short stop position is in fantasy he is someone to watch. In 56 games last season he hit .304 and stole 24 bases—about what the team thought he would do after following him in AAA. His power is almost non-existent, but this is a guy you can expect to see on base, stealing bags, and scoring runs; definitely worth a late round pick.
Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta Braves: Pastornicky will likely be the starter when the season starts due to his defense. While this matters little to you, what does is that you can rest assured that he will get consistent at-bats. Like most SS, you don’t play him for his power; you want a guy that can get on base and steal bases. He improved his batting average to .314 in AAA last season, but his stolen base total dropped down to 27. Expect him to be let loose on the bases this season and get that number up in the 30s at least. If you are unsure about your short stop, pick him up off the waiver wire just in case.
Other players to watch, but names you’ve likely heard, are: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals; Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers; Yoennis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics.
Article by Travis Pulver