At last fantasy baseball season is upon us. After a winter full of big-time players changing teams, it is time to survey the landscape and evaluate how players will perform. Today I am examining a few names in the American League that are intriguing to me and could be valuable pieces for fantasy players.
Jesus Montero, C (Seattle): For the past several years, prospect analysts everywhere have been raving about Montero's bat and he certainly didn't disappoint during his brief call-up last season.
Of course being moved from Yankee Stadium to Safeco seems like a death sentence but Montero has the type of power that plays in any ballpark. The only question is how quickly he gains eligibility at catcher. I have no doubt that Montero has the stick to finish in the top 15 by the end of the year.
Jason Kipnis, 2B (Cleveland): In just 150 plate appearances last season, Kipnis racked up seven homers and five stolen bases while batting a quality .272. While he won't be a threat to go 30-30 or probably even 20-20, Kipnis does have some value.
His minor league numbers profile a guy capable of 15-20 homers and steals over the course of a major league season. The only point of concern is the 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio, but that could very well be just a result of his first exposure to big-league pitching.
If you miss out on Cano or Pedroia, Kipnis could be a viable alternative. I'd certainly put him on the level of the perennial underachiever Howie Kendrick.
Chris Davis, 1B (Baltimore): Davis' prodigious power has been on display over the past several seasons but he seems to have one big problem. Strikeouts. Although he batted .276 over 123 at-bats for the Orioles last season, he struck out a whopping 39 times and walked only six times.
Back in 2009 when he got 391 at-bats, Davis produced 21 homers but once again he struck out 150 times to only 24 walks. While the odds are long that Davis magically cures his strikeout problems, perhaps he can at least provide 20-25 homers with the right amount of playing time.
Don't make Davis your starting first baseman or probably even corner infielder, but he is a bat worth taking a flyer on in the later rounds.
Phil Hughes, SP (New York): Just a few seasons removed from an 18-win campaign, the once highly-touted prospect is reaching a pivotal stage in his young career. After the disapperance of his power fastball in the early stages of last season, Hughes has come to spring training this year in much better shape.
It's pretty clear that Hughes probably won't be a 200-strikeout horse, but if he wins the No. 5 spot in the Yankees' rotation, all the pressure will be off. With Michael Pineda in town and after the emergence of Ivan Nova last season, Hughes has become somewhat of an afterthought.
Draft Hughes late and hope he beats out Freddy Garcia for a starting spot, but at the very least he has shown a high-strikeout rate during his time in the bullpen.
Delmon Young, OF (Detroit): Young has always been an enigma of sort since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He put together a 112-RBI campaign for the Twins back in 2010, but struggled with injuries last season before being dealt to Detroit.
After joining the Tigers, he displayed a power streak like he never had before in his career launching eight homers in just 168 at-bats and five more in the postseason with just 34 at-bats.
While I don't think Young is going to suddenly knock 30 out of the park, 25 is not out of the question and if he hits fifth behind Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the RBI opportunities will be immense. I've always been a Young apologist and I feel this is the season he puts it all together and launches into the elite outfielders category.
These are just five players who could play a pivotal role on fantasy teams this season. In the next couple days I will examine five players in the National League that are intriguing.
Got a question about fantasy baseball? A topic idea? Or want some player analysis, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.