StrategyFebruary 27, 2006

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Keep an Eye Out For…

By Mike Anthony

In order to succeed, every fantasy team needs not only tried-and-true blue-chippers, but a player or two who winds up providing solid value late in the draft. The players listed here, while not exactly sleepers in the sense that you can grab them with the last pick of the draft, can still be had at a reasonable pick and could turn out to be solid contributors to your team in 2006.

Jacque Jones – OF, Chicago Cubs

While you may not get the best batting average in the world out of this guy, even if he is only a couple of years removed from a being a .300 hitter, his production is still worth grabbing later on if you can get your hands on him. Now playing right field for the Cubs and calling Wrigley Field home, Jones gets the advantage of a much better lineup around him than the Twins could produce, and also benefits from the swirling winds blowing out in Chicago. Overall, it’s probably not the smartest idea to bank on him as a second or even third outfielder, but in deeper leagues or as a bench player, Jones can be nice addition with power for around 30 homers in Wrigley, and a good bet for solid RBI with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez around him.

Projections: .273 AVG, 83 R, 28 HR, 87 RBI, 16 SB

Joe Blanton – SP, Oakland Athletics

Another guy to keep on the radar is Joe Blanton. Even though the 25-year-old had a good rookie season last year, he seems to still be slipping into the teen rounds, becoming a nice grab for whoever wants him as an additional starter. After having an ERA of 6.66 with an 0-5 record through the end of May, Blanton started to turn his season around start by start, finishing with 12 wins and a 3.53 ERA over 201.1 innings pitched.

Projections: 15 W, 8 L, 3.44 ERA, 139 K, 1.19 WHIP

Rocco Baldelli – OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

This five-tool player, hampered by multiple injuries to his knee and elbow, was sidelined for the whole 2005 season. The last time Baldelli took the field in 2004, he had a very productive year in only 136 games played. With 16 HR, 74 RBI, 17 steals, and a .280 average, he was able to finish with productive stats all around, even while missing games. A closer barometer of Baldelli’s playing ability, his rookie season where he played 156 games, saw him posting nearly 30 steals, a .289 avg, and close to 80 RBI. Given those stats, with an abysmal Devil Ray team at the time, he was a diamond in the rough. After being surrounded by ’superstars’ such as Ben Grieve and Damian Rolls in his first stint with the team, he returns to a much improved lineup with a very good Jorge Cantu and an improving Jonny Gomes, and could possibly be welcomed by the emergence of two young stars, BJ Upton and Delmon Young.

Projections: .291 AVG, 89 R, 19 HR, 87 RBI, 23 SB

Tadahito Iguchi – 2B, Chicago White Sox

Part of the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox, Iguchi showed what he could do in the MLB all season long and was considered the team MVP by hot-headed manager, Ozzie Guillen. While Iguchi will probably be remembered for his clutch three-run homer against the “other Sox” or sinking the Indians in the last series of the regular season with a home run as well, his season prior to those heroics should not be forgotten (especially since it was his first in the major leagues). Iguchi managed to hit .278 while adjusting to MLB pitching, clubbing 15 homers, which placed him in the top half of major league second basemen in that category. By throwing in a handful of stolen bases and a year of experience under his belt, Iguchi is a good bet to improve and should be able to get the job done as your fantasy second baseman in ‘06.

Projections: .286 AVG, 82 R, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 16 SB

Scott Kazmir – SP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Although pretty well known because of the infamous Victor Zambrano trade, Kazmir has been going at a very reasonable price in most drafts and even becoming a steal for some. A concern with him may be that he puts too many baserunners on and gets himself into trouble, but there’s no arguing about Kazmir’s ceiling with the stuff that he yields. Getting in solid innings with the Rays last year, Kazmir fanned 174 batters in 186 innings and managed an improved 1.46 WHIP for his troubles along with a 3.77 ERA. His W-L not at the highest because of the Devil Rays’ overall record; look for Kazmir to improve for the 2006 season with better overall stats.

Projections: 14 W, 10 L, 3.57 ERA, 202 K, 1.36 WHIP

This article marks Mike Anthony's debut as a Cafe writer. You can also find him in the forums, where he posts under the name of MMoNeY24.
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