Every year there are players that rise to their potential and become studs, while other players fall short of expectations and become duds. Which of those young studs will put it all together this season and post those big numbers? Which of those older players have washed up and are finally in decline? Correcty identifying these players can make or break your season. Below, I’ll give you three players that you should target, and three you should avoid.
Felix Hernandez, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners
Hernandez has quickly become Seattle’s ace at the young age of 21. Hernandez throws three pitches: fastball, curveball, and change-up. All three of these pitches are strikeout pitches, and his fastball is often clocked up to 100 MPH. Felix also has a slider that is quite effective, although he uses it sparingly to minimize the potential for injury. Even though Hernandez had an off-year in 2006, he still sported a hefty 8.29 K/9, and is still considered to have a very bright MLB future. One of the indications of future greatness is his incredible GB% (ground ball percentage) of 57.7%, and LD% (line drive percentage) of only 17.1%. I expect a dramatic decrease in his ERA this year due to his ground ball percentage being so high, and his line drive percentage being so low.
Alex Rios, Right Fielder, Toronto Blue Jays
Rios, the first-round selection for the Blue Jays in 1999, had been a top prospect in the Toronto farm system for several years. In fact, in ‘03 he won the Double-A Eastern League’s Most Valuable Player award after hitting .352 with 11 HRs and 82 RBIs. 2006 was a breakout year for Rios in the major leagues, as he posted an average of .302 with 17 HRs and 82 RBIs in only 450 ABs. Unfortunately, a serious staph infection prevented Rios from playing during part of the 2006 season. If he avoids injury this year, Rios should continue to develop and could be a solid number-two outfielder for your fantasy team.
C.C. Sabathia, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Sabathia, now 26 years of age, was drafted by the Indians in 1998 with big expectations. So far, he hasn’t disappointed. Sabathia throws a fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a change-up. His fastball consistently hits 94-95 MPH, although he has been known to hit 99 from time to time. Sabathia’s ERA and WHIP have consistently decreased each year since ‘04, while simultaneously improving his K/9 to 8.04. Although he had an ERA of 3.22 last year with a WHIP of 1.17, Sabathia won only 12 games due to a lack of run support, coupled with the Cleveland bullpen blowing six of his leads. If the Indians could provide some more run support this season, Sabathia could potentially even see some Cy Young votes. Sabathia is a great player to target because he is consistently underrated.
Randy Johnson, Starting Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Johnson was traded back to Arizona last year, hoping his disappointing seasons with the Yankees would soon be forgotten. Hate to say it, but Randy is just not the same pitcher he was in ‘04. Since then, his ERA has grown to 5.00, and his WHIP has swollen .35 points to 1.24. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he’s dropped a few MPH from his fastball and has lost a lot of the break on his slider. If you’re looking for a pitcher to come in and torpedo your pitching stats in 2007, look no further than Randy Johnson.
Todd Helton, First Baseman, Colorado Rockies
As Helton’s age has been increased, he’s still consistently hit for a great average (over .300 in the majors), although the same cannot be said about his HR and RBI totals. Over the last few years, his power has declined significantly from the Helton of old. He’s evolved from a HR-hitter to a gap-hitter, which means that his fantasy value goes down a good deal. He will still put up decent numbers, but won’t be close to where he used to be in his prime. Considering how deep first base is this season, Helton is another player you should avoid.
Melvin Mora, Third Baseman, Baltimore Orioles
Melvin, a veteran at age 35, is another player on the decline. As his age increases, his offensive numbers and his batting average decrease. The slow decline in productivity has left many owners wondering if Mora is worthy of a spot in their starting lineup. I would say no. Mora clubbed 11 fewer homers in 2006 than 2005, a trend I expect will continue. Third base is deep this season and you should be able to acquire a better weapon than Mora for your fantasy team.
Saman Sepassi is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Saman in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of sportsguy138.
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