OpinionSeptember 21, 2009

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Don’t Sleep on ‘Em: 2010 Values?

By R.J. White

While the 2009 fantasy season is still fresh in our minds, I thought it would be best to look at some of the potential values of your 2010 drafts. These are players who might have suffered injury, received little playing time early in the year, or went on a second-half surge that speaks to better potential performance in 2010. Feel like more players should be on this list? Use the comments section below to add in your own personal list; then, when next year’s drafts roll around, we can dig this up and use it to gain an advantage.

Kyle Blanks continues power stroke in loss today.

Kyle Blanks, OF, San Diego

Blanks has long been a top power prospect, and the only thing that kept him in the minors this long was that his natural position (first base) was manned by the Padres only star offensive player, Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres shifted Blanks to the outfield and brought him to the major leagues in June. He struggled in his first month in the bigs while adjusting to the new position, hitting .160 with no HRs and a .528 OPS from June 19 through July 20. Blanks then found his comfort zone.

From July 21 through August 21, the rookie outfielder hit nine homers while raising his average to .250 and his OPS to .849. He only saw four at-bats in the following week (with the last resulting in his 10th HR of the year) before being shut down for the season with a strained arch in his right foot. Post-All Star break he had a .288/.393/.635 slash line, for a 1.028 OPS to go with those 10 HRs in 104 at-bats. Playing in Petco Park, you can’t expect a line that high in 2010, nor should you expect a .288 average with his bad strikeout tendencies still needing work, but Blanks will be a great source of cheap power late in your draft.

Jake Fox, OF, Chicago

With Milton Bradley seemingly talking his way out of Chicago (he does that a lot, doesn’t he?), the Cubs will have a vacancy to fill in the 2010 Opening Day outfield. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Fox out there. After crushing the ball in Triple-A early in the season (17 HRs in 164 ABs), Fox saw time at first, third, left and right for the Cubs in 2009, hitting 11 HRs in 189 at-bats while posting a .286 average. In certain roles, he’s actually been far better for Chicago.

In the fifth spot of the lineup, Fox has put up a .950 OPS in 55 ABs. When in the sixth spot, he posts a .924 OPS in about the same number of ABs. Against righties, he has a .296 average, .909 OPS and 10 HRs in 142 ABs. Now, some of the success might be a small sample size coming in to play, but at age 27 it appears that Fox has finally taken a huge stride forward as a hitter. The Cubs should find a spot for him to play regularly in 2010, and his position versatility (did I mention he made three appearances at catcher?) will help your lineup as a late-round pick.

Florida Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco, SP, Florida

The owners with short memory spans will see Nolasco’s 5.34 ERA (as of September 19) and immediately discount the Marlins pitcher. The savvy fantasy veterans among your group will remember that Nolasco’s ratios through the first few months of 2009 were roughly 9000.00 and 1000.00 (ERA and WHIP, respectively). He’s not that guy — no pitcher should suffer through a rough streak like that and still finish with 172 Ks and 41 BBs (again, through September 19).

Sure, Nolasco’s ERA might be over 5.00, but his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) is lower than it was in 2008, when he went 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA. Could he be getting better? Oh yeah. Figure out where your leaguemates are likely to draft Nolasco next year, and then pick him up a round or two earlier.

Kevin Slowey, SP, Twins

Casual fantasy baseball owners will see a line that includes 10 wins, a 4.86 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP and just keep skimming. The control artist was actually much better than that microcosm suggests — the 10 wins came in 16 starts, the last two of which includes 11 runs combined over six innings before Slowey was shut down for the season. Heading into that stretch, Slowey actually carried a 4.04 ERA and a 10-2 record.

Slowey proved to be too hittable in 2009, but his FIP was actually pretty close to its 2008 level, and his 1.15 WHIP that season speaks to the upside he has. As part of the recovery process, he did have to have a couple screws inserted into his wrist. He’s expected to be back by spring training, but we’ll have to keep an eye on how he’s affected, if at all. He makes for a great gamble in the mid-to-late rounds, as he has a considerable amount of upside if he can rebound.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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