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Here are three players to target for your fantasy baseball team this season that can be had towards the middle of your draft and yet they appear to be ready to deliver solid numbers.
JD Martinez, Houston, OF
If you are from the “someone has to produce numbers” school of thought, Martinez might just be your kind of player. Martinez took over in the Astros’ outfield after Hunter Pence was traded to Philadelphia, making the jump straight from Double A and never looking back. He put up solid numbers while starting 52 of the final 56 games of 2011 driving in 35 runs, scoring 29 runs, with six home runs while hitting a respectable .274.
Only 24, many will point to his poor walk-to-strikeout ratio as a concern, but Martinez figures to bat third driving in runs, not at the top of the lineup setting the table. He will likely see some bumps in the road as pitchers work him differently this year, but I believe he will be a good late round flier pick to stash away on your bench and see how the season progresses for him.
Billy Butler, Kansas City, 1B/DH
How will Butler only turn 26 early this season? It seems that he has been expected to develop his power and breakout for at least 10 seasons now. If you are one of those fantasy owners who have patiently been watching Butler and waiting on his development, you were likely pleasantly surprised last season as he smacked 13 of his 19 home runs after the All-Star break.
Butler, a career .297 hitter, will give you a solid average with a high number of at-bats to help your team out, and with the hope of more power he should be considered as a strong utility or designated hitter option. The one downside with Butler is that having him on your team requires some creativity with your roster. With the emergence of Eric Hosmer, Butler is generally only eligible as a designed hitter in fantasy leagues. The designated hitter spot is generally a roster slot where power is most appreciated, so you will need to be sure to address your category needs accordingly.
Cameron Maybin, San Diego, OF
Once a first-round draft pick of Detroit, Maybin finally blossomed last year in San Diego after three forgettable seasons with Florida. While the deep confines of Petco Park may prohibit him from registering the kind of power numbers, he will need to fulfill the speed and power expectations many have for him. Maybin appears to be ready to build off the success of last season and develop as a dependable fantasy contributor.
If Maybin can continue to develop some patience at the plate, his strikeouts should decrease and you can expect his batting average to subsequently climb. A 20 home run, 40 stolen base season isn’t out of the question from a player poised to be a fantasy starter this season. Don’t wait too late to grab him though as he will likely be a trendy pick this season.
When you are drafting your fantasy team, value is the name of the game. The players listed here would certainly have a spot on nearly every roster, but they will likely be drafted too high to be considered a value pick. Buy numbers, don’t overpay for a name.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis, 1B/OF
Berkman enjoyed a resurgence last season, hitting .301 with 31 home runs, but he is much less likely to see as many pitches to hit in 2012 with Albert Pujols now departed for Los Angeles. Even if you look past the protection that one of the game’s most feared sluggers offered Berkman last season, there is no ignoring the fact that he will be 36 this season and he has never been one of the best conditioned athletes.
Berkman can still be a contributor, and his average will likely still be respectable, but his power, runs and runs batted in will see a dip. First base and outfield are both deep fantasy positions, and you can find better options at a better bargain than what Berkman will cost you on draft day.
Josh Hamilton, Texas, OF
The back story surrounding Hamilton and the Rangers is well known by now. Hamilton’s on-field success and off-field struggles continue to battle for front page status. I believe that this offseason’s setback paired with his contract situation will prove to be a distraction for Hamilton. Throw in a history of injuries, and you have all the makings of a disappointing season. If you draft Hamilton with the expectation of getting more than 120 games out of him, you will likely be disappointed.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland, SS
Cabrera had a breakout season last year and will likely demand a hefty price as result. Much of Cabrera’s breakout and value last season centered on his strong power numbers from the shortstop position. His 25 home runs last season were more than the 18 he had hit in his previous four seasons combined. Many will tell you that he has developed and matured and his power is an expected by product. I have my doubts.
Cabrera is bound to come back down to earth this season, and even with a regression he is a solid option, but don’t get caught paying for the expectation of another 25 home run output.
Check back for a look at the pitchers to target and the ones to avoid later.
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