Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: Relevant Royals

Fantasy baseball starts soon and now is a good time to take a look at 2011’s Fantasy Relevant Royals players.  We will look at this years must have’s. Potential sleepers, and gambles.  With many new acquisitions and loads of youth and prospects there is a lot to discuss.  Now that Zach Greinke has been traded to the Brewers and Gil Meche has retired, there is a vacant Ace role available for the taking.  When it comes to everyday players, much has changed since the opening day roster of the 2010 season (thankfully).  Only 2 of 9 starters from 2010 are returning as (projected) starters again this year (including DH), those players being Billy Butler and Chris Getz.  But without further adieu…

Must Have’s – Billy Butler (1B/DH), Joakim Soria (Closer)

Unfortunately there are only two “Must Have’s” this year.  To qualify as a “Must Have” a player has had to have been productive enough to have proven themselves worthy of being owned in nearly every fantasy league.  Currently, Joakim Soria is the 75th rated player and Billy Butler is 87th according to ESPN’s early rankings.  Soria has proven to be one of the most consistent and dominant closers in baseball.  The only catch on Soria is that he has gotten hurt and missed time at some point in each of the last 3 seasons.  With 43 saves and an ERA under 2.00 last season, if you are the type who looks for saves early, Soria is your guy.

Butler has been expected to breakout with power the last two seasons, and while he hasn’t done that, he has hit for an incredible .318 and continues to be at the top of the league in doubles hit.  Butler is bound to hit for more power eventually, but if you need a 1B or Utility player who hits for a high average and is RBI dependable, or if you just have faith and think that Butler is going to swat 30+ home runs this year, he can be had at a fair price.  Side Note:  If you are in a league that counts OBS (On Base Percentage) Butler should be moved up a few spots from the 87th that he is at now due to his outstanding pitch selection.

Potential Sleepers – Kila Ka’aihue (1B), Alcides Escobar (SS), Alex Gordon (OF), Lorenzo Cain (OF)

Kila Ka’aihue will be getting consistent at bats and an opportunity to play consistently for the first time in his young career.  He has huge potential for power and could hit anywhere between 20-35 home runs and should also be a good source of RBI’s.  We have such a small sample size of Ka’aihue in the major's that it’s hard to see what his average is going to look like, but based on what we do know and his minor league stats, he should be somewhere between .255 -.265.  Cain is an interesting case because he isn’t guaranteed a starting spot since he has plenty of options (to the minors) left and Melky Cabrera was originally signed to start in center before they made the trade bringing in Cain and Escobar.  If Lorenzo Cain does win the starting Center Field job expect him to hit at the top of the order and produce Denard Span-like numbers.

I feel like every offseason the Royals fan base has gotten hyped up over Alex Gordon thinking that he was finally going to breakout and reach his 1st round potential, and unfortunately it never happened.  Most fans have lost that expectation for Gordon after multiple years of being let down.  However, with Gordon's move to the outfield and lowered expectations to produce, maybe he can put it all together this season and be a solid contributor on offense.  Alcides Escobar is known for his defense but at times has shown flashes of being able to hit for an average.  At the very least, with a shallow shortstop pool in this year’s draft, he could give you solid steal contributions if you are willing to take a chance on him.

Gambles – Jeff Francoeur (OF) Brayan Pena (C)

Francoeur was once a fantasy animal hitting 29 home runs and batting .290 with Atlanta.  With such high expectations he has been a massive let down in fantasy the past three or four seasons.  Here is the thing… he has had stretches of excellent play even in his down years, only to return to his impatient ways.  There is a chance… not huge chance, but a chance none the less that Francoeur returns to prominence and becomes dominant again.  Brayan Pena gets an opportunity to play every day with Jason Kendall still recovering from surgery until at least May.  Pena, when given a chance to play, has been a solid hitter.  He won’t kill you in average and will hit you a decent amount of home runs for a catcher.  Their aren’t many catchers who get consistent at-bats and actually produce with them, so it may be worth a shot to pick Pena up at the end of the draft as a cheap means of filling out your roster.