Ryan Carey did a great job on his installment of this topic for the American League a couple weeks ago. I got some inquiries about a National League version and actually kind of started last week with a list of pitchers I like near the end of a draft or for a few dollars in an auction that could return a few dollars or more of profit for their owners. I continue this week going through the rest of the positions and listing some of the players I think could wind up the year in a better position than their current ADP dictates. As Ryan did in the AL, the ADP’s are in parentheses and are based on a mixed league to give all readers an overall point of reference.
So, without further ado, here is my NL All-Underrated Team for 2012.
C – Carlos Ruiz, PHI (296) – At 33 years old entering the season, Ruiz is no spring chicken. Well, compared to me he is. But he is playing in a good park and has a good eye, drawing as many walks as the number of times he strikes out. You’ll get a good batting average (think .280 plus), with the potential for double digit home runs. The power total was disappointing in 2011 but I consider that an aberration considering a 30% decrease in HR/FB over his career mark even though FB% was up.
1B – Adam LaRoche, WAS (344) – 2011 was a major disappointment for the 32-year-old as it was cut short by shoulder surgery. As a result, it was the first year since 2007 that Adam failed to hit 25 home runs. Twenty home runs should be a lock if he gets 450 AB with 25 a decent possibility. You can get a batting average about 30 points higher but it will come with barely double digit home runs from a position I want power at, not necessarily a good average. In the case of James Loney (287), that pick will come almost 60 spots earlier in the draft.
2B – Aaron Hill, ARI (199) – While I certainly don’t expect him to repeat 2009, I am expecting a lot better than 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays. After being traded to Arizona, there was an increase in BA from .225 to .315 and an even more impressive jump from .313 to .492 in slugging percentage. Hill is still in his prime and a season of mid-teens HR and SB with an average in the .265 - .275 range is certainly in the cards.
SS – Alex Gonzalez, MIL (363) – Definitely a case of getting no respect according to his ADP. At 35 years O.D. Gonzalez is the oldest player on my list. Yet he still managed to hit 15 home runs for the Atlanta Braves last year. Miller Park played slightly better for home runs than Turner Field in 2011 so there could be a bump in HR total in 2012. So why is Stephen Drew (271) going 92 picks earlier?
3B – Mat Gamel, MIL (280) – I’m already on board with Gamel as a post-hype sleeper and have him in at least one league so far with the intent of increasing my ownership. He will be playing first base for the Brew Crew but will have third base eligibility in most leagues. Mat has hit pretty much all through the minors but hasn’t done much at The Show as of yet. I think he could put together a pretty good year. So far this spring, the former fourth-round pick has hit four home runs and stolen three bases (a bonus). The average will still be an issue but if he can get it up to the .250 range with power and a few more steals than projected he will out earn his draft spot.
MI – Jason Bartlett, SD (361) – Not spectacular, but for your middle infield spot you can do worse than the seven year major leaguer. Bartlett is what he is but playing for San Diego – a team that will struggle to produce runs – the shortstop could swipe more than his projected number of bases with an average that won’t kill you.
CI – Bryan LaHair, CHI (318) – The 29-year-old got a quick look last year and managed a .288 batting average, but do not expect that over the long haul at this level. LaHair’s game is hitting home runs and the replacement for Carlos Pena at first base could hit 20–25 of them if he gets enough at bats. I’ll take that from my corner spot in an NL-only league any day.
OF – J.D. Martinez, HOU (256) – With the departure of Hunter Pence, Martinez was able to stick the whole season in the Houston Astros outfield. The 24-year-old acquitted himself well, hitting six home runs and batting .274 in 53 games. No one is really sure what his power ceiling is but mid-teens HR with a pretty good average isn’t a bad thing. Martinez leads the ‘Stros with 12 RBI this spring and will get plenty of time at whichever outfield spot they play him.
OF – Chris Heisey, CIN (293) – Entering his magical age-27 season (for those that put stock in that), Heisey has the type of power that will play well in Great American Ballpark. The outfielder hit 18 home runs last year in only 279 at-bats to go along with six SB and a .254 batting average. While he will lose some AB to Ryan Ludwick, I see the majority of the playing time still going to Chris with 20+ home runs a likely outcome. He’ll even steal you a handful of bases.
OF – Alex Presley, PIT (301) – Not considered much of a prospect, the young outfielder made an impression when he was brought up after hitting .333 at Triple-A and stuck for the remainder of 2011. Alex responded with a .298 average with four home runs and nine stolen bases in 52 games. Even though GM Neal Huntington said he would lose time against the top left-handers in the league, 450 at-bats seem like a lock with 20 stolen bases to go along with an average that could threaten .300 are possible.
OF – Jason Kubel, ARI (236) – A new team preceded by a season with a lot of time lost to injury will help to push the former Minnesota Twin under the radar a bit. Jason never seems to get any love but has produced 20 home runs pretty consistently when given the playing time. Moving to the desert from Target Field should only serve to assure the likelihood of the 29-year-old hitting home runs in his peak power years for the Diamondbacks with a bit more upside.
OF – John Mayberry, PHI (219) – At 28 years of age, Mayberry isn’t a young prospect. But he got a chance last year after Domonic Brown didn’t do anything to warrant keeping a big league spot. The 2005 draftee of the Texas Rangers responded, hitting .273 with 15 home runs and eight SB in 267 at- bats. At 6’6” and 235 pounds, the outfielder certainly has the size, plays in a great ballpark for power hitters and could wind up outperforming his draft position.These are some of the guys I think could produce at a better clip than their ADP going into the season. It might not be considerably more but in a non-mixed league, you need to find as many tidbits of profit as possible if you want to walk away with the trophy at the end.