The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

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Early Favorite for Worst Rumored Deal of the Offseason

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com
Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that if the Boston Red Sox are unable to re-sign Mike Napoli, they could look to make a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, saying:

Trumbo, who would come at half Napoli’s price, cannot become a free agent until after the 2017 season, has tremendous righthanded power (34 homers, 100 RBIs this season), and is considered an above-average first baseman. Yes, he strikes out a ton (184 times in 2013). The Angels could use a third baseman (Will Middlebrooks?) and a pitcher (Felix Doubront?). The Pirates and Rays could also be fits.

God bless columnists, who have to fill up a page in a dynamic market in a dying industry, but this is reaching. In fact, the major issue is that so many teams are rumored to have interest in Trumbo in the first place.

Trumbo has some serious power, mashing 95 home runs and driving in 282 runs over the last three seasons, but those numbers have come with a .251/.300/.473 triple-slash and a 457:115 K:BB in 1,837 plate appearances. Trumbo certainly has some power, but it is a power that will get very expensive within the arbitration process (see Ryan Howard‘s rapid salary increases) while producing very little elsewhere.

Add on the fact that Trumbo is a weak defender at first, third, and the outfield, and you’re paying premium dollar for a player who should truly be hidden at the designated hitter spot, which won’t really work with some guy named David Ortiz in Boston, while it certainly won’t help the Pirates in the National League.

doubrontMore damning is why the Red Sox would give up Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront for Trumbo, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014 and is already 27, coming off of his worst season (based on OPS and WAR) of his career. Middlebrooks isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2016 and Doubront is 26, left-handed, breathing, and under team-control through 2018, while showing improved numbers in ERA and WHIP in 2013.

Certainly, dealing for a powerful bat is intelligent rather than going to the free agent market and giving nine-figures to a player like Shin-Soo Choo, but Trumbo isn’t really a “guy” when it comes to improving a roster. Considering that in 660 plate appearances, Will Middlebrooks has a .254/.294/.462 triple-slash with 32 home runs and 103 RBI, don’t the Red Sox already have Mark Trumbo?

Boston should try to get Napoli to re-sign, they should even try to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia to re-sign, but they need to be smarter than this type of trade to make sure that they don’t fall back to the 2012 Boston Red Sox instead of the 2013 champion-version.

Trumbo2Mark Trumbo is highly overrated due to his power production, but teams like the Red Sox could find players who are just as productive when looking over the last three season’s OPS leaders, where you’ll find Jason Kipnis, Seth Smith, Lucas Duda, and Jason Heyward, with  the same .773 OPS since 2011 that Trumbo sports, while players such as David Freese (.785), Adam Lind (.776), and Brandon Belt (.798), could be more affordable options in a trade or non-tender situation in 2014, while outproducing Trumbo in the OPS statistic over the last several seasons.

2014 MLB Free Agency: Hitting: What’s Out There For Your Team

Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!

CanoTop Tier Talents

Robinson Cano, 2B, 31: Although ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Cano wants a ten-year, $305 million deal, it would seem nearly impossible for the middle infielder to get anything close to that, even when considering all of the television money coming in for clubs. How far are the Dodgers willing to go over the luxury tax threshold? Are the Angels willing to shell out more money to 30-plus year olds after watching Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols not live up to expectations? Everyone knows that the Yankees are trying to slim down their payroll…it just doesn’t seem likely. After watching Cano hit like a corner outfielder while playing second base over the last nine years, he is clearly the top talent available in the entire free agency market.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, 31: Choo showed his worth by getting on base exactly 300 times in the 2013 season (162 hits,  112 walks, and 26 HBP) while reaching the 20 home run/20 stolen base level for the third time in his career, helping solidify a Cincinnati lineup that had been seeking a strong leadoff hitter for what seems like decades. He proved that he was at least capable of handling center field in Cincinnati, but his defensive metrics have been pretty miserable over his entire career wherever he plays, although, Choo can make up for it at times with his strong arm. Shin-Soo Choo will be highly coveted by outfield-needy clubs this offseason and those clubs will likely get several solid seasons out of the South Korean-born, on-base machine.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, 30: Ellsbury had a fine season, leading MLB in stolen bases (52) while being a tremendous defensive center fielder. He will likely get paid huge dollars for his 2011 season (32 HR, 105 RBI, .928 OPS), even though his next best season was the 2013 season, when he hit nine home runs, drove in 53 runs, and posted a .781 OPS. More Michael Bourn than Matt Kemp, Ellsbury will be an asset due to his speed and defense as a strong outfield option, and while he doesn’t have the on-base skills that Choo possesses, he is a fine leadoff hitter.

Brian McCann, C, 30: McCann is going to be a rich, rich man. With the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers seeking help at catcher, he’ll have plenty of suitors. After reaching 20 home runs for the seventh time in eight full seasons despite playing in just 102 games, McCann has proven that his shoulder woes are behind him and that he can continue to be an offensive asset to a club going forward. Still pretty weak behind the dish (24-percent caught stealing this season and the same for his career), McCann’s bat will carry him and utilizing him in the American League at DH will do wonders for his career and whoever signs him.

McCannBest Available Catchers

McCann; John Buck, 33; Dioner Navarro, 30; A.J. Pierzynski, 37; Carlos Ruiz, 35; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 29; Geovany Soto, 31;

There are some solid options available at catcher, here. McCann is obviously the top option with Saltalamacchia as the next best option. Navarro seems to have been around forever and the Cubs got a lot out of him this season while using him sparingly, posting an .856 OPS and 13 home runs over just 266 plate appearances, making him a somewhat attractive, cheaper option. The rest offer solid veteran depth, which has tremendous value with so many good young catchers in the league.

AbreuBest Available Corner Infielders

Jose Dariel Abreu, 27; Corey Hart, 32; Mike Napoli, 32; James Loney, 30; Kendrys Morales, 30; Justin Morneau, 33; Mike Morse, 32; Eric Chavez, 36; Mark Reynolds, 30; Michael Young, 37;

Abreu is the highly-coveted Cuban defector, full of power and mystique, who will likely get a Yasiel Puig-like contract, maybe better. Several solid veterans are available who can handle first base, many of them (Hart, Napoli, and Morneau, in particular) having some injury concerns. With the right type of deal, any of these players could provide tremendous value to a club seeking leadership, while having enough talent remaining to be productive as platoon options, starters, or multi-position use (1B/DH primarily).

Best Available Middle Infielders

Cano; Stephen Drew, 31; Rafael Furcal, 36; Omar Infante, 32; Kelly Johnson, 32; Jhonny Peralta, 32; Brian Roberts, 36; Brendan Ryan, 32;

Cano is the true treat here, but former All-Star talents exist, although several of them have been and will continue to be risky due to injury histories. Like many of the corner infielders that are available this winter, there are several players who could provide solid production, but it could come with a limited role as a platoon player while providing the old phantom value that comes with being a strong veteran with clubhouse presence.

Choo3Best Available Outfielders

Carlos Beltran, 37; Marlon Byrd, 36; Choo; Nelson Cruz, 33; Rajai Davis, 33; Ellsbury; Jeff Francoeur, 30; Curtis Granderson, 33; Corey Hart, 32; Raul Ibanez, 42; Mike Morse, 32; Juan Pierre, 36; Grady Sizemore, 31; Delmon Young, 28;

There could be tremendous value in the outfield this winter, as teams will be able to get aging veterans like Ibanez (if he comes back), Beltran, or Byrd, all having excellent 2013 seasons, at an affordable, short-term deal. At the same time, Cruz, Granderson, Hart, and Young could post numbers that would make them equals to the top players available (Choo and Ellsbury) if everything breaks right.

What Are the Mariners Doing?

Courtesy: seattletimes.com
Courtesy: seattletimes.com

Last year, the Seattle Mariners finished 75-87, last place in the AL West, a spot that they have held for seven of the last ten years. What are the Mariners doing to build a contender?

Not much.

The club is loaded with pitching prospects, like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Maurer, and James Paxton, and they have collected some fine offensive prospects, like Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, and Brad Miller along the way. With Jesus Montero being added last season and the ascension of Dustin Ackley to the majors, you would think that the Mariners were building for a run in 2015.

However, that can’t be the case after the club has traded for Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse, both free agents after the 2013 season. While the club gave up John Jaso to get Morse and Jason Vargas to get Morales, the Mariners left themselves with some question marks.

FelixWith Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, and Blake Beaven penciled into the rotation, the club may have to rely on Hector Noesi, Hultzen, or Paxton in the rotation to start the year. Noesi was 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA for the M’s in 2012, Hultzen was just 1-4 with a 5.92 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts in 2012, and Paxton would be jumping to the majors from Double-A. While Vargas isn’t close to being considered an ace, the Mariners will have a tough time replacing the 217 innings and 3.85 ERA that he provided last year.

After trading Jaso to Oakland, the Mariners only have Jesus Montero at catcher. Montero, who turned 23 in November, caught in just 56 games in 2012, throwing out 17 percent of base runners and posting a -8 Rtot (runs below average that he was worth defensively). While his bat has great potential, Montero is not an everyday catcher at the major league level.

Add in the Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez signings to the trades that Seattle has made, and the club is loaded with mediocrity.

There are two examples of their everyday lineup that I have found:

Example 1                                                                     Example 2

C: Montero                                                        C: Montero

1B: Morse                                                          1B: Smoak

2B: Ackley                                                         2B: Ackley

3B: Seager                                                         3B: Seager

SS: Ryan                                                            SS: Ryan

LF: Ibanez                                                         LF: Morse

CF: Gutierrez                                                    CF: Gutierrez

RF: Saunders                                                    RF: Saunders

DH: Morales                                                     DH: Morales

Example one is eliminating Justin Smoak from the equation. Smoak has over 1,200 at-bats and has a career slash of .223/.306/.377 line, but he is just 26 years old and he posted a .341/.426/.580 in September, showing a glimpse of what he can do when he is healthy, and he has battled a thumb issue for the last couple of seasons.

Example two eliminates Raul Ibanez from the lineup. Ibanez has had great success in Seattle, having played 10 of his 17 seasons with the Mariners, but at the age of 41, he may just be a situational talent.

The Mariners could really use a catcher. If the club was able to deal Smoak to Boston for Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway, the Mariners could then move Montero to DH, Morales to first, and Morse can play left field. The Red Sox only have Mauro Gomez at first base right now, so the deal would make sense for both clubs, as the Sox have David Ross and whatever catcher they don’t trade to roster.

The M’s could also rush Mike Zunino, who was the top college player in last year’s MLB draft. Zunino could take over at catcher, allowing for the same moves with Morales and Morse as above, while the club could keep Smoak around in case of an injury. Zunino had 51 at-bats in Double-A last year, so he could use some more seasoning in the minors, but he could be a better option behind the plate than Montero already.

Regardless of the moves at catcher that the Mariners could make, the additions that the club has made have not been stellar.

Morse has a powerful bat but he has issues making contact, having posted a 223:52 K:BB while hitting 49 home runs over 928 at-bats over the last two seasons. Turning 31 years old in March, Morse has two seasons with a WAR over 1.0 (1.2 in 2010 and 3.1 in 2011), so one has to wonder if his 2011 season (with 31 home runs and a .910 OPS) was his peak.

Ibanez is not a player that a rebuilding team needs. His age and declining skills limit his potential.

Morales rebounded nicely after missing nearly two years due to injury, posting a .787 OPS. In 2009, Morales posted a .924 OPS and he had an .833 OPS in 2010 prior to his celebratory injury. Is the drop in production due to his injury, timing issues due to being away from the game, or pressing to hit at the levels that he did in 2009? Can he reach those numbers when he is playing half of his games in Seattle?

Add in the interest that the Mariners have in Justin Upton and the supposed offer (Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor, and Charlie Furbush) that they made, and the team seemingly has no long-term or short-term direction. The Mariners pitching, as it stands, is questionable at best. If the team is rebuilding, why would they offer two of their top five prospects instead of cashing in on any of their veterans that have value, even Felix Hernandez?

While John Jaso and Jason Vargas aren’t superstars, you have to wonder if the club would have been better off with the two players still on their roster. While they wouldn’t have made many moves to improve upon their last place finish from 2012, the Mariners wouldn’t have question marks all over the field like they do right now.

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catchers

I’ll be compiling lists of the top players at each position for 2012 Fantasy Baseball in the coming weeks.  Overall rankings will consist of their value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  I’ll begin with catchers.  You’ll see their stats for 2011 below their names with 2012 Projections in ITALICS

1. Mike Napoli, Texas

.320/.414/.631, 25 2B, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 85/58 K/BB in 369 AB

.295/.389/.560, 30 2B, 27 HR, 81 RBI, 101/68 K/BB in 446 AB

Napoli has always had power but he sat so often for the AMAZING Jeff Mathis on the Angels that he never got a chance to truly breakout.  He finally got a chance and became a near-MVP talent in Texas in 2011.  He may not repeat the AVG, but the power is real, especially in that lineup and ballpark.

2. Carlos Santana, Cleveland

.239/.351/.457, 35 2B, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 133/97 K/BB in 552 AB

.279/.401/.531, 31 2B, 33 HR, 91 RBI, 123/101 K/BB in 549 AB

I may be higher on Santana than most, but he’ll make more contact in 2012 and he posted these numbers in his first full season.  The sky is the limit and the value in Santana is that he plays 1B and DH when he isn’t behind the plate.

3. Alex Avila, Detroit

.295/.389/.506, 33 2B, 19 HR, 82 RBI, 131/73 K/BB in 464 AB

.286/.391/.511, 35 2B, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 124/76 K/BB in 471 AB

4. Yadier Molina, St. Louis

.305/.349/.465, 32 2B, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 44/33 K/BB in 475 AB

.301/.342/.437, 29 2B, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 46/36 K/BB in 461 AB

5. Buster Posey, San Francisco

.311/.374/.521, 31 2B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 83/65 K/BB in 476 AB

We all know about his injury last year, but reports show he is ready.  His 2010 stats were: .305/.357/.505, 23 2B, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 55/30 K/BB in 406 AB.  Expect the same, maybe more.

6. Miguel Montero, Arizona

.282/.351/.469, 36 2B, 18 HR, 86 RBI, 97/47 K/BB in 493 AB

.276/.349/.471, 33 2B, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 101/56 K/BB in 489 AB

7. Brian McCann, Atlanta

.270/.351/466, 19 2B, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 89/57 K/BB in 466 AB

.281/.363/.485, 21 2B, 22 HR, 79 RBI, 81/71 K/BB in 483 AB

8. Matt Wieters, Baltimore

.262/.328/.450, 28 2B, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 84/48 K/BB in 500 AB

.276/.339/.490, 29 2B, 27 HR, 84 RBI, 97/61 K/BB in 506 AB

9. Joe Mauer, Minnesota

.287/.360/.368, 15 2B, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 38/32 K/BB in 296 AB

.313/.394/.411, 31 2B, 8 HR, 71 RBI, 79/76 K/BB in 496 AB

It’s well documented about Mauer’s knee issues last season.  I can see him taking a Carlos Santana/Victor Martinez approach to stay in the lineup.  He won’t ever come close to his 2009 power outburst, but he can have value due to the ability to drive the ball in the gaps of Target Field.

10. Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati

.180/.226/.360, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10/3 K/BB in 50 AB

.265/.329/.449, 18 2B, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 72/21 K/BB in 374 AB

Mesoraco will be a top catcher once he isn’t sharing the position.  He’s capable of hitting 15 homers in about 350 AB, and will settle into the Cincinnati lineup near Votto and Bruce to see plenty of good pitches.  He’s someone to watch in Keeper Leagues, but he’ll have value right away.

11. Geovany Soto, Chicago (N.L.)

.228/.310/.411, 26 2B, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 124/45 K/BB in 421 AB

.268/.335/.445, 28 2B, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 147/56 K/BB in 447 AB

Shoulder woes have sapped Soto’s value and possibly led to some offensive struggles, particularly with strikeouts, in 2011.  He may become a trade chip for the rebuilding Cubs in 2012, but he needs to build his value and show that he is healthy.  He can still hit, but can he do it consistently?

12. Jonathan LuCroy, Milwaukee

.265/.313/.391, 16 2B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 99/29 K/BB in 430 AB

.269/.318/.401, 21 2B, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 112/41 K/BB in 456 AB

13. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston

.235/.288/.450, 23 2B, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 119/24 K/BB in 358 AB

.251/.301/.450, 27 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 126/38 K/BB in 438 AB

It wasn’t always pretty last year for “Salty,” but he shows enough power and plays in the right lineup, so he has value.  He has always been huge and awkward behind the plate, but the Red Sox only have Ryan Lavarnway ready, and he isn’t ready defensively, and may never be ready defensively, to steal time from him.

14. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto

.219/.282/.438, 20 2B, 23 HR, 78 RBI, 133/36 K/BB in 443 AB

.231/.313/.479, 25 2B, 24 HR, 83 RBI, 145/31 K/BB in 471 AB

Arencibia doesn’t have a whole lot of time to hold down this job.  If he doesn’t show that he can make consistent contact in 2012, he may lose time to Travis d’Arnaud really soon.  Even being young, he may find himself as trade bait or moved off of the position.  We’ll see if that is enough motivation for him.

15. Russell Martin, New York (A.L.)

.237/.324/.408, 17 2B, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 81/50 K/BB in 417 AB

.249/.337/.415, 19 2B, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 80/61 K/BB in 443 AB

16. Wilson Ramos, Washington

.267/.334/.445, 22 2B, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 76/38 K/BB in 389 AB

.271/.339/.456, 24 2B, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 91/49 K/BB in 467 AB

17. Chris Ianetta, Los Angeles (A.L.)

.238/.370/.414, 17 2B, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 89/70 K/BB in 345 AB

.242/.359/.408, 19 2B, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 91/76 K/BB in 453 AB

18. Kurt Suzuki, Oakland

.237/.301/.385, 26 2B, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 64/38 K/BB in 460 AB

.229/.291/.376, 21 2B, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 71/31 K/BB in 398 AB

19. Miguel Olivo, Seattle

.224/.253/.388, 19 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 140/20 K/BB in 477 AB

.212/.239/.371, 17 2B, 12 HR, 39 RBI, 131/16 K/BB in 348 AB

20. John Buck, Miami

.227/.316/.367, 16 2B, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 115/54 K/BB in 466 AB

.234/.327/.381, 18 2B, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 111/58 K/BB in 439 AB

KEEPER LEAGUE PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Travis d’Arnaud – TOR

Wilin Rosario – COL

Jesus Monter0 – SEA: He’d be a top 10 talent “IF” he gets Catcher Eligibility

Yasmani Grandal – SD

Christian Bethancourt – ATL

Sebastian Valle – PHI

Gary Sanchez – NY (A.L.)

Derek Norris – OAK

Andrew Susac – SF