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Halpin: Five players to watch
Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
The Sox signed the hulking Cuban to a six-year, $68-million deal, and will put his power bat in the middle of their order. Abreu’s Serie Nacional stats suggest a good eye and big-time power – he swatted 79 homers in his last 195 games there, and had a 1.583 OPS in 2010-11 – but will those skills translate to the major leagues? Opinions are mixed, but the fantasy first-base pool isn’t so deep this season. Abreu’s upside can justify a top-15 pick at the position.
Matt Cain, SP, Giants
After four consecutive seasons with ERAs of 3.14 or better, the dependable Cain stumbled to a 4.00 ERA with a still-solid 1.16 WHIP in 2013. What happened? Cain’s control eroded a bit, and he (finally) got unlucky with his HR/FB rate, but otherwise his peripheral numbers didn’t change much. A bounceback is likely, and if you can get Cain as a low-end SP2, he should be a bargain.
Adam Eaton, OF, White Sox
The speedy Eaton missed more than half of the 2013 season due to a sprained elbow, and didn’t hit or run as much as hoped after his return. However, he’s set to assume the Sox’ leadoff role and be a crowd-pleasing Scrappy McScrapperson.
What’s that? Scrappiness isn’t a fantasy category? Fair enough. Eaton’s 2012 stats across the minors and majors - .359 BA, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 149 runs, 46 SB – offer reason for optimism, even if the batting average was inflated by the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Eaton is likely to make you very happy as an OF5 in mixed leagues. Ten homers and 30 steals are in play.
Wil Myers, OF, Rays
If you like Myers, you’ll need to grab him early, as he’s been pushing the top 20 outfielders in early drafts. Is he worth it? There’s a lot to like, but exuberance about Myers’ successful MLB debut (.293 BA, 13 HR, 53 RBI in 88 games) seems likely to make him too expensive for you. His high strikeout rate suggests a BA drop, and he hit an awful lot of ground balls last season – too many for a power hitter.
I don’t mean to nitpick about Myers, as I think he’s going to be a very good player. But would I draft him ahead of guys like Alex Gordon, Matt Holliday or Jayson Werth? Probably not just yet. Temper your short-term expectations.
Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers
The trade of Ian Kinsler opens up an everyday role for Profar, who was widely regarded as baseball’s best prospect before the 2013 season. The 21-year-old was just OK (.234 BA, 6 HR, .644 OPS in 286 AB) while receiving inconsistent playing time during his rookie year, but every rookie doesn’t immediately become Mike Trout, so let’s not start calling him a bust.
Most projections have Profar pegged as a solid if unspectacular fantasy performer this season – think a dozen homers and a dozen steals, which can be fine for a back-end middle infielder on your mixed-league squad. However, this FanGraphs article on Profar’s lack of speed is worth your time. He might be a better real-life player than fantasy player.
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