|Fantasy Baseball: Contract Year Players|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on February 25, 2006
I know it’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s pretty likely to be true: Major League Baseball players are driven by money. They want as much cash as possible to play. That means that contract seasons are the time for players to have a big year. This knowledge could help you immensely as a fantasy player.
Here are a few players that are going into 2006 without contract certainty for 2007.
Javier Lopez, Baltimore Orioles – We all remember what Lopez did the last time he was without a contract for the next season: .328/43/109. Those are almost Albert Pujols numbers. While we shouldn’t expect something like that again, we can expect .280/25/90, which is fine fantasy production from the weakest position on the field.
Mike Piazza, San Diego Padres – PetCo Park isn’t the best place to get your career back on track as a hitter, but if he’s healthy, Piazza can be the best catcher in the National League. Expect a .260 batting average with 20 homers and 60 RBIs, and be sure to start him at Coors Field, where he will look like the Piazza of old.
Sean Casey, Pittsburgh Pirates – Losing his incumbency as the Mayor in Cincinnati, Casey is looking to re-establish himself as a good first baseman. PNC Park is not unfavorable to left-handed hitters, so he has a chance to put up some decent stats. Expect a .300/12-15/65 year from him, which might be good enough for a backup spot or deep NL Only Leagues.
Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs – He’ll probably be overvalued on draft day, so I would avoid him. Maybe people think he’ll put up the same stats, but that’s ridiculous. Go after him when you think .320/35/100 first baseman with 12-15 steals should go. Chances are he’ll be long gone by then.
Phil Nevin, Texas Rangers – This former slugger is only one year removed from a .289/26/105 year. After losing 20 pounds in this offseason, Nevin figures to be able to at least replicate those stats in the best American League park to hit in, Ameriquest Field. He might even get you multiple position eligibility!
Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers – Kent has been pretty solid throughout his career, putting up a .280/28/100 line consistently. We shouldn’t expect much deviation from that mark, except for a slight upward trend, maybe .290/30/100 for this year. That puts him as one of the top second baseman in the Major Leagues.
Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals – RFK Stadium will suppress his numbers, but he’ll be working for that new contract. It seems pretty obvious that money is important to him, so he’ll be trying for a big deal. Use that to your advantage, but don’t go too early on him. I’m betting he’s a .260/25/70 with 20 bags; these are valuable numbers, but he’ll probably be long gone after the second round comes to an end.
Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers – Even though he is an injury risk, Garciaparra can still hit, as witnessed by his .338 and .311 batting averages the final two months of last year. If you want to take a gamble, expect a high batting average, but weak power numbers. That should be valuable, because he has shortstop, third base, and (soon) first base eligibility.
Aubrey Huff, Tampa Bay Devil Rays – One of those notorious second half hitters, Huff has the chance to put up very good numbers. He’s only one year removed from a .297/29/104 and two seasons removed from .311/34/107. Tampa Bay has a good offense, so expect Huff to get back to his old levels. The best part is that he will likely slip due to last year’s injuries and has multiple position eligibility.
Jim Edmonds, St. Louis Cardinals – He is a very pronounced first-half hitter, so make sure you take that in mind around midseason. The star center fielder dropped a little bit last year due to troublesome injuries, but if you’re expecting .280/33-35/95-100, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Darrin Erstad, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – The last time Erstad was up for a contract, the Angels gave him a huge deal and immediately regretted it. Now they’re moving Erstad back to center field, which is where he had previous success, and he’s up for a new contract. Will he replicate .355/25/100? Absolutely not. Can he get .280/10/80 with 15-20 bags? Absolutely.
Carlos Lee, Milwaukee Brewers – He didn’t hit for average last year (.264), but we should expect an increase in that category to maybe .280 or .285. The power is definitely there (30 plus the last two seasons) and he drives in runs (99 or more the last three). Oh, he swipes a few bags (11 or more the past three years). Expect a player that can contribute in every category: .285/32/110/95/15.
Juan Pierre, Chicago Cubs – The Cubbies traded a lot of talent to get this player, so expect them to want to retain him until Felix Pie is ready. Pierre is what he is, a leadoff/number two hitter with no power, but enough speed and batting average to help you out. Don’t forget that.
Gary Sheffield, New York Yankees – Sheff cares a bit about respect (i.e. money), which means this season will be important if he’s going to get his team option exercised. What’s not to like about the Yankees’ right fielder? He’ll be batting in the middle of the best lineup in baseball. Expect lots of everything, home runs, RBIs, and runs scored. He’ll get more hits than Google this year.
Preston Wilson, Houston Astros – Last season he split time between two extreme parks, Coors Field (best hitters’ park) and RFK (best pitchers’ park), so that averages out to dead even. Moving to Minute Maid Field for an entire year (as well as playing for that three year option) will help tremendously. Expect .260-.270/25-28/80 with a ton of strikeouts. Many people will be drafting him in the late rounds of mixed leagues, so make sure you get him first.
Mark Mulder, St. Louis Cardinals – Young pitchers seem to be the craze recently, as A.J. Burnett got some big money. While not a top-tier pitcher, Mulder can put together a very good number three season for your fantasy team. Seventeen wins, 130 K’s, and a good ERA are not out of the question.
Jason Schmidt, San Francisco Giants – Last season Schmidt was limited by groin injuries, but he should be healthy going into this season. He’s one year removed from a 250 strikeout season, so he’s got the stuff to dominate when on. Expect some good stats from him this year, because I think the injury troubles won’t be that worrisome.
Jeff Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Agent Scott Boras and pitcher Jeff Weaver are angry they couldn’t find a three or four year deal, so Weaver is going return to the American League and try for a great season. He’s only under a one year obligation, so expect an ERA around 4.00, 15 wins, with 160 strikeouts.
Barry Zito, Oakland A’s – Young pitchers seem to be the craze recently, as A.J. Burnett got some big money. If he wanted, Zito could command Miguel Tejada-type money, $12 million a season. For the former Cy Young Award winner, I foresee 20 wins, 220 innings, and 180 strikeouts, which are very good numbers from your second fantasy starter in mixed leagues.