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All in on de Aza

His draft ranking sure hasn’t shown it, but come September, Alejandro de Aza might just be one of the biggest draft day steals of 2012.

Skepticism from drafters, to this point, has circled around his light power totals and lack of opportunity. While his power numbers do leave a little to be desired, the opportunity part seems to have been solved. He’s projected to start the season as the White Sox’ leadoff hitter—a slot that should afford him ample opportunity to make good on his base stealing ability and batting average potential.

With the 700+ plate appearances that batting atop the White Sox lineup is sure to bring, he should finish the season among the top 20 outfielders in fantasy. Regressing his on-base skills and lineup strength, de Aza should supply between 100-110 runs to go along with 60-70 RBI. Combine that with double digit home runs, a .290+ batting average, and 35-40 stolen bases, and you have quite a player.

Plugging this line into FantasyPlayerRater.com’s points calculator, he’d be worth about 2.7 roto points above average in 10-team leagues—exceeding such standouts as Andrew McCutchen (1.78 points, ADP: 25.67), Hunter Pence (1.89 points, ADP: 42.86), and Jay Bruce (1.42 points, ADP: 39.92).

His major league resume may be somewhat short, but that’s fine. With a suprisingly low draft price (MockDraftCentral has his ADP at 228.65, while ESPN drafts have him at 225.7), he’s a classic low-risk, high-reward play. This is a guy you want on your team—he’s talented, has the opportunity, and comes extremely cheap.

One league I’m in lets members keep one player for 2013 at the round you drafted him in ’12. I took de Aza in the 19th—and I’m planning on having him lead my squad again next year for this highly discounted price.

There’s a bit of risk with any player taking over starting duties for the first time—scouting reports, attrition, expectations. But, de Aza’s a five-category contributor with a 400-plate appearance track record. He’s a great guy to bet on and you won’t regret it.

Three-hole huge for Starlin Castro

For a fantasy shortstop, Starlin Castro is quite the complete player. He fills out the stat sheet quite well, with a good combination of average, speed, and even a little bit of pop. For Castro, the question mark is whether he can overcome a poor supporting staff to contribute the runs and RBIs to justify his lofty draft ranking (Mock Draft Central ADPMockDraftCentral ADP: 41.88, ESPN ADP: 57.9)

News that Castro will be batting in the three-hole (MLBDepthCharts) this season should alleviate those concerns. Though he doesn’t have the power typical of that lineup spot, it won’t hold back his ability to pile up the RBIs. In fact, the difference between him batting in the three hole and batting leadoff is substantial—about 20 RBIs (we regressed his RBIs to 75 in the three-hole, versus 55 leading off).

Those 20 RBIs are nothing to scoff at—FantasyPlayerRater.com has that difference in lineup spot contributing about a full point to his value in 10-team leagues. That point will come up big when you’re jockeying for position in the standings come September. Whether Castro can hold onto the three spot all year is another issue—but he’ll be all fun and games while he can.

Beachy could walk among league elite this year

While all the preseason hype this year has centered on the untapped potential of Stephen Strasburg and Matt Moore, Brandon Beachy‘s upcoming sophomore season has flown way under the radar.

And that’s good for you—Beachy is perhaps the biggest pitching bargain of this draft season. He’s a potential No. 1 starter who has fallen far down the rankings to 114.15 according to MockDraftCentral and 135.3 in ESPN leagues.

Plugging in his plate discipline characteristics and batted ball profile, Beachy’s translated numbers point to a 3.00-3.10 ERA, 1.05-1.10 WHIP, and 9.5-10 K/9. Needless to say, this is an extraordinarily valuable pitcher. FantasyPlayerRater.com rates that profile as 5.53 points above average—comparable to Justin Verlander (5.31 points, ADP: 9.24) and better than Cliff Lee (4.00 points, ADP: 20.58).

Though he should be discounted somewhat as a pitcher taking on a full season load for the first time, Beachy is the exactly the kind of guy you want to bet on, having enough skill to finish among the top 10 pitchers of 2012.

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Comments

  1. Mark Himmelstein said...

    Welcome back Mike!

    I won’t dispute the sleeper possibilities, but that seems pretty bullish on da Aza. Only 10 guys had 700 PAs last year, and three of them were Red Sox. Juan Pierre did get there on the White Sox, but I’d be hard pressed to project a guy with less than 400 PAs in his career (only 64 of which have come vs. LHP) to get there. There are lots of ways he could fall well short of that mark.

    The skills are definitely intriguing though, and I’m slightly surprised by how well almost all of the projection systems rate him. The guy in his class of player I’ve been more frequently targeting is Alex Presley, who should be hitting first or second for Pittsburgh and also offers very well balanced production for such a deep pick, but they’re actually surprisingly close and you could make strong cases for either one.

    Alejandro de Aza
    Oliver – .269-77-63-11-19 (623 PAs)
    ZiPS – .271-70-45-8-21 (526 PAs)
    Steamer – .267-86-64-13-25 (631 PAs)
    Rotochamp – .284-87-51-11-31 (586 PAs)

    Alex Presley
    Oliver – .283-77-66-11-14 (623 PAs)
    ZiPS – .275-84-64-12-19 (599 PAs)
    Steamer – .264-64-48-11-14 (550 PAs)
    Rotochamp – .297-63-53-8-20 (474 PAs)

    Seems like the consensus is Presley could give you a bit more average while de Aza could provide more speed and, surprisingly (at least to me), more playing time security. Not sure if this is the systems seeing a more crowded outfield situation for Presley (do Nate McLouth and Casey McGehee really qualify bigger threats than Kosuke Fukudome and Brent Lillibridge?), or the more firm announcement that de Aza will hit leadoff, but either way you can get excellent value across all five categories for a $1 flier type that’s not even on too many radars. The one system that projects them for identical PA totals (our own Oliver) has them very close in total value, with a handful of steals swapped for a bit of average and a few RBI (which I presume is Oliver expecting Presley to hit second).

  2. Travis said...

    Sure Beachy is great, but like Strausburg, he’s only going to pitch 160 innings or so. I’d take him right around a Bumgarner or Darvish.

  3. Mike Silver said...

    No disagreement that its bullish on de Aza—though that’s probably got something to do with why I have him so high on my list!

    A few caveats, though, that might explain the optimism.

    The first, and probably most important, is the assumption of health. MLB leadoff hitters averaged 756 PAs as a whole last year. Some quick back-of-the-envelope math says that de Aza would have to play 150 games this year at the leadoff spot to reach that 700 PA benchmark. Agreed—150 games is nothing to scoff at, but playing in 155+, even with a few non-leadoff games sprinkled in, I think he can get there.

    Also, a huge amount of his value comes from leading off. So, if he hits a rough stretch and falls to the bottom of the order, he loses considerable value. The run totals referenced above come from a regression equation that takes into account a players speed, on-base profile, and lineup strength.

    I do agree that the projection is on the optimistic side, but hey! That’s why I’m All in on de Aza! (Sorry about the cheesy article reference right there!)

  4. Mark Himmelstein said...

    I can dig it. He was someone kind of on the periphery of my sleeper considerations, but reading your article, attempting to dispute your conclusion, and realizing I couldn’t in writing that comment, he’s definitely going to be more prominent among my endgame draft options now. As a total package, he looks to have more upside than Presley, but Presley’s more positive average projection carries a different kind of value too. I’m going to try to have one or both as bench/5th outfield options on a lot of my teams I believe.

  5. Mike Silver said...

    I think that’s a really good way to view the two of them. Maybe I pumped de Aza up a bit more than he deserved—he does have some hurdles still to go.

    I think the 5th OF/bench option is an ideal position for both de Aza and Presley, as its very low-risk, high-reward.

    And, if they lose the leadoff spot, you can cut bait and only have used up a late round pick.

  6. Mark Himmelstein said...

    Agreed. They’re both right in the player type I love to target late in drafts—prime aged, balanced skillsets, favorable lineup position, not godawful supporting cast. It won’t take too much luck to get good production from a high production demand position (scarce position guys aren’t usually ideal for bench spots since you’ll never maximize their value at util or as backups—even if they’re producing at a high level you should be able to get more in trade, but odds are they won’t). I love having one guy like this, a “balance outfielder” and one guy with dual corner infield/outfield eligibility with less emphasis on balance and more on total value (John Mayberry is the quintessential $1 guy like that this year, but Lucas Duda also qualifies, though he’s a touch pricier) on my bench/util slots.

  7. Nick Fleder said...

    Mark, I think the idea is that there is a next wave of talent in Pitts that’ll push Presely as soon as this year if all fails for A.P. Marte is a future stud and Robbie Grossman’s not bad himself. Maybe this is wrong, but the prospects’ ceilings are considerably higher in my understanding.

  8. Mark Himmelstein said...

    @Nick

    Maybe you’re right, part of it is that I just don’t see it with Tabata. Presley looks like the better player to me. Marte is definitely a threat there though you’re right about that, and there’s no one in the White Sox system who could make waves like he could this summer.

  9. chris said...

    Travis:

    Why would Beachy be on an innings limit? The guy pitched 146.2 innings last year, that was a jump of about 15 IP from 2010, which is VERY conservative.

    If he pitches less than 180 IP I’ll be shocked, especially with the Braves looking to take the NL East this year with stiff competition from Philly, Marlins and the up and coming Marlins.

  10. Samuel said...

    One of my biggest weaknesses in fantasy was always targeting the guys that were actually the best hitters, not the guys that produced the most fantasy numbers.

    I’d be in league that counted things like OPS and would top that number by far, but it wouldn’t matter because my actual number of HR/R etc. were lower because I didn’t pay as much attention to playing time.

    I still favor guys with better lines over someone like de Aza, since if they are better they should be able to win the opportunity (in many cases, depending on their team), but I’m much more cognizant of playing time these days than I used to be.

  11. Ken said...

    I finished my first league’s draft. I grabbed Duda in the 17th and surprisingly found & took Mayberry in the final round. I hesitated on Presley only because the Pirates said they want him in the two hole. He’ll have to take alot of pitches to move Tabata over. He also might have to sac, hit & run and look to right field alot. Over the course of a season that is tough on catagories for a young player. Are my thoughts valid ?

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