Every year, without fail, it happens. Players come from the fantasy free agent and wavier wires to help turn teams into champions. This season will be no exception. The key is to be the owner quick enough to grab that difference maker. Below is a list of players that likely went undrafted in mixed leagues, but have a chance (as crazy as some may sound) to make an impact and make a difference for fantasy teams in 2010.
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, TOR
Say hello to the Blue Jays new leadoff hitter. While Bautista is the proud owner of a .238 career AVG, he has shown some improvement in his OBP over the past couple of seasons. His AB/HR rate suggests that he could hit 20-plus home runs over 550 at bats. Should he stick in the leadoff spot all season he should surpass that easily. Marco Scutaro, with a similar walk rate to Bautista’s last season, accrued 680 at bats.
Given his consistently low AVG’s, Bautista might only be a “ride em while he’s hot” type of player, but having third base eligibility helps his value big time. He could be useful in OBP leagues right away and a little luck in BABIP could make him a standard league fixture.
Luke Scott, OF, BAL
Scott is a known commodity at this point in his career, but he has yet to receive 550 or more at-bats in a season. He has had some problems against left-handed pitching in the past, though he actually hit for a higher AVG against them last season. His AB/HR rate suggests that he could hit close to 30 home runs given 550-plus at-bats. A little luck in BABIP could help his AVG to the .265-.275 mark.
Justin Masterson, SP, CLE
Coming up through the Red Sox minor league system, Justin Masterson was able to put up very good K/BB numbers. His career as a starter never materialized in Boston, but the trade that sent him to Cleveland assures that he’ll get a rotation spot in 2010.
Last season Masterson posted a very good 8.28 K/9, but had some issues with his control, walking over 4 per nine innings. He also fell victim to an inflated BABIP against of .321 despite only allowing only 15 percent line drives.
A lower walk rate combined with a ground ball rate consistently over 50 percent could translate into a sub 4.00 ERA with 150-plus strikeouts this season.
Alberto Callaspo, 2B, KC
Last season Callaspo hit .300/.356/.457 with 11 home runs, 79 runs scored and 73 RBI. With Alex Gordon set to miss the start of the season, Manager Trey Hillman has suggested that he may hit Callaspo third in the batting order to start the year. Callaspo will also fill in at third base while Gordon is out.
Not only will Callaspo end up eligible at both second and third, but he could see a nice increase in runs and RBI hitting third. Sure, the Royals don’t exactly have a great lineup, but batting high in the order would assure Callaspo of having doubles machine Billy Butler behind him.
Jaime Garcia, SP, STL
Garcia missed most of 2009 due to elbow surgery, but he is obviously good to go heading into the 2010 season. He won’t blow anyone away with his fastball, but he features a plus curve. He has a career ground ball rate close to 60 percent in the minors. If that translates to over 50 percent at the major league level, he could be a bit of a sleeper for some quality innings.