I Love You, Man

PREphoto © 2010 Cathy T | more info (via: Wylio)It’s Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t mean much in the fantasy baseball world, but more than likely it’s the day where months and months of planning for that special night between you and your loved one finally pay off. That, or you woke up this morning in a panic, calling any restaurant you could think of trying to get a last minute reservation.

Whatever the case may be, today’s article will play off of the love theme. As in, “Last year this guy hit 54 home runs for my team and helped me win that championship I had always wanted! Jose Bautista, I love you, man!”

It’s been two years since my man-crush on Matt Wieters began. Back then he was a top prospect tearing his way through the minors; showing excellent plate discipline and the potential to hit for plenty of power in the big leagues. Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan since his arrival on the big league scene. However, 2011 could be the year we finally see Matt Wieters start to reach his full potential.

This past season, Wieters lowered his strikeout rate while raising his walk rate and contact rate. He had shown power potential in the past and just needs to find his grove at the big league level before it begins to show up in games. Even if he only hits .275 with 15 home runs and 65-plus RBI in 2011, he’ll still be producing value at his position. Currently. Wieters is being viewed as the ninth or tenth ranked catcher and his ADP puts him in rounds 11-13. Wieters is too talented not to improve in his age 24/25 season. If you land Wieters for a fair price on draft day, by the end of the year you’ll be saying, “Matt Wieters, I love you man!”

I’ve done a few mock drafts as well as one real draft so far in 2011, and there is one player that has ended up on all my teams. His name is Tsuyoshi Nishioka and he is eligible at second base and shortstop.

I’m not going to say that Nishioka is the next Ichiro, though they are similar hitters, focused more on contact and speed than power, but as a late round flier pick, he is certainly worth a look. For a little background, I’ll refer to a Fan Graphs article written by Patrick Newman:

After a career filled with nagging wrist, knee and neck injuries, 2010 was the first season that Nishioka was healthy enough to play a full, 144-game schedule, and he responded with a career year. Notably, he lead the Pacific League in hits with 206, becoming the second Pacific Leaguer to surpass the 200 hit mark (the first was someone you’ve heard of). He posted a career highs in all three slash categories, at .346/.423/.482 easily eclipsing his previous bests of .300/.366/.463. Nishioka’s batting average was backed by a robust .389 BABIP, so regardless of what league he plays in next year, it will remain to be seen whether his 2010 performance was the result of luck, a genuine step forward, or good health. My guess is that a little of each was involved. Nishioka is not much of a home run threat, but has good speed and will leg out the occasional triple, and swiped 22 bases in 33 attempts last year. He is a switch hitter, who hit well from both sides of the plate last year (.387 as a righty, .329 as a lefty). (Source, fangraphs.com)

It’s never easy to project how Japanese numbers will translate to the major leagues, but speed is much more likely to transition well, as opposed to power. This is where Nishioka might help your team in 2011. If he can hit .275-.285 with 30-plus stolen bases, he’ll have put up similar numbers to an Elvis Andus type, especially since he is penciled in to hit second to start the season (80-plus runs scored?).

A late round pick on Tsuyoshi Nishioka might have you saying, “私は、男があなたを愛して”, which, according to Google translate, means “I love you, man” in Japanese.

Multi-position eligibility is always a plus and so is picking up a nice power threat late in drafts. Last season, Ryan Raburn hit 15 home runs in 371 at-bats for the Tigers and he didn’t even become a regular until around August. While his eight home runs in the month of August might be hard to repeat, there is a good chance that Raburn could hit 20-plus homers over 550-plus at bats. As of today, if Raburn is the starter in left-field, he looks like a god bet to hit sixth in the improved Detroit lineup. That could lead to 80-plus RBI.

While he’ll will need a good spring to fight off a platoon situation with Brennan Boesch, Raburn’s potential as a 20 home run threat at second base makes him a nice late round sleeper.

2011 could be the year that fantasy owners yell out to left field, “Hey, Ryan Raburn! I love you man!”

OK, That would be a little creepy, but sometimes you just can’t hold back the love, man.
What player will earn your love in 2011?

 P.S. Happy Valentines Day to my amazing wife, who makes every day of my life a special one.