Tim Dierkes

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Possible 2007 Bargains

Monday, January 15, 2007

By comparing my own 2007 projections to every player's average draft position in four recent expert drafts, I've been able to uncover some possible bargains. Here's a group of 18 guys who appear to be undervalued so far in mixed leagues.

Shane Victorino – As of this moment, Victorino projects as the regular right fielder in Philly. He's a smaller guy with surprising pop for his size (.534 SLG at Triple A in '05). As he makes contact a good 87% of the time, the Phillies like him as a possible #2 hitter. The Flyin' Hawaiin had 246 at-bats out of that spot in '06 and could score 90 this year. What's more, new first base coach Davey Lopes might help Victorino realize his 20+ SB potential in the bigs. He's going undrafted in some leagues.

Matt Murton – Perhaps because of uncertainty in the Chicago outfield, fantasy leaguers are staying away from Murton so far. With a .319/.390/.522 line after the break, the redhead might be coming into his own. Have faith that Lou will find him 500+ at-bats, regardless of how the Jacque Jones/Cliff Floyd situations play out. Murton could hit .300 with nearly 20 bombs in '07.

Mark Teahen – With shoulder surgery and a probable move to the outfield, Teahen is anything but a lock. However, he was a new man after returning from Omaha last year and hit like a middle-of-the-order, 100 RBI guy. He could surprise you as a top ten 3B, and that potential is not being acknowledged in drafts right now.

David DeJesus – Small market teams can be a fantasy goldmine. DeJesus will again lead off and play center for the Royals; he enters his age 27 season. You could be looking at a .300 average and 95 runs if he stays healthy for 540 at-bats. Give him a chance.

Rich Hill – I ranked Hill as the 15th best fantasy starter overall. May seem like a wild prediction, but there's a consensus among me, Ron Shandler, Bill James, and Dan Szymborski that he'll be excellent. The other three forecasters are actually calling for 200 Ks if he reaches 210 innings. Hill owned Triple A and had a fine run in the Majors after his second call-up last year.

Javier Vazquez – Vazquez is a baffling pitcher. He often manages to post sparkling peripheral stats but a poor ERA. His fortune has to change this year. I think he's the best pitcher on the White Sox, and he can rack up 190 Ks with a solid WHIP while winning 13 games. His 4.84 ERA in '06 should keep his price down for bargain hunters.

Morgan Ensberg – Third base looks especially deep this year, with 33 draftable players according to my numbers. Ensberg is one who could crack the top ten this year and serve as a huge bargain, much as he did in 2005. A nasty shoulder bruise sapped his power last year, but he still posted a Bonds-esque walk rate. The 30 HR version could show up in '07, though the Astros seem to have little patience in him.

Kevin Kouzmanoff – Got a couple more 3Bs to snag late in the draft. Kouzmanoff is one, as he's unproven at the big league level. But despite the presence of Russell Branyan, the Padres will give Kouz every chance to play every day. His minor league work in '06 translates to something like .314/.361/.526 in the bigs. While injury risk is a concern, Kouzmanoff is capable of .270-20-70 on the cheap.

Wilson Betemit – Looking for a sleeper 25 HR candidate? Try Betemit, the Dodgers' third baseman heading into '07. Because it was split between two teams, a lot of folks didn't notice his 18 HR in 373 at-bat breakout. He won't help in average or steals, so he's only going to be worth a few bucks.

Octavio Dotel – This is an admittedly risky pick, as he's only thrown 25 Major League innings over the last couple of seasons. But if Dotel is healthy and regains a little bit of control, he can rack up 30 saves and 90 Ks for the Royals. Sure, it's the Royals, but they won't be as bad as they were last year.

Jose Valverde – Like Dotel, Valverde is a closer who's fallen from glory. Also like Dotel, Valverde still has one of baseball's 30 closer jobs right now. His control was much better after a Triple A stint, and he could be a dominant, 90 K closer. Shouldn't cost you much to find out.

David Bush – The 27 year-old righty found the NL to his liking, bumping his strikeout rate up significantly and trimming his already-excellent walk rate. He's a great source for 210 innings of low WHIP, and should post an ERA under 4 this year. Toss in 150 Ks and you have yourself a low-risk, undervalued investment.

Dave Roberts –Roberts's 499 at-bats in '06 were a career high, so you can see why fantasy leaguers might be hesitant to expect a repeat in San Francisco. If Roberts can manage 130 games, though, he'd be the team's most valuable position player. He'd provide a .290 average, 85 runs, and 40 steals from the leadoff spot. He's being drafted past the 20th round in a 12-team league but could provide 10th round value.

Yuniesky Betancourt – There are a couple of endgame shortstops out there who aren't getting much love. It's a typically weak position, so keep these two in mind after the big names are off the board. Betancourt will be 25 in '07. His high-contact approach could lead to another .290 average, and he could be a 15 steal guy with some practice. Nothing terribly exciting, but he could work for a buck.

Omar Vizquel – If you can sneak Vizquel in at the end of the draft for a couple of bucks, it could pay off. While he is pushing 40, he's played 150 games for the past three seasons. He'll bat second for the Giants, which could mean a .290 average with 85 runs and 20+ steals. Respectable contributions relative to his average draft position.

Dave Ross – Granted, catchers can have random fluke seasons. Ross's 21 HR in 247 at-bats may have been one last year. With Jason LaRue gone, Ross could earn 400 at-bats. Even a conservative projection puts him at 25 dingers. He could flop with the first full-time exposure of his career, but he'll only cost a buck or so.

Greg Maddux – Happens every year – aging vets are ignored in favor of the Next Big Thing. I'm guilty myself. But I'd snag Mad Dog over, say, Chad Billingsley for 2007. It's true Mad Dog's ERAs are often worse than his component stats indicate, much like Javier Vazquez. He remains a lock for double digit wins and a helpful WHIP in 210 innings. PETCO should suppress some homers for him, so if he can limit hits allowed a bit Maddux might post a sub-4 ERA.

Howie Kendrick – Kendrick hasn't been treated like chopped liver, getting drafted around the 15-16th round. However, I think he can have 6-7th round production in 2007. I don't believe there are five 2Bs you should take before Kendrick. He's a potential five-category guy at the top of L.A.'s order.

Tim Dierkes contributes to Rotoworld's Fantasy Baseball Coverage. He also runs a fantasy baseball blog at RotoAuthority.com
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