Lucas Duda, OF/1B, Mets
1st Half: .229/.276/.344, 0 HR, 12 RBI in 96 at-bats
2nd Half: .322/.411/.546, 10 HR, 38 RBI in 205 at-bats
Duda was up and down from the majors and minors in the first half, but a string of injuries allowed the 25-year-old to see a bunch of playing time after the All-Star break both in the outfield and at first base. He responded by producing the line you see above, and Duda didn’t build up that fine triple-slash line from one hot streak, as he batted at least .300 and had at least a .514 slugging percentage in July, August and September.
“The Dude,” as he’s affectionately referred to by Mets fans, suffered a concussion late in the season, and although at last report he was no longer suffering headaches, you’ll want to track his progress over the offseason and into spring training. If he’s fully healthy, Duda should open 2012 as the Mets' starting right fielder. Many scouts feel he’s more of an extra outfielder, but there’s enough upside here that he’s worth targeting in the later rounds of mixed leagues.
John Mayberry, OF/1B, Phillies
1st Half: .244/.326/.439, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB in 123 at-bats
2nd Half: .299/.354/.576, 10 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB in 144 at-bats
Mayberry began the season as a bench bat that drew the occasional start against left-handed pitching and even spent time in the minors, but by the end of the year he was a pretty regular fixture in the starting lineup. He still did most of his damage against southpaws (.306/.358/.595, 8 HR in 111 at-bats) but held his own against right-handed pitching (.250/.330/.455, 7 HR in 156 at-bats), showing that he deserves a shot at an everyday gig.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after the season that Mayberry "will get every chance in the world to be a regular player" in 2012. With Raul Ibanez hitting free agency, Ryan Howard recovering from Achilles surgery and Domonic Brown expected to begin the year in the minors, it’s not hard to see the 27-year-old getting everyday at-bats. We wouldn’t expect much in the average department, but 20 homers and around 10 steals (he stole 20 bags in the minors in 2010) is a possibility next year.
Allen Craig, OF, Cardinals
1st Half: .336/.405/.523, 4 HR, 23 RBI in 107 at-bats
2nd Half: .290/.309/.591, 7 HR, 17 RBI in 93 at-bats
Alright, so overall Craig actually hit better in the first half, but we’re listing him in this space because of his .591 second-half slugging percentage (including a .692 mark in September), along with his impressive showing in the playoffs (.243/.391/.622, 4 HR). Craig spent nearly three months on the disabled list in 2011 with an oblique injury and mainly a broken kneecap, but, as you can see from the numbers above, he murdered the ball when he was healthy and in the lineup.
Given the .307/.369/.516 batting line he produced in 517 career minor league games, it was no surprise that Craig has held his own at the major league level when given a chance. The question, though, is how much of a chance he’ll get in 2012 after the Cardinals struggled to keep his bat in the lineup this season. If Albert Pujols doesn’t re-sign, Craig will man right field while Lance Berkman moves in to cover first base. But, if Pujols returns, Craig doesn’t have a clear path to regular playing time. In the latter scenario, he should still receive a few starts per week, but it would probably take an injury for him to become mixed league-worthy.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies
1st Half: .238/.340/.348, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB in 210 at-bats
2nd Half: .288/.381/.498, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 10 SB in 271 at-bats
Fowler was a big disappointment in the first half, even earning a pair of demotions to Triple-A. But, with the help of a leg kick that he added to his swing, he was able to get on track after the All-Star break. The 25-year-old still piled up the strikeouts in bunches, but he showed more power at the plate and selectivity, which allowed him to get on base to use his speed more often.
We’ve been waiting a couple years for Fowler to have that true breakout season, and at this point it’s fair to suggest it won’t ever come. However, it’s also not out of the question that a 30-steal, double-digit home run season is attainable, especially if that leg kick continues to give him better timing. He’s penciled into an everyday job in 2012 and would be a nice late-round gamble for fantasy owners.
Bryan LaHair, 1B/OF, Cubs
1st Half: DNP
2nd Half: .288/.377/.508, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 59 at-bats
Your classic Quad-A player, LaHair mashed Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .331/.405/.664 batting line to go along with 38 homers and 109 RBI over 456 at-bats for Iowa before the Cubs decided to give him a shot in September. He got off to a roaring start, batting .424 with both of his longballs and all six of his RBI over his first 13 games. LaHair then stumbled to a 3-for-26 finish, whiffing 10 times over the last seven games after striking out just seven times in his first 13 contests.
LaHair is not under contract for 2012, and although the Cubs reportedly have interest in bringing him back, he’s also drawing some intrigue from Japanese league clubs. If the 29-year-old does stick around in the states, he’s almost surely not going to earn a starting job out of spring training. This is more of a name to file away in case circumstances allow him to garner the playing time necessary to be a factor in a single-league format.
Jesus Guzman, 1B, Padres
1st Half: .268/.286/.488, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 41 at-bats
2nd Half: .320/.384/.476, 4 HR, 40 RBI in 206 at-bats
Guzman has mashed at the Triple-A level for a few years now, posting a .319/.382/.506 batting line over 318 games there since 2008. But, he never got an extended look either with the Giants or Padres until the second half of this season, and, as you can see from the numbers above, he certainly didn’t embarrass himself. Guzman has played all over the diamond in his pro career, and although he saw some starts in the outfield for San Diego, it was first base that he settled into down the stretch.
It will be interesting to see what the Padres do with Guzman next season. Anthony Rizzo is the long-term answer at first base, but he struggled in his time with the big club this season and could open next year at Triple-A. If he does, and the Padres don’t bring anyone else in, Guzman would have to be the odds-on favorite to start at first. There’s certainly NL-only league upside with the 27-year-old, though his home park won’t do him any favors.
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