Drew Silva

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Fantasy Risers: AL Central

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Over the next couple weeks, the Rotoworld staff will look at some players whose arrows are pointing up for 2013. Fantasy risers, if you will. We’ll break them down by division. The American League East was first. Now we turn to the American League Central.

Carlos Santana, C, Indians

Santana went pretty early in most fantasy drafts last spring after slugging 27 home runs as a 25-year-old catcher in 2011. But he failed to meet the hype in the first half of 2012 and will likely slip a little heading into the 2013 campaign because of it. But he shouldn’t.

Santana bounced back triumphantly from that slow first half, batting .281/.389/.498 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI over his final 74 games for the fourth-place Indians. He improved his strikeout rate this season, drew walks at a better clip, and saw more action behind the plate than he did in 2011. The Indians love him, are beginning to trust him, and seem likely to bat him cleanup in the majority of their games next year. Santana should reward that faith with excellent power production.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals

Moustakas is kind of the polar opposite of Santana in terms of the way their 2012 seasons unfolded.

“Moose,” as he’s affectionately called by the daily inhabitants of Kauffman Stadium, got out to a roaring start in 2012, registering an .817 OPS, 15 home runs and 47 RBI over his first 79 games played. And then fatigue seemed to set in. The 24-year-old third baseman batted just .211/.261/.325 with five homers and 26 RBI in the second half, fanning 61 times while drawing only 16 walks. But there’s reason for optimism considering it was his first full major league season and he can use the next three-plus months to prepare for the rigors of a full 162-game schedule. We’ll be expecting a true breakout in 2013.

Vinnie Pestano, RP, Indians

If the early hot stove rumblings are to be believed, the Indians are going to trade away some of their high-priced pieces this offseason in order to inject young talent into a starting rotation that badly needs new life. That organizational transitioning could include closer Chris Perez, who is going to be due over $6 million as a second-year arbitration-eligible player in 2013.

Enter Pestano. The 27-year-old right-hander has racked up 160 strikeouts in 132 innings since the start of the 2011 season alongside a 2.45 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He has a wicked slider and pairs it with a mid-90s heater to keep hitters off balance. Pestano has brushed off questions about potentially taking over the ninth-inning role in the past, but he’ll be ready to roll if Perez is dealt. Cleveland might not win many games, but Pestano is capable of converting each of the save chances he’s given.

Salvador Perez, C, Royals

Perez got off to a late start in 2012 because he suffered a left lateral meniscus tear during a spring training game and was forced to undergo surgery. But the talented young backstop quickly made up for lost time once he returned.

Perez debuted on June 22 against the Cardinals, homering and singling while racking up two RBI, then went on to hit .301/.328/.471 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI over 305 total plate appearances for third-place Kansas City. He would do well to draw more walks, but it’s not like he strikes out a ton. And he doesn’t turn 23 years old until next May. Perez is already a defensive maestro, and he might just be the next big thing at the catcher position. You’ll want to buy his stock now before the rates shoot through the roof.

Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Twins

Because of the spacious ballpark, the recent rash of crushing injuries, and the lack of overall offensive production, Minnesota has taken on the reputation of a sort of fantasy wasteland. Though only to people who aren’t paying close enough attention.

Plouffe, a former first-round pick of the Twins, tallied a whopping 24 home runs in 119 games this summer, finishing just behind the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman on the big fly leaderboard at third base. That came with a brutal .301 on-base percentage and less-than-stellar plate discipline, but Plouffe is only 26 years old and had a .384 OBP in 220 plate appearances at Triple-A Rochester in 2011. Assuming another 20-homer season is on the way, Plouffe will make for a steal near the back end of the hot-corner draft pool for 2013.

Kelvin Herrera, RP, Royals

Only two players in major league history, according to the numbers kept by PITCHf/x, have thrown a fastball at a reading of 102 mph or greater. Reds fireballer Aroldis Chapman is one. The other is a setup man Kansas City.

Herrera averaged 98.5 mph with his fastball in 2012, and used that exceptional velocity to record a fantastic 2.35 ERA across 84-plus innings. He complements his heater with an 86.9 mph changeup and will also feature a curveball and slider on occasion. If he can refine his command over the winter and work a little more on his offspeed deliveries, the 22-year-old right-hander should become a household name at some point in 2013. Herrera could nudge Greg Holland for ninth-inning duties by Opening Day.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals

If this list hasn’t already given it away, we’re expecting the young-and-hungry Royals to finally take their big step forward next season. And Cain figures prominently into that prediction.

The 26-year-old from Valdesta, Georgia was acquired from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade -- finalized December 19, 2010 -- and finally got a shot at regular playing time in 2012 after posting gaudy numbers at the Triple-A level in 2011. He has the kind of speed and power combination that gets fantasy owners salivating, having tallied seven homers and a double-digit steals total in just 61 major league games this year. If Cain plays a full 162-game schedule in 2013, the sky is the limit for his fantasy value. He will be leading off regularly in a Kansas City batting order that is rapidly improving.

Honorable Mentions

Ben Revere, OF, Twins
Revere started just 118 games for the Twins in 2012 but still managed to steal 40 bases. He’s a wheels-only guy, but a good one.


Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers
Scherzer has always been pretty good, but he was downright nasty this season. His 11.1 K/9 led all American League and National League starters.

Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox
“The Tank” is only 23 years old, has great raw power, and plays in a home ballpark that caters well to his type of swing. He should reach the 30-homer plateau in 2013.

Joaquin Benoit, RP, Tigers
Veteran reliever Jose Valverde is going to be allowed to walk via free agency and Benoit seems like the best bet to take over at closer in Detroit. He fanned 84 batters in 71 innings this year.

Wil Myers, OF, Royals
The 21-year-old outfield prospect slugged 37 home runs and tallied 109 RBI between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha this season. He’s ready for the next step.

Drew Silva is a baseball editor for Rotoworld and also contributes on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk. He can be found on Twitter.
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