The 2012 MLB off-season has brought a number of surprises -- Pujols and Wilson to the Angels, Darvish to the Rangers, Reyes to the Marlins, Pineda to the Yankees (and Montero to the Mariners), etc. But when you're approaching this year's fantasy draft, you'll likely already have them firmly in mind.
The value, as always, is finding younger players that are just breaking out that you might be able to take a safe swing at and steal them just before the schmuck in the chat room still talking about last season's debacle. Here are three young fantasy hotshots that just might just do the trick:
To call Upton a breakout is an insult -- he's so far past breaking out Tommy Lee Jones is organizing a search party. At 23, Justin just had 5 WAR season. If you're familiar with wins above replacement, you know 4+ WAR means you're a great player, and five means you're elite (the best seasons in history sit around 8+). Now see that Upton did that at 23 and realize that's the kind of season required of a player early enough in his career to put him on early HoF watch lists. Yes, I'm serious.
Here's what you can expect: an average in the .280s (hits!), on base around the.360s (decent walks), and slugging north of .470 (that's a lot of power). He'll likely go in the first few rounds, so be ready.
McCutchen, 25, is already a superstar. Or should be. With three pro seasons to his name, McCutchen has earned more WAR than most players ever will (12ish). As with Upton, this puts him on a trajectory shared with few others his age.
The thing to watch with McCutchen is his average, which dipped almost 30 points from .286 in 2009 and 2010, down to .259. Depending on your league, McCutchen more than makes up for that with a fantastic OBP -- and it actually went up last year as his avg. went down. Explain that. (Yes, players can improve). His power will leave you wanting but overall McCutchen should provide great value if your co-draftees focus on his average and not his peripherals.
Here's what you can expect: Andrew should be right around .275 / .365 / .450, with doubles in the 30s and homers in the teens. He'll get you some stolen bags in the low 20s as well, but if you're in a saber league that counts CS as well, he can dip below 3-to-1. You might be able to sandbag him a bit in the draft if you're in a league with players that don't know their guys on terrible teams.
Of course Eric freaking Hosmer. The only real question is whether it's pronounced "hoss mur" or "haaz-mer." At 21 years of age, the Hos (can we call him that yet?) was good for .293 / .334 / .465 -- which is kinda good, kids. He hit almost 30 doubles and almost 20 home runs, but he's clearly a candidate for 30 home runs before he's 23, and this year might be it.
Yes, he's young, and there are still flashes of raw youth, but I dare you to find someone willing to say he's a candidate for a sophomore slump. The real question for you in fantasy terms is exactly where you value him compared to the other first basemen available at the same time.
Here's what you can expect: I respect my saberfriends too much to suggest Hosmer won't regress, but what the hell. Eric Hosmer won't regress. He's the real deal. A-Rod, Bonds, Beltran, Rejoice. Look at his slashes from last year (above) and add 5-10 points to everything, pull the whiskers off, smack it, flip it, rub it down...oh nooo, and tell 'em Bopp sent ya.