Standard fantasy baseball leagues use five basic statistics as offensive scoring categories (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB) and finding the players who will contribute across most categories, if not all, should be your primary objective while those types of players are still available in the drafting pool. But what if I told you which of the two statistics you should be paying attention to more than the others that would pay off dividends in all five categories?
Targeting players who provide both power and speed is a strategy sure to pay off, if done right. Only 24 players had 15 or more home runs and 15 or more stolen bases in 2011 and produced an average 5×5 line of .273/95/24/83/25. Not too shabby. It’s quite the collection of players but some of the names on the list may surprise you.
The Elites (30/30 potential)
OF Matt Kemp (39 HR/40 SB), OF Jacoby Ellsbury (32 HR/39 SB), OF Curtis Granderson (41 HR/25 SB), OF Ryan Braun (33 HR/33 SB) and 2B Ian Kinsler (32 HR/30 SB) are serious candidates to go 30/30 in 2012. Kemp (ADP 2.18), Braun (ADP 4.65) and Ellsbury (ADP 9.30) are all being drafted in the first round, so you’ll probably only get a shot at one of these players unless Ellsbury were to fall to the turn (12th pick).
Imagine pairing up one of these first-round elites with a second-round pick of Kinsler (ADP 24.04). Personally, I’d go for Kinsler over Granderson (ADP 19.93) simply because of position scarcity. Coming out of the first two rounds of your draft with a cornerstone outfielder and elite second baseman who can combine to go 60/60-plus is how you start build a winning fantasy baseball team.
The Very Good (25/25 potential)
OF B.J. Upton (23 HR/36 SB), OF Justin Upton (31 HR/21 SB), 2B Dustin Pedroia (21 HR/26 SB), OF Carlos Gonzalez (26 HR/20 SB) and OF Andrew McCutchen (23 HR/23 SB) all came close to a 25/25 season in 2011 and nothing in their respective games suggest they can’t come close to or achieve these same numbers or better in 2012. OF Drew Stubbs (15 HR/40 SB) is a player who’s averaged 21 HR and 37 SB per 162 games played so far in his young career. A low batting average (.251 career average) and high strikeout rate (28.9% of the time) are red flags to his game but you shouldn’t ignore his 3-category potential (R, HR,SB).
This group, just like The Elites, is made up of outfielders and a second baseman. Dustin Pedroia (ADP 19.62) is being drafted before Kinsler, which means depending on your draft slot, you still have a shot to pair up one of these second baseman with your elite outfielder. CarGo (ADP 14.52) should be available on the turn and could easily elevate his game enough to join The Elites.
B.J. Upton (ADP 64.36) could be the biggest bargain of the bunch as a fifth or sixth-round target. He’s a similar risk to your batting average (.257 career average) as Stubbs but there’s no denying his fantasy eliteness when it comes to power and speed combos. If you’re targeting him for your team, just don’t get stuck pairing him up with other low-average hitters.
The Good (20/20 potential)
OF Chris Young (20 HR/22 RBI), OF Jayson Werth (20 HR/19 SB), 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (20 HR/19 SB), 2B Danny Espinosa (21 HR/17 SB), OF Melky Cabrera (18 HR/20 SB), 2B/3B Ryan Roberts (19 HR/18 SB) and OF Shane Victorino (17 HR/19 SB) all showed the coveted 20/20 potential fantasy owners should be looking for in the draft.
This group includes the third, fourth and fifth second base-eligible players (of 24) as well as a shortstop and a third baseman, all at a significant discount than what you’ll be paying for earlier in the draft. Danny Espinosa is a batting average risk (.232 career average in the majors) but did hit .270 overall in the minors. If he can get that average up to an “acceptable” range (.260′s), Espinosa would be a steal (no pun intended) with an ADP of 147.19.
Chris Young (ADP 122.23) has averaged 24 HR and 21 SB per 162 games over his young career but his .240 career batting average brings a level of risk to your team’s scoring category (are we seeing a pattern here?). Jayson Werth (ADP 96.52) has averaged 29 HR and 20 SB over his last four seasons in a full-time role with an acceptable .267 batting average. Shane Victorino (ADP 72.95) has never reached the 20 HR mark in his career but has come close over the last two seasons (18 in 2010; 17 in 2011). He’ll be a free agent after this season unless the Phillies lock him up to a long-term deal, so we could see a career year from him. Ben Zobrist (ADP 78.79) has averaged 21 HR and 22 SB over the last three seasons in a full-time role, so continue to expect the same from him in 2012.
Melky Cabrera came close to a 20/20 season virtually out of nowhere, so it’s hard to gauge if this will be his new norm or simply a statistically anomaly. I’d bet for something on the higher end of a 15/15 season and with an ADP of 175.39, there’s little risk as a fourth or fifth outfield option.
Ryan Roberts is another “out of the blue” 20/20 threat but what makes him so attractive in fantasy baseball is his 2B/3B eligibility and relatively low risk (ADP 195.56) .
The Best of the Rest (15/15 potential)
SS Jimmy Rollins (16 HR/30 SB), SS Asdrubal Cabrera (25 HR/17 SB), OF Jeff Francoeur (20 HR/22 SB), OF Alex Gordon (23 HR/17 SB), 2B Kelly Johnson (21 HR/16 SB) and OF Johnny Damon (16 HR/19 SB) round out the list of 24 players who accomplished at least a 15/15 season in 2011.
Jimmy Rollins (ADP 88.70) has averaged 17 HR and 37 SB over his career, so his value is with his speed over power. The Phillies are looking old as a team, so expect Rollins to provide a majority of the offensive spark in 2012.
If you’re still looking for a value at second base, be sure to target Kelly Johnson (ADP 240.21) in the late rounds for his 20/15 potential. He could find himself near the top of the Blue Jays lineup and nothing about that would be bad news to his fantasy baseball owners.
Alex Gordon (ADP 61.01) has averaged 20 HR and 13 SB in has career so far, so 20/20 might be a stretch. That’s okay, though. Fantasy owners have been waiting since 2008 for a return to productiveness as a fantasy option and he finally came through. I’m waiting a year to see if he can duplicate or surpass his 2011 numbers.
I’m less than optimistic that Asdrubal Cabrera (ADP 75.67) and Jeff Francoeur (191.00) can reproduce (or exceed) their 2011 numbers since neither has a history of 15/15 or better. The only reason I’d be targeting these two players is because Cabrera plays a premium fantasy position (SS) and Francoeur comes at a low-cost draft position. Oh, and I guess Johnny Damon needs a job before he’ll be fantasy baseball-relevant in 2012.
Other Power/Speed Threats for 2012
2B Aaron Hill (ADP 231.49) had 36 HR in 2009 and 21 SB in 2011. Deeper league players should think about drafting him as late as possible and seeing what the month of April brings. Is 15/15 really out of the realm of possibility?
OF Jason Heyward (108.92) slumped miserably in 2011 but is a 20 HR/15 SB season out of reach for this 22 year old?
Per 162 games played over his young career, OF Adam Jones (ADP 74.38) has averaged 19 HR and 11 SB. Now is the time for him to step up and take his game into the 25/15 club. It would be a lot easier to invest a sixth-round pick in him if he weren’t on the Orioles.
OF Carl Crawford (ADP 40.95) flopped in his first season with the Boston Red Sox but still managed to produce an 11 HR/18 SB season. A wrist injury will slow the start of his 2012 season but I’m betting he returns to form with a season of at least 15 HR and 30 SB. His high draft position would scare me away from drafting him, though.
OF Alex Rios (ADP 216.40) produced a 21 HR/34 SB season in 2010 before dropping off to a 13 HR/11 SB season in 2011. Split the difference with a 17 HR/22 SB campaign in 2012? There’s not a whole lot of risk involved to find out the answer.
2B Brandon Phillips (ADP 60.38) missed the 15/15 club in 2011 by one stolen base. He’s averaged 20 HR and 22 SB per 162 games in his career and should see a return to those levels playing for a new, long-term deal.
OF Shin-Soo Choo (ADP 62.56) had back-to-back 20/20 seasons in 2009/2010 before and injury-riddled 2011. Look for him to return to form in 2012. Teammate 2B Jason Kipnis (ADP 165.18) had 7 HR and 5 SB in 36 games played in 2011, so a 15/15 season seems realistic for 2012.
1B Eric Hosmer (ADP 54.02) produced a 19 HR/11 SB season in just 128 games in his rookie season and could provide a 25 HR/15 SB during his sophomore campaign. That kind of power/speed combo is rare for first basemen these days. Are you sold on him in the fifth round?
Los Angeles Angels teammates 2B Howie Kendrick (ADP 104.28) and OF Peter Bourjos (ADP 131.59) each just missed going at least 15/15 in 2011 and should both be considered locks to join this group in 2012.
SS Hanley Ramirez (ADP 20.34) has lots to prove heading into 2012 after an underwhelming 2011. He’s averaged 25 HR/41 SB per 162 games over his career and should be a top target if you are buying into my power/speed drafting strategy. Oh, and the third base eligibility coming soon makes him even more valuable to fantasy baseballers.
OF Angel Pagan (ADP 165.25) and OF Andres Torres (ADP 314.34) were traded for each other this offseason and each have the potential to provide 10 HR and 30 SB. Could either step it up the power and go 15/25 in 2012? I’ll be targeting them BOTH in late rounds of my deeper leagues.
Will moving the fences in at CitiField help 3B David Wright (ADP 32.70) return to the upper ranks of fantasy baseball greatness? He’s averaged 27 HR and 22 SB over his career and should be able to put a disappointing 2011 season behind him.
If any catcher were to make a run at the 15/15 club, Russell Martin (ADP 250.24) would have to be that guy. I don’t see it happening but if you’re a “punt the catcher position” strategy type, grab him late hope the speed returns. He did go 18/8 in 2011.
It doesn’t look like OF Domonic Brown (ADP 266.77) will get a chance to show his stuff full time in the crowded Phillies outfield in 2012, so look for him to be on my 2013 list of 20/20 guys.
Pirates OF Alex Presley (ADP 258.50) had 4 HR (22 XBH) and 9 SB in 52 games in 2011 and could produce an under-the-radar 15/25 season hitting out of the #2 hole in front of McCutchen.
Now that OF Ichiro Suzuki (ADP 102.15) has been moved into the #3 slot in the Mariners batting order, could his power numbers increase too? Is a 15 HR/30 SB season a possibility? Thoughts?
2B Dustin Ackley (ADP 137.58) had 6 HR/6 SB in 90 games in 2011, which would have put him just under the 15/15 club. I like his chances at accomplishing this in 2012.
Could OF Desmond Jennings (ADP 56.34) really make a run at a 20 HR/45 SB season? Well his 10 HR and 20 SB in just 63 games in 2011 had him on pace for this type of monster season. I hope the Rays commit to him for 162 games so we can all find out. BUY NOW!
Okay. I get the hype over 3B Brett Lawrie (ADP 55.45). But I was shocked at what I saw on his projections page on RotoChamp.com. A 26/25 season coming in 2012? Really? Wow. He did have 9 HR and 7 SB in just 43 games, so this should be very interesting.
Targeting players who can provide you with both power (HRs) and speed (SBs) is a strategy worth looking into when deciding whether or not to draft Player X or Player Y. A 30 HR/0 SB player could cost you a lot in the early rounds whereas two 15/15 players should come relatively cheap later in the draft. Remember, fantasy baseball is about finding the statistics and the right combination of players to help you win NOW! So do yourself a favor. Please. Avoid Bryce Harper for 2012. He’ll help you win in 2013 or 2014. I promise.
NOTE: All ADP numbers are courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com and were accurate as of March 5th, 2012.