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Roundtable: 2008 All-Underrated Team03/17/2008 12:00 AM ET
By The Fantasy Staff / MLB.com
Which mixed-league-worthy players are most likely to be great value picks on draft day? Nine of MLB.com's Roundtablers put it to a vote, position by position, to name the 2008 Preseason All-Underrated Team.
Geovany Soto, Cubs
OK, so maybe he won't make a run at .400 and slug .667 in a full season's worth of at-bats. But the gaudy numbers that Soto put up after getting the call last season are no fluke. This is a guy who proved his mettle and then some at Triple-A, where he batted .353 with 26 homers and 109 RBIs in 385 at-bats a year ago. Expect the 25-year-old backstop to emerge as a Top 10 catcher this season and make a serious run at National League Rookie of the Year honors.
-- Dean Chiungos, MLB.com Fantasy Coordinator
Also receiving consideration (votes): J.R. Towles, Astros (1); Kurt Suzuki, Athletics (1); Gerald Laird, Rangers (1); Brian McCann, Braves (1); Ramon Hernandez, Orioles (1); Dioner Navarro, Rays (1)
James Loney, Dodgers
This 24-year-old got ready for his first full season in 2008 by tearing it up in the second half of '07. Loney's a big left-handed hitter who should hit at least .300 with 25 homers and drive in 100 runs, but won't bring any speed. He's in a great environment, surrounded by new manager Joe Torre and a good mix of veterans and prospects. Look for Loney to be a nice grab in the 10th round or later.
-- Mike Siano, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Host
Also receiving consideration (votes): Casey Kotchman, Angels (2); Todd Helton, Rockies (1); Paul Konerko, White Sox (1); Adam LaRoche, Pirates (1); Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks (1)
Howie Kendrick, Angels
Kendrick was forced to play out of position as a rookie in 2006, suffered two hand injuries in his sophomore season and still suffers from a nearly pathological unwillingness to take a walk. Despite all this, in his first 160 big league games, he's hit .306 with 45 doubles, nine homers and 11 steals while scoring 80 runs and driving home 69. Given a full healthy season in the Angels' improving lineup, Kendrick could post numbers worthy of a fifth- or sixth-round pick, but he's been going around only the 10th round in mock drafts. He's a batting title waiting to happen.
-- Cory Schwartz, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Host
Also receiving consideration (votes): Rickie Weeks, Brewers (2); Kelly Johnson, Braves (2); Ronnie Belliard, Nationals (1)
Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Ever since he received a huge out-of-slot draft bonus for signing with the Diamondbacks in 2005, expectations have been high for J.D.'s immensely talented younger brother. And though he showed flashes of his potential in the Minors (.284 AVG, 13 HR, 51 RBIs at Double-A Tucson in '06), his success on the farm has yet to translate consistently in the bigs. He seemed to finally turn the corner late last year, busting loose with 15 RBIs in September before hitting .387 with a .677 slugging percentage in the postseason. Expect Drew to continue to improve; a 20-20 season is well within reach.
-- Dave Feldman, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
Also receiving consideration (votes): Julio Lugo, Red Sox (2); Michael Young, Rangers (1); Yuniesky Betancourt, Mariners (1); Miguel Tejada, Astros (1)
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
With the caveat that sometimes players are slow to regain their total power stroke after wrist surgery, Zimmerman is poised to take his game to the next level. Last season, his batting average suffered because of some bad luck with balls in play. His power increased over his rookie season and will likely spike again with the Nationals' move from cavernous RFK Stadium. Zimmerman has a little speed and could notch double-digit steals, though he needs to improve his success rate if he's going to continue getting chances to run.
-- Todd Zola, MLB.com correspondent
Also receiving consideration (votes): Edwin Encarnacion, Reds (2); Pedro Feliz, Phillies (1); Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres (1); Hank Blalock, Rangers (1)
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Despite missing time with a shoulder injury and being stuck in a platoon with Andre Ethier for much of last season, Kemp managed to impress and flash some of his five-tool skills. It's unrealistic to expect the 23-year-old to bat .340 over a full season, but Kemp has 20-20 talent written all over him -- assuming he's in Joe Torre's lineup every day. With Ethier still in the mix, Kemp may go later than he should in most mixed drafts. That said, few possess his kind of all-around ability, so don't hesitate to grab him before Torii Hunter, Delmon Young and Jason Bay on draft day.
-- Matt Kerner, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
Jeremy Hermida, Marlins
Expectations for Jeremy Hermida were so ridiculously high prior to his rookie campaign in 2006 that he was doomed from the start, and when he didn't perform well, some people forgot about him entirely. Then, at the ripe old age of 23 last season, he crept up on some of the naysayers with an 18-homer sophomore campaign, showing progressive improvement as the year wore on. Expect the Marlins outfielder to take another step forward, which means he'll have some super value when you steal him from your friends.
-- Casey Stern, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Host
Shane Victorino, Phillies
Despite the fact that he swiped 37 bases to go with his 12 homers, 78 runs and .281 average last year, Victorino still seems to go a round or two later than he should in most fantasy drafts. Don't let that happen in your draft. Fully recovered from a calf injury that sidelined him for about 30 games last year, the Flyin' Hawaiian is poised to build on his already impressive numbers. Expect a full season's worth of production for the gritty center fielder, who's poised to make a run at 50 steals and 100 runs in the offensively gifted Phillies lineup.
-- Dave Feldman, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
Also receiving consideration (votes): Luke Scott, Orioles (2); Jeff Francoeur, Braves (2); Franklin Gutierrez, Indians (1); Jason Kubel, Twins (1); Delmon Young, Twins (1); Carlos Quentin, White Sox (1); Randy Winn, Giants (1); Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (1)
Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays
Watching McGowan pitch last year, I was struck by how much he resembled Roy Halladay with his size, his stuff and his poise. He also performed like Halladay at times, throwing a one-hit shutout against the Rockies in June and finishing with a 3.67 second-half ERA. It took the 25-year-old some time to realize the promise he showed in the Minors, but he's clearly headed for stardom. Owners in auction formats will want to grab him for cheap now, as he'll command big bucks at this time next year.
-- Tim Ott, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
Also receiving consideration (votes): Oliver Perez, Mets (2); Felix Hernandez, Mariners (2); Pedro Martinez, Mets (1); Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers (1)
Joakim Soria, Royals
Maybe it's the fact that he plays in small-market Kansas City, or that his name doesn't roll off the tongue (Wah-Keem Saw-Ree-Uh), or that there were so many other tantalizing rookies just like him last season. Whatever the reason, Soria gets the just-another-closer-on-a-bad-team treatment, which is unfair considering he went from Rule 5 pick to first-class American League reliever in one year. Just 23, he has the ability to work both sides of the plate (75/19 K/BB, 3 HR), which suggests there's more room for growth. Overlooking him means missing out on a potential Top 10 closer at middle-round cost.
-- Alex Cushing, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
Also receiving consideration (votes): Carlos Marmol, Cubs (1); B. J. Ryan, Blue Jays (1); Chad Cordero, Nationals (1); Masa Kobayashi, Indians (1)
2008 Preseason All-Underrated Team
C: Geovany Soto, C
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.