Draft list: 15 undervalued hitters
Sizemore, Wright among stars primed for bounceback
1. Grady Sizemore, Indians
'09 stats: .248 AVG, 18 HR, 73 R, 64 RBIs, 13 SB
'10 prediction: .273 AVG, 26 HR, 98 R, 83 RBIs, 22 SB
Expected to make a run at his second consecutive 30/30 campaign in '09, Sizemore instead wound up suffering through his worst season since becoming a regular. Fortunately, there's plenty of reason to believe that a combination of ailments, including a sore elbow and sports hernia that both cropped up during Spring Training, played a big part in the center fielder's collapse. While his sudden downturn in production could scare more than a few owners off, a healthy return for the 27-year-old dual threat could cast him as one of this year's biggest value selections.
2. David Wright, Mets
'09 stats: .307 AVG, 10 HR, 88 R, 72 RBIs, 27 SB
'10 prediction: .304 AVG, 24 HR, 102 R, 105 RBIs, 24 SB
Wright was as reliable as a metronome from 2006-08, but his reputation took a hit during an '09 campaign in which he rung up just 10 long balls and 72 RBIs. Injuries to his supporting cast certainly didn't help, as opposing hurlers fed Wright a steady diet of bad pitches, choosing to take their chances with the team's less distinguished fill-ins. The pressure to carry the Mets' offensive load clearly took its toll on the pressing young star, who struck out a career-high 140 times. A healthy return from Jose Reyes and the addition of slugger Jason Bay should take some of the heat off Wright, whose track record of success is far too great to be outweighed by his fluke '09 performance.
3. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
'09 stats: .284 AVG, 13 HR, 53 R, 29 RBIs, 16 SB
'10 prediction: .287 AVG, 20 HR, 87 R, 80 RBIs, 21 SB
Gonzalez was summoned to Colorado after posting a sizzling .339/.418/.630 line over the first two months of '09 at Triple-A. Amazingly, didn't slow down much after joining the big club, surging to a .320 average with 12 homers, 42 runs scored and 11 steals in the second half. Gonzalez is going to have put in a lot of time in the batting cage to correct his undisciplined 28/70 BB/K ratio, but he was making strides in that area during his time in the Minors last season. Set to bat leadoff for the hard-hitting Rockies, the multi-talented 24-year-old could deliver a 20/20 season with an average in the .300 neighborhood for mixed-league owners.
4. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
'09 stats: .236 AVG, 21 HR, 47 R, 56 RBIs, 3 SB
'10 prediction: .266 AVG, 29 HR, 88 R, 98 RBIs, 5 SB
A lingering wrist injury coupled with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot robbed Quentin of his chance to submit his second straight MVP-caliber season in '09. While this likely comes as little consolation for those who used an early-round pick on the Windy City slugger, shrewd observers now have a chance to add a 30-homer threat to their lineups for a bargain-basement price. Despite his injury troubles, the 27-year-old managed to thump 21 homers in 351 at-bats, and his overall .236 average was dragged down by a comically low .223 BABIP. A return to health and a hardy dose of some past-due good luck should put Quentin's name back among the league's top power threats.
5. Kyle Blanks, Padres
'09 stats: .250 AVG, 10 HR, 24 R, 22 RBIs, 1 SB
'10 prediction: .264 AVG, 24 HR, 74 R, 88 RBIs, 5 SB
While it's hard to get excited about batters who take their home hacks at the pitcher's paradise known as PETCO Park, Blanks is about to join Adrian Gonzalez as exceptions to the rule. The strapping 23-year-old carried a career .505 Minor League slugging percentage into his first tour of big league duty last year and promptly drilled 10 home runs in 148 at-bats before a foot injury brought about a premature end to his campaign. Blanks' power should be somewhat neutralized at home, and a high strikeout rate will hurt his average, but there are few who can measure up to the imposing slugger when it comes to youthful pop.
6. Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
'09 stats: .295 AVG, 15 HR, 59 R, 50 RBIs, 2 SB
'10 prediction: .296 AVG, 26 HR, 79 R, 88 RBIs, 2 SB
After hobbling around right field for years, Guerrero's myriad of back and leg maladies finally caught up to him in '09. The veteran slugger missed over 60 games and saw his average dip to .295, his lowest mark since becoming a regular. But don't count the eight-time All-Star out just yet, as Vlad is set to take half his rips at the bandbox known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where he owns a career.394 average and 1.175 OPS. The 14-year veteran logged just two starts in the Halos outfield last season, so he may only qualify at the utility position in most leagues, but his lack of versatility should hardly matter if he's able to resemble the fearsome masher of yore.
7. Corey Hart, Brewers
'09 stats: .260 AVG, 12 HR, 64 R, 48 RBIs, 11 SB
'10 prediction: .277 AVG, 20 HR, 78 R, 80 RBIs, 17 SB
Coming off back-to-back 20/20 campaigns, Hart was tabbed as a near-elite-level talent heading into '09. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old's season was marred by both ineffectiveness and injury, as he labored through a nearly two-month dry spell before undergoing an emergency appendectomy and missing nearly all of August. But despite tallying career lows in most offensive categories, Hart drew more walks and improved his on-base percentage by 35 points, showing that a bounceback campaign is not out of the question. With the memory of last year's showing still lingering in the minds of many owners, you won't have to break the bank to add some Hart to your 2010 squad.
8. Travis Snider, Blue Jays
'09 stats: .241 AVG, 9 HR, 34 R, 29 RBIs, 1 SB
'10 prediction: .262 AVG, 24 HR, 79 R, 80 RBIs, 2 SB
Snider appeared in his fair share of these types of columns last year as an under-the-radar rookie in Toronto before slumping badly out of the gate and earning a ticket back to Triple-A. Fortunately, the 22-year-old bopper found his stroke on the farm, ringing up a .337 average with 14 homers and 40 RBIs over 175 at-bats to earn a second go-round with the Jays. Snider's high strikeout rate should make him susceptible to a few extended funks and limit his average, but there's no denying his prodigious power potential. Reserve a late-round selection for the young outfielder and watch the big flies pile up.
9. Julio Borbon, Rangers
'09 stats: .312 AVG, 4 HR, 30 R, 20 RBIs, 19 SB
'10 prediction: .296 AVG, 6 HR, 87 R, 53 RBIs, 37 SB
Of all the fleet-footed outfielders that arrived on the scene in 2009 (think Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan), none possesses the upside of the 23-year-old Borbon. The proud owner of a career .310/.360/.401 line on the farm, Borbon excelled in his first tour of the bigs, lashing out a .312 average to go with a .376 on-base percentage and 19 steals in 179 plate appearances. Set to bat leadoff for a loaded Rangers lineup, Borbon is capable of scoring 100 runs and swiping 40 bags with a full season's worth of at-bats. Not bad for a player who should be around well into the middle rounds of most mixed drafts.
10. Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
'09 stats: .251 AVG, 16 HR, 72 R, 52 RBIs, 3 SB
'10 prediction: .266 AVG, 23 HR, 81 R, 80 RBIs, 10 SB
Rasmus brushed off a disappointing and injury-ravaged '08 Minor League campaign to compile a .251 average with 22 doubles and 72 runs scored during his rookie '09 effort. His ineffectiveness vs. southpaws (.160 AVG, 4 XBH in 160 AB) is more than a little concerning, but Rick Ankiel's departure from St. Louis assures Rasmus' standing in the outfield pecking order, and he'll be given every chance to hold down the starting center-field job. The 23-year-old likely will see his average improve, and given that he was successful on 81 percent of his steal attempts in the Minors, he could be a helpful source of speed as well. Rasmus is exactly the kind talent made for a low-risk/high-reward late-round selection.
11. Alex Rios, White Sox
'09 stats: .247 AVG, 17 HR, 63 R, 71 RBIs, 24 SB
'10 prediction: .273 AVG, 18 HR, 82 R, 76 RBIs, 25 SB
What was shaping up to be a disappointing season for Rios unraveled completely after he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, as he stumbled to a .199 average with a 6/29 BB/K ratio over his final 41 games. The athletic outfielder may never fulfill the 30/30 expectations, but he's still capable of providing all-around help. Rios has cracked between 15 and 17 homers in three of the last four seasons, while swiping 20 bags in each of the last two. Don't let his rough showing in the Windy City stop you from giving him a shot.
12. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
'09 stats: .267 AVG, 6 HR, 72 R, 40 RBIs, 33 SB
'10 prediction: .277 AVG, 6 HR, 89 R, 49 RBIs, 39 SB
For a player who finished second in the '09 American League Rookie of the Year balloting, Andrus remains criminally underrated headed into draft day. The Rangers shortstop led all players at his position with 33 steals in '09, a number he should easily top as he gains more experience. Furthermore, he's in the right ballpark and lineup to get the most out of his offensive abilities. Andrus won't crack many long balls, but he's more than capable of handling his share of the load as a mixed-league option.
13. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
'09 stats: .277 AVG, 15 HR, 71 R, 68 RBIs, 14 SB
'10 prediction: .288 AVG, 20 HR, 77 R, 72 RBIs, 15 SB
Ramirez followed up what was a fantastic rookie season in 2008 with a mildly disappointing '09, finishing with 15 fewer extra-base hits despite accumulating nearly 100 more plate appearances. But even though he didn't produce as expected in the standard 5x5 categories, there were subtle signs that hint at better seasons to come. The 28-year-old more than doubled his walk rate, improved his on-base percentage by over 25 points and was more efficient on the basepaths. Because most will gloss over these secondary statistics, Ramirez's stock should be pretty reasonable by the time draft day rolls around.
14. Drew Stubbs, Reds
'09 stats: .267 AVG, 8 HR, 27 R, 17 RBIs, 10 SB
'10 prediction: .270 AVG, 10 HR, 70 R, 51 RBIs, 39 SB
Powered by a surge in which he blasted eight homers and swiped 10 bags over 42 games to finish '09, Stubbs is set to take over the Reds' center-field job on a full-time basis. While he'll be hard-pressed to improve on the above-average power he flashed at the big league level -- Stubbs was slugging .360 at Triple-A Louisville before being summoned to Cincinnati -- the eighth pick in the 2006 Draft has the legs to swipe 30-plus bases over the course of a full season. Considering his patient approach inside the batters' box, he should have plenty of chances to run wild. Pluck him in the mid- to late rounds and watch the steals pile up for the multi-talented outfielder.
15. Alcides Escobar, Brewers
'09 stats: .304 AVG, 1 HR, 20 R, 11 RBIs, 4 SB
'10 prediction: .282 AVG, 5 HR, 71 R, 47 RBIs, 36 SB
Escobar finished third in batting and tied for second in steals in the Southern League in 2008, then placed third in steals in the Pacific Coast League before getting the call to join Milwaukee last season. The 23-year-old burner submitted a .304/.333/.368 line in 38 games with the Brew Crew, nearly identical to his six-year averages on the farm, showing that he's more than ready to handle big league pitching. While Escobar's on-base percentage is a few notches below what you'd like to see from a top-flight leadoff man, it shouldn't take much more than a late-round flier to reel him in, and there's plenty of room for improvement as he takes in a full-season's worth of experience.
Chris Stryshak is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.