First impressions carry a lot of weight, even in the mind of the fantasy market on draft day. Jose Bautista’s April of liquid nitrogen (.181/.320/.313) is hard to forget and it has skewed his 2012 overall numbers (.239/.359/.549). In June the Blue Jays right fielder blasted an insane 14 moon shots, knocked in 30 runs, and slashed a juicy (.271/.408/.750). At that pace he’d tally 84 bombs and 180 runs batted in. Video game numbers that nobody can keep up, but they drive home the point that April was a mirage, and those who focus too much on his year-to-date batting average are going to mistake an asset for a potential liability. The Dominican masher went yard 9 times in May while posting a .257 batting average. Consider .260 his baseline with .300 upside. He served up 30 post all-star break homers back in 2010, and his 23 blasts over the last 60 days illustrate that repeating such a feat would be no surprise.
In short, Bautista may be the most intriguing first round pick. He’s going to lead the league in home runs, probably runs batted in, he’ll be near the top in run production, and swipe 4-6 bags, all the while giving you a batting average that doesn’t hurt. With third base and outfield eligibility there may not be a more valuable pick in the first round in midseason leagues. In terms of raw statistics, Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun probably have more value, but they lack the flexibility that Bautista affords you later in the draft. In terms of roster construction the Blue Jays most valuable player has value that is difficult to quantify, but very real. You don’t have to leave value ‘on the table’ due to lack of room in your starting lineup.
To illustrate, on one team I own Paul Konerko, Adrian Gonzalez, and Adam Dunn. All three are must start players. Even if Mark Teixeira himself fell to the 20th round of that draft, I was stuck. I either had to let a ton of value slide to someone else, or make a selection that would negate the value of an earlier pick. I think we’re all aware that position flexibility has value, but this value isn’t always reflected in ADP. There are no ADP’s out for midseason leagues, but I have to think that Jose Bautista will be valued similarly to what he was in the preseason (1.10 ADP), which makes him a solid early first round pick on my draft board.
Another element in the slugger’s favor is that stolen bases are more plentiful than they have been in the past. The wire has been populated with 40+ stolen base potential pickups such as Rajai Davis, Quintin Berry, and Everth Cabrera. Michael Saunders, Elliot Johnson, and others were also available with 20+ potential. Speed is available late and in the free agent pool. Yes, power is also there, but it is harder to spot and doesn’t come in condensed form like the 50 jacks Bautista provides.
Miguel Cabrera is the other first rounder with multi-position flexibility. It’s worth noting the Detroit Tigers schedule after the all-star break: 12 games vs. Cleveland, 9 vs. Minnesota, 10 vs. Kansas City, and 6 vs. Toronto. Their schedule also includes three games at the Ballpark in Arlington and three at Fenway Park. Now, respective team ranks in ERA: Boston 20th, Kansas City 24th, Toronto 26th, Cleveland 28th, and Minnesota 29th. I’m loading up on Tigers if it fits my draft scheme. Jhonny Peralta, Quintin Berry, and Delmon Young all have significant upside.
Jim Thome was neglected on the waiver wire this past weekend. In a couple of leagues I won him uncontested. Interesting. Thome is long in the tooth, but his bat still has pop. Watch his usage over the next week. If he plays against righties he will have value as a frequent spot play. If he gets close to everyday AB’s you just might have a steal on your hands. I’m hoping that he has a poor week so that his price will remain ultra cheap.