Here we are again for Part II of guys I like going into 2013. Next week we will finish off the the regular season with five guys who make me nervous going into 2013, and then the Baseball Hotpage goes into winter mode.
We cover that winter schedule next week because to start I want to discuss Tyler Flowers. It does, as a rule, seem to take catchers longer to get the hang then other position players. And, the reason is that they must pay attention to managing pitching first, then focus at the stick. Flowers, now 26, was a 33rd round pick of the Braves in 2005 who was then swapped to the White Sox as part of the Javier Lopez deal in 2009. He has basically strong minor league totals of .275-80-315 over 535 minor league games, with an equally strong .391 OBP. True Flowers played 2012 as the back-up to the excellent A.J. Pierzynski, but a free agent, Pierzynski, might have priced himself out of a number of markets, opening a space (and, I would doubt A.J. can repeat his 2012 anyway) for Flowers, who was .234-7-13 over a career high 124 at-bats. I can just smell a Kelly Shoppach 20-homer season popping out of Flowers, though whether 2013 or 2014, I am unsure. And, Flowers value for now is still limited to pretty deep formats, but I just think Flowers is just beginning to bloom.
Boy, if I could draft one rookie pitcher in my Strat-O-Matic league this coming February, it would be Matt Harvey. The Mets first-round pick in 2010, the 23-year old out of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has just two seasons into his pro career (22-10, 3.48 with 268 whiffs over over 248.1 innings). With the Metropolitans Harvey has stepped up to it, with success as good as any of his hot contemporaries (think Stephen Strasburg and Matt Moore, anyway) going 3-5, 2.92 over nine starts and 52.2 innings (63 strikeouts with a 1.223 WHIP) and I think he is just going to get better, and quietly give us a wonderful career.
To give an idea of how long it can take a shiny new draft pick in the June draft to realize his skill, I selected Jeff Samardzija in the XFL after the Cubs drafted him in 2007. Samardzija actually made the team in 2008 and did pretty well going 1-0, 2.28 over 27.2 innings that year, and I activated the right hander on my XFL team as a $1 keeper the following year. Since Samardzija pitched over ten innings I would have had to make a decision whether to freeze or lose for that is the minor league keeper threshold in that league. Needless to say, I did not freeze him after his 1-3, 753 2009, and the following year (2-2, 8.38) he languished in the free agent pool all year. Then, in 2011 buoyed by an 8-4, 2.97 season, Samardzija put it nicely together this year, with 9-13, 3.81 totals over 174.2 innings (180 whiffs) and those are numbers just good enough to point to a nice future and still be a bit under the radar of most owners. I wish I could have sat on him all those XFL years, though.
OK, Harvey should be on the radar of most fantasy players, and actually Samardzija likewise should have some followers. But, as with Flowers, Norichika Aoki is not the kind of guy to generate huge interest. Maybe a $2 pick in NL only formats this year, and even a later reserve pick--if that--in NFBC-style set-ups, Aoki barely seemed to have registered a bleep. But, the 30-year old import is presently hitting .286-8-42 over 451 at-bats, with 30 doubles, 24 swipes, and 68 runs scored. Those are actually very nice numbers and I would think he can repeat, if not improve upon them a little, in 2013. Look down your nose if you want, but what difference would 24 steals make in your standings somewhere as a reserve pick this season?
Somehow Billy Beane and Bob Melvin have pulled just about every string right this season, and I think the team's acquisition of shortstop Stephen Drew will prove to be a move the team benefits from next year as he goes into his contract season. Injured for much of 2011 and into 2012, when Drew was last healthy he generated .278-15-61 with an .808 OPS, and what looked to be a career that would be moving up. I think that Drew will come back for next season and help drive Oakland, their great pitching, and almost great outfield back as a competitive force.
Now again, the pitchers noted are not really cheap players, but among Drew, Aoki, and Flowers, all three could be reserve picks--again if selected at all--in an NFBC format, and would still be cheap gambles in Al or NL only formats. And, taking advantage of players who cost nothing, and just return $5-$7 in profit is how you win. Hence, I like these guys.