All-Value Team for April
Sure, it’s important to avoid making early-round blunders on draft day, but, as you all probably know by now, the key to winning a fantasy baseball league, or at least setting yourself up for a championship season, more often than not lies in the middle to late rounds. That’s where the profit potential is greatest. So, as we close out the first month of the 2014 season, I figured it would be only fitting to assemble my “All-Value Team” for April. Here’s what I’ve come up with, and as always, feel free to post your own picks in the comments section below.
C Dioner Navarro
Navarro likely went undrafted in most 12-team mixed leagues, but so far, the 30-year-old backstop is making a strong statement that last season’s breakout campaign was no fluke. Heading into Wednesday’s action, he’s tied with Jonathan LuCroy for third place in the Majors in hits (27) and already with 14 RBI, Navarro is on pace to shatter his career-high of 54 RBI, set in 2008 while with the Rays.
Honorable Mention: Devin Mesoraco
1B Jose Abreu
Really, what else is there left to say about this guy? Drafted outside of the top-10 at his position in the vast majority of leagues, Abreu is certainly living up to the hype, and then some. The Cuban import leads all first basemen in homers (10) and RBI (32) and is tied for first in runs (20) with Paul Goldschmidt and Albert Pujols.
Honorable Mention: Justin Morneau
2B Dee Gordon
Players who can almost single-handedly win you a category are few and far between. Players who can almost single-handedly win you a category who were either very late-round selections or waiver wire pickups are even rarer. Gordon’s 13 steals are tops in the Majors, and while expecting him to maintain anything close to his current .385 OBP is completely unrealistic, as long as he remains a lineup regular, a National League stolen base title is a distinct possibility. And no, I haven’t forgotten about Billy Hamilton.
Honorable Mention: Chase Utley
SS Alexei Ramirez
Despite the career-high 30 steals last year, Alexei managed just six home runs, which was a big reason why I shied away from him in drafts this spring. In fact, his home run total had declined in each of the past three seasons. The fantasy community didn’t give him a whole lot of respect either ranking him towards the back end of the top-10 at the position. Already with four homers this year to go along with four steals, he’s on pace for his first ever 20/20 season. I still have my doubts though.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Rollins
3B Anthony Rendon
A former top prospect, Rendon is off to a hot start in his first full major league season, hitting .294 with three homers, 17 RBI and one steal through 27 games. That said, outside of strong batting averages, his minor league numbers don’t exactly jump off the page. Since he’s not a base stealer and has never hit for power on a consistent basis, I need to see more from Rendon before I can trust him as a viable fantasy option in standard mixed leagues.
Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado
OF Charlie Blackmon
After failing to fully capitalize on his previous big league opportunities, Blackmon has come out of nowhere to deserve serious April Fantasy MVP consideration, with the other legitimate candidate being Abreu. The 27-year-old outfielder is hitting for average (.379) and power (5 HR) while stealing bases at a high rate (7 SB). What more could you ask for? At the same time, Blackmon is an ideal sell-high guy considering his uninspiring track record that portrays him more as a big league bench player.
OF Nelson Cruz
Let’s face it, Cruz is without question the April winner of best off-season signing from a pure value perspective. Many fantasy owners were scared off by the PED drama, questioning the role that performance enhancers have played in Cruz’s success to date. Question no more! Cruz currently trails only Giancarlo Stanton among all outfielders in RBI and ranks in the top-5 in homers. Pretty good for a player who was outside the top-40 on many pre-season outfielder rankings lists.
OF Michael Morse
Morse is always hurt, which is a big reason why he fell to the very late rounds in most mixed leagues this year. But he’s already launched six homers, and there’s still 25-plus home run potential in his bat if he can stay healthy, which is no given, since he’s always hurt.
Honorable Mentions: Melky Cabrera, Michael Brantley
SP Aaron Harang
You know you’re having a pretty good season when your WHIP (0.88) is higher than your ERA (0.85). That’s exactly what’s going on with Harang through his first five starts. Oh, and he’s also striking out more than a batter per inning. Considering that Harang is 35 years of age and is coming off a season in which he went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA, I think it’s safe to say that the magic is bound to run out sooner rather than later. If you can get anything of significance for him via trade right now, do it!
SP Jason Hammel
Hammel showed promise in 2012 (3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in 118 IP), even earning Pitch or Ditch attention, but he was absolutely brutal last season. It’s been an entirely different story this year (2.08 ERA, 0.69 WHIP through five starts), and although I still wouldn’t feel comfortable pitching him in tougher matchups, I’m more of a believer in Hammel than Harang. I think we’ve yet to see the best of him.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Lohse, Garrett Richards
RP Francisco Rodriguez
16 shutout innings, 23 strikeouts and 13 saves, this from a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be the Brewers’ closer. Are you kidding me? But K-Rod did receive the save opportunity on opening day, and the rest is history. If you were lucky enough to snag K-Rod off the waiver wire, congratulations! Now listen, don’t count on 78 saves and a 0.00 ERA, but barring injury, Rodriguez should remain a reliable fantasy closer for the rest of the season.
Honorable Mention: LaTroy Hawkins