Adam LaRoche is just one of those guys who gets almost zero hype and up until recently has found himself considered a late round flier or even an un-drafted commodity in most standard leagues. In a game like fantasy baseball where limiting the risk and getting steady production is of great importance why is a guy like LaRoche not more of a known commodity?
It's simple. The 33 year old LaRoche is unspectacular--and for fantasy purposes has always been unspectacular. He hardly ever reaches the imaginative full season benchmarks of success that we have set to signify an above average first baseman like batting .300, hitting 30+ home runs, or driving in 100+ RBI's. Up until the 2012 season he hadn't even won any significant awards or accolades. No press and no round numbers have kept his fantasy value suppressed in recent years.
So why am I even talking about him right now? Here are three reasons.
Consistency: LaRoche is so consistent that he is even consistent with his inconsistencies. His routine has become so predictable it is like a science. Over his nine year career he has hit a pedestrian .247/.326/.442 before the All-Star break only to catch fire after the break and post a career .293/.353/.533 triple slash line (2005 is the only season in his career in which his first half was better than his second). He finishes nearly every season with a batting average near .270, roughly 25 home runs, and about 85-90 RBI's. All valuable statistics in any fantasy format, but LaRoche still goes in the late rounds or even un-drafted because of his slow starts which leads me to my next point.
Price Tag: It is likely that LaRoche's 2013 price tag will be at it's highest in recent years considering his 2012 success, but even still considering his age and lack of notoriety he will still be a reasonable value after the big dogs get taken early. I would look for LaRoche around round 12 to maximize his potential value as you don't want to get caught paying top dollar for a guy who is likely to start off slowly and won't hit his proverbial stride until after the break. Additionally it would be wise to pair the drafting of LaRoche with another first base eligible player like Nick Swisher or Todd Frazier who can be had for a reasonable price tag and moved around between first base and alternate positions in case LaRoche suffers a prolonged slump.
Counting Stats: Adam LaRoche was tied with Robinson Cano for the 10th highest home run total in 2012. He had more RBI's than Jay Bruce, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Beltran. He scored more runs than several of his first base peers like Paul Konerko, Adrian Gonzalez, and Mark Teixeira. My point with all of this is that what Adam LaRoche does is deliver counting stats like those you would associate with elite sluggers, at least he did in 2012, but he is likely to cost much less. It is realistic to assume that his fantasy floor is about 25 home runs (which he averaged from 2008-2010) and 85 RBI's along with a .265 batting average. He has been good for a line similar to that over his entire career. The numbers are there to back up his production and he has the ability to repeat his success in 2013.
Because of LaRoche's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine he is a flawed player for fantasy purposes. It is a common misconception that the games in Week 1 are less important than the games in Week 17 (they are equally important) so you are likely to need a player to act as his caddy in the first part of the season until he heats up, but given the amount of depth at first base there you are likely to find a platoon mate easily. On draft day it will be tough to find a player like LaRoche who will offer you elite counting stats in the later rounds. I would rather invest in LaRoche's floor than another players potential ceiling in the middle rounds and lock in a solid contributor and wait until the late rounds to take a flier on a guy with more upside. For me the early and middle rounds are more based on floor than ceiling and the later rounds are where I feel more comfortable taking risks on upside.
LaRoche is one of those guys that requires owners to take into account more strategy as they craft their rosters. He should not be considered one of those players who you can just set and forget in any format. To best utilize him the owner needs to be willing to make daily adjustments and understand match ups. He is not one of those guys that I would recommend to players with a lack of patience because sometimes he takes awhile to get things going but the reward is well worth the work as he truly can deliver solid numbers and can do so at a time when most players begin to fizzle out over the dog days of summer.
TO SUM IT UP: LaRoche will start slow but heat up down the stretch. Could easily out produce young guns like Hosmer, Freeman, and Craig over full 2013 season. Has a very respectable fantasy floor and delivers in the power department.
2013 Bold Prediction: .269/.342/.498, 28 HR, 92 RBI, 71 Runs, 633 PA