Christian Yelich, Marlins
Perhaps Yelich’s greatest disadvantage is the team he plays for. But even with the hindrance of being a member of the offensively-challenged Miami Marlins, Yelich’s situation isn’t all bad. Sure, he won’t drive in many runs, as he’ll hit second in the lineup, just after Rafael Furcal (who does own a solid .346 career OBP). But Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones, both hitters with solid statistical pedigrees, will hit behind Yelich, meaning the young outfielder will score plenty of runs so long as he reaches base consistently.
That’s exactly what I expect Yelich to do—reach base. He did so at a .370 clip in 2013 in the majors thanks to a solid 11.4 BB%, and he’s compiled a career .387 OBP (with a .313 AVG) across all levels of the minors, which allowed him to surpass Triple-A altogether.
Aside from average and runs (and potentially RBI), Yelich will also contribute in the stolen base department. He swiped 10 bags in just 62 games in 2013, equating to roughly 25 steals in a full season. He’s also shown the ability to hit double digit home runs in the minors, including 36 homers in the last three seasons, a span of 1098 at bats (equating to roughly 20 home runs in a 600-at bat season). That means Yelich’s four long balls in 2013 could be somewhat of an anomaly, and a full offseason to work on his strength could also work to the Marlins outfielder's advantage in that regard.
In short, Yelich has the potential to contribute in all five fantasy categories, and he’s very likely to do so in at least three of them (AVG, runs, steals). That’s worth a late-round pick in my book.
When it comes to consistency, Pagan is often overlooked, but he’s nevertheless proven to be a steady producer.
Perhaps Pagan’s primary value is in the steals department, as he stole 98 bases from 2010-2012. The Giants center fielder has averaged 28 steals per 162 games throughout his career, using Baseball Reference’s infamous measurement, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t once again reach 30 steals in 2014, as he’s done in two of his last three full seasons.
Pagan also consistently produces a solid batting average. He’s eclipsed a .280 AVG in four of his last five seasons, including totals of .306, .290 and .288. He also has a decent eye at the plate, drawing 44 or more walks in each of his past three full seasons while surpassing a .330 OBP in all but one of the last six seasons.
That combination of steals and a high batting average (and, more importantly, OBP) means Pagan will also score plenty of runs in 2014, as he did in 2012 (95 runs scored). Hitting in the leadoff spot ahead of hitting machine Marco Scutaro, breakout candidate Brandon Belt and 2012 MVP Buster Posey means all Pagan has to do is get on base at a reasonable rate and he’ll once again approach 100 runs.
Even for a leadoff hitter, Pagan has produced pretty steady RBI totals, with 56 or more RBI in each of his last three full seasons. That’s partly attributable to his consistently solid gap-hitting ability, which is no doubt aided by the cavernous dimensions of AT&T Park. Indeed, Pagan had 38 doubles and a league-leading 15 triples in 2012, and he’s averaged 33 doubles and 10 triples throughout his career when again using that 162-game average measurement.
The only pitfall when it comes to drafting Pagan, aside from the lack of power that comes with most leadoff hitters, is his injury tendency. He played in only 71 games in 2013, and spent time on the DL in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Nevertheless, if Pagan plays a full season in 2014, he'll undoubtedly contribute to your fantasy team should you draft him.
Taveras might start the season in Triple-A, but even if he does, he’ll be in the majors before long.
The Cardinals currently have Peter Bourjos plugged into the lineup as the starting center fielder, but there are several possible scenarios that would provide Taveras with a starting role. If Bourjos either struggles, gets injured or gets traded, Taveras would grab his spot. Right fielder Allen Craig, a potential injury risk and viable trade candidate as well, could also leave a spot for Taveras. And finally, if first baseman Matt Adams struggles, Craig could move back to first and free up right field for Taveras.
With his undeniable potential, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the young prospect take over in the outfield sooner rather than later. Taveras will even have a chance to begin the season with the big league club if he can show an ability to handle elite pitching during spring training, though Bourjos certainly has the starting spot in center on lock. (For now.)
Taveras is a particularly likable prospect because of his incredibly sound hitting mechanics. He has fantastic bat speed, and he stays under control, allowing him to hit just about anything thrown in the vicinity of the plate. He's even shown solid discipline at the plate throughout his minor league career, at least when it comes to avoiding strikeouts, which is always a plus.
Consistency is another reason Taveras has a very positive outlook for the upcoming season. He’s batted above .300 at every minor league level expect for his first season in 2009, and he’s shown all-around value in every fantasy statistic other than steals. For examples, in 2012, Taveras hit 23 home runs with 94 RBI, 83 runs and a .321 AVG in 531 plate appearances at Double-A. His power fell off a bit in 2013, with just five homers in 188 PAs in Triple-A, but Taveras still batted .310 on the season. He also hardly strikes out (10.5 and 11.8 K% in 2012 and 2013, respectively), and his gap hitting ability is excellent (one double every 13.8 ABs in the minors), meaning he’ll drive in and score plenty of runs and the power is likely to come.
All that’s holding Taveras back is playing time, and that could easily change early in the season; I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have a starting role soon after the All-Star break. Steal Taveras late in the draft (his ADP: 267.45 according to NFBC data) and watch him break out in 2014.
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