A much-ballyhooed player in fantasy circles entering the 2013 season, injuries led to a plethora of owners dumping Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko before he really had a chance to catch fire. But Gyorko, who is available in 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues, has been a valuable middle infield play in the season's final two months, blasting 12 home runs and adding 27 RBIs since the start of August. On the year, the Friar's second baseman is slashing .247/.298/.432 with 20 home runs, 58 runs and 53 RBIs in 497 plate appearances. His eligibility at second base is far more valuable than his eligibility at third, with the very real possibility of getting 25 home runs at a power-deprived position in 2014. Gyorko hit a total of 30 home runs in both 2011 and 2012 while in the minors, so the power is definitely legit. And doing it at Petco Park (he has 12 home runs at home) is just another confirmation of it. I expect Gyorko's batting average to rebound considerably next season, as he was hitting in the .280s before suffering a groin injury on June 10. And even if he does hit in the .250s, 25 home runs at second base is still 25 home runs at second base. Among his second base peers, only Robinson Cano has hit more than 25 homers in 2013. Dan Uggla is the only other one with 20.
Thank the baseball gods: the #freebelt campaign is over. Like his NL West adversary, Gyorko, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has saved his best baseball for the second half, slashing an impressive .330/.395/.515 with six home runs, 13 doubles, 32 runs and 24 RBIs in 54 games. Only seven players have a higher batting average since the All-Star break while Belt's 159 wRC+ ranks eighth highest among all qualified batters. Belt may never be a game changer in San Francisco, but he has the looks of a 20/75/75 first baseman going forward. And that's plenty valuable, especially at a corner infield spot. On the season, the 25-year-old is hitting .289/.360/.475 with 16 home runs, 74 runs, 62 RBIs and five steals in 548 plate appearances. With playing time no longer an issue and a complete season under his belt (ha), Belt is a safe bet to match his 2013 numbers with the opportunity for a little more -- think 22/75/85. Belt's Isolated Power has improved from .146 in 2012 to .186 in 2013 as he's upped his fly ball rate from 36.6 percent to 41.4 percent. San Francisco's home ballpark will always hold him back in the power department, but Belt is a sneaky buy low for next season if other owners aren't paying close enough attention as the season draws to a close. He's still available in over 40 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Looking through the game log of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, it's hard to understand why anyone would ever want to roster this guy on a fantasy team. Littered with 0-fers, Middlebrooks is an all-or-nothing play who's been more "nothing" than "all" in 2013. After hitting .288 a year ago, Middlebrooks' BA has predictably plummeted to .231 to go along with a lousy .277 OBP. Although the 25-year-old still has plus power, his Isolated Power has dipped from .221 in 2012 to .191 in 2013. He's gone on to match his home run total (15) from 2012, but it's taken him 65 more plate appearances to get there. Middlebrooks will need to improve on his 25.3 percent career strikeout rate if he's ever going to become an everyday fixture in a Red Sox lineup, but, as is, his long-term outlook in Boston doesn't look good. Many made the mistake and over drafted Middlebrooks based on his power display from 2012-- few will be making the same mistake again.
Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain was a sleeper on many draft boards entering the 2013 season and it looked like the right call initially, as Cain carried a .325 BA with 11 runs, 12 RBIs and three steals in April (22 games). But in May and June, Cain hit .247 and .205, respectively, while his strikeout rate climbed to 22.3 percent and 26.7 percent. On the season, Cain is slashing .250/.311/.348 with 54 runs, 45 RBIs and 14 steals in 431 plate appearances -- which is good for the 75th ranked outfielder on the ESPN Player Rater, behind J.B. Shuck, Matt Joyce and Andy Dirks. Cain's value to Kansas City is not on the offensive side. He's an elite defender but doesn't provide enough upside at the plate to be anything more than a No. 5 outfielder on your fantasy team -- and even that's a stretch for me. The killing contributor to Cain on offense is a .098 ISO, down from .153 in 2012. Out of all batters with at least 400 plate appearances, Cain's Isolated Power is 25th lowest (195 batters qualified). His fly ball rate has also dropped below 30 percent, which has helped contribute to a HR/FB rate of (gasp!) 4.4 percent. I'm not a believer.
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