As we discussed before, Yahoo! is doing a sponsorship with SBN to promote their Fantasy Baseball offerings this year. Today, we are going to look at some Rangers players who will be hot topics when fantasy drafts kick off...
Best Hitter: Mike Napoli, C
The Ranger offense is strong across the board, profiling to be below-average relative to position only at CF and 1B. You could make a reasonable case for Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, or Adrian Beltre to be the first Ranger off the board. But to me, Mike Napoli is the guy who, for fantasy purposes, would probably be my top Rangers pick.
Napoli, of course, broke out in a big way in 2011, putting up a .320/.414/.631 line after coming to Texas from Anaheim (via Toronto). While regression is to be expected, Napoli has a career line of .264/.359/.514, and both ZiPS and PECOTA project him to have the highest OPS on the team. Given that he also is a catcher, the position where its hardest for fantasy players to find quality offense, and Napoli seems like a lock to go high in drafts.
The only caveats with Napoli would be playing time related. First, he missed time with an injury last season, and has had issues staying healthy in the past, so you have some risk that Napoli will end up on the shelf for part of 2012. In addition, the jury is still out on how he will respond to significant playing time -- he's only appeared in more than 114 games once, in 2010 when he appeared in 140 games, and he responded then with the lowest OPS of his career.
Best Pitcher: Yu Darvish
Yes, there will be some who argue that you can't slot Darvish this high, given that he's never pitched in MLB and given the mixed history for pitchers coming over to the United States from Japan. There are some who think Derek Holland is poised to break out and establish himself as a top of the rotation starter, or who think Neftali Feliz's conversion to the rotation will be smooth enough to make him the preferred pick.
But the Rangers wouldn't have spent over $100 million to land Darvish if they didn't think he could be a legitimate top of the rotation starter. Translating Darvish's stats from the Japanese League to MLB suggest that Darvish should rack up Ks while posting a low ERA, and given the offensive support the Rangers should provide, Darvish will presumably put up quite a few "W"s as well.
Sleeper: Mitch Moreland
The Rangers spent the winter assuring anyone who would listen that they were confident in incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland, while also showing an interest in free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. After Fielder inked a monster deal with Detroit, the Rangers were quick to be clear that the flirtation with Prince had to do with the fact that he was a superstar, and not because of any lack of faith in Moreland.
Moreland posted a disappointing .259/.320/.414 line in 2011, including a .237/.289/.362 line from June 1 forward. After the season, however, it was revealed that Moreland was struggling with a wrist problem which sapped him of his strength. The Rangers believe that the injury, rather than a lack of ability, is to blame for Moreland's poor performance in the latter stages of 2011. Moreland should provide home runs and, given who else is in the lineup, RBIs in 2012, and in a deep league, he could be a value pick in the late rounds.