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By Matt Carpenter
twitter.com/carmatts
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According to Mock Draft Central Matt Kemp is the number 23 player off the board and Matt Holliday is the 24th. So as the draft winds around and you are on the clock, which player should you take?
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Matt Holliday is money in the bank. Draft him and count on a plus .300 average, 25 HRs, and 100 RBI. He’s put up those numbers ever since he entered the major’s in 2004, and there is no reason to believe he won’t do it again. With the exception of 2008, Holliday has never run much and no one expects him to get more than a few steals this year.
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They key word with Kemp is upside, upside, upside. A first round pick last year, the rising Dodger star disappointed owners last year with a .249 average, although he clubbed a career high 28 HRs. Only 26, Kemp is entering his prime and is a possible holy grail for fantasy owners, a combination of tremendous power and speed. New manager Don Mattingly has said Kemp will bat cleanup so RBI opportunities will be plentiful. With stolen base guru Davey Lopes now a Dodger coach, many are predicting a 30/30 campaign for Kemp.
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Comparing the two players, Holliday is expected to have a better average while Kemp will steal more bases. The other categories will depend purely on whether Kemp has a breakthrough season. Deciding which player to take depends on what kind of owner you are. Some like to take reliable studs and save the high risk/reward plays for later in the draft. Others like myself see Kemp as a player entering his prime and a possible value as Kemp has first round upside at a third round price. You can’t go wrong with either pick, but Kemp could disappoint this year and still have similar numbers as Holliday.
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In Spanish, the word Espinosa means thorny. A rose is thorny. Danny Espinosa is much like a rose. He can be a thing or beauty for his fantasy owners, or he can be downright painful.
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Espinosa hit .214 in his brief taste with the Nationals last year, picking up 22 hits in 103 at bats. Of those 22 hits, half of them went for extra bases (four doubles, a triple, six home runs) to give him a solid .723 OPS. He also struck out thirty times. That’s a strikeout every 3.4 at bats. He also was caught stealing in both of his attempts. It seems his cup of coffee was more about the thorn than the rose.
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He has potential though. The California native hit .303 in his three years at Long Beach State and was selected in the third round with the 87th overall pick by the Nationals. He displayed a nice power/speed combo for Single-A+ Potomoc with 18 HRs and 29 SBs in 2009. His jump to Double-A Harrisburg was smooth as he hit 18 HRs again with 20 SBs. Espinosa then had 28 hits in 95 at bats for Triple-A Syracuse, before getting the call to the bigs.
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Espinosa should have no trouble beginning the season as the Nationals’ starting second basemen. He should form a double-play combo with Ian Desmond for many years to come. He’s not a player to consider as a starting fantasy second baseman, but he could provide bench depth or be used in the middle infielder slot in deeper leagues. His average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 331. Odds are he’ll go undrafted in your league. That’s fine. Just keep an eye on him. If he starts off hot, he could be a sneaky power source.
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J.P. Arencibia’s potential breakout season was almost jeopardized before the season started when the Blue Jays traded for Mike Napoli. Fortunately for the young slugger, Napoli was subsequently shipped off to Texas, restoring Arencibia’s fantasy value.
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Arencibia failed to wow in his cup of coffee with the Jays last year. He hit just .143 (5 for 35) with three runs, a double, two home runs, and four RBI. He walked twice and struck out an alarming 11 times. With an on-base percentage, let alone average, below the Mendoza Line, I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to trust the rookie in 2010. Just remember that you may be shying away from a good source of power.
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Arencibia has a long history of the long ball. In his three seasons at the University of Tennessee, Arencibia hit 33 HRs in 690 at bats. He had an OPS of .913 in his first year with the Vols, a 1.002 OPS in his second year, and a .995 OPS in his final year. He struggled a touch in his first taste of professional baseball, hitting .254 with a .686 OPS for Single-A- Auburn Doubledays. He then hit .315 with a .904 OPS for Single-A+ Dunedin and .282 with a .798 OPS for Double-A New Hampshire. He struggled once again when he made the jump to Triple-A hitting .236 with a .728 for the Las Vegas 51s. He came back the following year and hit .301 with 76 runs, 32 HRs, 85 RBI, and a .985 OPS.
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Last year’s struggles at the Major League level shouldn’t have been unexpected. He improved in his second and third years at Tennessee. He improved the next year after debuting in the Minors. He improved the following year after struggling with Triple-A pitching. He has shown that once he gets a taste for it, he knows what to work on to improve.
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Does that mean he’s going to suddenly hit .280 with 20 HRs? Probably not, but I do expect Arencibia to be much more comfortable at the plate next year. He has the power, and he is hitting in the right ballpark. Rogers Centre had the fourth highest home run ball park factor (1.358) in the league last year. The number was bloated, in part, because of Jose Bautista’s 33 home HRs, but it has been a top ten home run park for the better part of the past decade. The Jays aren’t afraid to swing for the fences. They have ranked first and fifth, respectively, the past two seasons in HRs.
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You don’t even necessarily have to draft J.P. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 311. Just keep an eye on him. If he starts off swinging the bat well, it would make a lot of sense to give him a shot.
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With 34 stolen bases in 183 games, it would be reasonable to believe that Julio Borbon would in fact be a good source for stolen bases in 2011. However, he wasn’t nearly as effective last year though as he had 15 SBs in 137 games (438 at bats) versus 19 in 46 games (157 ABs) in 2009.
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While I wouldn’t be stunned if he swiped thirty bases this year, I wouldn’t bank on it. He has a few things working against him. For starters, he isn’t patient enough at the plate. He worked just 19 walks in 468 plate appearances. He saw just 3.38 pitches per at bat. Even if he can return to the .300 level, his may not be on base as much as other speed options.
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Another thing working against him, and it should come as a surprise since he’s a lefty, but he struggled against lefties hitting just .247. David Murphy, also a lefty and who he’ll likely split time with hit .272 against southpaws. Murphy also hit .298 against righties, whereas Borbon hit .284 so don’t expect Borbon to always get the start against righties. While Murphy doesn’t possess the speed that Borbon does, he did manage 14 stolen bases last year. Plus, if the playoffs are an indication, Murphy had 27 at bats to Borbon’s nine. Any way you slice it, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty even share. The saving grace is the fact that Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz have a tendency to get hurt, which should allow both outfielders to get extra at bats.
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Borbon won’t take much of an investment, as his ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 280. Still, if you wish to acquire his services he’ll take up a roster spot. Perhaps he’ll be a terror on the basepaths. I just think there are better options available.
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What’s your take? Do you like Julio Borbon in 2011?
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Manny Ramirez brought his hair and wacky behavior to Tampa Bay. Did he bring his big bat along with him? That is the million dollar question.
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Things did not end well for Manny in Los Angeles. That has become his new M.O. He played well enough when he played, hitting .311 with 32 runs, eight HRs, and 40 RBI in 66 games, but he was either hurt or a distraction most of the time. The Dodgers dealt him to the White Sox, but he did little to help their playoff push.
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Manny hit just .261 with the White Sox. That’s not the worst of it though. He scored just six runs, hit just one home run, and had just two RBI in 24 games (69 ABs). That most definitely was not Manny being Manny. He failed to hit double-digit HRs for the first time since 1993. He has combined for just 28 HRs and 105 RBI the past two years.
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Does that mean Manny is done? I wouldn’t go quite that far. I know he’ll turn 39 in May, but I believe there is still life in his bat. He won’t have to take his circus act to the field with Tampa Bay. He’ll be a full-time hitter. That should decrease the chance of nagging injuries. While I don’t expect him return to the 30 HR plateau, he could give you 20. He’s had success at Tropicana Field with a career average of .299 with 25 HR and 72 RBI in 77 games. Manny is a hitter, and while his bat speed may have dropped, if he can stay healthy, he can still contribute.
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Plus, he’s not a big risk. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is  156. He’s worth a gamble in the 13th round. What’s your take? Is ManRam done or does he have another productive year left in him?
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Colby Rasmus had a solid rookie campaign that saw him post a .251-72-16-52-3 line in 2009. Last year, in ten fewer at bats, Rasmus saw an increase in average (+.025), runs (+13), HRs (+7), RBI (+14), and SBs (+9).  While a .276-85-23-66-12 line is solid, it’s far cry from being a fantasy juggernaut.
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Rasmus, who will turn 25 in August, should continue to progress in a lineup featuring Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. The Cardinals also brought in Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot to bolster their lineup.
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Colby tailed off last year, hitting .284 with 51 runs, 16 HRs, 42 RBIs, and nine SBs in 264 at bats before the All-Star Break. In his final 200 at bats, Rasmus hit just .265 with 34 runs, 7 HRs, 24 RBI, and three SBs. It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the second half though. Rasmus hit.323 with 17 runs, four HRs, 12 RBIs, and two SBs in September.
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He proved to be a streaky hitter last year, seemingly turning it on and off with each passing month. That’s not uncommon for a young player. The question is can he take the next step. The way he improved last year, plus his pedigree (baseball’s #3 prospect in 2009), I believe he can.
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Rasmus held his own against lefties last year, hitting .270, compared to .278 vs. righties, which is a vast improvement on the .160 average he posted against southpaws as a rookie. He hit just .248 at home (.306 on the road), which will likely improve (he hit .270 at home as a rookie).
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Rasmus isn’t suddenly going to make you forget about Pujols and Holliday, but he has the potential to hit 25 HRs and swipe 15 bases. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 90, which puts him in the middle of the eight round. He is the 22nd outfielder off the board. Given his upside, he is a quality second outfielder.
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I think Rasmus will take another step forward in 2011. Do you agree or disagree?
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Justin Smoak clubbed 62 home runs for the University of South Carolina in 739 at bats, prompting the Texas Rangers to select him with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft. He shot through their farm system after just 492 at bats, hitting 17 home runs.
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He earned a trip to the bigs, but struggled to adjust. He hit just .209 for the Rangers. Despite his struggles, he did manage to hit eight HRs in 235 at bats. The 29.4 AB/HR ratio isn’t great, but considering his average and his 57 strikeouts (one every 4.1 ABs), it wasn’t that bad.
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He was then dealt to Seattle. He started off slow for the Mariners going ten for 63 (.159) with two HRs. He was sent to Triple-A Tacoma where he hit .271 with seven HRs in 133 ABs. When he was recalled in September, Smoak did a much better job hitting .340 (17 for 50) with three HRs. His overall numbers with the Mariners .239-11-5-14-0 were terrible at best, but at least  he had a strong finish to build upon for 2011.
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I expect Smoak to enter the year with a little more confidence, assuming he holds his own in Spring Training. The first base position is deep, but he offers a decent choice near the end of fantasy drafts. In fact, his average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 345, meaning he’ll likely go undrafted. You can take a chance on him with one of your last picks, or you can just keep an eye on him. If he starts the season the way he finished, scoop him up. Either way, there isn’t a lot of risk involved. There could be plenty of reward though.
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What are your feelings about Justin Smoak?
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Pablo Sandoval was one of the most disappointing players in all of baseball last year. He went from posting a .330-79-25-90-5 line to a .268-61-13-63-3 one. His slugging percentage dropped from .556 to .409, his OPS from .943 to .732. In short, it was a disaster. Sure, he won a World Series ring, but that did no give his fantasy owners any solace.
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Things should turn around for Kung Fu Panda in 2011 though. He has lost nearly 40 pounds in the offseason. He is by no means a scrawny little thing, but losing that weight should pay big dividends. He should be quicker on the basepaths. He should be much better at avoiding fatigue. He’s still has enough mass to hit for power.
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Not only did he lose a bunch of weight, but he should be more sound mentally and emotionally. Last year Panda went through a bitter divorce. It’s hard to measure how much of a toll it took, but Sandoval struggled with it. Shortly after the divorce was final, Panda had easily his best month of the season. He hit .312 in August with six home runs and 16 RBI.
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His struggles would return in September as he hit .207, but I’m convinced he’ll be more prepared mentally and physically in 2011. He also worked with Barry Bonds this winter to improve his approach at the plate. Say what you want about Barry, but he was one of the fiercest batters in baseball history.
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You won’t have to use as early a pick on Panda either this year. His average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 139, which is 12th highest among third basemen. Given that the position is so shallow, getting a player who can hit .300+ with 20+ HRs in the 12th round is an absolute steal.
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There are few players that can bounce back as far as Panda can. I’m sold on the rebound. How about you?
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Mat Latos has the 18th highest average draft position according to Mock Draft Central. He is coming off a 14-10 season where he posted a 2.92 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP while striking out 189 batters in 184-2/3 innings. His ERA was the 13th best in the league. His WHIP was 8th best. He ranked 19th in strikeouts. Those do not seem like the numbers of an 18th ranked pitcher, especially one that is just 23 and calls Petco Park home.
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Latos ripped through the San Diego Padres’ farm system, bypassing the Triple-A level along the way. He started 2009 going 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and 0.51 WHIP for Single-A Fort Wayne. He had little problem at the Double-A level going 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP for the San Antonio Missions. When he jumped up to the Padres, he had some obvious growing pains going 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. While he struggled in his cup of coffee with the Pads, he obviously didn’t beat himself up over it. He came back strong.
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There are a few concerns with Latos, which is why I have him ranked 14th among starting pitchers. For starters, the departure of Adrian Gonzalez will likely mean fewer runs for the Padres. Without ample run support, it could be hard for Latos to reach his win total of last year, let alone improve in that category.
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He also struggled down the stretch, going 0-5 with a 8.18 ERA in his last five starts. Up until that horrific finish, he was 14-5 with a 2.21 ERA. With a full season under his belt, I look for a stronger Latos. One that won’t fatigue at the end of the year. With his filthy stuff, he has top ten potential. If his meltdown scared off fantasy owners in your league, take this opportunity to draft one of the best young pitchers in the game.
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By Matt Carpenter
twitter.com/carmatts
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After a career year in 2009, Aaron Hill crushed his fantasy owners with a .205 average, 26 HR’s, and 68 RBI’s in 2010. That is not worthy of the 4th round pick it would have cost to own him. A lot of people are going to be way down on him. A look at the numbers though, suggests a modest bounce back and good value pick.
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Let’s hope Mr. Hill didn’t spend any time in Vegas in 2010, as he was baseball’s version of the cooler. His BABIP was .196, making him the unluckiest batter in the league and his closest competition for the crown was Carlos Pena, a full 26 points “luckier.” Hill’s career BABIP is .288. Another perplexing statistic is his .125 average against lefties versus a career .273 average against southpaws.
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Despite Hill’s troubles, his walk rate actually improved and his strikeout rate stayed the same. He also smacked 26 homers, the 2nd most of his career. Hill will be 29 entering the 2011 season, very much in his prime.
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According to Mock Draft Central Hill is currently the 163rd player off the board and the 14th 2nd baseman off the board. For anyone who does not get a top tier 2nd baseman, it maybe worth it to fill your other positions and have Hill fall into your lap at the end of the draft. If you do so, expect a more respectable .270 average with close to 30 homers. That is, with a little luck.
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