Three Contract Year Hitters Worth Watching

Mar 26, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Some believe that players entering their contract season have more motivation to perform.  They see the golden ring, the fat contract, staring them in the face knowing that if they can put up career numbers the dollars will only go up.  It doesn’t matter what they have done in the past, perform now and get paid.

It’s easy to look at the big names like Vladimir Guerrero, Jason Bay and Brandon Webb (who has an option) as players who could have big seasons this year.  That has nothing to do with it being his walk year, however.

If you are a believer in this theory, though, here are three players who could be available late in your draft who have the potential to post career years:

Rick Ankiel – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder
Going in the eighteenth round, on average, we all know the story of this pitcher turned power hitter.  In his first full season as an offensive player he hit 43 HR between Triple-A and the Majors.  Last season he mustered just 25 HR, but injuries played a huge role, limiting him to just 413 AB.

In a full season, it’s easy to imagine him slugging at least 30 HR, if not more.  With Adam Dunn getting a 2-year, $20 million contract this off-season, despite the turn in the market, there certainly is hope for Ankiel.

Yes, Dunn has a much greater track record in the power department, but Ankiel has shown more potential in the average department.  He hit .285 in 2007 after being recalled and .264 last season, but that came courtesy of a .292 BABIP.

An increase there would be great, but his value comes from the power.  Last season it was Ryan Ludwick posting a career season and this year it is easy to imagine Ankiel following suit.  For a 5 OFer league, he’s an easy call.

Adam LaRoche – Pittsburgh Pirates – First Baseman
I spoke about him as a late round power option (click here to view), but he also fits here as well.  He has put up some good seasons already, including a 32 HR barrage in 2006, but he never has been able to put it all together.  He’s never had a 100 RBI season and never hit higher then .285.

The problem is his starts.  Last season was particularly bad, hitting just .163 in April.  Over the past three seasons, his first half averages have been:

  • 2006 – .251
  • 2007 – .239
  • 2008 – .251

With a contract hanging in the balance, would it surprise anyone if this was the season that he bucked that trend?  We have all been waiting for him to finally put together a full season.  He’s consistently hit .300 after the All-Star Break, now, at 29-years old, I’m willing to gamble that he can put it together.

He’s got an ADP of 279.87, so really, what do you have to lose?  I’d grab him in a heartbeat at that point in your draft.

Coco Crisp – Kansas City Royals – Outfielder
Another player I’ve discussed in the past, this time as a late round speed option (click here to view) and a late round run option (click here to view).  Crisp will finally return to a full-time position, instead of being tossed onto the bench as a fourth outfielder and always worrying about his playing time.

He’s proven that he could be a productive player in the past, back when he played with the Indians.  At 29-years old, he is quickly running out of time to cash in on his talents.  While the Royals line-up may not be the best, if Billy Butler and/or Alex Gordon can take the next step, they will provide plenty of opportunity for Crisp to succeed.

Centerfielders are tough to come by in this day and age, so a productive season easily could turn into a huge payday.  He’s been on the cusp of stealing 30 bases in the past, and achieving that with double-digit HR, a strong average and great defense could lead to a huge payday.

Those numbers are all achievable, but could the contract sitting before his eyes motivate him to even outperform those numbers?  Absolutely, making him well worth the risk.

So there you have three contract year players that I am high on.  What about you?  Do you like these three?  Are there any others you are eyeing?

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