Sophomore Class Outlook
While some owners will be fawning over the next best thing in rookies Jurickson Profar (Texas), Dylan Dundy (Baltimore) and Will Myers (Tampa Bay – acquired from KC in the James Shields trade), don't sleep on some members of the sophomore class that will be looking to build on their first cup of coffee in the major leagues. Mike Trout and to a lesser extent Bryce Harper burst onto the scene in 2012 and will both be hot commodities this season. While Trout (top 5 overall option based on his current ADP) and Harper (hearing his name called in rounds 2-3) will be building blocks for fantasy owners , the astute owner will dig deeper into the sophomores class as there are multiple players that could build on their first full season and have a fantasy impact in 2013.
Reigning rookie of the year winners Trout and Harper remain the cream of the crop. In this article we'll profile a few other sophomores that could surprise and will be well worth targeting especially in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, San Diego Padres: Ranked as the Padres top prospect entering 2012, Alonso's lack of power left fantasy owners less than impressed as he finished with just 9 HRs and 62 RBIs over 549 Abs. The Petco Park fence adjustment could help (hit just 3 home runs in 261 at-bats at Petco Park in 2012) but he plays a very deep position in one of the weaker lineups in the majors. Alonso does take walks and should hit for a solid average, but his limited pop makes him a dynasty league target at best unless you are in a 15-20 team league. His upside will likely top out around 15 homers and 80 RBIs – solid for a middle infielder but pedestrian for a 1st bagger.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Braves: The 23 year old played in 49 games last season and finished with 3 HRs, 19 RBIs and a .289 average. He's projected to hit leadoff in an explosive Braves lineup(followed by Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman)and should be a fixture in the lineup based on his excellent glove work. Provided he plays in 150 games, a line of .280 with 10 HR's, 20 SB's and 140 runs scored isn't out of the realm of possibilities. His current ADP sits at 272 overall (#17 shortstop off the board) which makes the slick fielding Brave a solid addition in the late rounds.
Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds: The 27 year old Reds shortstop batted .246 with 15 homers and 35 RBI in 138 games (first full season in the majors). He'll hit at the bottom of the Reds lineup and failed to produce the steals numbers that many were expecting as he had just 4 thefts in 2012 (did steal 30 bases one year in AAA). He doesn't walk much and hitting in front of the pitcher limits his upside. On the plus side the former 2nd round pick of the 2007 draft does have decent pop with the potential to steal 15 bases. His current ADP sits at 329 overall (#24 shortstop) making him more of an NL only league target for now.
Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles: After getting a surprise August call up, the 20 year old Machado held his own for the playoff bound O's. The 3rd overall pick of the 2010 draft batted .262 with seven home runs and 26 RBI over his first 202 major-league at bats in 2012. He's penciled into the bottom portion of the O's lineup but with the potential to add dual position eligibility (played SS in minors) his long term fantasy value is very enticing especially in dynasty leagues. His current ADP sits at 241 overall (18th 3rd baseman selected).
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox: Middlebrooks missed the final six weeks of last season due to a fractured wrist but should be fine for spring training and is projected to hit 6th in the Red Sox lineup. In his first season in the bigs, the 6'4 Middlebrooks was a pleasant surprise for those that plucked him off waivers as he finished with a .288 average and 15 homers over 75 games. The 5th round pick of the 2007 draft has plus power to all fields and which should result in 25+ home run potential provided he can stay healthy. His current ADP sits at 144 overall (#11 third baseman off the board).
Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds: With Scott Rolen now retired, Frazier should be locked into the Reds lineup and is expected to hit 6th in one of the league's more hitter friendly ballparks. The 27 year old finished his first full season in the majors with a .273 average, 19 homers, 26 doubles and 67 RBI in 128 games. His stat line was on par with his minor league production as Frazier hit .280 with a .353 on-base percentage in 542 minor-league games. He should be a serviceable deeper league option at the hot corner despite his limited power potential (likely top out around 20 HRs) and struggles against right-handed pitching.
Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies: The 23-year-old Dominican born backstop burst onto the season in his rookie season finishing with the most HRs among catchers (28) , 71 RBIs and a solid .270 average over 117 games (296 ABs). He'll likely hit 6th or 7th and his average could slip to the .250 range but playing half his games in Coors field should keep Rosario as a solid top 10 option well worth targeting if you miss out on the top tier catchers.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics: If not for Mike Trout's season for the ages, the 26 year old Cuban would have a ROY award on his mantle (finished a distant 2nd in the voting). His first season in Oakland went a long way to justify his big payday (signed a 4-year $36 million contract in February 2012). Durability concerns aside (limited to 129 games last season), Cespedes lived up to the hype as he finished with a .292 average, 23 HRs, 82 RBIs and 16 SBs. He finished 10th in the MVP race and got better as the season went on (batted .311 in the 2nd half of the season). Provided he can stay off the trainer's table, a 30 HR, 100 RBI season and top 20 OF finish is well within the cards. His current ADP sits at 49 overall (#17 outfielder selected).
Norichika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: The elder statesman of this article, the 31 year old Japanese outfielder was one of only nine outfielders to hit double digit HRs and steal 30 bags in 2012. He's projected to hit atop a solid lineup (provided Ryan Braun avoids suspension) and his power/speed combo should result in solid draft day value making him well worth targeting as a 4th/5th outfielder in standard leagues. His current ADP sits at 133 overall (37th outfielder selected).
Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers: The 26 year old Japanese pitcher inked a 6 year $60 million deal before he ever tossed a pitch for the Rangers. His 2012 production proved that he was well worth the money as Darvish finished with 16-9 record , 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 221 strikeouts over 191 1/3 innings. He finished seventh in the MLB in strikeouts and was able to limit his walks in the 2nd half of the season. The wins should be plentiful in a division with two offensively challenged lineups in Seattle and new addition Houston. Yu's current ADP sits at #58 overall (9th SP selected). We project that those that target Darvish with feel YUphoria by seasons ends as he finishes his sophomore campaign among the top 5 fantasy hurlers.
Lance Lynn, SP, St Louis Cardinals: Lynn worked out of the pen in 2011 but returned to the starting rotation in 2012 with impressive results. The Cardinals right-hander finished with a record of 18-7, 3.78 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 180/64 K/BB ratio over 176 innings. He has reportedly lost 20 pounds entering 2013 spring training and should have a solid hold on a rotation spot with the news that Chris Carpenter will be lost for most if not all of the season. One concern is the major increase in workload as appeared in just 34 innings in 2011 and the fact that he problems with lefties (left handed batters socked 11 of the 16 home runs he allowed, and he struck out just 19% of them). Also the Cardinals have some top arms waiting in the wings as Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly could enter the rotation if Lynn struggles. Don't pay for Lynn's breakout season as there are warning signs that he could be best suited for a return to the pen.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland Athletics: The 9th overall pick of the 2007 draft by Arizona was the centerpiece in the Trevor Cahill trade (I'm guessing the D-backs would like a Mulligan). On December 9, 2011, the Diamondbacks traded Parker, Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook to the Oakland Athletics for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow. Parker had a great rookie season finishing 13-8 with a 1.26 WHIP. He had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (140 K, 63 BB) and his solid command combined with playing half his games in the pitcher friendly Coliseum should result in another season where he produces like a solid 4/5 starter in standard leagues. His current ADP sits at #192 overall (46th SP selected).
Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Much like Lynn his ability to post a solid WHIP led to an impressive rookie season. Miley posted a 16-11 record with a 3.33 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings. The moderate strikeout numbers and weaker supporting cast (Justin Upton now in Atlanta) make a repeat of 15+ wins an unlikely outcome in 2013. He should be a solid innings eater but playing 50% of games in a hitter friendly stadium with moderate strikeout potential could result in somewhat of a sophomore regression (his rookie season was likely his ceiling).
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles: The 27 year old threw 199 innings in 2012 between the regular season and playoffs after averaging just 157 frames per year in Japan. The Taiwanese hurler went 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 154/57 K/BB ratio over 192 2/3 innings in solid rookie season. A contact pitcher toting the rubber in the AL East is not a recipe for long term fantasy success. Buyer beware as Chen's rookie season might be close to his ceiling for fantasy production. His current ADP sits at #318 overall (89th SP selected).