Every year in sports, there are underrated players who break onto the scene with great performances.
And, every year, people try to predict who those players will be. And this year, I have some ideas.
Despite successful 2012 campaigns, these players aren’t getting much attention for a variety of reasons. However, in 2013, they will be getting attention, for some good performances, in fantasy and real life. And then, they’ll be shining in the bright lights of October.
But who will those players be? Well, why don’t you find out.
Ross Detwiler, Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals
Despite throwing the ball very well in his lone postseason start and posting the 24th best ERA in theMLB, Detwiler barely received any attention for his performance in 2012.
Detwiler isn’t the guy who will record a fist-pumping strikeout to get out of a jam, but he will get out of a jam. He locates and keeps hitters off-balance consistently, and he knows how to pitch in any situation. He helped the Nationals win Game 4 of the NLDS with six great innings, in which he didn’t allow an earned run.
Even though his postseason performance doesn’t matter for fantasy baseball, his performance during the season will. Detwiler won’t be an ace, and he won’t do as well in leagues that award a lot of points for strikeouts, but with a decent offense to support him, he can rack up wins and good performances.
If you are looking for a consistent steal, pick up Detwiler. He had a string of 23 consecutive appearances without allowing more than four earned runs, and while a few were out of the bullpen, he never allowed more than one run in those. Detwiler won’t be in the bullpen in 2013, though.
He will stabilize your rotation and help you a lot, especially considering he will be available in the draft for a while. So, pick up Ross Detwiler, and you’ll be in good shape for the 2013 fantasy season.
Hunter Pence, Right Fielder, San Francisco Giants
Name recognition will help Pence get selected early, but his 2012 struggles won’t.
Pence and the Giants won the World Series, so his season was still successful. However, he hit a miserable .253, and he only hit 24 home runs. Pence passed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career, but that’s not what is being remembered for his 2012 season.
The right fielder struck out way too much, and he crumbled in the postseason. However, he came alive at one point, and it happened to be during Game 7 of the NLCS and the World Series. In San Francisco’s last five games, Pence went 6-for-19 with a walk, three RBI and two doubles, giving him a .316 batting average over that span.
That success will give him confidence, and so will the relationship he has with his teammates. Pence’s RBI totals jumped when he joined the Giants, and having Buster Posey hit in front of him won’t hurt. Pence will have plenty of RBI opportunities, and he will be hitting more home runs.
Pence could be one of your top picks, but if he falls to you around the sixth round, take him. Pence is an RBI machine, and he’s poised for a huge bounce-back year in 2013.
Jeremy Hellickson, Starting Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
Hellickson is a great pitcher who put up some great numbers in 2012, but he’s poised to do even better things in 2013.
The star right-hander posted the sixth-best ERA in the AL (3.10), and even though he went 10-11, it was because of a horrible offense. The Rays don’t put up many runs, but having Evan Longoria back should help with that. However, Hellickson won’t need much help.
He won’t get many points for strikeouts (124 in 177 innings), but he will score points for great outings. Hellickson is consistent, as he finished the season with seven straight starts without allowing more than three runs (with three shutouts) and 17 starts without allowing more than four runs. Incredibly, he had 15 starts in which he didn’t allow more than one run, and he started 31 games. That means that in 48.4 percent of his starts, he allowed on run or less.
So, Hellickson can be overpowering while still consistent. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t had much national recognition, partially because of the small market team he plays for and, well, just a lack of attention. However, he is a guy I recommend drafting for the top of the rotation, and a guy that’s even better in the bottom of the rotation, if he falls.
But after his 2013 season, he won’t be falling down draft boards any more.
Melky Cabrera, Left Fielder, Toronto Blue Jays
Melky Cabrera had a great case for winning NL MVP. Then, he was brought down for testosterone use, and his season was over.
Because of the testosterone use, he will fall down draft boards. However, I’m telling you why you should draft him, and why “reaching” for him would be just fine. Cabrera hit .346 before his suspension, in 501 trips to the plate.
501 trips is a pretty nice sample of how good a player is, even if the player was busted for drug use. However, I don’t think the testosterone affected him much, as he got on base a lot with well-struck line drives that came because of good hitting. Melky belted 11 homers, so don’t expect a lot from him in terms of home runs. However, he could be a decent RBI guy and a major run-scorer.
The Bill James Projection System forecasts a .295 batting average for Cabrera, combined with 88 runs and 75 RBI. By no means are those bad numbers, and if he gets passed over and falls deep into a draft, he will be a major steal.
Don’t be fooled by Cabrera’s suspension: he is a very valuable player, for fantasy and for the Blue Jays. He will either be setting the table for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion while hitting after Jose Reyes, meaning he will score a lot, or he will be hitting behind Encarnacion and Bautista, meaning he will drive in a lot of runs.
Whatever the case, Cabrera will score a lot and drive in a lot of runs. And, because of his suspension, he will be a huge fantasy bargain.