Gordon Beckham (2B) CWS - After three seasons of disappointment, maybe Gordon Beckham's value has dropped enough now that he will be a bargain once again. Beckham showed the best contact rate of his career in 2012, and ended the year on a high note with a substantially improved walk rate and ISO during the season's final month. His BABIP was at least 40-50 points on the unlucky side of things, so some positive regression there and a .255/18/70 season doesn't seem unreasonable to expect. Still just 26, I don't think there's a ton of upside here, but I think Beckham could certainly provide average value at 2B if things fall right, and I'll bet he'll be available for cheaper than that in most leagues.
John Danks (SP) CWS - Danks is recovering nicely from shoulder surgery, as the 27 year old was able to make his spring debut as scheduled yesterday. The next day or two will be key to determine that there are no setbacks, but it looks like Danks could be ready to resume his career as a solid mid-rotation starter, offering solid albeit unspectacular production across the board.
Melky Mesa (OF) NYY - The darkhorse to start the season in the Yankee OF this spring is Melky Mesa, a 26 year old toolsy OF that has taken a long time to work his way through the farm system. Mesa spent five years in rookie and A-ball, showing some decent power and speed but struggling to make enough contact to progress. The past few seasons have shown Mesa making some strides in that area even as he plays against higher-level competition, and last season Mesa was able to post 23 homers and 22 steals between AA and AAA while cutting his K rate for basically the first time in his career. With the alternatives available to replace Curtis Granderson for the first 4-6 weeks of the season ranging from unproven to ancient, Mesa has a chance to be the guy with a solid spring. It's unlikely that a high AVG will ever be in the cards for him, but the power/speed combination is intriguing enough to make him a possible reserve round pick in the deepest of formats already. If he wins the job, he could provide useful (although high risk) production as a 5th OF in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Phil Hughes (SP) NYY - Hughes had a very solid 2012 that was masked by some park effects and HR issues, but I'm more impressed by the improved velocity, BB rate, and K rate than I am disturbed by the gopher balls. The park effects aren't going anywhere, which likely limits Hughes' ceiling to that of a #3 starter, but as long as his back is healthy (he was diagnosed with a bulging disk two weeks ago and just began throwing again) I expect him to reach that ceiling again in 2013.
Jesus Montero (C) SEA - The Mariners appear to be prepared to expand Jesus Montero's role as the starting C this season, rather than DH him even more than in 2012. That could be good news, as Montero hit 310/343/498 last year when playing behind the plate, a far cry from his overall line of 260/298/386. Montero still has loads of potential, and I think if anything he's been a bit underrated now after a subpar rookie campaign. I expect the 23 year old to provide top-10 value from the catching position this year, and I still think the chance of stardom is there over the next two or three seasons for the same reasons that existed last year: excellent power, solid contact rate relative to power, above average control of the strike zone. Montero is definitely a guy I would make it a point to target this season.
Hisashi Iwakuma (SP) SEA - Outside of one start right before the break last year, Iwakuma spent the first half as a reliever and the second half as a starter. Since he's penciled in as either the #2 or #3 starter for the M's in 2013, let's look at those 2nd half stats: 90 IP, 2.50 ERA, 25 BB, 74 SO. Iwakuma managed 8 wins against 4 losses pitching for a fairly pathetic offense, and lest you think the scheduling was kind for some reason he faced the Yankees twice, the Rangers 3 times, and the Angels 4 times in the second half alone. Perhaps he took some time to acclimate to the US, perhaps he just likes starting....who knows? The fact is that his walk rate dropped substantially when he moved to the rotation, his K rate actually increased, and his HR declined from disastrous to acceptable. I think he has a very solid chance of providing at least #3 starter value this season, and with the improvements in the Mariner offense 15 wins isn't far-fetched at all.
Matt Carpenter (1B/2B/3B) STL - The Cardinal infield is a mess right now with Rafael Furcal being shut down indefinitely with elbow pain. That leaves Descalso, Carpenter, and Wong battling at 2B with Cedeno and Pete Kozma tussling at SS. Wong is the long-term play out of that group, but for 2013 the guy that could provide the most fantasy value is pretty clearly Carpenter. Carpenter has logged the most innings at 2B of that group thus far, and while he isn't the most fluid you'll ever see there he has been at least adequate to this point. His bat is the key, as he is a .280-.300 hitter with average power and "better than zero" speed. I'm not sure the Cardinal offense can withstand two slap hitters up the middle, so I'm banking on the fact that Carpenter will play enough to justify a slot in most formats this spring. He could be a steal as a late-round flyer.
Jean Segura (SS) MIL - Segura is another player that looks a bit underrated to me for 2013, as he definitely held his own late last year in his first exposure to MLB. Segura will turn 23 in two weeks, and with his .311 career minor league average and excellent speed, he could easily be a top-half contributor at SS right out of the gate. There is some power there as well, as evidenced by his .151 ISO as a 20 year old in the Midwest League a few years ago, but as yet we haven't seen much of it due to a 65% GB rate last year. The power will probably take a few years to exhibit itself at this level, but Segura should assist you in AVG, R, and SB right away, and if the power shows up early that's just a nice bonus.
Colby Rasmus (OF) TOR - Will this finally be the year that Rasmus delivers on the hype? It wouldn't be surprising, as the focus will be off of him to a large extent with all of the offseason acquisitions that Toronto made. Rasmus had a BABIP about 70 points below expectations last season, taking a mediocre season and making it look worse, and although he doesn't run all that much anymore I still think he can provide #3 OF value: something along the lines of .255 with 25-30 homers and 85-100 RBI sounds right. There is some upside as well, both in talent and in situation...hitting lower in the order this year may provide him with a few more opportunities to run, and this offense may be even better than expected as well. It's tough to keep going back to the well with this guy, but I would target him again in 2013.
Tyler Greene (2B/SS) HOU - If you don't mind punting AVG, Tyler Greene is a nice little sleeper this year at SS. He should at least share, if not outright win, the starting SS job in Houston, and in that park his 15-20 HR power should play very well. He also has the speed to steal 20 bases, so if the possibility of a .220-20-20 player intrigues you, Greene is your man. He still strikes out far too much for most teams, but with Marwin Gonzalez as the only real alternative at SS, I expect the Astros to just deal with it.
Oakland A's offense - The Athletics spent most of the offseason stockpiling offensive assets, so now that we enter March, it's time to figure out which players might be draftable and which ones simply won't play enough to help. As best as I can tell, the A's have 6 IF, 2 C, and 5 OF that warrant playing time. I'm guessing Cespedes, Reddick, and Moss against RHP are locked in. Jaso should get most of the time behind the dish. They seem committed to Nakajima at SS. That still leaves Smith, Young, Crisp, and Norris for two spots (CF and DH), with Lowrie, Donaldson, Sizemore, and Weeks battling it out at 2B and 3B. Oh, and Grant Green is hanging around as well. I can't help thinking that the first four are the only ones that will have consistent value until injuries strike, although Crisp's speed always makes him a must-draft at some point. I like Norris but there's little room for him, I like Sizemore but he and Weeks seem to be in a dead heat at 2B so he's awfully risky, and I like Lowrie but the crowded situation plus his inability to stay healthy will probably have me shying away. Reddick is likely to decline a bit coming off of a career year, and the park won't help Chris Young much (and neither will the expected lack of playing time). That's about as succinct as I can make it without it turing into a thesis, and without a couple more weeks of clarity. Suffice it to see that outside of the first four names, they should all be end-game plays at this point except for Crisp.
John Lannan (SP) PHI - Lannan seems like a guy that might succeed in the difficult environment in Philadelphia. With his excellent GB rates combined with a solid offense, I expect Lannan to establish a career high in wins this year. His peripherals (outside of GB rate) are rarely good, so he probably won't be a help elsewhere, but as a 5th starter in deeper leagues he isn't a bad option this year.
Chris Archer (SP) TB - Chris Archer seems to have made enough control improvements to have a solid chance of winning one of the back-end spots in Tampa Bay, and if he does he's a ROY candidate in my mind. His nasty fastball/slider combo has enabled him to strike out more than a batter an inning in his pro career thus far (7 years worth), and he's not as susceptible to the long ball as many hard throwers. Huge upside here.
Luis Valbuena (3B) CUB - Valbuena is locked in a battle with Ian Stewart for the Cubs 3B job, and although he's yet to show it during five big league trials the 27 year old does have a bit to offer offensively. He's hit over .300 in each of the past 5 seasons at AAA, and he has developed 15-HR power as he's matured. Last year's preposterously low BABIP (.260 despite a 21.2% LD rate) should adjust itself upward if he gets the PT, enough so that I think he could be at least average across the board. As a late round pick, you could definitely do worse....assuming he does win the job. Ian Stewart has major contact issues and doesn't seem to have much pop outside of Colorado, but Valbuena is guaranteed nothing just yet.
Tim Lincecum (SP) SF - Despite projections, in my leagues everyone seems down on Lincecum for 2013. I understand to some extent...velocity was down significantly and even when he improved in the 2nd half, his ERA was still in the 3.85 range. Command and control were both a bit off, although the K rate remained excellent. He has so many moving parts mechanically that it would be easy to put this in the "needs adjustment" category, and perhaps that's all it is. Obviously, winning leagues is all about finding upside wherever you can, and you have to take risks to do it. Lincecum is a possible #1 arm, so if his value in your league has dropped to the places that I've seen thus far, he is certainly a gamble that I'd be inclined to take. I expect an ERA somewhat worse than his peak years, say around the mid-3.00's, but with the huge K rates and solid win totals that should be just fine.