This is the final installment of the 2012 All-Fantasy Team series. This past season there were plenty of players that overachieved. Some players had career years, some had resurrected seasons, and others just came out of nowhere to help put fantasy teams over the top. This column will pick out the best “overachiever” at each position.
Catcher Overachiever: A.J. Pierzynski
I begin with the most hated man in baseball, A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski has never been a bad offensive player, but in 2012 he took it to the next level. He clubbed a career high 27 home runs, drove in 77 runs, tying his career high in that department, and crossed the plate a career high 68 times. For those of you that waited on a catcher and snagged Pierzysnki late, excellent job. He finished 5th on the Fantrax.com player rater (score). It’s safe to say this is something fantasy owners weren’t expecting when they drafted him. It is worth noting that he did this at age 35, so I wouldn’t be counting on a repeat. It’s certainly possible given the fact that he’ll be playing half of his games in Arlington, but it certainly isn’t likely. I doubt he hits over 20 next season.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Doumit (He stayed healthy)
First Base Overachiever: Brandon Moss
In 2005, Baseball America ranked Brandon Moss No. 72 overall in their Top 100. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 in a deal that sent Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox. He fizzled out in Pittsburgh, toiled in the minors for a few years (with a few ML call-ups in between), then latched on with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, Sacramento, in the Pacific Coast League. After being called up on June 6, Moss managed to club 21 home runs in just 296 plate appearances. Moss always had decent power in the minors, but it seemed as though he’d always be a AAAA guy that just couldn’t cut it in the big leagues. He helped turn around the A’s season and was easily the biggest overachiever at First Base in 2012. The chance of him doing it again are slim, but his minor league power numbers over the past three seasons are worth noting. It’s possible he’s figured something out. His 2012 numbers translated over a full 162 game season show him hitting 41 home runs. That’s highly unlikely, but if he plays everyday next year, could he hit 30? It isn’t out of the question. Monitor him late in your drafts in 2013.
Honorable Mention: Chris Davis
Second Base Overachiever: Jason Kipnis
From 2009-2011, over four levels of the minor leagues, Jason Kipnis never stole more than 12 bases in season. In 2012, he stole 31 bases at the Major League level. Those are statistics fantasy owners didn’t even consider whenever they drafted Kipnis late in last years draft. He was an intriguing second base sleeper pick because he hit 7 home runs in just 136 at-bats post All-Star break in 2011. Fantasy owners were hoping for 15 home runs and maybe 10-15 steals in 2012. If he ended the season with those type of statistics, owners would have been happy. Stealing over thirty bags was unexpected and that is why he overachieved. Kipnis should be a solid fantasy player for quite a few years, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s reached his career high in stolen bases already. I look for him to develop more power over the next few years, but steal fewer bases.
Honorable Mention: Omar Infante
Third Base Overachiever: Chase Headley
Most players that call Petco Park home can expect their power numbers to go down. It’s the nature of the beast. Chase Headley, in 2012, hit 13 home runs at Petco which almost matched his career total (15) at the ballpark. He ended the season with 31 dingers. It wasn’t as if he only hit for power on the road. This seemingly came out of nowhere for Headley. His career high for home runs in the minors was 20 in a season. What’s more surprising is how he stolen at least 10 bases a season since 2009. He stole 17 for the Padres in 2012. His entire minor league stolen base total? Six. Yes, you read that correct, six. It’s safe to say that he’s developed power and speed the past few years, it is just a question of whether it is for real or just an asterisk on his career totals. I don’t think Headley hits 30 home runs again, in fact, I’ll be surprised if he hits 25. As for the steals, I could see him approach 20, but don’t count on it. I think he will be solid in 2013, but I’d let someone else overpay for him.
Honorable Mention: Edwin Encarnacion
Shortstop Overachiever: Ian Desmond
If you have read my 2012 All-Fantasy Team article, you know that Ian Desmond was almost my 2012 All-Fantasy Shortstop. Instead, I chose Jose Reyes, but Desmond was very close to that top spot. There is no doubt though that he takes the top spot for overachiever from the Shortstop position. From 2009-2011, with 1,302 plate appearances, Desmond hit a total of 22 home runs. In 2012, he hit 25 homers in 547 plate appearances. Like Chase Headley with stolen bases, Desmond didn’t have much of a track record for home runs in the minors. He hit 13 in 2007 for High-A Potomac, which was his career high in the minors. He did have very good speed throughout his minor league career, so the steals come as no surprise. Where he overachieved was home runs and RBI’s, which were easily his career high in both categories. I can’t fathom him hitting 25 home runs again, but the possibility is there. If he puts up another 20/20 season, we could be looking at a borderline-elite Fantasy Shortstop.
Honorable Mention: Alcides Escobar
Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million dollar contract with Oakland last offseason. He made the team and proceeded to hit three home runs in his first four games. It was safe to say that he was in the big leagues to stay. He put together a year that normally would have won Rookie of the Year, but a guy named Mike Trout took that honor unanimously. Cespedes hit .292/.356/.505 which is quite impressive for a guy seeing Major League pitching for the first time. Cespedes did battle injuries seemingly the whole season, but was still able to put up great numbers. I expect more of the same in 2013. On June 30, Carlos Gomez was batting .243/.291/.429 with three home runs and eight steals. His final line? .260/.305/.463 with 19 home runs and 37 steals! Holy cow. He put up gaudy numbers in the counting stats department and certainly propelled many fantasy teams to 2012 championships. Don’t expect it again in 2013. Justin Ruggiano got his first taste of big league action in 2007. He added 47 games to his resumé in 2008 and then didn’t see Major League action again until 2011. At that point it would have seemed Ruggiano was just another minor league guy that got an occasional callup to keep the bench warm. Well, that was until June of 2012 when he got called up an played mostly everyday over the next four months. Ruggiano mangaged to hit 13 home runs to go along with 14 steals, not to mention, he provided a nice average boost as he hit .313 in 2012. Ruggiano had a nice cup of coffee in the Major Leagues, but he isn’t even on my radar headed into this season.
Starting Pitcher Overachiever: Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse put up awfully good numbers in 2011, but count me as surprised that he surpassed those numbers in 2012. Since breaking into the Majors with Minnesota, Lohse defined mediocrity. Until 2011. Most thought it was just a blip on the radar, but he was able to string together another solid year in 2012. Count me as surprised. Maybe he figured something out, maybe a new pitching coach changed his approach. Whatever the case may be, Lohse has overachieved his careers numbers two years and counting. I’m skeptical whether he can do it three years in a row. A lot of it will depend on where he finally ends up. If he stays in St. Louis, I think he can continue to be a solid pitcher. If he pitches for a team like Texas, I’d stay away. Keep in mind, from 2001-2010, he had a career ERA of 4.79 and a WHIP of 1.43. If he continues to stay under the direction of Dave Duncan and Derek Lilliquist, he has a good chance to continue to be a sound fantasy option. Wait and see where he ends up before you make any type of commitment to Lohse in 2013.
Honorable Mention: Chris Capuano
Relief Pitcher Overachiever: Fernando Rodney
If I told you that a pitcher with a career WHIP of 1.46 over nine seasons was going to give up FIVE earned runs in 74 2/3 innings pitched and save 48 games the very next year, you’d tell me I’m crazy. Well, it happened. Not only did Fernando Rodney have an ERA of 0.60, he had a WHIP of 0.78. These numbers are eye popping because they are so far from his career norms. His K/9 was just a shade above his career numbers, so it wasn’t like he was punching a lot more guys out. One thing that did stand out about his 2012 performance was that his opponents had a measly .220 BABIP against him. That number is sure to rise in 2013. I think Rodney can be solid again, but there’s someone in every league who will probably overpay for him, especially if there is a run of Closer’s. I’d target Closer’s with a better track record because I can say with confidence that 2012 will go down as the best season of Fernando Rodney’s career.
Honorable Mention: Grant Balfour
Thanks for reading! We’ll do it again next year!
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis, Fantasy Tagged: | A.J. Pierzynski, Alcides Escobar, Alejandro De Aza, Brandon Moss, Carlos Gomez, Chase Headley, Chris Capuano, Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Fantasy, Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour, Ian Desmond, Jason Kipnis, Josh Reddick, Justin Ruggiano, Kyle Lohse, Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante, Ryan Doumit, Yoenis Cespedes