The 2011 Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world last year by not only producing 94 wins but also their fair share of serviceable fantasy players. Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, Ryan Roberts and Miguel Montero are just a few of the names that exceeded expectations and rewarded owners who decided to take a shot on a player from a team that nearly lost 100 games the season before.
But despite Manager Kirk Gibson's claims, these D-backs are no longer the "underdogs" with their 2011 coming out party. And for the very same reason, many Arizona players are now being selected too high in recent fantasy drafts. Still, there are some gems to be had on this roster for make-believe baseball owners willing to wait for the right time to strike. Here are my Diamondbacks bargains and busts for those value-seeking fantasy fanatics out there.
- Miguel Montero - Catcher - (Average draft position on ESPN: 122.2) Currently, he's going as the seventh catcher off the board behind the likes of Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters. Really though, if you miss out on the Brian McCanns and Carlos Santanas of the world, Montero is well worth the wait. Excluding Victor Martinez since he's out for the year, Montero had the third highest OBP of all catchers last year behind Alex Avila and Mike Napoli and also finished in the top five in runs, RBIs and average. Sure, most think that last season might have been his peak; but who's complaining if he finishes ESPN's fourth overall catcher again? I'm willing to take my chances drafting him as the fifth catcher and hoping he makes the leap into the top three in a contract year hitting in the middle of a formidable lineup.
- Stephen Drew - Shortstop - (ADP: 182.3) Stephen Drew as the 16th best shortstop? Sign me up! Don't let the potential of an early DL stint scare you away; the D-backs have been rehabbing Drew's gruesome ankle injury the right way, giving him the time he needs with gradual day-to-day baby steps. With a minor league rehab assignment off in the not-to-distant future, I'd beat my last dollar that Drew bounces back to form and surprises a lot of doubters. While his average and OBP were down last season before he suffered the season-ender sliding into home, Drew was on pace to set a new career-high in RBIs of 85 thanks to Gibby moving the superb defender all throughout the lineup. Looking at the uncertainty surrounding the shortstop position in fantasy this season, you'd be wise to draft a Sean Rodriguez-type along with Drew to hold down the fort during his brief absence instead of praying Derek Jeter finds the fountain of youth.
- Jason Kubel - Outfielder - (ADP: 193.5) Please, please, PLEASE take this analysis with a grain of salt. While I do think Kubel is going a little unappreciated in drafts this year after last season's injury-plagued campaign, I would advise against drafting him as one of your starters unless your in the deepest of leagues. But as a high upside fourth outfielder you'd be hard pressed to find better. As long as his lead feet don't cut into his outfield playing time, I'd say he's a safe bet to approach at least 25 homers and 90 RBIs in a ballpark much smaller than he's used to. If Gibby could somehow work him into the lineup as a first baseman on Paul Goldschmidt's off days, that would be an added bonus but even currently sitting as ESPN's 41st ranked OF, I'd take him before the likes of Torii Hunter (33), Angel Pagan (38) and Jeff Francoeur (39)
- David Hernandez - Relief Pitcher - (ADP: 260/undrafted) Yes, this entirely speculation but I have a gut feeling with J.J. Putz's track record that he's going to get hurt again this season (bold, I know). And yes, I also envision Hernandez filling in beautifully just like he did last season (seven consecutive saves). This time around though, Hernandez wont relinquish the job, especially with Putz's contract option coming up at the end of the year. If you miss out on all the closer fun and can spare a roster spot, Hernandez is the true AZ reliever to target. Even if it takes him a while to get the job, he's bolster your pitching stats averaging over a K per inning while floating around an ERA in the low threes.
- J.J. Putz - Relief Pitcher - (ADP: 130.1) I know, this probably seemed pretty conclusive after the last paragraph but the 11th best closer? Really ESPN drafters? Looks to me that owners are banking on the save opportunities to pile up if the D-backs are successful for the second consecutive year. But I'm doubtful Gibson would be willing to even put that much wear and tear on the 35-year-old closer. Even if he doesn't get hurt, I'd still take my chances with Heath Bell (12) or Jordan Walden (15) before I commit to the always unpredictable Putz.
- Ian Kennedy - Starting Pitcher - (ADP: 73.2) No, this isn't one of those "man, Kennedy is a total fluke...he'll never win 20 games again...I heard he kicked a kitten once" rants that have come so popular in discrediting Kenndy's fantasy efforts last season. Believe me: he's the real deal. Instead, this is more about who is being drafted after him. Rather than grabbing Kennedy as the 19th best pitcher on the board, you could wait for Adam Wainwright (23), Josh Johnson (29) or even Kennedy's co-ace Daniel Hudson (24) and get much better value.
- Ryan Roberts - Second Baseman/Third baseman - (ADP: 154.8) Unless your fantasy league gives brownie points for sweetest tattoos, there should be no reason you're taking Roberts as the tenth best second baseman available. The multiple positions is cool and all but I'd much prefer to take a flier on Neil Walker (11), Dustin Ackley (12) or Jemile Weeks (14). Don't get me wrong, Roberts' renaissance last year probably was my favorite story line in one of the most exciting seasons in franchise history. But eleven times out of ten I'll always take upside over a 31-year-old journeyman.
- Paul Goldschmidt - First Baseman - (ADP: 191.2) If you're looking for a backup first baseman, you came to the wrong place. I'm excited for the bright future Goldy has ahead of him but I guess the whole "chicks digging the long ball" thing applies to fantasy ADP too. The second year slugger is bound to go through some serious growing pains this year as his scouting tape piles up and if you're using him for a fill-in on off days at first base the risk of him going 0-4 far outweighs the possibility of him hitting a homer. If you're going to take a shot in the dark, why not try Kendrys Morales (ADP: 207.8), Justin Morneau (216.9) or Mark Trumbo (218.4)?