This article is going to focus on names that might not be on owners’ hot lists…yet. Players like Starlin Castro, Zach Britton, and Edwin Jackson are already commanding high price tags because their owners believe; this article focuses on guys their owners may not believe in, even though they should.
Travis Hafner – .354/.407/.646, 11 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI
The (alleged) steroid use has sapped a lot of his power and likely contributed to his slow recovery from shoulder problems the last two seasons, but as of now that problem is fixed. Will it catch up to him at some point this season? Only time will tell, but him playing offense only can only help. He is getting his shoulder around and swinging at the ball like he did a half decade ago, this is not the Hafner of the last two seasons. There’s a strong possibility of a Vlad circa 2010 season here.
Josa Tabata – .310/.420/.517, 13 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 8 SB
His numbers suggest he has been a bit lucky in his time at the majors but watching him play tells another story. He finds holes because he hits the ball hard, there was some doubt he could maintain a strong average but I believe those doubts are unfounded. He’s going to finish the season with stronger numbers than Brett Gardner and will be cheaper to acquire.
Gordon Beckham – .246/.299/.410, 11 R 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB
Beckham has hit a bit of a lull this week and his numbers have suffered (I prepared this write up after the Tampa Bay series), but from what I saw week 1 I believe this is your 2011 post hype sleeper. A lot contributed to a sluggish 2010 and if week 1 is any indication of the changes to expect he is ready to make amends. He’s become a more patient hitter and has matured in that he no longer looks to hit the ball hard every time but rather takes the single when that’s the best he can do. He isn’t going to run wild on the base paths nor will he likely hit upper 20’s HR’s, but he is very capable of being this year’s Kelly Johnson.
Jaime Garcia – 20 IP, 20 K, 1.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Many screamed fluke about his 2010 season, but his ground ball inducing ways are being aided by an uptick in strikeout numbers too. This is just the beginning for this young horse, he is just beginning to hone in on his stuff and is taking the next step. The K rate may keep him out of the top 10, but not by much.
Trevor Cahill – 25.1 IP, 27 K, 2.49 ERA, .95 WHIP
I warned all preseason to don’t shy away from him because he lacks the K/9 and then he went out and outdid himself finding a strikeout pitch. Unlike Garcia, this K rate is sustainable and he is destined for a top 10 finish.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Justin Masterson, truth be told I only wanted to highlight one player per team in this article or else Masterson would have been included. His struggles with southpaws continue but they’re less severe and he is dominating right handed batting and especially with men on base. He’s pitching like an ace right now and there’s an arsenal to work with to believe it could be legit.
Alex Gordon, I’d be more confident if the strikeout numbers were improving but they’re not. It’ll be difficult to maintain close to this level of success unless he fixes that but given how hard and well he’s hit the ball so far he could work around it.
There are more, but these were the ones that popped up on my current top 100 search and I wanted to zero in on the guys with the biggest early season starts. Buying high is an art though, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down trying to buy high when in actuality you’re falling victim to a sell high. Those pursuing Paul Konerko and Matt Harrison, you’ve been warned.