Recently ESPN.com’s Buster Olney published his of “Ten Players at Career Crossroads.” We’ve already looked at one of them, Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot.
Let’s consider the other nine from Olney’s list from the fantasy perspective:
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets: Back in 2008 he stole 56 bases and stroked 72 extra base hits. Then injury and illness limited him to 36 games the following season. He made a partial recovery in 2010, stealing 30 bases and delivering 50 extra base hits in 133 games. Now he is in the "walk” year of his contract, seeking to define his free-agent value. Which Jose Reyes will we see? Base stealers tend to age quickly in this sport, given the wear and tear.
Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: He crashed and burned last season, hitting just.190 in Atlanta. The Braves sent him back to the minors to relocate his stroke. He never really found it, hitting just .234 in Gwinnett of the International League. Was this really the same guy who hit 26 homers and drove in 94 runs for Pittsburgh in 2008? This might be his final chance to reestablish himself as an everyday player.
Edwin Jackson, SP, White Sox: This well-traveled power pitcher gained value late last season. He landed with the White Sox for the stretch run and struck out 77 batters in 75 innings. Back in 2009, he was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA for the Tigers. He was terrible for the Diamondbacks last season, posting a 5.16 ERA. Then he was great in Chicago, posting a 3.24 ERA. Like Reyes, he is in the walk year of his contract. Focus should not be an issue.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels: His batting averages (.295 career) and OPS (.752 career) have remained pretty consistent in Anaheim. He played full-time for the first time last season and delivered 41 doubles. But he has 1,935 career at bats and just 78 walks. His on-base percentage last season was just .313. Imagine the numbers he could post with a bit more patience!
Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Orioles: His second-hard ERA of 2.76 proved he could translate his impressive stuff into results. But pitching for Baltimore is no fun, as his 38-48 career record suggests. He was 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 2009. Can he pitch well enough during the first half in 2011 to inspire a contending team to rescue him before the trade deadline? As Olney notes, that might be his best shot at having a productive season.
Joba Chamberlain, RP, Yankees: By signing late-inning reliever Rafael Soriano, over the objection of GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees relegated Chamberlain to middle relief – and killed what little fantasy value he had. Soriano will set up Mariano Rivera this season. Will Chamberlain resurface elsewhere as a starter? He started 31 games in 2009 and went 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. Will he eventually close for another team? He converted just three of seven save opportunities for the Yankees last season.
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals: His 34 errors raised questions about his ability to play every day. But he was solid offensively in his first full big league season, offering some pop (27 doubles, 10 homers, 65 RBI) and speed (17 steals) at a hard-to-fill offensive position. He does need to improve his on-base percentage (.308 last year) and OPS (.700) to become an impact hitter.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals: He can defend all day, but does he have any fantasy value? We’ll see this season, since Kansas City is counting on his development. He was the centerpiece of their Zack Greinke trade. After hitting .305 in limited duty in 2009, Escobar hit just .235 with a .614 OPS last year for the Brewers in 506 at bats. He drew just 36 walks. Since Escobar hit .298 at the Class AAA level and .328 at Double-A, so there is real hope.
Randy Wells, SP, Cubs: Chicago is looking to take a big step this season. Wells could be a big part of that – if he snaps back from his 8-14, 4.26 sophomore season. He allowed a .413 slugging percentage last year. Wells was 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA as a rookie, so the high-end potential remains. The Cubs’ addition of starting pitcher Matt Garza should ease some pressure.
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