Fantasy Baseball 2009: The Arizona Diamondbacks
In this Thursday edition of my series that is taking a look at some players that may be undervalued in fantasy circles, I’m profiling the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Here are my top five Diamondbacks that could provide nice value on draft day.
1. RP Chad Qualls
Qualls went 4-8 with a 2.81 ERA and nine saves in 77 appearances in 2008. He took over as Arizona’s closer and ended the season by converting seven straight saves.
Qualls had career bests last season in ERA, K/9 (8.7) and K/BB (3.9), so he appears to have closer-worthy stuff. Also in his favor is his great groundball rate, which was 58% last season and has not been below 57% in the last four seasons.
Qualls looks to be locked in as the Diamondbacks’ closer. That gives him the potential for a nice save total. I’m projecting Qualls to get 25-30 saves with an ERA between 3.00 and 3.50 and nice peripheral numbers. He can probably be had cheaply in most drafts too, making him a nice low-risk, high-reward option on draft day.
2. CF Chris Young
Young hit .248 with 22 HR, 85 RBI and 14 SB in 2008, which was actually a step down from 2007 (.237, 32 HR, 68 RBI, 27 SB) in many ways. He didn’t run as much, 19 steal attempts last season vs. 32 in 2007, which could be a situational fluke as he lost the leadoff spot in the batting order. Young’s drop in home runs last season can probably be attributed to a nagging wrist injury.
Young strikes out a lot (141 times in 2007, 165 in 2008), which helps keep his batting average down. Couple that with his struggles against right-handers (.236 last season), and you have a player that does not seem likely to challenge for a batting title anytime soon.
Young is just 25, so youth is on his side and he had the potential to be a perennial threat for a 30-30 season for years to come. For 2009, I’m projecting him to hit around .260 with 20-25 HR, 80-85 RBI and 20-25 steals. There is some potential he could exceed these projections, and his value is slightly higher in keeper leagues.
3. 1B/LF Conor Jackson
Jackson hit .300 with 12 HR, 75 RBI and 10 steals last season. He started off hot, hitting .345 in April, but he ended the season on homerless streak of 51 games. That lack of power is troubling, especially compared to other first basemen.
Jackson’s batting average will probably always be good, since his contact rate (89% in 2008) is so good. He may never put up Ryan Howard-like home run totals, but he still can be valuable in fantasy leagues.
Jackson played 77 games in the outfield and 68 games at 1B last season, as he took over in LF after Eric Byrnes was out for the season due to injury. So his multi-position eligibility increases his fantasy value to some degree. If Byrnes is ready to go by opening day, Jackson will move primarily to 1B. In any case, Jackson will have a spot somewhere in the middle of Arizona’s lineup.
I’m projecting Jackson to hit around .300 with 15-20 HR and 80-85 RBI. That makes him a fairly ordinary mixed league 1B, but his value is a little higher in NL-only leagues once the high-end options are off the board. Since he will turn 27 in May, an age when many hitters improve, there is some potential that Jackson could breakout and exceed my projections in the power categories.
4. RF Justin Upton
Upton started off hot in 2008, hitting .415 with five home runs in the seasons first 11 games. He finished the season at .250 with 15 HR and 42 RBI. He missed nearly two months of the season with a strained left oblique, so that probably factored into his struggles as did his youth, as he turned just 21 late last season.
Upton struck out 121 times last season, which led to an abysmal contact rate (66%) in his first full season in the big leagues. As he ages, his approach at the plate should improve and lead to a better batting average.
Upton’s value is extremely high in keeper leagues, but he still has some value this year in single season leagues. I’m projecting him to hit around .260 with 20-25 home runs and 70-75 RBI and perhaps sprinkle in 5-10 stolen bases this season, which makes him a very solid option in NL-only leagues with slightly lower value in mixed leagues.
5. C Chris Snyder
Snyder hit .237 with 16 HR and 64 RBI last season in 334 at-bats. He signed a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year during the offseason, so he appears likely to be the Diamondbacks’ starting catcher for the foreseeable future.
Snyder missed some time in 2008 due to a testicular fracture (ouch!), otherwise he may have made a run at 20 home runs. He set career highs in both walk rate (14%) and hr/flyball (16%), but he will need to improve his contact rate (70% last season) for his batting average to improve much.
Snyder just turned 28, so he is in his prime hitting years. I’m projecting him to hit around .250 with 15-20 HR and 60-65 RBI. He is a nice low-end option at catcher that can provide some power for your fantasy team no matter what format you’re using.
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