7 Position Players to Keep an Eye on Late in the Season Revisited

Bryce Harper's rookie debut at Nationals Park

In February we ran a series of predictive posts as a Countdown to the 2012 fantasy baseball season. Those predictions have come and gone, so we thought we’d revisit them as we Ramp Up to Fantasy Baseball 2013. Yes, it’s never too early to prepare for the 2013 fantasy baseball season.

Making predictions in fantasy baseball is tough. When the predictions involve Minor League players making a fantasy impact, it get’s a little trickier. I certainly had some hits and misses with this list in 2012.

Anthony Rizzo (Cubs), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Zack Cozart (Reds), Matt Szczur (Cubs), Michael Choice (A’s), Derek Norris (A’s), and Grant Green (A’s). 

Interesting list for sure. Rizzo, Harper, Cozart, and Norris all saw significant playing time, while Szczur, Choice, and Green didn’t see the majors.

First, let’s take a look at the guys who saw significant time. 

Anthony Rizzo

2012 Stats

AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
337 96 44 15 48 3 .285

For a guy who turned 23 in August, that’s pretty dang solid. If he kept that pace with 600 at bats, let’s take a look at the kind of numbers Rizzo would have put up.

AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
600 171 78 27 85 5 .285

Now, consider that the Cubs will get better as some of their young talent begins to develop. That’s going to give Rizzo even more RBI chances and will certainly allow more runs scored. Additionally, the pitches he sees will be a lot better.

The only problem with Rizzo’s fantasy value is that he plays first base. At that position, those kind of numbers will only be valuable at first in deeper leagues.

Still, I expect the numbers to grow. There may be better first basemen in individual categories going forward, but I expect Rizzo to be one of the more complete fantasy first basemen for quite some time.

 

Bryce Harper

2012 Stats

AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
533 144 98 22 59 18 .270

Mike Trout set a very high standard for rookies in 2012, but Harper’s rookie season was really phenomenal. What makes Harper more amazing is that he won’t even be able to legally buy a drink in the United States until October…of 2013, not that he would anyway.

But I want to show you something that really excites me about Harper. Take a look at his AVG/OBP/SLG splits from month to month, remember that we’re excluding April as he was called up late in the month.

Month AVG OBP SLG
May .271 .351 .505
June .274 .336 .443
July .222 .306 .313
August .243 .292 .456
September/October .330 .400 .643

Sure, the middle few months were rough. That kind of thing will happen when you splash onto the scene and Major League pitchers have a chance to adjust to you. But take a look at September. That is quite the adjustment, especially when you consider that in that month he was facing the dominant pitchers of the National League East.

So, I am not too concerned with a sophomore slump. Harper has already shown that he can adjust well to everyone else’s adjustments. That gives me complete confidence that if he stays healthy, he’ll be a fantasy force starting in 2013 and going forward for a long, long time.

 

Zack Cozart

2012 Stats

AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
561 138 72 15 35 4 .246

Those numbers may not quite stand out in the same way that Rizzo’s or Harper’s do, but consider one thing, Cozart is a shortstop. Putting up 15 homers will go a pretty long way there.

Also, remember that Cozart is on the Reds. In all five Division Series games against the Giants, he batted second in the order. If that continues, Cozart will have guys like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, and even Brandon Phillips (when he doesn’t lead off) to drive him in.

The downside of Cozart is that he is 27. While I personally feel weird calling a 27-year-old old, the bottom line is that his room for growth is not as great as some of the other guys, especially as shortstops tend to focus a lot more on fielding. So, in a dynasty league, I wouldn’t like Cozart. But for the next few years, I am looking for good fantasy value from him.

 

Derek Norris

2012 Stats

AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
209 42 19 7 34 5 .201

Kind of a mixed bag here, which is what you’re going to get from most catchers not named Buster Posey. Norris can hit with some pop, which is very nice, but struggling to hit .200 is not going to do anything for your fantasy team. His OBP was a very non-Moneyball like .276, too, so Norris won’t be on base a lot to score runs unless he gets a lot better.

The catcher I admitedly missed out on here was Wilin Rosario of the Rockies, who appears to be one of fantasy baseball’s best catchers in 2013. Seriously, his numbers are strong and having seen him I’ll tell you that he passes the eye test, the dude can flat out rake.

As for Norris, again, he’s only going to bring power to your fantasy team. I would only take him if you are otherwise solid and know that he’ll get significant playing time. In case you were wondering, his 2010 batting average in A+ ball was .235 and the 2011 average in AA ball was .210, so it’s not likely that this is a rookie slump.

Now for the guys who didn’t quite make the show this year.

 

Matt Szczur

2012 Stats

  AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
A+ 295  87  68  34  38  .295 
AA 158  30  24  .210 
Total 438  117  92  40  42  .267 

If we’re talking about 2013 prospects, you’re going to have a hard time selling Szczur to me. Granted, his AA stint was not especially long, but an 85-point drop in batting average is alarming. I can’t see him going from .210 in AA in 2012 to the Major League roster in 2013, unless we’re talking about a September call-up, and even then it’s doubtful. 

But I do like what this kid brings to the table long term. The .295 batting average in A+ ball is pretty good, especially when you consider that at that same level last year he hit .260, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll adjust to AA and beyond.

My issue with steals is that players who swipe a lot of bases tend to drag seriously in other categories. But even if it was in A+ ball, 38 steals with a .295 average is going to get my attention. That fills at least two categories, and 68 runs in 295 at bats is pretty decent as well. At 23, he’s got potential to be a good top-of-the-order guy. In dynasty leagues with Minor League slots, this is a player with some value.

 

Michael Choice

2012 Stats

  AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
AA 359  103  59  10  58  .287 

Alright, Choice is a solid hitter. In three years at three different levels, Choice has hit .284, .285, and .287. That’s not only remarkably consistent, but the slight changes have moved upwards. Ironically, his OBP has gone down progressively in those three years, but it only bottomed out at .356, which fits Billy Beane’s style just fine. 

There’s just one problem with Choice — he’s an outfielder in the A’s system, and they are loaded there on the Major League roster alone. Now, Beane has a tendency to look for a deal, so Choice could find a spot in the majors sooner or later, but I’d bet on later. Also, he’ll be turning 23 this fall, so there is plenty of time here.

If we’re looking at 2013, a few things will need to happen. One, he’ll need to get much better. Two, either he’ll have to be moved or some of the guys above him will. But looking at 2014, I see good things. This was a Top 40 prospect in Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 list in 2012 for a reason.

 

Grant Green

2012 Stats

  AB H R HR RBI SB AVG
AAA 524  155  73  15  75  13  .296 

Green has similar issues to Choice, as he’s primarily an outfielder in the A’s system. But like Choice, Green is a solid hitter, even showing some power, so there’s reason to be upbeat.

But something separates him from Choice. Green is primarily an outfielder, but in 2012 logged 19 games at shortstop, 19 more at second, and had 11 games at third base. So, if he’s hitting well enough to be on the team, Bob Melvin will find a place for him. 

As for 2013, it’s hard to imagine the A’s looking to shake things up in a big way. Part of the reason I missed on both Choice and Green is that Oakland was a lot better than I thought they would be in 2012, and they are in solid position for 2013. So, I can’t see Green starting the season as a starter, but I can see it happening at some point in the year. When it does, I expect solid production. 

Topics: Anthony Rizzo, Bryce Harper

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