Finding an underrated player in the NL East can be tricky. The eastern teams generally get the brunt of the sports news coverage, so most of their players get plenty of attention.
As a result, you certainly know who these guys are, but they are certainly going to be overlooked come draft time.
- No. 1: Chris Johnson, Atlanta Braves
I wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Johnson cut down on the strikeouts, but this dude can absolutely hit the ball. Per Fangraphs, his career line drive rate is 24.9 % and his mark in 2013 was 27 %. As a point of reference, Miguel Cabrera has a career mark of 21.5 % and his 2013 mark was 24 %.
I’m not going to say that Johnson is the kind of hitter that Cabrera is, that would be a lie and everyone would know it. But when I see how often he’s hit the ball on a line, I see that .321 batting average from 2013 and can absolutely say that I don’t see it as a fluke.
But even if he bats in the five spot, Johnson will have plenty of value in a potent Atlanta lineup.
- No. 2: Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Being the Marlins closer may seem like being a Phoenix weatherman in July at times, but it’s not quite accurate. No reliever finished more games in 2013 than Steve Cishek. They may not win a lot of games, but the ones they win tend to be close, so closers are called upon in pretty much all of the games where they even compete.
In regards to ERA and WHIP, Cishek is coming off of a career year and you do have to be a bit skeptical coming off of those kinds of seasons. So, you have to look back to the year before and ask if you’d take those?
So, in 2012, Cishek posted an ERA of 2.69 and a WHIP of 1.30. You can certainly do a better job in regards to WHIP, but you’d take it from a closer who gets better than a strikeout an inning.
When you’re a closer on a bad team and share a division with Craig Kimbrel, it’s easy to be overlooked. But don’t let that keep you from making him one of your closers come draft time.
- No. 3: Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
Here’s a guy who’s definitely used to being a bit overshadowed in his own rotation, but Doug Fister is a quality pitcher. His WHIP took a bit of a hit last year, but he had a 1.12 mark over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Now that he’s headed to the National League, I have no reason to think that it won’t be down around that number again.
Fister’s not a strikeout an inning type of pitcher, but he’s not at all bad for a guy who pitches to contact. He has one of the better walk rates in all of baseball and is now moving into a division that’s not exactly loaded with great hitters. It wouldn’t surprise me if he generated some Cy Young consideration this year. This is definitely a guy that you could reach a bit for in the draft. I wouldn’t think twice about reaching a round or so from his ADP.