BY ROB SHAW
When former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran joined the Giants, he was a bit slow out of the gate, but by season’s end he hit .323 with a .551 following the trade. He was particularly hot in September, offering a .378 batting average. However, by then the Giants were no longer contenders and Beltran was an impending free agent.
While Beltran put together solid figures last season with 22 home runs and a .300 average, this is not the fantasy sensation of years passed when he could belt 40-plus home runs and swipe 40 bases. Beltran had just four steals last season and his run production was a bit low too with 84 RBI and 78 runs.
At 34 years old, Beltran is limited, but he can still offer some fantasy value. He now joins the Cardinals, which makes it the first time that he’s stepped out of a pitcher’s park for home games since he played with the Astros back in 2004.
Beltran will not replace Pujols in the lineup, but he can be a solid bat who offers 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .300 average. Of course, his age and injury-riddled past carry plenty of risk as well.
Last season was a season of collapses for many of the game’s most consistent players. While Hanley Ramirez and Adam Dunn highlight the list, the same can be said about veteran David DeJesus. The long-time outfielder for the Royals struggled in Oakland with the A’s.
DeJesus never was a fantasy star, but he did once score 101 runs in a season, belted 10-plus home runs twice, and hit better than .290 four times in his career. That’s why it was so shocking that he hit .240 in Oakland. The Coliseum certainly played a role, as his batting average dipped to .229 at home. On the other hand, playing on the road did not bring many advantages.
Despite DeJesus’ struggles under Billy Bean’s A’s, Theo Epstein remained interested and acquired him this off-season. Even in his worst career season, DeJesus reached base at a respectable .323 clip. At 32 years old, DeJesus is not going to experience a drastic turnaround, however, he should bounce back to a .280 average with solid run production. He will remain bettter in reality than fantasy.
It is very rare to call a 33-year-old outfielder a sleeper, but that is exactly the case for Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Sure, the veteran had some good moments with the Twins, blasting 32 home runs in 2009, driving in 109 RBI in 2006, and even swiping 11 bases last season. However, those figures all came while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park.
This season Cuddyer will call home to Coors Field, one of the most notorious hitter’s parks in baseball history because of the altitude. Furthermore, he will be joined in the lineup by MVP candidates Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki after spending the last few seasons with injury-prone stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The scouting report on Cuddyer is not to leave anything over the plate on the first pitch. Cuddyer ranks amongst the game’s best with a .450 average on first pitches. He is also a rare hitter that feasts against off-speed pitches (.310 average with 12 home runs).
Always solid, we expect Cuddyer to be stellar this season.