At this time of year I usually take a look ahead at which players I might want to target for the following year's fantasy teams.
Here are some non-star American League players I will seriously consider for next season:
Nate McLouth- OF - He had a surprising resurgence late in the year. Perhaps he has found his stroke in Baltimore. It seemed like American League pitching agreed with him. He was hitting only .140 in the season with Pittsburgh in a limited 62 plate appearances. Once he moved to the Orioles, his average rose to .268 and he hit seven homers. I am also attracted to his 12 stolen bases while being caught only once.
McLouth puts the bat on the ball, has enough speed to beat out a bunt or infield hit, and should get playing time. He is most attractive in AL-only leagues, where the outfield pickings are slim.
Chris Davis – DH - He may be eligible at other positions in your league so check carefully.
Davis is not a star. He has, however, begun to realize the potential we saw when he played for the Rangers. His .270 batting average was a nice gift to top off his 33 homers and 85 RBI. For me, Davis will be a no-brainer on draft day. I would have never said that about him before this past season.
Wei-Yin Chen – LHP - He was inconsistent, but in a shallow league when you go to find a pitcher, he may be there for you. He fashioned 12 wins for the Orioles and threw to a 4.02 ERA. He gave up fewer hits than innings pitched at 186 in 192.2 and walked 57 for a WHIP of 1.261. Chen struck out 154 for a tad above 7.0 K/9IP in his first year in MLB.
Miguel Gonzalez – RHP - This is a potential star on the rise. What I like best about Gonzalez is his ability to throw strikes. Especially strike one. He doesn't get flustered on the mound. Gonzalez won nine games in 15 starts for a team that showed it could score runs and win. He fashioned a 3.25 ERA and 1.206 WHIP. Strikeouts will be limited (6.6 K/9IP), but there is a great deal to like about Gonzalez.
Joe Saunders – LHP - I got to see every one of Saunders' Arizona home starts. Once he gets past the first inning or two, he really settles down. I do trust him. He likely won't be the ace of your staff, but if you have him, you will appreciate the quality innings he provides. His WHIP and ERA both declined in Baltimore - facts to take note of.
I have a mild interest in: Ryan Flaherty INF, Darren O'Day (setup reliever)
BOSTON RED SOX
Daniel Nava – OF - I see a switch-hitting Josh Reddick. He's been no more than a .240 hitter for Boston, but he also hasn't had a chance. Nava has some power and he has a good approach at the plate. All he needs is a sustained opportunity -something he may not get. If he isn't wanted in Boston, I know many clubs that can use a switch-hitter. I'll give him one more season in 2013 to show that he's a major league hitter. I think he is.
Pedro Ciriaco – INF - Ciriaco has a great deal to offer. He hits for average (.293) steals bases (16-for-19) and has the ability to hit the gaps. Most importantly, I think the Red Sox will find a place for him. He can play second, short or third. Given their current infield roster is in a state of flux, I think he has a chance to stick. He'll have to fight Jose Iglesias for playing time at shortstop, but I think he'll get at-bats.
Might the Red Sox trade Dustin Pedroia? Heaven for bid. I think there's a chance that can happen.
Ryan Lavarnway – C - If given the opportunity, I think Lavarnway can be a monster with the Green Monster. He has a good Fenway stroke with power in his bat.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a good power season at the plate. Does he remain the starting catcher? These are the “new” Red Sox. Your guess is as good as mine this early in the offseason. I still like Lavarnway to get playing time.
I have a mild interest in: Junichi Tazawa as a relief pitcher
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Nate Jones – RHP - Jones can pitch – he throws nice and easy, but he has a power arm. He was used in mid-to late game relief. Watch his role in the spring. I think he might evolve to a late-inning guy out of the pen. The White Sox trust his ability. He poached eight wins with a 2.39 ERA and a 1.381 WHIP. He's still a little wild, walking too many, but he's hard to hit and he strikes out 8.2 K/9IP.
I have a mild interest in: Jose Quintana as a starter or reliever
Russ Canzler- 1B/OF - It remains to be seen what Cleveland will do with Canzler. They are desperate for right-handed hitters. That doesn't mean they'll do the right thing and give Canzler playing time. He does strike out, but he also has some pop in his bat.
For me, Canzler can earn a spot on my bench next season. He could earn multiple position eligibility and he could offer chea power. He hit three late season homers as part of the 25 hits he got in 97 plate appearances.
Zach McAllister – RHP - McAllister has good command of several pitches in an effective repertoire. He throws high strikes-which scares me. I think McAllister can be a late draft selection. The team may not win much, but he should get some quality starts and help your pitching depth.
I have a mild interest in: Lonnie Chisenhall as a third baseman
Andy Dirks – OF - The left-handed hitter is streaky. When's he's on a good streak, he's very good. He really came on at the end of the season. He hit .322 overall and put the bat on the ball while hitting eight homers and driving in 35.
Here's my problem: Jim Leyland is very fickle with his outfielders. If your Brennan Boesch you're a hero one day and in Leyland's doghouse for a month when you turn cold for two straight games. Leyland cycles outfielders in and out of the lineup.
Quintin Berry – OF - Berry spent a few weeks in the Leyland doghouse himself. He would hit, get cold, hit again and you know the rest. I trust him to hit for at least a .250 average again (.258) and steal some bases. He will also get an occasional triple with his speed. However, he'll see mucho time on the bench.
Avisail Garcia – OF - Leyland seems to like the right-handed hitting Garcia. I do, too. He fits right in the Tigers' “wide body persona” along with Delmon Young, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Gerald Laird, etc. Garcia is a round man.
He can hit for average. However, of his 15 hits in 51 plate appearances, none were for extra bases. Fluke? Yes. He actually had three triples this season at Double-A Erie.
I would consider Garcia as my last player on my reserve squad.
Al Albuquerque – RHP - Coming off of surgery, Albuquerque helped the Tigers down the stretch and now in the playoffs. I believe he has set-up to closer stuff and if your league counts “holds” he may be for you.
I have a mild interest in: Drew Smyly as a starter
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Irving Falu – INF - I think Falu deserves a chance to play somewhere. The Royals may not be the place. He can hit for average. Flashing a .341 average over 91 plate appearances in his late season callup to Kansas City. He doesn't have power, but he can leg out a double to the gap.
Lorenzo Cain – OF - If Cain can stay healthy, I think he and Wil Myers would make two great pieces for the Royals' outfield. The third would be Alex Gordon. I would say goodbye to Jeff Francoeur. Cain has shown he can hit for average and for power. I get concerned when he swings for the fences. He's capable of the long ball, but his swing has to be disciplined for him to succeed.
I believe it's time for the Royals to give Myers a shot.
Luis Mendoza – RHP - You are correct. Mendoza did not have good numbers, including an 8-10 record, but I like the way he is in command on the mound. I like his potential. He doesn't strike out a lot of guys, but he can eat some innings.
He is a low, low option in an AL-only league. He can do better than what we have seen of him so far. I have him as a late bloomer. Now remember, he is not a top-drawer starter. He's a viable option in certain situations where pitching depth is thin.
I have a mild interest in: Aaron Crow depending upon his role
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Kevin Jepsen – RHP - Jepsen could close on many clubs. He did for the Angels at one point. With the emergence of Ernesto Frieri his chances to close will be minimal. Unless Frieri implodes, which is always possible. Jepsen can give up a few walks at times, but in general, I think he's solid.
I have a mild interest in: Peter Bourjos if he gets some playing time
Scott Diamond – LHP - Diamond won 12 games for the Twins. He had a very respectable 3.54 ERA and a 1.243 WHIP. He had a strikeout rate of only 4.0 K/9IP. He pitches to contact and he can be very hittable.
I find him a marginal starter. He's somebody I would select at the end of the draft if I needed a fifth starter.
I have a mild interest in: Trevor Plouffe for the first half of the season if I lack power
NEW YORK YANKEES
Eduardo Nunez – INF - Nunez is a very solid player. He can fill in at all infield positions. I believe with the aging Yankees' infield, Nunez will get lots of opportunities.
Nunez hit .292 in 100 trips to the plate. He also stole 11 bases. I frankly think Nunez will be a steal for your team. He won't hit for power, but he'll make great contact and offer you some reserve help.
Brandon Moss – 1B/OF - Moss can hit for power. He has a tendency to strike out, but he has shown late this season that he has value as a power hitter. He may have multiple position eligibility, which makes him more valuable. Moss may also hit for a decent average. He hit .291 for Oakland this year with a good sample size of almost 300 plate appearances.
Jarrod Parker (RHP), A.J. Griffin (RHP) and Tommy Milone (LHP) - I like all 3 of these starters. Each has a chance to improve upon their good season in 2012.
For now at least, the A's play in a very pitcher friendly park. Along with veteran lefty Brett Anderson (injury prone) and Brandon McCarthy (if he re-signs), I think the A's will have a dominant starting staff.
Parker, Griffin and Milone are young, yes, but each really grew up this past season in the heat of a pennant race. Their numbers may be very similar. They should have high 3.00 to low 4.00 ERAs. Each should be able to get their share of wins next season.
I have a mild interest in: Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook as back end of the bullpen guys in leagues that value “holds.”
Casper Wells – OF - I've always liked his potential. He can become a fan favorite with power and hustle. The only question—will he get a chance to play? I think the Mariners moving the fences in left field are an indication of their evaluation of Wells. He will benefit by the shorter left-field home run distance.
Wells scuffled to hit for average, and he may never be able to do that. But if given the chance, he may be able to hit in the .250 range with 20 homers and 80 RBI. We don't know because we haven't seen him over a long enough period of time.
Michael Saunders – OF - Saunders is in the midst of showing that he can hit. Some sustained playing time helped him adjust better to breaking balls.
He isn't a finished product by any means. He has work to do to cut down his strikeouts. However, I think he's a solid outfield option that will give you some nice home run numbers and the added bonus of double-digit stolen bases.
John Jaso – C - Jaso may or may not be playing for Seattle. Who knows? But I do think he'll find a job somewhere. He can hit and he has some pop in his bat. Jaso is also a solid receiver behind the plate and that should mean a great deal to a club that has Jesus Montero.
Jaso could give you anywhere from a .260 batting average on up, depending upon the ballpark and his playing time. Don't be afraid to call his name-especially in a two- catcher league.
Tom Wilhelmsen – RHP - Here's a guy on the brink of stardom. Wilhelmsen is a power-arm closer with an incredibly good array of breaking balls and a changeup. He's very tough on hitters. Big strikeout rate. Lots of saves. Good command. Lots to like. He's among the first closers off the board for me.
I have a mild interest in: shortstop Carlos Triunfel if he makes the club. He will be one that has to adjust, but ultimately he may be able to hit
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Alex Cobb – RHP - Cobb won 11 games and threw 136.1 innings for the Rays this season. He won't be an ace, but he'll get the job done. He had a 4.03 ERA which is acceptable for a back end of the rotation starter.
Cobb is in an environment where he can learn from some very good pitchers and coaches. His WHIP was solid at 1.24, and one you can live with.
Jurickson Profar – INF - Much depends upon what the club decides to do with Elvis Andrus. Do they keep him at shortstop and pay him the money he deserves? Do they convert him to the outfield? If Andrus moves, Profar has a shot at sticking.
I do think he makes a good bench play, regardless of Andrus.Profar really didn't hit well (in the .176 range) with Texas, but he'll get better with more major league reps.
Koji Uehara – RHP - I think Uehara is going to be a big part of the Rangers' bullpen going forward. I'm not sure how much more Joe Nathan has in the tank. He looked very ragged and tired at the end of the year.Uehara throws strikes and is very capable. He can set up or close.
I have a mild interest in: outfielder Leonys Martin. I think he'll only get better.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Adeiny Hechavarria SS/2B - He isn't quite the hitter yet that I think he will be. His brief end of season trial gave him a taste of big league life. I think Hechavarria has a shot at retaining a role for next season on the 25- man roster.
If Hechavarria is retained to start the season and you select him, I would urge patience. It may take this guy some time to figure out the strike zone as well as how to hit breaking balls.
I would take him as a backup middle infielder in an AL-only format. In his brief trial, Hechavarria hit .252 this past season, but I don't think he will reach that level over the course of 400 at-bats.
*Regarding the American League clubs above, I wouldn't hesitate to draft or pay for Edwin Encarnacion, Kyle Seager, and Yoenis Cespedes, They are not quite in the “star” category, but each can help in at least two categories for next year.
*I think Adrian Beltre is among the most underrated players in baseball.
*I have great concerns about Alex Rodriguez. I'm not sure he can do any better next year than what we saw this season.
*I'm wondering if Terry Francona can attract any of his former Red Sox players to Cleveland.
*This may be the last hurrah for the Yankees. They are really showing some age and they still need pitching.
*What is the market for Josh Hamilton? I have no idea.
Next week: I look ahead to the National League non-stars. I will also be writing about my first look at the Arizona Fall League.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff.