Minnesota, here's a kiss, we chose you to end this list.
Not long ago, the Twins were one of the heavies of the American League. Minnesota made six playoff appearances from 2002-2010, a nifty run. October success didn't really follow - the Twins flamed out in the first round five times and won just one series overall - but you have to admire a club that contends every year.
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
The wave broke in 2011, when Minnesota crashed to 63-99, and things haven't been much better sincer (a pair of 66-win seasons). Target Field is a tidy venue, but there's nothing much to see here (at least on the field). Hot prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano offer hope for the future, but the Twins aren't likely to win a lot of games this summer, even in a weak division. The Twins over/under is set at 71.5.
Nonetheless, Minnesota gets the same car wash treatment as everyone else. We're looking for fantasy value and a roto discussion. If nothing else, there's a lot to say about their new first baseman - you know, one of those catchers who isn't a catcher.
Q: Where do you stand on Joe Mauer?
A: Mauer has become a trendy pick in some circles, given that he's a full-time first baseman after a decade behind the dish. It sounds nice up front - less wear and tear, more games, pretty average, winning smile - but I doubt I'm going to own him on any of my teams. On the most recent update of my rankings, Mauer is outside the Top 80.
No one disputes Mauer's value in the ratio category - he's won three batting titles and has a .323 career average. We'd all like a piece of that. But how many other categories will he give you? He's stolen nine bases in four years (none last year). The Minnesota lineup is fairly weak, which holds back the run production columns.
And then there's the power problem. Mauer's 28 homers back in 2009 are obviously a thing of the past, a reminder of indoor baseball in Minnesota. He's knocked 33 balls over the fence since the new park opened. In 247 Target Field games (covering 912 at-bats), Mauer has 10 lousy homers.
In one-catcher leagues (and that's the default setup in Yahoo), it's not hard to find 10-12 catchers you feel good about. Let Mauer and his 58.1 ADP go by the boards. Are we positive Mauer will beat Yadier Molina (72.9) or Carlos Santana (78.7) by the end of the year? Why not wait for Wilin Rosario at 117 or Salvador Perez at 145? Jonathan Lucroy at 156 looks pretty good to me. I'm not wasting a premium pick on someone as limited as Mauer. I expect more from my blue chippers.
Keep one other thing in mind if you're going catcher on a budget - the room is unlikely to stop you. The Mauer or Posey or Santana owner is unlikely to grab a second catcher anytime soon (unless they want to slot their designer catcher at a different position). They won't get in your way. The Mauer owner will be too busy trying to recoup the power that they didn't get in Minnesota. I know a sucker play when I see one. Let the other guy talk himself into Mauer.
Q: Speaking of sucker plays, how about that Ricky Nolasco?
A: Ah yes, Nolasco, the breaker of all spreadsheets and acronyms. Nolasco has a 4.37 career ERA, despite the unwavering support of FIP (3.76) and xFIP (3.75). It's not your fault, it's not your fault. The Twins signed him to a four-year, $49 million deal in November.
He'll appreciate how Target Field crushes left-handed power (a 21-percent tax over the last three years), but Marlins Park was even more depressing in that area (39-percent cut). I don't think any park is big enough to keep Nolasco from Nolascoing at some point.
Maybe you can throw a buck or two at Nolasco in your AL-only dance, but I want to shoot a lot higher in the mixers. Put Nolasco down for 10-12 wins, an ERA around 4, maybe 150 strikeouts. Move along.
Q: So we can assume you're out on Phil Hughes, too?
A: I can see the path to that assumption, but in this case I'm Charlie Brown, ready to kick that football. Hughes is five years younger than Nolasco, and entering the Age-27 season. Maybe a change of city and division can fix him at the right time. Minnesota gave him $24 million for three years, signing the deal right after Thanksgiving.
The AL East basically crushed Hughes's numbers and confidence. His career ERA was over five in New York and he also had terrible stats at Fenway Park (6.56 ERA), Camden Yards (5.66) and Rogers Center (5.69). His career road ERA is 4.07, and that obviously includes all those in-division beatings. Let's try to stay open-minded here. It's not too late for Hughes to turn into a post-hype sleeper.
The price is right, that's for sure. Hughes is outside the Top 250 in current Yahoo ADP. I suspect we'll be discussing him as a streamer, or pickup, during the year.
Q: How about a value bat for the way home?
A: Brian Dozier's current draft cost doesn't make any sense to me. He's tagged at 246.3 in the Yahoo game, and this is coming off a tasty summer of papaya category juice (18 homers, 14 steals). Score one for the small-market screen.
Dozier's .240 career average is a problem, of course, but with the pop-speed combo, I'm willing to accept him as my middle infielder in most mixed pools. The Twins are going to let him play and they'll probably use him in the leadoff or No. 2 slot. Target Field isn't the death sentence you might suspect - it's about neutral for scoring and right-handed power the last three years. I want to see Dozier on your roster.