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Recently, Grey came out with the mid-season ranking list-o-rama and it got me thinking… perhaps I should put my head and other extremities into the arena and formulate something that can help my fellow deep league platonic lovers fulfill their fantasy list appetite. Also, perhaps I should use more punctuation. Granted, everyone loves to make a list, so the whole adventure can be considered a tired practice in certain circles. I mean, are my readers even hungry for this? Do I even have any readers? Then I remembered, I don’t care about such things, except late at night when I’m crying in a fetal position inside my closet.

When beginning my research for this topic, if you can believe, I was rudely interrupted by Kanye West, who was crunk enough to inform me that while my list would turn out pretty good, Grey has had, and would have, the best list’s ever. While I couldn’t argue the point, I did bring up the fact how Kanye also told Patrick Swayze that Michael Jackson had the best death ever. In my opinion, he was incorrect. I truly believe, with all my heart, David Carradine, in fact, had the best death ever. So, I did win on that point. Well, that, and Kanye’s an idiot.

This post (and Part II) will contain names that you might not expect, or in different placements. That’s because we’re doing things deep league style, with extra sauce. And while there are many different formats and scoring systems for deep leagues, there are some constants we can base a formula on. All deep leagues have some sort of dynasty mechanism, which favors younger and/or cost-controlled players. Along with that aspect, you’ll have a robust MiLB system, usually with multiple drafts (MLFAD, FYPD) and escalating long term contracts that attach to those players once activated. And last, but not least, you are most likely dealing with leagues that have anywhere from 15 to 30 teams, NL-only, AL-only, more advanced scoring categories (OBS, W+QS, TB, etc.) and you can even add simulation leagues like Box and Strat-O-Matic into the mix. We basically have to smash all those things into one ranking sandwich, and then add your usual facets; 2012 production, lettuce, 2013 potential production, tomato, injury risk, mayo, past performance, bacon, positional scarcity, etc. So, if you find yourself wondering what I was smoking when I made this list, just remember the sandwich I am making and putting in your mouth is going to be delicious to the extreme.

Before we go any further in Don’t Be Such an Asset: Part I, which you are reading now — I hope — the players I’ve spotlighted in this post will not be ranked. This will simply be a collection, or summary if you will, of names that have really jumped out and provided their owners a balance of awesome n’ sexy asset value, much like myself. But these players are not the cream of the crop. No, no, because next week, I’ll be ranking the top 15, the best of the best of the best. What follows below are the guys who all received consideration, but fell right outside the circle. Elton John wrote a song about a circle once… now it’s stuck in your head. Hakuna matata friend.

If this list had been around the same time last year, Justin Upton would have most likely landed in the Top 3, if not the overall top spot, batting 289/369/529 with 21 steals. But, as I’m sure he and his numbers agree, this is not last year. Upton still holds name value and immense potential that many owners will simply not give up on. He is most likely under long-term control, and that carries a lot of value. But his fantasy salary (based on what you had to pay for him) does not reflect his current output, which helps sink his rating. However, with his BB% actually improving, from 8.8% to 11.0%, and a likely thumb injury that is the culprit of his power outage, if someone were to sell, there would be plenty of owners ready to pounce. Especially when you consider the tale of Jason Heyward. Also holding immense potential and expectations, especially in OBP leagues, Heyward has rebounded quite nicely from a disastrous 227/319/389 slash in 2011. Now hitting 271/345/477, he’s another young player that should be under long-term team friendly control. Let his off year and his eventual comeback be an indicator of what we might see occur for Upton next season, or perhaps even this second half.

I have to say, I became vexed trying to figure out which closers to name here and which to leave out. While Kenley Jansen gave me pause because of his recurring heart issues, the dominant career 14.65 K/9 makes my torso shake in a very vigorous fashion. You could pretty much call him a younger and cheaper Craig Kimbrel, who also belongs here. While having the more expensive name, you’ll also have the strike-outs (15.32 K/9 career), consistency (1.42 FIP career), and the save totals (75 in 135.2 career innings) pretty much in the bank. He may not be as dominant as those two, but Addison Reed is also a fantastical closer to own. Reed was eligible to be drafted this year (and all the way back to 2010) as a MiLB player, meaning his contract just started counting down the very moment when his respective owners promoted him, which really pumps his worth. And pumping is the name of the game here, whether it be my shoes or my hips. While Reed hasn’t basked in success like his peers, he has still out-performed his ERA of 4.24 with a FIP at 3.07, so good things are coming. I almost forgot him, but luckily, zoning out at my desktop and suddenly noticing the Tropico 4 icon alerted me to an almost grievous error. Aroldis Chapman, based on age, contract, and the fact that I love Montecristo’s, should be anointed the best of this bunch. Oh, and he also owns a 2012 FIP of 1.19 with an insane K/9 of 16.93. Due to the volatility of the job, there is still inherent risk with all of them, but as long as Saves are a category (even with the lesser known S*2+H in play), elite ninth inning fireballers will always be in high demand, and these names represent the best assets of the bunch.

Some might wonder what Elvis Andrus is doing around these parts, so I’m willing to admit that you truly don’t know how valuable he is unless you own him. And yes, I know defense doesn’t count, at least, in most formats, but positional scarcity does. If you hadn’t noticed, SS is a wasteland. After the Top 3, a drop-off begins that looks like a chronologically ordered Rotten Tomato review history for M. Night Shyamalan movies. Elvis may not have the power, but he brings the speed, the runs, and the high AVG/OBP, all in a youthful injury-free package, unlike most of his peers. As a constant 290/360/400 producer, along with the 35-40 SB’s he throws in, quite simply put, Andrus solidifies your hole, which is pretty gross if you ask me. Starlin Castro could also be discussed here, even though his 282/308/411 needs some improvement. Right now, his value comes mainly from his speed, position, age, and contract length. Over on the Keystone, Jose Altuve, the MLB version of Muggsy Bogues, is here because he scores above average in all my criteria. Hitting 287/330/414, he’s shown a willingness to walk a bit more, and sprinkles in light power with good speed. Young, solid production, and most assuredly a cost-controlled asset, he’s definitely the little engine that could.

Before the season, the mystery that was Yu Darvish was like a Skor bar in my mouth. He was bliss. Now, more than half-way through the year, he has now evolved into something along the lines of a Wes Anderson movie — the style is always threatening to take over the content, and everything is just so darn cute. If he ever ended up wearing plaid, my eyes would tear up, some giggling would commence, and then I would faint. On numbers alone, his FIP of 3.83 and BB/9 of 4.71 has been extraordinarily average, albeit, with a flashy 9.99 K/9. The same could be said of Matt Moore, as he is bringing much the same with a 8.51 K/9 with a meh 4.73 BB/9 and 4.48 FIP. But, both of them were eligible to be drafted as a prospect, so you can afford to be patient as you are paying an amazingly low contract cost. I wouldn’t be surprised if either Darvish or Moore ended up more wholesome products by this time next year, and that screams current and future value.

Along with Moore, there was another heralded prospect that teased our naval area last year. Brett Lawrie, perhaps a bit overrated, still has a very SPF-100 future. In fact, I considered him to have the talent to put up Top 10 corner numbers from the get-go this season. So far, he’s just kind of moseying it along with a 278/324/407 slash, so my projection might fall a bit short. But his age, potential, and pedigree make him quite a valuable player to have under long term control.

Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey represent pitchers past their prime, yet they are both surprisingly turning in career years. In fact, I’m pretty sure they both might have found sacred secrets from a Nasa Torque Specialist chilling with a Mai Tai, water up to his shins, in the Fountain of Youth. Both carried 2011 FIP’s of 4.04 and 3.77, which have gone down to 3.61 and 2.82, respectively. While there isn’t much value because of age, that is offset by the fact that these players were likely low cost fillers. David Price, Matt Cain, and Jered Weaver are currently in their peak, and representing pitchers who are perfectly valued for where they’re priced and what they are providing to you, ‘statistically’ speaking. If we’re talking ‘sexually’, I should probably get some tissues. Madison Bumgarner, James McDonald, and Chris Sale represent the rising tide of talented youth, soon to drown us in a mixture of puppies and kittens, but without the fear of poop. And all three had their doubters. Bumgarner with his mysterious loss of velocity, which returned. McDonald, with his high walk rate, which has improved from a 2011 4.11 BB/9 down to a 2012 3.01 BB/9. And, in terms of Sale, sometimes it’s just hard to gauge pitchers who have a ticking time bomb in their arm. While it’s not a foregone conclusion, pretty much every scouting report has given grief in terms of him sustaining as a starter. But keep in mind, any pitcher, at any time, can succumb to a substantial injury. Whether or not he’s in the bullpen throwing high-leverage innings, or a starter with high-K potential (8.26 K/9 as a starter), the risk is worth it. As is becoming a recurring theme, his age and long term control only add to his value, along with Bumgarner and McDonald.

Last but not least, if you are looking for the ‘Prospect Holy Triumvirate’ of this year’s class, as opposed to the crazy anticipation we experienced from yesteryear’s version of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Matt Moore, I bring you something not quite as legendary, but nothing to scoff at either. Will Myers, Jurickson Profar, and Dylan Bundy represent the next wave of elite MiLB players that will take us by storm in numbers of three. If you are looking to trade for a difference maker, in fact, if you are looking to acquire any name from this post, expect to have to include one of these guys to get it done. Either as trade fodder or as a long-term investment as a cornerstone for your team from the future, you can surely expect the near same asset value as last year’s group.

Don’t forget to tune in next week, when I actually countdown the overall Top 15 Fantasy Assets for 2012. It’s harder for me than you think, since I really don’t have a grasp of reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. Should be zesty.

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