2011 was supposed to be a big year for Shin-Soo Choo — he was coming off his 2nd straight 20-20 season, his looming military service requirement to the Korean government was in the rearview mirror and he was just entering his prime age. Many (including yours truly) predicted a true breakout, and drafted him as an OF1. The statline that ensued packed about as much punch as Ralph Wiggum’s love life. Choo started the season in a horrendous slump before being caught for a DUI, and from there his slump spiraled out of control. Finally and mercifully his season hit rock bottom when a thumb injury sidelined him for a long period of time. Hailing from a culture that holds honor and duty in very high esteem, it would be foolish to say that the distraction of the DUI was not at least partly to blame for his first half struggles.

The story takes a positive turn after that, as Choo successfully and uneventfully rehabbed from his injury and returned in the second half.  The results were enough to remind owners of why they spent a high draft pick. He flexed his 20-20 skillset, hitting 3 homeruns and stealing 4 bags in August to go along with an otherworldly .348 batting average. This resurgence was ultimately cut short when Choo fell victim to “the year of the oblique,” straining the pesky muscle and ending his season prematurely. When evaluating Choo for early 2012 drafts, I find myself largely ignoring his abysmal first half 2011 and looking to that solid month of August. In doing so I am trusting that the problems were largely between the ears and that he put them in the past in the 2nd half and will be fine for this season. His ADP currently sits in the 70s, which is a pretty sizeable value for a true 5 category threat with a proven floor of production.

While we are on the subject of toolsy outfielders, I may be in the minority but I’m buying Carl Crawford this year. Yes, last year was about as ugly as it gets, and yes he still will probably be relegated to hitting in a less-than-advantageous spot in Boston’s lineup in 2012. These rather unsavory facts aside, I think a pretty convincing reason can be made to draft Crawford at his current ADP (mid-late 3rd round). At a glance his paltry 11 homeruns look bad, but consider that his career average for homeruns in a season sits somewhere around 15. Additionally, his 2011 ISO is actually HIGHER than his career ISO. Recall that you are NOT drafting Crawford for his power. You drafted him because he is a speedster that hits double digit home runs. He hit that power mark last year, and will continue to do that going forward.

Since power is not Crawford’s game the bigger issue was obviously his inexplicable drop in steals from 47 in 2010 to 18 in 2011. The aforementioned position in the lineup certainly played a part, as did nagging injuries, but in my opinion the largest single factor in this drop was his utilization. I really think that the Red Sox put the brakes on his game. This year, sweeping changes have been made to the Red Sox in both the front office and managerial positions. Since they have made such a huge investment in Crawford, they will really have no choice but to turn him loose going forward. This, coupled with an additional year getting used to the “pressure” environment in Boston, makes me bullish on Crawford this year.

Some more quick busts turned 2012 fantasy baseball value picks:

Nick Swisher – Still hitting in a bandbox in a great lineup. Yankees do not have better options anyway.

Kevin Youkilis – GGOW (Greek God of Walks) getting drafted in the 6th round at a weak 3B position? Yes, please.

Ike Davis – The latest casualty to the Mets’ training staff looks like a fine value at the end of drafts this year. Keeping with our Simpsons theme, pretty sure Dr. Nick could do a better job than the scrubs treating these injuries.

Brandon Belt – Maybe we were a year early on the hype train? At a round 15 price tag, I’ll pay to find out.

Andre Ethier – No, we haven’t forgotten about you. If your knee is finally right you might win some leagues as a flier OF3.

Jaime Garcia – Not really a “bust,” but HUGE home/road splits kept him from realizing true potential. Maybe he’s afraid of airplanes? Could be huge if he figures out how to pitch on the road.

Jose Tabata – Bloom is off the rose a bit with nagging injuries, but Shane Victorino upside hasn’t gone anywhere.

Adam Dunn – There’s not much more that can be said about his 2011. Hopefully it really was Ozzie Guillen that was the problem and he could go back to hitting 40 HRs for his fantasy owners. Still hits in a favorable environment.

  1. Terrence Mann says:

    Alex Rios? Jayson Werth? Mauer? Zimmerman? Heyward?

  2. Virinder says:

    Bruce Bochy is already high on Nate Schierholtz being the frontrunner for the Giants’ RF spot….and is committed to Huff at 1B…. :/

    Belt won’t get many PA’s unless Huff really blows it in Spring Training, otherwise I’m expecting a June call-up….

  3. AL KOHOLIC says:

    nice value on these picks,but in the razzball leagues,not many of these guys will fall as late as thier adp,i like crawford to and didnt think about the front office changes,yeah he,ll run this year

  4. Giant JJ says:

    Virinder, sure it appears Bochy is down on Belt right now, but is a significantly better player than Schierholtz so I would gamble on Belt while others are sure Belt will spend another season on the outside looking in. Worst case scenario Belt is the 4th OF to start the season. This was a good useful article. Thanks Eric.

  5. BayFilmsSuck says:

    Heyward seems like an obvious example, as a .300/.400/.500 line for him isn’t out of the question at all. Plus, where he’s going to be drafted….

  6. On Belt: spring training ought to shake a few things out; maybe Belt will start, but I’m not betting on it. Schierholz is a solid left-handed bat with plus speed and plus arm. He ain’t sexy, and I’m not drafting him on a 10-team standard, but he is the incumbent in RF, he’s maturing, and he may get hot mid-season. Belt has got plenty of time to work his way in, and if we get more oblique strains like last year, he’ll probably be starting at some point and you can get him on waivers.

  7. Eddy says:

    Anyone who’s dabbled in mock drafts care to mention where Adam Dunn has been falling? I’m really curious.

  8. papasmurf says:

    Very good choices. Unfortunately I already have OF and the corner IF spots filled by keepers.

    Who do you like as bouncebacks for the middle IF and C?

  9. pipa says:

    What happened to the shirts?

  10. Erik

    Erik says:

    Hey guys, as always lots of great comments. I appreciate the time for feedback. Sorry for the delayed response, the holidays have a way of doing that.

    This was by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, so yeah some of the people that others suggested. #heyward, I’m really not bullish on him this year. I think he was overhyped to begin with as a prospect, and these shoulder issues are becoming chronic. The value may be there, but he’s no slam dunk IMO. Still, a case can be made that his value has bottomed out at an all-time low, so I guess he’s a good pick.

    At the infield positions, I like Aaron Hill as a bounceback option. Good situation there and he ended the season on a reasonably productive note.

    #adam dunn conversation- I can’t BELIEVE his ADP is as low as it is. It should normalize as others have said. I mean if he’s there in the 16th round, who could really pass on that? Not me.

    Belt is more of a speculative pick, and he definitely needs some breaks to go his way. I kinda added him as an afterthought. Let’s keep the comments flowing!

  11. josh says:

    Swisher really a 2011 bust? How much more can he improve? I drafted Liriano in the 7th round. Gunna watch him pitch in winterball and see if he takes same route as 2010. Maybe a return to a #2.

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