B.J. Upton, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay
I've been saying it since November, B.J. Upton is a "poor man's" Hanley Ramirez. Go ahead and compare the numbers....
Upton: .300/24/82/22/86runs in 474AB
Hanley: .332/29/81/51/125runs in 639AB
Lets's give Upton another 120AB and you have to be looking at potential .300+/30/100/30/100 basically saying in 120+ more AB's Upton can hit 6 more HR, 18 more RBI, steal 8 more bases and score 14 more times. In most 10-14 team mixed auction drafts, you can steal B.J. Upton for approximately $27, give or take a few bucks where as Hanley Ramirez, who might offer a slightly higher AVG and 10-15 more steals batting in the 3rd slot and can go from $45+ making Upton a fantastic value. Not to mention, he has multiple eligibility at 2B, a weak position this season, and the OF.
Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, Houston
Same concept here with Upton as far as versatility and potential to put up first round type numbers. Berkman had a tough year last year and disappointed many despite having numbers that turned out to be decent. His 3-year average is .295/34/107/5/89 and although Berkman doesn't have first round type numbers on average, he has the potential to hit .300+/40+/120+/90+ with a 5-10 Sb's mixed in there. I like his odds considering he has a chip on his shoulder from last season, table setters batting in front of him with Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui and solid protection behind him with Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence. I like the potential for Berkman to be more consistent this season and he can be had in your auction draft between $26 and $30, which to me is a great value considering managers will pay close to $40 or more for Miguel Cabrera who has the same potential with with a higher average. There is no need to pay $10-$15 more for twenty or thirty extra points in batting average, as you can find batting average later in the auction. Plus, Berkman, although seemingly inconsistent, has shown that even in the worst of seasons, he can produce quality fantasy stats.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota
After winning the MVP over Derek Jeter in 2006, Morneau started the season with a bang hitting .295 with 24 HR in the first half, but then preceded to fade down the stretch to finish batting .271 with 31 HR. Talk about a monster slump. There are a few factors here that I cannot ignore. First, we have seen Morneau boast a fine offensive season in 2006, hitting 24 HR in the first half of last season show that he has possible 40+HR potential. Would anyone disagree? The other thing is that Morneau turns 27 in May. Ooooh, yummy yummy, that magical age of 27. Now, not every 27 year old breaks out, but considering the 2006 league MVP bombed down the stretch last season, I have to believe that he'll make a charge out of the gates in 2008. He's got a revamped lineup, not the best, but workable and he's got the youth and power, so I like his chances to rebound big here. What's more, Morneau can be stolen in the auction for $24on the low end and $30 on the high end. $30 for .295/35/120 is a far price, considering managers were spending close to and over $40 last season. If Morneau is nominated and waiting for a final bid of $27, go for it!
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay
Pena burst in the scene last year banging 46 HR out of no where and turns out to be one of this years best keeper options in most auction leagues. Here's the thing about Pena, he hit 46 HR in 490 AB. Let's assume he comes back to earth, do you think he'll still hit at least 35 with an extra 100 or so AB? I do. Tampa Bay gave him a new contract so they must feel he is for real too. There are a lot of skeptical people out there but even if you expect the worst, .270/35/100 with a .400+OBP, that's worth $20 in the auction, right? Yep, that's what I am seeing Pena go for, anywhere between $17 and $24 depending on when he's nominated. The upside here is .280/40/120 really with potential to add a few stats or minus a few. Pena is one of this years auction draft best kept secrets. You are essentially investing in the same potential as Justin Morneau, just a few bucks cheaper, in a better offense, and smack dab in the middle of his prime turning 30 in May.
Oliver Perez, SP, New York Mets
Depending on when players are nominated, Perez can be had from $5 to $1 in normal 12 team drafts. I like to compare him too Scott Kazmir who can cost anywhere from $15 - $20 depending on nomination. Look at last year's stats....
Kazmir 13-9/3.48/1.38/239 in 206 IP
Perez 15-10/3.56/1.31/174 in 177IP
Looking at this, and considering that Perez is only 26, you can see that he has considerable upside when compared to a Scott Kazmir who is only 24. With Perez, you get the opportunity to grab more wins and little better WHIP. ERA is close to a wash and Kazmir obviously has the K advantage while Perez has the same K potential(as we have seen in past years). My theory here is why pay $15-$20 for Kazmir when you can have possibly 3-5 more wins, the same potential ERA, the same potential chance to break out, but just 30-40 less K's? We have seen Perez nab 200+K's a few years ago, so we know the talent was there. 2007 for Perez was certainly a step in the right direction towards respectable. I believe Perez grows on last year's success and you see another season of growth. Best part is, he's super cheap on draft day. Steal Perez for $3 and run. Even if Kazmir slips to $15, steal him too and laugh all the way to a championship!