It is no secret that players seem to play better when they are in a contract year. The list of players in contract years this season is tremendous. It will be easy to track these guys and see if the contract year theory carries weight this time around. Of the top 100 batters according to Bloomberg Sports, here are some of the names that jump out at me:
Prince Fielder is coming off a monster 2009 campaign that saw him belt 46 homers, drive in 141 runs, cross the plate 103 times himself, and post an OPS of 1.014. Oh yeah, the big boy also played in all 162 games and has averaged 159 games per season over the past four years. CHONE has him ranked as the second-best offensive player on the board, so when the guy before you takes a flier on Ryan Howard and his steadily declining OPS, pull the trigger on Fielder if you are targeting one bagger with your first pick and you are drafting second or later.
Jayson Werth is also coming off of a monster year, his first season as a full-time player. Werth had a great year both in the real world and the fantasy one. He almost cracked triple digits in both runs and RBIs and put up 36 bombs and 20 stolen bases. He has already stated that he plans on testing free agency after this season, and while Citizen’s Bank Park is not the bandbox it is perceived to be, the Phillies lineup is every bit as good as advertised. Werth could certainly put up better numbers this year than last, so make sure you have him highlighted on draft day.
Carlos Pena is another great one bagger to target. He will not hit for average as well as Fielder will, nor will he come close to the rbi total of Fielder. Pena will break the century mark in RBIs, though, and is a 40 homer threat. So while Pena is nowhere near as good of an option as some of the first tier-one baggers (tiers are coming, I promise), if the contract year theory is in effect he could put up numbers similar to Adrian Gonzalez, who also happens to be in a contract year.
Julio Borbon is one of my favorite sleeper targets this draft. If you want to compete in your league, you have to at least be respectable in all categories. That includes stolen bases, and Borbon could break out as a 50 bag threat. Keeping in mind that the contract year theory requires us to be optimistic, Borbon will also hit close to .310 while crossing the plate about 90 times. While his power numbers will leave a lot to be desired, his help to your average runs and stolen bases will make you happy that you passed on Brad Hawpe (another contract year guy).
Paul Konerko is another interesting first baseman on the list. Last year dude did what he always does, matching his career .277 batting average and hitting for an OPS of .842 (just one-thousandth off of his career .843). While his home run totals have gone down, he still is no slouch. Dude had 28 in 2009 and could dial in and go for 35 this season.
These are just a few of the many contract year targets this fantasy baseball season. While I’m not endorsing all of these players as guys to necessarily target, they are all guys who should be on your radar and selected if the value is there. Of course, guys like Fielder will not make it out of the first round anyway, but will you pass on Howard and take him if given the chance