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Sleepers & Busts: Frank Francisco, Alex Gordon

To see Frank Francisco on your fantasy squad every day isn't an especially pleasant experience. Somehow, he's been lumped in with the likes of the Kevin Gregg types, which is to say that when he pitches well, you feel like you need to take a shower, and when he doesn't, your self-loathing rages while you rationalize dropping him for Jack Cust's impending hot streak -- a hot streak, by the way, that'll never come.

Alex Gordon, meanwhile, is a guy with whom you might have proudly pulled into sixth place prior to 2011. He's a kid from the Heartland, a former top draft pick of the then-pitiable Royals who came too close to never even scratching at potential that was unfairly overestimated in the first place. He finally attained post-hype-breakout status last season, though, rounding out his career arc such that if it were scored, it'd go something like the "Running On Empty"-"Go Your Own Way"-"Against The Wind" trifecta from Forrest Gump's jogging-across-the-country sequence.

But these are prejudices, dear readers, narratives devised by an evil force (or perhaps me) -- one that is conspiring to trick you into making bad selections on Draft Day. Let's try to thwart these with some truth missiles.

Frank Francisco, Mets, ADP: 231

Do fantasy owners not realize Francisco will be the Mets' closer in 2012? The right-hander's current average draft position, per Mock Draft Central, is roughly 231, which is early in the 19th round of a 12-teamer. For context, he's currently being drafted after a handful of setup men, even a few pedestrian ones like Francisco Cordero.

Look, Francisco is a solid pitcher. He's struck out well over a batter per inning in his career, and though his 3.91 BB/9 ain't pretty, he's gotten his control, um, under control over the past three years: 2.74, 3.08, 3.20. As well, you might be surprised to learn that his highest SIERA over the past four seasons was a not-bad-at-all 3.04 in 2011. That'll play.

The news gets better from there, as Francisco has left baseball's toughest division for the National League and the pitcher-friendly confines of Citi Field. The outfield fences have been moved in in Queens, so it remains to be seen exactly how differently fly balls will play, but I can't see the ballpark being any worse than neutral for pitchers -- and even that seems a stretch.

The only red flag from where I sit is the matter of Francisco's durability: He's spent time on the DL in each of the past three years. The silver lining, at least, is that he's still managed to toss about 50 innings in each of those years, so it's not as if he's held together by Scotch Tape and chewing gum. Injury might seem inevitable now, but good luck trying to guess if and when that'll occur.

In the meanwhile, watch equivalent (or even less valuable) pitchers fly off your league's draft board, and keep Fran-Fran in your back pocket. And in the unlikely event someone snipes him right before you're about to pick, you can always throw a chair.

Alex Gordon, Royals, ADP: 62

Al-Gor's long-awaited arrival (23 HR, 101 R, 87 RBI, 17 SB, .303 AVG) was the feel-good hit of the summer last year in Kansas City and fantasyland alike. You'd have to be immune to narratives a hard-hearted man to think otherwise.

But with the newfound celebration of Gordon comes the inevitable backlash. In 2012, that's likely to arrive unceremoniously in the form of a healthy regression from 2011's .358 BABIP, which will in turn make it difficult for the left-handed hitter to replicate his .303 batting average.

The extent to which Gordon's average will slide back is tough to figure, even beyond BABIP's typical slipperiness. He almost certainly won't hit .300, but after that, it's sketchy, and much has been written on the subject, with varying conclusions. Will it be .260, .270, or .280? I'd split the baby, but even still, Gordon has the earmarks of a perceived five-cat contributor who may stretch the bounds of the label's definition with a little less luck. Plus, he'll no longer have the bonus of third-base eligibility that he had a year ago. Bummer.

Gordon, who'll turn 28 next month, will be worthy of a roster spot this season, for sure, but I'm not taking him in the fifth round. Carlos Beltran and Andre Ethier, for example, are roughly comparable offensive contributors who are going off the board about six rounds later. Neither of those veterans is likely to approach Gordon's projected 14 steals, but then again, they're both likely to hit for a higher batting average.

Gordon is here to stay as a worthwhile own, but don't pay full price for his 2011, because you'll be chasing a ghost.



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