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Silver League Update: Best and Worst April Values

All the cool kids quote T.S. Eliot when they sum up April baseball, but I'll try to resist the temptation. Still, this is the month where things happen that are crazy enough to make The Waste Land seem intelligible. Consider this one: Chone Figgins has more home runs than Albert Pujols. Infinitely more. Baltimore and Washington are both in first place, and the worst team in baseball isn't the Houston Astros. 

There are good reasons why the baseball season lasts longer than a month.

There's still time to climb out of the hole, no matter how bad it is (almost). If the E-Z sliders can begin the week in first place, drop behind me and into 10th or 11th ... and then back up with the contenders, anything can still happen.

Speaking of anything happening, King Fish 2.0 has reverted to its original name and claimed the top spot in the standings, despite taking Pujols with the first overall pick. I was looking over his team, actually, and wondering what it has that I don't (runs, homers, RBIs) that got me thinking--who are the best and worst values of the young season? Since there can only be one per position, that's how I sorted them. 

You'll notice a lot of first- and second-round picks among the bad values, but don't worry fellow owners: it's players like these that usually turn it around and make us all forget nightmarish Aprils. Among the best values, I ignored the Matt Kemps and Josh Hamiltons of the world--great players having great months isn't great value. That's what you pay for.

Catchers

A.J. Pierzynski has four homers and an average near .330. And he was taken in the 24th round. Did I really pass him over for John Buck? Other catchers have been good -- even great -- but not the last ones taken in the draft. Sure, he'll cool down, but it sure was a nice April.

Geovany Soto, 14th round. Catchers are usually horrible, so it wasn't easy to make the choice. Soto isn't the only terrible catcher out there, but hitting just .135 while driving in nobody but himself is a special kind of execrable. I wonder how many different synonyms for "bad" I'll have to use in this article?

First Base

After years of sneaking Edwin Encarnacion late in drafts only to have him be pretty worthless, the 16th round seems like great value for him. With six bombs, an average over .300, and three steals thrown in for fun, he's hitting like it always seemed like he should have hit. It's not unreasonable to think he's continuing beyond a corner that he began turning partway through last year.

Albert Pujols wins this one pretty handily, as the first overall pick has been hitting like, well, Figgins -- but without the steals. His average is below .230, and he's barely got 10 runs and RBIs combined. He's done. King Fish, I'll give you Chris Davis for him. Everyone else: Don't worry. He'll round back to form sooner than later.

Second Base

Mike Aviles doesn't just play three of the four shallowest positions in fantasy baseball, he's been killing the ball to the tune of a .293 average, four homers, and healthy run, RBI, and steal totals. Let's see ... five categories and three positions ... yeah, he was a good pick in Round 22. Before we get too excited, remember that Aviles has done impressive things in small sample sizes before.

Robinson Cano plays for the Yankees, was drafted in the first round, and has just three RBIs. Ouch. I know his owners were looking for more when they drafted him; I'm pretty confident they'll get it. Like Pujols, he's far too talented to be washed up. You know, like Hanley Ramirez last year.

Shortstop

Derek Jeter has done his best to make up for his double-play partner's deficiencies and prove his doubters (me, and Yankees haters everywhere) wrong with a .386 average, four homers, bunches of runs and RBIs, and plenty of clutch hits. Yes, an end to this level of production will come eventually, but it isn't this month. Picked in the 11th round, his overall production tops the current giants at his position.

Speaking of current giants, Jose Reyes must be having trouble adjusting to Miami, because he's off to a terrible start, with only nine runs and RBIs combined. He's stolen four bases, but that's small consolation for the team that picked him in Round 2.

Third Base

This is the position that really got me thinking about this article, seeing that David Freese, of all people, has 20 RBIs, five home runs, and a batting average over .340. One more good month doesn't make me a Freese believer, but my skepticism is wearing a little thinner. I thought he was a reach in the 13th round, but he's showing me. I still don't really expect it to last, so if you can get value out of him in a trade, I say go for it.

Mark Reynolds has gone from being my preseason I'm-sure-he'll-hit-a-ton-of-home-runs pick to being my least favorite player in baseball. I took him over chuckles and calls of, "Reach!" in the seventh, and it looks like everybody knew what I didn't. Even the Orioles knew, but that didn't help them trade him away. The "slugger" has yet to hit a longball, has just three RBIs and a batting average under .160. Maybe he'll turn it around. Maybe he's this year's Adam Dunn. Maybe his career has fallen off the same cliff Richie Sexson's did...

Outfield

Carlos Beltran, Andre Ethier, and Nick Swisher are my value choices in the outfield. Beltran and Ethier were grabbed in the 10th round, Swisher in the 12th, and all three are mashing the ball. Not in the same way that superstars like Kemp are, but in a way that shames quite a few of the outfielders taken above them. All three have at least five homers and good run and RBI totals. Ethier and Swisher have good batting averages, while Beltran makes up for his .253 average with five steals.

On the bad side of things, we've got two first rounders and a second-round pick. Jacoby Ellsbury has been about as bad as a first rounder can be, batting under .200 and then getting hurt. Justin Upton hasn't been quite so bad, but hitting under .230 with just one homer and one steal isn't exactly first-round material. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to anchor his teams in the power categories and has just one home run. Ouch. Fortunately, all three are good bets to put their terrible Aprils behind them. Honorable mention to Carl Crawford, picked in the seventh round. I assume missing time was factored into that pick, but with a delayed timetable, he's still a disappointment.

Yeah, April. Weird things happen. If you can use those weird things to your advantage (like enjoying a Jeter hot streak or trading for a slumping Stanton), so much the better. If you can't, the last thing you want to do is make a panic trade of an overachiever for an underachiever. Eric Hosmer was just traded for Yadier Molina; that's not the sort of trade that usually ends well.

Those in head-to-head leagues know that April isn't the cruelest month: September is.


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