Now that the fantasy baseball season has finally arrived, it’s time to start looking at some players that may have been overlooked in drafts. While the season is less than a week old, and there aren’t any performances we can fully trust, it’s risky to fully commit to these types of players. That said, Julio Borbon and Chris Tillman are two players that aren’t owned in many leagues that could provide significant value going forward.
Julio Borbon has his faults, but based on his playing time and ability to steal bases, he deserves to be owned in more than 5% of leagues (according to Yahoo). He’s a full-time starter in Texas, and he has the ability to steal a ton of bases if he keeps his job the entire season. On most teams, Borbon could probably act as the “designated steals guy,” or the guy on your bench that you begin starting when you are desperate for steals. While Borbon doesn’t have the strongest plate discipline, his slap hitting approach and speed on the bases make him a candidate to post a higher BABIP than normal, leading to a strong average.
This did not appear to be the case last season, however, as Borbon got off to a terrible start in 2010. In early May, Borbon was hitting below the Mendoza Line due to a depressed BABIP. His luck turned though, and Borbon hit 299/.334/.365 over his last 371 plate appearances. Due to his slow start last season, it appears fantasy owners are hesitant to take a chance on Borbon in 2011. Another reason owners may have soured on Borbon has to do with his low stolen base total from last season. While Borbon only managed to swipe 15 bags last season, he has a strong history of stealing bases throughout the minors (44 combined steals in 2009 and 53 in 2008). As long as Borbon doesn’t suffer the same BABIP induced struggles as last season, he could be a huge boost for owners in need of steals.
The fantasy world may not have known much about Chris Tillman heading into the season, but his performance from last night will make him one the most popular pickups this upcoming week (only 1% owned in Yahoo leagues). In Tillman’s first start of the season, he threw six innings of no-hit ball against the Tampa Bay Rays before being pulled due to his pitch count. Tillman has long been a top prospect of the Baltimore Orioles, and has completely dominated at every minor league level. In the majors, however, his strikeout rate plummeted to 5.31 and he allowed home runs like they were going out of style.
Was yesterday the turning point? Again, it’s too early to take the stats at face value, but this was a great way for Tillman to begin the season. Players like Tillman, who dominate the minor leagues and struggle in their initial taste of the majors, always deserve a second look in fantasy leagues. His struggles from the last two seasons make him more available to owners that still believe in his pure talent and scouting reports. No one has ever doubted Tillman’s ability, and he’s long been discussed as a top prospect, so he’s definitely the type of player worth taking a shot on this early in the season.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.