by Dave De Wit
Last week Will Overton covered the unknown values of the Milwaukee Brewers starters not name Yovani Gallardo (click here to view), which brought to mind a trio of hitters for Milwaukee not named Ryan Braun. These three non-Brauns, unlike the early 90’s rock group 4 Non Blondes, are not one-hit wonders. The hits keep on coming with these three as they look to provide substantial value in 2013.
The players I’m referring to are Norichika Aoki, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks. Between the age of Weeks and Ramirez and Aoki’s under-the-radar season, these three can be had cheaper in drafts than they ought to be. Let’s take a look at them one by one:
From a fantasy perspective, Aoki’s impressive rookie campaign came at the perfect time. With the spotlight on Mike Trout, Yu Darvish, Bryce Haper and others, Aoki was left in the shadows where he quietly put together a solid fantasy season of 30 steals, 81 runs, 10 home runs and a .288 average, which was enough to make Aoki a Top 30 outfielder.
Aoki has great speed and the Brewers love to run – proven by their league-leading 158 stolen bases last year – so his 30 steals are certainly repeatable. From June on, Aoki almost exclusively hit leadoff and looks to do so again this year. With a full season of hitting in front of Weeks, Braun and Ramirez, 80 runs looks more like a floor with 90-100 runs very possible.
The ten homers are also believable considering Aoki averaged 13.5 homers in his last six seasons in Japan (and they play 18 fewer games a year), and it can’t hurt that Miller Park was the most homer-friendly park in 2012 according to ESPN Park Factors. To top things off, his average isn’t just legitimate, it has room to grow. As fantasy writer Paul Sporer pointed out on his website, Aoki hit for a .653 average on line drives last year compared to the league’s .718 average on liners. With any sort of progression to the mean, the 31 year-old outfielder will be hovering around a .300 average in 2013.
Every year it’s the same thing with Aramis: he struggles through the first few months, everyone writes him off because of his age and every year he turns it around and dominates the second half. Over the past three seasons his OPS in March/April and May were just .635 and .704 respectively. However his OPS in the second half of those three years was .920! The slow starts have led to many fantasy owners writing off his career, not realizing just how amazing he has been the rest of those seasons.
The 34-year-old slugger put up 25+ home runs in those three years and has increased all four counting stats each year. He’s coming off of two straight seasons of a .300+ batting average that were accompanied with realistic BABIPs of .308 & .310. His two straight years of 90+ RBIs (he had 105 last year) won’t be dropping anytime soon as he will continue hitting fourth in a potent Brewers’ line-up, right behind the best hitter in the National League.
Don’t let the slow starts scare you; Aramis Ramirez is a safe, above-average fantasy commodity. He can easily perform at the same level as the top third basemen while being the 7th or 8th player drafted at the hot corner.
Speaking of slow starters, there were few players who started slower in 2012 than Rickie Weeks. At the All-Star Break, Weeks was hitting .199 and was cut from many fantasy teams in 10 and 12 team mixed leagues. He rebounded nicely putting up 13 homers and 10 steals with a .261 average in the second half, but his stock didn’t rebound at all. Weeks’ current average draft position at Yahoo! sits at 130th overall, making him the 10th second baseman being drafted.
Since his breakout season in 2010, Weeks have averaged 23 home runs, 91 runs, and 12 steals per year. His average has struggled because of his strike out rate, which annually sits over 20%, but it’s not down to the level of a batting average anchor. With his power-speed ability and run scoring potential hitting at the top of the Brewers’ order, Weeks can be a solid contributor to your fantasy team at a premium position.
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