PRESTON WILSON (CF), Houston Astros:
Caution: Wilson will be an injury risk again this year, so the veteran has been slipping far down draft orders everywhere.
Payoff: Preston will benefit from moving from the cavernous RFK to the friendly confines of Minute Maid Juice Park. This is the same Minute Maid that transformed Lance Berkman from an adequately tooled Texan into a perennial superstar.
What to Expect: If he stays relatively healthy, Wilson should improve on his combined power numbers from last year (25 HR, 90 RBI). If you can deal with a .250-.270 batting average, Wilson’s power numbers will not disappoint.
Draft Him…if he slips past the 9th round in your fantasy draft.
WILY MO PENA (RF), Boston Red Sox:
Caution: Pena’s strikeout per at-bat ratio is alarming. Given a full season of plate appearances, Pena has the slim chance to make Adam Dunn look like a disciplined hitter.
Payoff: Wily Mo will likely become a protected, middle of the order bat in one of the best lineups in baseball. At 24, Pena has tremendous upside and is eager for his first chance to produce big numbers in a big market.
What to Expect: With one of the quickest swings in baseball, Pena should abuse the Green Monster night in and night out in a Red Sox lineup that will consistently produce RBI opportunities for the big man.
Draft Him…if Red Sox nation hasn’t already gobbled him up before round 12.
CLINT BARMES (SS), Colorado Rockies:
Caution: Barmes will be one of many young bats in the middle of the Rockies order. Beware of the dreaded sophomore slump.
Payoff: Barmes was walking away with Rookie of the Year honors before suffering a freak injury at the beginning of June last year. He will play in the best offensive park in all of baseball and can fill your SS position if you can’t land Tejada or Furcal.
What to Expect: With power to all fields and a great eye (only 36 K’s in 350 at-bats last year), Barmes should put up numbers comparable to other veteran shortstops at half the price.
Draft Him…if you look at your roster in the late rounds and realize you haven’t fulfilled the SS requirement. Barmes has been falling deep in draft orders, so keep an eye out for a late-round steal.
OLIVER PEREZ (SP), Pittsburgh Pirates:
Caution: He’s a big risk following a woeful 2005 season in which he lost sight of his mechanics.
Payoff: Perez should be a top of the rotation starter for a Pirates team that many are picking to be spoilers in the NL Central. He has the stuff to be a top-10 pitcher and could easily fall into your hands as late as the last two rounds.
What to Expect: If Perez can relocate his late-breaking slider, 12+ wins and 200+ strikeouts are well within reach.
Draft Him…if you are able to hedge the risk by acquiring him in the last 3 rounds.
MARK LORETTA (2B), Boston Red Sox:
Caution: Loretta is 34 and coming off injury.
Payoff: Before his injury plagued campaign last year, Loretta had averaged 15 HR and 75 RBI in his previous two seasons. Those are great numbers for a 2B position.
What to Expect: Barring injury, Loretta is a balanced hitter that defends the plate and puts the ball in play. He should score many runs batting in front of perennial powerhouses Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
Draft Him…whenever you need a 2b. Loretta is a steal at any round past round 5.