It would be easy to paint Kansas City Royals players with one sad brush, assuming that from a fantasy baseball sense, few of them can help us. But that's just not the case. Let's see, we have ace Zack Greinke, closer Joakim Soria and first baseman Billy Butler ... is that really it?
Looking at ownership percentages in ESPN standard mixed leagues, only four Royals are owned in more than 10 percent of leagues, including third baseman Alex Gordon (29.3), but he's rapidly being dropped because of his thumb injury. Hey, even for the Royals, this is kind of hard to believe. Certainly in deeper formats there are interesting helpers here. It's sad, but one of the top 10 most-owned Royals is a relief pitcher who happens to share his name with a top-5 overall fantasy pick -- in another organization (an obvious mistake). Anyway, my goal is to spread the knowledge of those other Royals to consider, to fight the good fight!
Top 10 Royals, ESPN ownership
T1. Zack Greinke, SP, 100 percent
T1. Joakim Soria, RP, 100 percent
T1. Billy Butler, 1B, 100 percent
4. Alex Gordon, 3B, 29.8 percent
5. Scott Podsednik, OF, 6.3 percent
6. Rick Ankiel, OF, 4.2 percent
7. Alberto Callaspo, 2B, 2.5 percent
8. Ryan Braun, RP, 2.8 percent
9. David DeJesus, OF, 2.4 percent
10. Chris Getz, 2B, 1.1 percent
To me, the most undervalued player is outfielder Scott Podsednik. While there really isn't a shortage of stolen base options in the outfield this season, this is a guy who stole 30 bases in 2009 while hitting .304 and adding seven home runs. I hope the fact Podsednik is a Royal hasn't tainted his value, because from a pure statistics slant, he shouldn't be so underrated. Podsednik was the No. 29 outfielder on the 2009 Player Rater, beating out Adam Dunn, Hunter Pence and, well, quite a few other top-100 players. Now he's not being drafted? Meanwhile, Shane Victorino is considered an eighth-round talent just months after barely topping Podsednik on the Player Rater. Podsednik is a terrific value, and he's available in 93 percent of leagues! Go get him before he steals so many bases that others have to take notice.
One other Royal deserves attention right away: Alberto Callaspo. Eligible at second base and third base in fantasy, Callaspo is manning the hot corner while Gordon is recuperating from his broken thumb. But let's be honest here: Judging by the way Gordon has hit so far in his career, Callaspo is the better hitter. Callaspo batted .300 last season with 11 home runs, 73 RBIs and 79 runs scored, and his batting average was critical because he racked up 576 at-bats, adding a lot of hits to your aggregate pool. Chris Getz is the new second baseman because he's a strong defender, and he did steal 25 bases himself last season, but I find it hard to believe Callaspo will be a reserve if Gordon pushes him out. If so, then look at Getz.
I play in numerous deep fantasy leagues, including a 20-team mixed league, AL- and NL-only formats and other leagues that would have me paying attention to the likes of Mike Morse, for example. Here are five hitters owned in fewer than 5percent of leagues I'm watching closely as deep-league pickups.
Edgar Renteria, SS, San Francisco Giants (4.5 percent owned): He might be sort of a punch line in fantasy circles lately, and I agree he's in decline, but Renteria seemed rejuvenated in the first series of the year, going 8-for-11 with three walks and three RBIs. He's only two seasons removed from a 10-homer campaign, and three years ago he batted .332. I could see him hitting .275 with double-digit home runs and stolen bases, which should be enough to get him owned in deep leagues.
Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals (3.7 percent owned): Desmond certainly looked good homering off Cole Hamels on Wednesday, and he later added an RBI double. He seems to fit well in the No. 2 lineup spot, and he brings the upside to hit better than .280 with double-digit home runs and maybe even 20 stolen bases. I thought he would be a bit overdrafted coming off his late-2009 performance, but that was not the case.
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Luke Scott, OF, Baltimore Orioles (2.4 percent owned): What does this guy have to do to get noticed? Scott hit 25 home runs in 2009 and 23 homers in '08, and in neither season did he garner 500 at-bats. The Orioles want to play him regularly, but his struggles against left-handed pitching and injuries have held him back. Scott, who has a career slugging percentage of .495, is going to hit more than 20 home runs this season. Heck, he already has one homer.
Carlos Guillen, OF, Detroit Tigers (1.4 percent owned): Durability is obviously a problem here, but Guillen is a career .287 hitter and is only three seasons removed from a 21-homer, 102-RBI, 13-steal campaign. He's hitting fifth for the Tigers, right after my MVP choice Miguel Cabrera, and doesn't need to play the field, which hopefully keeps him healthy. I could see a strong-batting-average season from him, with 15 or so home runs.
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Oakland Athletics (0.6 percent): Let's dig deep, shall we? Sweeney is apparently the team's choice to bat third in the order, and while we might think that's silly, it creates opportunity. Sweeney really hasn't shown much power or speed in the major leagues over nearly 1,000 at bats, and health has been a problem, but we also know that the major league average for the No. 3 spot in the lineup last season was 100 RBIs. It's why Casey Kotchman has become viable. Let's see if Sweeney has the goods to handle the batting slot before we dismiss him.