Baseball's winter meetings begin this weekend in Dallas. From a fantasy baseball aspect, I'm always watching to see what teams are thinking, which players are potentially on the move and how much money will be spent on overrated closers. When one player moves on, it generally affects others.
Ever so briefly, as we recently published my bold predictions for pitchers in 2012 and that might take some time to digest, here are five hitters with fantasy futures to watch in the coming days, weeks and months.
Yonder Alonso, OF, Cincinnati Reds: It still looks odd to see the "OF" after his name, because he's a first baseman. He's not really an outfielder, and the reps he took at third base didn't go well. But he is definitely a hitter and the Reds have a pretty good one at first base (Joey Votto). Rumor has it that Alonso will be moved for pitching. Wise move. I see Alonso being a 25-homer guy soon. He produced a .943 OPS over 98 plate appearances with the Reds in 2011, and is ready for regular duty now. As a fantasy first baseman, you'd look elsewhere, but since he's outfield-eligible for 2012, I see mixed league value if he gets opportunity.
Allen Craig, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: The assumption has been that if Albert Pujols signs elsewhere -- you know Theo Epstein wants to cause trouble here -- Lance Berkman would move to first base and Craig would play right field. Well, what if Craig gets moved? I doubt a Pujols signing happens soon, but if you're holding the slugging Craig in a dynasty league, this is an interesting time to perhaps still buy low. If I thought he'd play regularly, I could see him hitting .300 with 20 home runs. He could also be stuck at 200 at-bats for another year. The Cardinals have to consider selling high on him; it's not like he's young or adds defensive value.
Josh Reddick, OF, Boston Red Sox: It sure looks like this fellow can hit, and the J.D. Drew contract is mercifully off the books, but this is also a big-market team that could sign an old guy at any point to hold down the fort in right field for half the season. That would be a mistake. Reddick struggled down the stretch and ceased drawing walks, but in a deep lineup he'd be fine hitting .280 with 15 home runs and a .350 OBP as the No. 7 hitter. He handles himself well enough against lefty pitching too. Plus, Ryan Kalish is lurking whenever he gets healthy. I'd just hate to see some David DeJesus-type -- sorry, Theo -- signed to block the Boston right field kids. And by the way, Ryan Lavarnway is the backup catcher, but if David Ortiz goes elsewhere, he would make for an interesting designated hitter, wouldn't he?
Emilio Bonifacio, SS/3B/OF, Miami Marlins: Well, nobody's laughing anymore. He finally figured out how to hit, and the wheels were never in question. However, if Jose Reyes becomes a Marlin, shifting Hanley Ramirez to third base, what happens to Bonifacio? The only other spot available would be center field, and I doubt the organization is simply giving up on 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan. Sure, he's not really a center fielder and he can't stay healthy, but his upside is considerable. Bonifacio is what he is. I'd argue Bonifacio earned leadoff duties for a big league team, and fantasy owners would love a 40-steal guy eligible at shortstop and third base -- remember when Chone Figgins had skills? -- so let's see how this plays out. We could actually feel bad for Bonifacio.
Tyler Pastornicky, SS, Atlanta Braves: Speaking of middle infielders with speed, I'm interested to see where Alex Gonzalez ends up. No, I don't want him anywhere near my fantasy or simulation teams -- OBP matters! -- but the Braves and San Francisco Giants have potentially young, interesting, in-house options. Pastornicky was acquired in the Yunel Escobar trade. Soon to be 22 years old, Pastornicky has 30-steal potential, though no power. Even if starts out as merely a Ryan Theriot type, the steals and batting average will be worth owning in deep leagues. As for the Giants, Brandon Crawford probably isn't ready to hit .250, but at least he has upside. In an NL-only league, his 10-12 home runs would have value, but not if a Gonzalez- or Clint Barmes-type is signed. By the way, nice going, Pirates. Block the speedy Chase D'Arnaud. Your first free agent signing of at least $10 million since Steve Buechele in 1991 is Clint Barmes. What could go wrong?