Sometimes a player is just so good in one category that you’re willing to look past his oftentimes large inadequacies in others. Dee Gordon was one such player last year (though that didn’t quite work out) and anyone investing a keeper selection in Billy Hamilton this year feels the same about him.
Here are 10 players who epitomize the label “one-category stud.”
10. Kyle Lohse, SP, FA
Maybe it’s unfair to call Lohse a one-category stud — after all, he’s won 30 games in the last two years while delivering great ERA and WHIP numbers — but Lohse’s value is tied completely to his ERA. If he gets a little unlucky and his ERA balloons up to 4.00 or higher, he doesn’t have the strikeouts to compensate and his fantasy value will plummet.
9. Joe Mauer, C, MIN
OK, so Mauer does score a good number of runs for a catcher and should tally 80+ RBI batting at the heart of the Twins lineup, but Mauer’s ascended to the ranks of the elite at catcher because he’s the only player at the position who’s going to post a great batting average (until Salvador Perez breaks out, that is). Like Lohse, that might not make Mauer a one-category player, but batting average is the only place he really excels, and you’ll need to pay a premium to own him.
8. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, TOR
Before he got hurt, Bonifacio was leading the league with 30 steals in just 64 games. While he obviously isn’t going to crush 30 homers, he’s in a nice lineup in Toronto and can steal a ton of bases and score oodles of runs. He also has eligibility at multiple positions; he just needs to stay healthy.
7. Ben Revere, OF, PHI
Revere is another guy who gets on base, so he’ll get you runs and hits if you league scores hits. He also batted .294 last season, so the Phillies have a solid guy for the top-third of their lineup. Revere didn’t hit a homer last year, making him perfect for this list, but if he steals another 40 bases, he’ll be worth drafting.
6. Tommy Milone, SP, OAK
Milone was 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. While those numbers might not be good enough for fantasy snobs, they’re pretty good numbers from an unheralded pitcher on a team that no one thought would win its division. I’ll be targeting Milone as a second or third bench pitcher. He just needs to learn to pitch away from Oakland.
5. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT
Alvarez teetered between Triple-A and the big club before 2012 and he looked to be headed down after a slow start. Alvarez eventually found his stride, hitting 25 doubles with 30 HR and 85 RBIs, though he only hit .244 and scored just 64 runs. When you swing for the fences every at-bat, you’re likely to fan 180 times or more.
4. Yu Darvish, SP, TEX
Darvish was most likely over-drafted due to his reputation overseas, but although his ERA was 3.90, he did strike out 220 batters. He walked 89 but won 16 games — everywhere a trade-off! Having one of the best offenses in the league likely helped Darvish win 16 games, but if you took a chance, you were rewarded this year. It’ll be fascinating to see if he can get his walk rate, and thus his WHIP, under control in 2013
3. Jim Johnson, RP, BAL
If you own Johnson this year, and especially if you owned him last year, it’s solely for the saves. While most relievers blow batters away and post strikeout rates around a K per inning, Johnson’s strikeout rate was a Lohse-esque 5.37 K/9. In 68.2 innings last year, Johnson struck out a whopping 41 batters. Craig Kimbrel struck out his 41st batter on June 19th. While Johnson excelled in ERA (2.49) and WHIP (1.02), he doesn’t pitch enough innings to really have a huge impact in either. Our ERA IP Conversion Chart tells us Johnson’s 2.49 ERA over 68.2 IP was worth about as much as 3.45 ERA over 180 innings or a 3.50 ERA over 210 innings. It’s good, just not that good.
2. Bud Norris, SP, HOU
Norris won’t win games pitching for the Astros, his career ERA is 4.42 in 563.2 innings, and he’s never had a WHIP better than 1.33. Somehow, Norris still finds his way onto fantasy rosters every year, and it’s because he strikes out batters with the best of them. If he can stay healthy enough, Norris might find his way to 180 strikeouts with some very average numbers everywhere else. And someone will own him because of that.
1. Adam Dunn, 1B/DH, CHW
Most people probably didn’t consider drafting Dunn after one of the most historically terrible seasons ever. If you were savvy enough to either draft him late or swipe him from the waiver wire, you got cheap power. Dunn crushed 41 homers and drove in 96, but he’s not worth much in the hits/average department.