Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/27/13
Alejandro De Aza was my unanimous sleeper target last year. In every mock draft I did, every actual team I drafted, and every “your fantasy time can’t exist without these players” piece I wrote, De Aza was there.He certainly didn’t disappoint. For the price of a 200-something pick, De Aza delivered top-100 numbers. Given his role as a speed-first leadoff hitter, his nine homers and 50 RBI weren’t category killers, and his 81 runs, 26 steals, and .281 average provided enough juice to make him a regular starter in most fantasy leagues.His 26.1% line drive rate was ridiculously high — actually, it was third in the league behind Joey Votto‘s 30.0% and Jordan Pacheco‘s 26.4% — but De Aza has a strong track record of very good line drive rates and low infield fly rates. He’s a safe bet for another .280+ season in 2013.If there is a blemish on De Aza’s fantasy resume, it’s his poor play against left-handed pitchers. Last season he batted just .248 with one homer and only eight RBI against lefties in 147 plate appearances. Oddly enough his line drive rate was actually higher against left-handed pitchers than versus right-handers while his infield fly rate was lower and his walk and strikeout rates were about the same. Those stats seem to indicate De Aza can be better against southpaws in 2013, but that’s something I’ll need to see before I believe it.At a GlanceStrengths: R, SBNeutral: BA, net SB, SLG, OPSWeaknesses: HR, RBI, SLGPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Austin Jackson (DET)Likely scenario: Ichiro Suzuki (NYY), Angel Pagan (SF), Norichika Aoki (MIL)Worst-case scenario: Denard Span (WAS)Alejando De Aza 2013 Fantasy ProjectionReady for a great “draft this guy, not that guy” comparison? Draft De Aza instead of Austin Jackson. Jackson is good for 110 runs, 10-15 homers, 55-65 RBI, 20-25 SB, and a .285-.300 BA. De Aza should come in around 90 R, 10-12 HR, 50-60 RBI, 30 SB, and a .280-.290 BA.We have both players back-to-back in our rankings (we’ll be flipping them when our 2013 Draft Guide comes out on March 1), but even if you don’t think they’re that close, I guarantee they’re closer than their current ADPs: Jackson is getting drafted 97.7 overall. De Aza is going five-to-seven rounds later at 161.5. My general draft approach has me targeting starting pitchers in the eighth, ninth, and 1oth rounds, right where you’d have to strike for Jackson.Which of these pairings would you rather have in 2013?Jordan Zimmermann (94.0 ADP)/James Shields (95.0) and De AzaBrett Anderson (155.4)/A.J. Burnett (169.1) and JacksonI’d rather have the first combo. De Aza is still an underrated contributor, though his streaky play and struggles against lefties (will that continue?) make him a better target in H2H formats whereas Jackson’s consistency might be worth paying for in roto or season points formats.
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