Friends who play fantasy baseball ask me all the time about possible picks, and while I don't know about value relative to the rounds in a fantasy draft in the way Eric Karabell or Matthew Berry do, these are some of the names I've mentioned to them -- players who aren't necessarily at the top of rankings.
1. Paul Maholm | LHP, Atlanta Braves
He doesn't throw particularly hard and he's had middling success so far in his career. But he's a smart guy who, at 30, has accumulated a lot of knowledge, and there's something about him that reminds me of Jamie Moyer in how he seems to be gradually figuring out how to get maximum use out of the pitching weapons he has. Last year, the percentage of fastballs he threw dropped dramatically, from 52.2 percent to 41.4 percent, and the number of sliders increased to a career-high 30.4 percent -- and his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped significantly, to 2.64. He has started to learn how to use hitters' natural anxiety against them.
After posting a 3.66 ERA for the Pirates in 2011, he had a 3.67 ERA for the Cubs and Braves in 2012, and in 2013, he'll be pitching in front of some really good defensive infielders, in Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman, and a pretty good defensive outfield, in Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton.
I don't think he's ever going to win a Cy Young Award, but he could have a pretty good season.
2. Josh Beckett | RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
All the elements are in place for a major statistical bounce-back season: He's switching from the heavy-hitting AL East to the lighter lineup fare of the NL West, and like a lot of veteran pitchers, he'll make good use of the pitcher's spot in deciding whom to work to as he faces the middle of the order with runners on base. Plus, Dodger Stadium is a pitcher's dream, with the distant outfield fences and the night air. It's a small sample size, but in his three starts in his new home ballpark after being traded by Boston last year, Beckett allowed three runs and struck out 20 in 18 innings. This will be a very different place for him than Fenway Park, if he can stay healthy.