- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Some of the names rising of late in ESPN live drafts are obvious ones, such as new potential closers Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton. Their situations have changed; thus, their value has. But when it comes to hitters, what makes them suddenly move up in drafts? Sometimes it's about opportunity, but in general, if one of the hitters in a spring position battle was truly attractive to fantasy owners, he probably wouldn't be in a battle! Here are 10 hitters who have risen significantly in average draft position over the past seven days in ESPN snake drafts; I'll try to come up with an explanation as to why their ADP has risen:
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals (up 35.3 spots): Cain is having a terrific spring -- entering Wednesday, he was hitting .431 with four home runs, two stolen bases and 14 runs scored -- and the somewhat surprising demotion of young second baseman Johnny Giavotella has nearly secured the No. 2 lineup spot for the righty-hitting Cain. Acquired in the Zack Greinke trade, Cain spent last season at Triple-A Omaha, even though it appeared he was big league-ready. Cain hit 16 home runs, stole 16 bases and batted .312 there. Knowing that Cain likely will hit right in front of the great Eric Hosmer, and not really the fact that he's raking this spring, has led me to place Cain among my top 50 outfielders, and take him in the top 18 or so rounds of my mixed drafts.
Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (up 9.7 spots): I suppose there are two reasons for Walker rising in drafts. One is that fantasy owners are finding that by the 14th round of drafts, there's not much out there in terms of middle infielders. The other is that the Pirates seem settled on Walker batting cleanup for their underwhelming offense. In theory, this is good news, but then again, Walker spent the majority of his at-bats batting fourth last season, and knocked in only 83 runs in 159 games. I really don't expect a better season, though he is perhaps a bit undervalued.
Kendrys Morales, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (up 7.8 spots): Frankly, I won't be surprised if he keeps on rising from his current 21st-round status to the mid-teens soon. Morales hasn't played in a big league game since May 2010, but his ankle appears healthy now, and fantasy owners are dreaming of another 30-homer, 100-RBI season. Plus, there's kind of a void in the Angels' lineup following Albert Pujols; I don't buy lineup protection, but Pujols will be on base for Morales, which does mean RBI opportunities. It's premature to expect even 400 at-bats for Morales, but if you have a strong offensive base in place, he's certainly a high-reward option.
Jemile Weeks, 2B, Oakland Athletics (up 6.6 spots): Well, his Opening Morning stolen base hasn't come into play yet, so perhaps people are realizing Weeks was good as a rookie and hit .364 (though with only a .370 OBP) this spring. Howard Kendrick of the Angels is also rising; it has to be because second base is so shallow.
Emilio Bonifacio, SS/3B/OF, Miami Marlins (up 4.9 spots): I said a month ago he was ranked far too low for my taste, considering his stolen base aptitude and position versatility. There's no spring battle in center field for the Marlins. It's this guy. And he's hitting second. There's no way I can justify taking Michael Bourn some 13 rounds earlier than Bonifacio when the two guys do the same thing, except Bonifacio can play middle infield. I guess others are finally noticing as well.
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (up 4.5 spots): It's the spring numbers. He's hitting .421 with 12 RBIs. He's still merely a midround pick for me, but certainly if he's healthy, a return to 2009 stats is plausible.
Lucas Duda, OF, New York Mets (up 4.5 spots): He's also having a big spring. One of my big sleepers and a fixture on my teams so far, I almost wish he was having a poor spring so he'd keep slipping in drafts. As such, I'm taking him at least four rounds prior to his current ADP.
Ryan Raburn, 2B/OF, Detroit Tigers (up 4.5 spots): Here's a clear case of an ordinary player hitting spring home runs, and it's overrating him. Raburn has six home runs and 18 RBIs this spring; two of the home runs and a third of the RBIs came in one game, with the wind blowing out, against poor Julio Teheran. (The young right-hander allowed six home runs in two innings that day.) Raburn starts poorly every season, loses playing time, then gets going in August, but it's generally too late to help his owners. He's a career .269 hitter, and his best power numbers (16 home runs, 62 RBIs) aren't special. I'm not saying this year's version of Jake Fox, who hit the most spring home runs last year, is a bad player, but he's 30 now and unlikely to suddenly explode.
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants (up 4.2 spots): He's hitting .370 with power this spring, but the crowded Giants still seem likely to send him to Triple-A any day now. I know, I know, it's horribly wrong, tragic almost. He's so much better than Aubrey Huff, Nate Schierholtz and Willie McCovey. But facts are facts, people. In a standard mixed league I can't make a case to rely on Belt.