It's a shame that Michael Young is demanding a trade because it really is in his best statistical interest to remain a member of the Texas Rangers. It doesn't take long to realize that Young has pretty extreme home/road splits, not only in 2010 but his entire career, and fantasy owners have been relying on those home numbers for years. I won't speculate on where Young might be headed, because I'm skeptical it happens at all. Players demanding trades rarely get what they seek.
If Young wants to play on a strong offensive team, he should stay where he is. The Rangers have a relative chokehold on the top hitters in the American League West, and one would think Young -- even misled, manipulated or whatever he claims -- would want to remain part of the AL champs, whether he's the designated hitter or a super-utility guy. Fantasy owners want him in Texas, want him adding first and second base eligibility and want him hitting second in a terrific batting order.
Based on last season's ESPN Fantasy Player Rater, seven of the top 13 hitters in the AL West were Rangers. One of those players is currently elsewhere (Vladimir Guerrero), but he has been ably replaced (Adrian Beltre). As for the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and awful Seattle Mariners, there's a serious lack of impact offensive players, and it's not a stretch to expect a similar lack of performance this coming season.
Fantasy owners go where the numbers are, and they should continue with, in Player Rater order, Josh Hamilton, Beltre, Nelson Cruz, perhaps Young, David Murphy (surprise!), Elvis Andrus and the brittle Ian Kinsler. Each of these players topped a Player Rater value of 4 in 2010, good for the top 101 among hitters in baseball, and certainly Kinsler is capable of more, since he was top 10 in 2009.
Meanwhile, a sad total of six players from the other three AL West teams made the top-100 hitters in 2010. Let's discuss them, because there might be a surprise or two:
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: I think he's a bit underrated in drafts, but certainly one of these years he won't hit .300 and the stolen bases will be fewer and further between. For the record, Ichiro finished 16th among hitters on the Player Rater last year. He's not slowing down much and makes for a nice fourth-round pick.
Chone Figgins, 2B, Mariners: He's not done yet helping fantasy owners. Yes, Figgins lost 39 points of batting average and scored 52 fewer runs than 2009, but he managed to steal the same 42 bases. He'll be adding third base eligibility again, which never hurts. He just misses my top 10 at second base, and don't assume he can't hit .275 with 85 runs scored again.
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics: The lone Oakland hitter to crack the top 100, Crisp didn't even play half a season. However, he stole 32 bases and batted .279 with 51 runs scored in those 75 games, and he even hit eight home runs. If one extrapolates Crisp's success, he would have been a top-10 player. Those were Carl Crawford numbers! I know, I know, he probably couldn't have maintained that pace for 60-plus steals and 16 home runs. Best I can tell, since 2000, only three players have hit double-digit home runs the same season they stole 55 or more bases (Crawford, Jose Reyes, Scott Podsednik). Crisp has reached 500 at-bats only twice in his career but he has showed power, and 2010 looked like his first breakout speed campaign; the 32 steals (in 35 attempts) were a career best. If Crisp can stay healthy, based on 2010, he'd be a dynamic fantasy option. As of now, he probably will be free-agent fodder in most leagues. Take him in the final round.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: His draft status likely will be a bit too low because owners will choose younger players, but Hunter delivered another solid season in2010. He has hit 21, 22 and 23 home runs in his three Angels seasons and he appears batting average safe, and while the successful stolen bases dropped (he was 9 of 21), at least he still tries. He could get that number back into the high teens. I have few concerns about Hunter's production but he's a top-100 player.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Similarly, reports of his demise are a bit exaggerated. Abreu added some long-lost power at the expense of batting average, while still stealing enough bases to matter. Only seven players delivered 20 or more home runs with stolen bases last season. It's possible this is the new Abreu, with a lower batting average and higher strikeout rate, but I can't make that claim yet after one season. This is a terrific fourth fantasy outfielder.
Howard Kendrick, 2B, Angels: He's only 27 years old, so I'm not ready to ask the question, "Is this all there is?" But I would like to see more. The problem is Kendrick's production over 158 games in 2010 was no better than over 105 games in 2009. He hit the same 10 home runs, his steals went from 11 to 14, he lost batting average points, scored only six more runs and walked only eight more times in 244 more at-bats. Awesome. I can pick up Mark Ellis in May to do that. I think Kendrick has some power potential but I can't make him close to a top second baseman on draft day based on that.