Only a couple weeks until spring training games start and it is never too early to figure out what players to target during draft day. The AL West does have some quality hitters such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and Michael Morse, but there are a few guys who aren’t high on the radar who you should make sure are on your draft list in the latter rounds.
Houston Astros: Brett Wallace, 1B
After switching to the American League, Brett Wallace will be a force to be reckoned with come April. He may have to visit Safeco Field multiple times each season, but he also gets the joys of Arlington Ball Park too.
The 26-year-old did not have much playing time in 2012 due to no space for him on the roster, but he should be ready to play every day come spring training. He played in 66 games after being recalled to replace Carlos Lee in the lineup.
The left-handed first baseman finished with 9 home runs and 24 RBI in 66 games and 229 at-bats. He hit only .253 and stuck out 73 times, but his jump in power numbers should help this team in the long run.
The Astros need someone who can bring those runners in with the long ball and Wallace can be one of those guys in the near future. He is now up in the majors for the long haul and the playing time will help his game.
Los Angeles Angels: Mark Trumbo, LF
In the last two seasons, Mark Trumbo has averaged 30.5 home runs and 92 RBIs and he has not even been playing every day. He is what the Angels have used to fill a hole in the lineup that the oft-injured and underproductive Vernon Wells has basically voided.
The 27-year-old has taken his game to the next level and the Angels need to take advantage by playing him 155 or more games in 2013. His type of production at the plate cannot be replaced by Wells or anyone else for that matter.
The right-handed slugger has been placed on the back burner since the rising stardom of Mike Trout and even though he strikes out a lot (153 times in 544 at-bats in 2012), he still has the potential to drive in those much-needed runs in the later innings.
His career .259 average could go up if he focuses on not striking out as much during Spring Training. His .302 OBP is nothing to brag about, but the walks will come if he is more patient at the plate. It might not be showing now, but Trumbo has the mechanics of a great hitter for the next decade or so if he can stay on the field.
Oakland Athletics: Jed Lowrie, SS
After a pretty solid level of production with the Astros in 2012, Jed Lowrie will likely be the starting shortstop for the Athletics in 2013. In only 97 games, he hit 16 home runs and drove in 42 runs. His .244 average is right around his career .250 mark.
For the first four years of his career, Lowrie played for the Red Sox and was mainly used as a utility guy. Before his breakout season with the Astros, his career-high was 9 home runs. He got hurt early on with the Astros and that really hampered his production.
The 28-year-old is just around the corner from an even better season with the A’s in 2013. The lineup is filled with players who do all the right things and can get on base. If anything, he can give multiple players the night off since he can almost play every infield spot without being a defensive liability.
Seattle Mariner: Kyle Seager, 3B
Another player who came out of the shadows in 2012, Kyle Seager is the type of player who can slug the ball, even in a cavernous place like Safeco Field. He finished with 20 homers and 86 RBIs with the Mariners in his second year with the major league club.
The 25-year-old only hit .259 and had an OBP of .315, but he also stole 13 bases and walked 46 times in 155 games. If he can be more patient at the plate, then his average and OBP should go up in time, especially if he cuts down on his 110-strikeout total from last season.
Seager has more potential now with the likes of Jason Bay and Michael Morse joining the squad. Bay may not make the team, but he could still make a difference depending on how his Spring Training goes this year.
Texas Rangers: Lance Berkman, 1B/DH
After dealing with multiple injuries in 2012 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Berkman will get a chance to be in a real thumper of a lineup with the likes of Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler come Opening Day. He only played in 32 games and struggled to hit only 7 home runs and hit .259 in 81 at-bats. His .381 OBP was not half-bad and the Rangers need someone to get on base and drive in runs like Berkman.
The switch-hitter will get the chance to play almost every day if he can remain healthy. The 36-year-old (he turns 37 on February 10), will have to prove to the Rangers that he is worth the $11 million he was signed for in 2013. The team has the option to pick up his contract in 2014, but they won’t do that if he struggles to hit or stay on the field.
At 36 years old, Berkman is still one of the greatest sluggers to play the game. The “Big Puma” is out to show everyone that he can still play and the Rangers are the perfect fit for his style of play,