Stephen Drew - SS, BOS
It took a long while for him to finally get signed, but finally Drew is back, and with the same team that he reemerged with as a quality player last season.
After getting up to speed on a minor-league assignment, Drew made his 2014 debut for the Red Sox on Monday night, finishing 0-for-2 with a walk. Fantasy owners are mostly taking a wait-and-see approach -- he's been claimed in less than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues -- but those in deeper leagues should strike now. Here's why:
First of all, shortstop is an exceedingly weak offensive position, especially for AL-only leagues. Just six shortstops in the Junior Circuit have an OPS north of 700, and one of them is Xander Bogaerts, who now shifts to third for the Red Sox.
Secondly, Drew might be rusty after the long layoff but he is extremely well suited for Fenway Park, making Boston a great landing spot. In 2013, Drew's 777 OPS (his highest since 2010) was primarily fueled by a .283/.367/.491 slash line at home.
Because he's so strikeout-prone, it is likely that Drew won't hit for a high average, and although he went 6-for-6 on steal attempts last year, that hasn't generally been a big strength for him in the past. His value will be mostly driven by his power. Fortunately, he's in a ballpark that accentuates that aspect of his game, and at 31 he's still in his physical prime.
He might get off to a slow start, but owners in deep-leagues who are suffering from poor production at short should find him to be a solid investment over the course of the season.
Lucas Duda - OF, NYM
Since first joining the Mets in 2010, Duda has proven to be a very capable hitter, but he hasn't accrued enough playing time to make him a true fantasy asset. Over the past three seasons, the lefty has batted .250/.348/.425 (116 OPS+) with 40 homers and 140 RBI, but he has averaged only 107 games played and 397 plate appearances.
This year, at age 28, Duda has finally settled in as a full-time regular. He has already played in 53 games and made 188 plate appearances, putting him on pace for 148 and 525. Both marks would shatter his previous career highs.
Duda's increased playing time has been made possibly largely by two things. For one, the trade of Ike Davis to Pittsburgh in early April took away the primary internal competition at first base. Secondly, Duda has simply performed. His 779 OPS ranks first on the Mets and is better than any he's posted since 2011. He also leads New York with eight homers and ranks second with 29 RBI.
Duda has consistently batted fifth or sixth in the lineup, creating plenty of opportunities to drive in runs, and he has taken advantage. He has a 1079 OPS with runners in scoring position and has plated 12 runs in his last 15 games.
The overall stats might not stand out at a glance, but Duda is hitting in a very favorable position, starting almost everyday and producing offensively. If he's available in your league and you're looking for some offensive punch, he's definitely worth picking up.