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Adam LaRoche: 2015 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

The White Sox have made plenty of moves this offseason, one of those being the acquisition of free agent Adam LaRoche. The Sox needed a left-handed batter to join the middle of the lineup and also offer protection for Jose Abreu. LaRoche certainly fills that void. He will start about a third of the games at first base and will otherwise serve as the designated hitter.

LaRoche has been in the league for 11 years and can hardly be considered a sleeper anymore, at least in the traditional sense. When most fantasy owners are drafting power-producing first basemen, LaRoche is not one of the first names that comes to mind. He is usually considered a consolation prize for those that drafted other needs early on and missed out on the big name run producers.

This year, LaRoche's fantasy value is boosted by the players around him. He will be hitting clean-up in a potent, revamped White Sox offense. The Sox potentially have three .300 hitters ahead of LaRoche in the batting order. Adam Eaton's batting average was exactly .300 last year and Jose Abreu hit .317. The White Sox most recent addition, Melky Cabrera, figures to be slotted between Eaton and Abreu. Cabrera hit .301 last year and has a .336 batting average in 34 career games at U.S. Cellular Field.

What does this mean for LaRoche? For one, people are going to be on base when he is at the plate. Secondly, Abreu abused opposing pitchers so often last season that many teams will elect to pitch around him and challenge LaRoche. The White Sox won't have too many weak spots behind LaRoche either, with sluggers like Avisail Garcia and Alexei Ramirez following him in the lineup. Ultimately, it will be up to LaRoche to produce. The veteran lefty has the track record that suggests he should be in for a big year.

LaRoche's best season came in 2012 when he slugged 33 HR & 100 RBI. The Nationals won 98 games and the NL East that year. He hit cleanup for a club that had six players who hit at least 17 home runs. He's had a solid career, but he has been at his best when he is surrounded by other quality players and doesn't have to be the star. There shouldn't be a whole lot of pressure on him in Chicago. He can slide into a lineup littered with big names and concentrate on doing what he does best, which is driving in runs.

Another factor that aids LaRoche's chances for a big season is his new home stadium. U.S. Cellular Field is known as a hitters ballpark, especially compared to Nationals Park where he spent the last four years. In 2001, the right-field foul pole was moved closer in an effort to create more home runs. Left-handed power hitters have certainly had success at U.S. Cellular Field over the past decade. Most recently, Adam Dunn hit 34 HR in 2013 and 41 HR in 2012. Jim Thome enjoyed hitting on the South Side as well, belting 111 HR from 2006-2008. LaRoche has never hit more than 33 home runs in a season, but with 81 games in Chicago, he could be in line for a new career-high.

 

In Summary

LaRoche has been consistent throughout his entire career. Pick out any season at random and it will look similar to the others. His career slash line is .264/.340/.472 and he averages 27 HR and 92 RBI over a 162 game schedule. There is no reason LaRoche shouldn't be able to match those totals again this season. If anything, the pieces around him create an opportunity exceed those numbers. He will likely be drafted pretty late in most fantasy baseball drafts, making him a decent sleeper candidate in some leagues with deep rosters.

 





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