Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The turkey is about to go in the oven and snow is in the air, just ask Buffalo natives, but it is never too early to talk baseball.
The White Sox made the first big free agent splash, signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million contract on Friday. He had a big bounce-back season in 2014, hitting .259 with 26 home runs and 92 RBI.
Even though those are typical numbers for good first basemen, LaRoche gave owners great value as his ADP in Yahoo leagues was 260. More incredibly, 56 first basemen had a higher ADP than LaRoche.
It's kind of easy to see why that was the case at the beginning of 2014. The year prior, LaRoche hit just .237 and his OPS dropped nearly 120 points to .735, both being career-lows. LaRoche also hit just 19 home runs and drove in 62 RBI in 2013, which were his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2004.
At 34-years-old last year, owners more than likely figured LaRoche's numbers from 2013 signified the beginning of the end for the first baseman.
This season, now at 35-years-old, LaRoche will have to prove to owners last year wasn't a fluke.
Although it is unlikely over 50 first basemen will be taken before him again, LaRoche is still not going to get much attention from fantasy owners early in drafts. Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez and many others will go before LaRoche, as they should because all those names are better fantasy options than him, however the new "White Sock" could again provide some great value.
U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox home stadium, is widely considered a hitter's park. In fact, according to parkfactors.com, U.S. Cellular Field produces 137 home runs for every 100 dingers in the average MLB park. That is second behind only Coors Field in Colorado.
Nationals Park, where LaRoche hit the past four seasons, allows an average amount of home runs compared to the other 30 parks, so Nationals Park is not considered a hitter's or pitcher's park. In Washington the last four years, LaRoche had a .249 batting average with 82 home runs and 269 RBI, and those numbers include the 2011 season LaRoche only had 151 at-bats and his career- worst season in 2013.
With Jose Abreu the everyday first baseman for the White Sox, LaRoche will likely see a lot of time at designated hitter. That could help LaRoche stay fresher into August and September because he won't have to play the field every single day. It will also keep LaRoche under the radar.
Even in his rebound season last year, LaRoche was under his career .264 average, but his .362 on-base percentage and .817 OPS in 2014 were higher than his career averages. In the Windy City, LaRoche has a good chance to hit more home runs and thus raise his slugging percentage and OPS.
Some owners may be worried he will have fewer RBI leaving the Nationals offense that featured three 20-home run hitters, four 80-RBI guys and five hitters posting averages above .270, but the White Sox scored just 26 fewer runs than the Nationals did in 2014. Chicago hopes to score more with LaRoche in the lineup.
After the top tier first baseman are gone this spring, LaRoche will give owners some great value in the middle or late rounds.