Courtesy of FantasyRundown.com
Both a signing and a trade made baseball headlines on New Year's Eve: The Cubs traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians for three minor league pitchers, and the Angels signed Brian Fuentes.
I am sure you can go to many sites and find plenty of fantasy analysis discussing how these moves will affect both the teams and players involved. But my first thought was that there are two new sleepers to keep on your radar on draft day: Jason Motte and Mike Fontenot.
Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals
How does the Brian Fuentes signing affect a Cardinals relief pitcher? Well, Fuentes was really the only viable closer left on the market, unless a team wants to take a shot on Trevor Hoffman.
Having heard St. Louis is not likely to pursue Hoffman, this leaves the back of the Cardinals bullpen shaping up as Chris Perez, Ryan Franklin, and my guy Jason Motte.
Very few people outside of St. Louis had ever heard of Jason Motte prior to his late season call up in 2008. Motte, a former catcher, features a mid-to-high 90s fastball with a decent slider and was very successful in his debut last season.
In extremely limited duty in St. Louis, Motte gave up only one earned run in 11 innings, posting a 16/3 K/BB ratio. This was after striking out 110 batters in only 66.2 innings at AAA Memphis (a ridiculous 14.85K/9IP).
If the season started today, Chris Perez would likely be given the first crack at the ninth inning in St. Louis. But with his propensity to walk hitters (22 BBs in 41.2 IP), he is no lock to hold the job all season.
Sure, Ryan Franklin saved 17 games last season. But that was out of pure necessity, not because he was best suited to close. So that leaves Jason Motte.
In leagues where holds are a category, Motte can be a useful part of your bullpen the entire season, as he will likely find himself in a setup role out of camp. But if you decide to draft Chris Perez, I would add Motte as a handcuff. He has closer stuff.
Update: January 3, 2009, Tony LaRussa says he might consider using Chris Carpenter as the Cardinals closer. I still think that would not be his first choice, so continue to consider Motte a sleeper for saves in St. Louis.
Mike Fontenot, Chicago Cubs
While the Cubs signed Aaron Miles prior to dealing Mark DeRosa to Cleveland, the player who sees the biggest increase in fantasy value is Mike Fontenot.
Let’s be honest, Aaron Miles should not be starting for any Major League team. No matter what people may think due to the timing of his signing, he will not be an everyday player in Chicago. Also, even if there is a platoon situation, Mike Fontenot bats lefty and rakes right-handed pitching to the tune of a .911 OPS in 2008.
Finally, Fontenot is coming off a .305-9-40 season in limited duty (288 plate appearances). While his BABIP and HR/fly ball percentage is likely to decrease, a .275-12-60 line isn’t out of the question if given enough playing time.
Should he find himself leading off in that lineup, he could score 75+ runs. Considering where he would likely go if drafting today, that’s serious value.