Fantasy Baseball 2012: NL East Sleepers and Prospects
The NL East is shaping up to be one of the most exciting divisions in all of baseball in 2012.
The offensively-challenged Phillies will most likely be without Ryan Howard for at least a month, but still have arguably the best rotation in the National League.
The Braves haven't added or lost any major pieces this offseason, but a bounce-back year from Jason Heyward could help bring them their first division title since 2005.
The Mets are in rebuilding mode, but they are getting Johan Santana and Ike Davis back from injuries.
The Marlins made some major acquisitions this offseason, adding Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. They're also getting Josh Johnson, their ace pitcher, back from injury.
From a fantasy baseball perspective there are plenty of studs that will be owned by every team, but let's take a look at some of the less heralded players that can help you win your league this year.
Sleeper: John Mayberry, OF, PHI
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Mayberry will be looking to have a Jayson Werth-like breakout season at age 28. In 267 at-bats in 2011, he hit 15 home runs, drove in 49 runs and stole eight bases. Mayberry is the favorite to win the starting left field job for the Phillies and could end up being the steal of your draft.
He is inexplicably being taken as the 72nd outfielder in mock drafts according to Mock Draft Central. With a full season of at-bats, I'm not afraid to project a line of .270/70/25/85/12 for Mayberry.
Prospect: Julio Teheran, SP, ATL
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Teheran, Baseball America's fifth-ranked prospect heading into 2011, went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP at Triple-A last year. Those are impressive numbers for any prospect, but especially for a 20-year-old. While he did not fare as well in five appearances for Atlanta, Teheran is still an elite prospect with a bright future.
If everyone is healthy in the Braves' rotation to start the year, and that is a big if, Teheran will start the year in Triple-A. Expect to see him back up at some point this year. This time, it will probably be for good.
Sleeper: Adam LaRoche, 1B, WAS
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LaRoche was a model of consistency before his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. He had 32, 21, 25, 25 and 25 home runs in 2006 through 2010, respectively. If his shoulder is healed up, I like LaRoche a lot heading into 2012.
He will be hitting around the middle of a Nationals lineup that also has Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. A line of .270/75/25/90 is attainable if he can play 150 games like he usually does. LaRoche currently has an ADP of 285 according to Mock Draft Central and is certainly worth taking late in your draft.
Prospect: Bryce Harper, OF, WAS
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Everyone, no doubt, has heard about Bryce Harper, the next big thing. According to Mock Draft Central, he is being drafted in 78.1 percent of early-season mock drafts and has an average ADP of 212. Harper did well as an 18-year-old last year.
Across A and Double-A, he hit 17 home runs and stole 26 bases while slashing an impressive .297/.392/.501. In the Arizona Fall League, Harper proved himself as an elite prospect as he homered six times with a .333 average and a ridiculous 1.034 OPS. There seems to be an opening in the outfield for him in Washington but we'll have to wait and see what happens this spring.
Sleeper: Lucas Duda, 1B/OF, NYM
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Duda was one of the most productive outfielders down the stretch in 2011, delivering a line of .292/38/10/50 in 301 at-bats for the Mets.
There are a few things going for the soon-to-be 26-year-old. He should have a good spot in a respectable Mets lineup and the Citi Field fences are coming in and getting shorter in places. As long as he can avoid a platoon in right field, I see big things for Duda in 2012. He can be had for cheap at the end of mixed league drafts.
Sleeper: Ike Davis,1B, NYM
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Reports suggest that Davis should be ready to go for spring training after missing most of 2011 due to a sprained ankle and bone bruise. Before the injury, Davis hit seven home runs with 25 RBIs and a .302 average in 129 at-bats.
He is a great sleeper pick this year but you may want to monitor him this spring to make sure he's 100 percent healthy. Davis will be 25 when the season starts so he is still entering his prime. He is currently being drafted after the injury-plagued Justin Morneau and unproven Paul Goldschmidt (MDC).
Prospect: Matt Harvey, SP, NYM
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Harvey was drafted seventh overall in 2010 out of college and had an up-and-down 2011 campaign. He dominated in High-A ball but struggled after being promoted to Double-A. The 6'4" righty finished strong, going 5-0 with a 2.68 ERA in his final seven starts. Across both levels, Harvey struck out 10.3 hitters per nine innings and the Mets have invited him to camp this spring. Look for Harvey to be up at some point this season.
Sleeper: Josh Johnson, SP, MIA
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You won't find Johnson on many sleeper lists, but, in my mind, a sleeper is someone you think will outperform their draft position and he fits the bill. He is currently being drafted as the 27th pitcher and 97th player overall (MDC). Johnson posted a 1.64 ERA and a .98 WHIP while going 3-1 over nine starts for the Marlins before missing the rest of the season due to shoulder inflammation.
Johnson is on track to have a normal spring training and has a good chance to be a top-10 fantasy pitcher again this season. He is well worth the risk, in my opinion.
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