Fantasy Baseball Rankings 2012: Top 6 Sleeper Pitchers

Colton KokrdaCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Rankings 2012: Top 6 Sleeper Pitchers

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    Fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching, with mock drafts already taking place.

    Every year, players want to know who potential "sleepers" could be at different positions. These players offer more value for where they are generally picked than the players around them. For example, a pitcher being taken in the 20th round of the draft has the potential to put up numbers that are equal to a pitcher being taken in the 15th round.

    Take a look at these six players for some potential value late in the draft.

Jeremy Guthrie

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    Jeremy Guthrie used to be one of the top 25 pitchers in fantasy baseball. However, those days are long behind him.

    Guthrie fits as a great sleeper because of his change of scenery. Guthrie was traded to the Colorado Rockies this offseason, leaving behind the terrorizing lineups of the AL East for the more friendly lineups of the NL West. The Red Sox and the Yankees were the top two offenses in the majors last season in terms of runs scored, while the Rays and Blue Jays have potent offenses as well.

    While Guthrie will now call the most feared hitter's park in Coors Field home (which also comes in at second place on ESPN's Park Factors), he will leave behind the likes of Fenway Park (third on the list), the Rogers Center (fourth on the list) and Yankee Stadium (sixth on the list).

    Instead, he will get Coors (second), Chase Field (fifth), Dodger Stadium (22nd), PETCO Park (28th) and AT&T Field (30th). Needless to say, Guthrie will be pitching in more pitcher-friendly parks.

    This trade also helped increase Guthrie's value in fantasy. He should have an increase in the number of wins this season. The NL West is a much easier division than the AL East, and the Rockies possess a better offense than the Orioles did. This should equal some more run support for Guthrie, which usually translates to more wins.

    According to RotoAuthority.com, Guthrie currently has an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 350.53 and is being drafted in less than two percent of all fantasy leagues. This could make Guthrie a great last-round sleeper.

Edwin Jackson

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    Edwin Jackson signed a one-year deal to pitch for the Washington Nationals this season, and is expected to fit into the fourth slot in the rotation behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

    This puts him matching up against the likes of Brandon Beachy from Atlanta, Anibal Sanchez from Miami, R.A. Dickey from the Mets and either Joe Blanton or Vance Worley of the Phillies. Those are generally easier matchups for Jackson than what he faced before.

    Not to mention, Jackson is also in the NL East, which is not a very strong division for offense. He will be facing teams most often that ranked 12th (Mets), 13th (Phillies), 22nd (Atlanta) and 23rd (Miami) this season.

    With an ADP of 233.45 according to MockDraftCentral.com, Jackson could provide some solid numbers as a number four or five starter on your fantasy team.

Kyle Farnsworth

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    Saves are always a popular category. Look no further than Kyle Farnsworth later in the draft to find a steal.

    Farnsworth is currently being drafted behind underwhelming closers such as Chris Perez, and behind setup pitchers like Francisco Rodriguez of Milwaukee and Sergio Romo of San Francisco.

    Last season saw Farnsworth finally piece together the raw talent many believed he possessed, and that was mainly due to a decrease in walk rate and adding in a cutter that helps fool batters and miss bats.

    At an ADP of 224, Farnsworth could be a steal later in the draft. Look for Farnsworth to have around a 3.00 ERA this season while remaining the closer for the Rays.

Frank Francisco

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    Continuing on with the idea of saves, another sleeper for this season is Frank Francisco. He signed on with the Mets to become their new closer.

    He, just like Guthrie, is leaving baseball's toughest division in the AL East and is switching over the National League. Francisco also gets the benefit of pitching most of his games at spacious Citi Field, so that should help his numbers as well.

    Francisco is currently set at an ADP of 234.63 and could provide some solid value late in the draft.

AJ Burnett

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    It's not very often that leaving the New York Yankees will increase your fantasy value.

    Well, this is one case where it has done just that.

    Prior to being traded to the Pirates over the weekend, AJ Burnett was slotted to enter a position battle with Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the last spot in the rotation with the Yankees. As he was not even considered the favorite, his fantasy value was significantly lower.

    Now that Burnett is in Pittsburgh, his value has increased a little bit. He, like other pitchers mentioned before, has left baseball's toughest division for the National League.

    His ERA should dip below 4.00 this season now that he is out of the AL East and in the much weaker NL Central.

    With an ADP of 223.21, Burnett is only being drafted in just over 11 percent of mock drafts. He has the potential to thrive as a fifth starter on your fantasy team this season.

Jonathon Niese

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    Jonathon Niese is another pitcher that is a sleeper this season. For years, he has been pegged as someone who is set to break out. Last season, Niese was starting to look like he was piecing it all together.

    He pieced together these stats last season: 7.89 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 51.5% GB rate to go along with an 11-11 record and 4.40 ERA. However, his performance gives him a SIERA (Skill Interactive Earned Run Average) rating of 3.42, which is where his ERA would have been realistic.

    With an ADP around 250, he is being drafted far later than Ricky Romero (87.38 ADP), while posting similar numbers. He could be a solid late-round flier for a starting pitcher.