Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: 10 Current Free Agents Worth Stashing for Later
Ever watch that show Doomsday Preppers?
Basically, a bunch of seemingly ordinary people stock up on canned carrots and moist towelettes in the event that a catastrophe occurs. Although those people might seem insane, all it would take is one nuclear meltdown to make them the smartest people in town.
How does this pertain to fantasy baseball?
If you have the room and inclination, you could similarly benefit from prepping for your own fantasy worst-case scenario—although an injury to your corner infielder won't be nearly as devastating as the apocalypse (unless your corner infielder is Miguel Cabrera).
Right now, a handful of big league veterans still don't have a home for the season. But when they eventually do, you don't want to be one of those people frantically rushing to the wire to use a precious claim on them—not when you can grab them now for next to nothing, throw 'em on your bench and wait for disaster to strike—you know, metaphorically.
10. Aaron Miles (2B/3B)
If you're in an abyss-deep AL- or NL-only league and are temporarily filling second base with the likes of Maicer Izturis or Matt Downs, Aaron Miles could (eventually) be a step up.
However, Miles still doesn't have a uniform for this season.
The Dodgers took him in last year as a veteran utility infielder, and there's a good chance another team will do the same. When that happens, you might also realize you have a need for a guy with position flexibility (being eligible at 2B and 3B means he could also be your MI or CI). Miles won't hit many home runs (two if you're lucky) and won't steal any bases, but he would be a warm body good for at least a spattering of doubles.
You'll want him if your team takes health hits and/or you realize you're still playing Maicer Izturis.
9. Conor Jackson (1B/OF)
If fantasy leagues awarded points for chiseled jawlines, Conor Jackson would be your No. 1 pick.
He's likely to spend some of the summer in Triple-A, but if he finds his way into a major league lineup, Jackson could be slightly serviceable as a part-time first baseman or corner outfielder—but, seriously, only in the deepest of leagues.
He hasn't hit more than six home runs since 2008, so you're only going to get singles and doubles. But in certain situations, he could at least wind up with a decent number of them.
8. Ivan Rodriguez (C)
Just when he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
And although he missed all but 44 games with the Nationals last season thanks to an oblique, I-Rod says he wants to play this year. (Unless you're the Royals, in which case, Rodriguez has an apparent fear of commitment.)
Granted, this man is but a shell of the player who was the consensus No. 1 catcher in fantasy baseball for the better part of a decade. But in a pinch (and especially in two-catcher leagues), he could approach double-digit homers and drive in a few runs here and there.
Just don't expect him to run anywhere.
7. Mike Gonzalez (RP)
You might remember Mike Gonzalez from his time as an occasionally dominant closer with the Pirates and then Braves. But injury after injury have plagued him for years, and he finds himself looking for an open spot—even after getting a few vital outs for the Rangers during last year's World Series.
Part of the reason for his unemployment is a torn meniscus in his left knee that he had operated on in October, but there's reason to believe someone's going to need his left arm in late innings just like the Rangers did. But also like the Rangers, that team might wait until August.
Still, when he's healthy, Gonzalez is good for about a K per inning.
The Red Sox have reportedly already shown interest, and that would be a welcome environment for him. He won't get saves unless he unintentionally walks into one, but his K's and ratios could prove mildly valuable—especially if your league counts holds.
6. Derrek Lee (1B)
Remember that time Derrek Lee hit .335 with 46 homers and 107 RBI?
Yeah, that was 2005. To put that in perspective, that was five Harry Potter movies ago (Voldemort had just come back).
Lee did have about three good seasons since, but he spent the past two years with four different teams. The good news is he totaled 19 home runs each year, the bad news is his average seems stuck around .265 even after a relative renaissance in Pittsburgh (seven home runs and 18 RBI in just 28 games).
The Bucs offered Lee arbitration, but he held out for a better offer. At this point, he probably can't afford to be choosy, but maybe the right situation leads to at least one more season of mid-level power.
5. Javier Vazquez (SP)
There hasn't been this much confusion over whether or not a guy is actually retired since that guy who's in all those Wrangler commercials.
Javier Vazquez, now 35, sprung back to life with the Marlins during the second half last year, but he was on the fence about coming back. The Marlins subsequently brought in another fella to play the role of the inconsistent-but-sometimes-awesome starter (Carlos Zambrano), and that means Vazquez will need a different team if he gets the baseball jones.
Thanks to his 7.57 K/9 resurgence and 13 wins last year, somebody (probably in the National League) would give him a shot—and then you might want to, too.
If we knew for sure he was into playing, though, he would be higher on this list than at least two of the next guys.
4. Hideki Matsui (DH/OF)
The Angels did it in 2010, and he delivered solid numbers—hitting .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI. Then the A's did it in 2011, but their numbers were far less firm—a .251 average, 12 home runs and 72 RBI.
Matsui's knees mean he's only really available to AL teams, but if (and likely when) one of those clubs needs a left-handed DH, he'll become a lot less fantasy irrelevant.
If you look at his current downward regression, you'd probably be looking at around a .240 average, eight home runs and 50 RBI. But if he bounces back even just a step further, you could be looking at a solid run-producer with occasional pop—especially if he really does end up back in pinstripes.
3. Johnny Damon (DH/OF)
You know what's crazy?
Johnny Damon has more career hits than Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson and everyone else who ever played in the majors except 56 other guys.
Still, the Rays opted to turn over DH duties to freshly signed Luke Scott—even after Damon provided a little old-school idiotic spark with 16 homers, 73 RBI and even 19 steals. Of course, Tampa only really wanted Damon because he came in a package deal with Manny Ramirez, and hopefully they kept the receipt.
Now that Manny is in Oakland, it'll be tougher for Damon to find a home on his own. But if he does, there's no reason to believe he can't put up numbers similar to projections for Jim Thome (.250, 14 homers and 50 RBI).
2. Vladimir Guerrero (DH)
Of all the players on this list, Vladimir Guerrero is probably the most likely to already have a team by the time you read this.
Once a 40-40 threat with the Expos (remember them, eh?), then a pure slugger with the Angels, Vlad hit at least .300 in all but two of his 15 full seasons—and even then (last year with the Orioles), he didn't dip below .290. Also, last season's down year in Baltimore makes it easy to forget Guerrero smacked 29 home runs and 115 RBI just one year earlier with the Rangers.
The Impaler says he's got at least one more year in him, and the Indians have reportedly been auditioning him for a part-time DH or outfield spot. If he winds up in Cleveland, Travis Hafner and Guerrero's declining tools will limit his opportunities, but everyone knows by now that you can't ever count him out or his total disregard for strike zones.
However, if no MLB team wants the former MVP, Guerrero says he'll play in Japan. And if Tom Selleck's Mr. Baseball taught us anything, it's that Vlad will initially struggle with Japanese culture but eventually gain new-found respect for the game—all with hilarious results.
None of which will directly affect your fantasy team.
1. Roy Oswalt (SP)
There was a fun stretch a couple years back when Roger Clemens (who was Brett Favre in the decison-making department before Favre was Favre) waited till after the season started to see which team he wanted to hop on board with.
That's apparently what's up with Oswalt.
Last season with the Phillies wasn't fantastic, and Roy only made 23 starts thanks to nagging back pain. His second half might have looked a lot better had he not been on a staff with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, as Oswalt still managed nine total wins and a 3.69 ERA.
He was on the verge of 200 K's as recently as 2010, and although that seems unlikely now, he's still the top arm-for-hire on the market. Odds are Oswalt won't come back unless it's with a contender, which means he could wind up on a squad with good offensive support. There have already been whispers about the Rangers, Red Sox and Angels, and for a minute, some even suggested he could turn into the Reds' closer after Ryan Madson went down.
Regardless, Oswalt is all but assured a job if and when he wants one, and there's a good chance you're going to be pretty fed up with one of your current pitchers by the time he does.
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