“Sleepers” are the players generally targeted in later rounds of drafts. They might have been productive in the past, but are coming off a down year or an injury. They might also be young and up-and-coming.
Here is my list of the 10 biggest sleepers heading into the 2008 season (in no particular order):
1) Edwin Encarnacion—3B, Cincinnati Reds
2007 Season Stats (.289 AVG, 16 HR, 76 RBI, 502 AB)
Encarnacion struggled so much during the first part of 2007 he was actually sent down to Triple A Louisville with an average hovering near .200. However, he then hit .300 for three of the final four months of the season after being re-called. He seems to lack motivation at times but is primed for a great 2008 season under the guidance of newly hired manager Dusty Baker.
2) Justin Upton—OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2007 Season Stats (.221 AVG, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 140 AB)
Upton has the most potential of any young hitter in baseball. The former No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft has only shown flashes of greatness up to this point. He might still be a couple years away from real stardom but he certainly has the makeup and the skills to be great. Did I mention he’s only 20 years old?
3) Dontrelle Willis—SP, Detroit Tigers
2007 Season Stats (10-15 Record, 5.17 ERA, 205.3 IP, 146 K)
Willis is more likely to go sooner than the rest on this list, but he is still a guy to target. He will enjoy plenty of run support in Detroit this season and will not have the added pressure of being a staff ace anymore because of the pitching depth in the Tigers' rotation. He is also just two years removed from a 22-10 record, 2.63 ERA, 170 K, 236.3 IP season.
4) Kevin Kouzmanoff—3B, San Diego Padres
2007 Season Stats (.275 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 484 AB)
Super-prospect Chase Headley is on his heels and he plays his home games in the cavernous PETCO Park, however Kouzmanoff has what it takes to be the Padres everyday third baseman. If he gets 550 or so at-bats and continues his hot streak from the second half of 2007 (he hit .307 with 17 HR and 66 RBI after May 10) he should be a late round steal.
5) Ervin Santana—SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2007 Season Stats (7-14 record, 5.76 ERA, 150 IP, 126 K)
Santana made many owners who drafted him last season scratch their heads. In 2006 he won 16 games and was set to jump to another level, however 2007 saw him struggle to a 1-10 record on the road and 7-14 overall. Santana is just 25 years old and seems to be battling a confidence issue. He has the physical tools to be a solid No. 3 starter for the Angels.
6) Rocco Baldelli—OF, Tampa Bay Rays
2007 Season Stats (.204 AVG, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 137 AB)
Baldelli has a rare combination of power and speed but he is constantly injured. He is still only 26 years old and has the potential for .300-20-85-100-20 (AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB) if he plays to his potential for a full season.
7) Alex Gordon—3B, Kansas City Royals
2007 Season Stats (.247 AVG, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 543 AB)
Gordon struggled mightily during the first half of 2007 and should be much improved in 2008 after paying his dues. He is a former Minor League Player of the Year in 2006 and is still only 24 years old. He has the potential for .280-20-85-80-15, which is top-10 territory for third basemen.
8) Carlos Quentin—OF, Chicago White Sox
2007 Season Stats (.214 AVG, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 229 AB)
Quentin will get a fresh start with the White Sox after starting his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has exceptional power and could be a 30 HR guy in the near future.
9) Rich Harden—SP, Oakland Athletics
2007 Season Stats (1-2 Record, 2.45 ERA, 25.7 IP, 27 K)
If only Harden could stay healthy...When healthy he will be the ace of the A’s staff. He has some of the best stuff in baseball and has held batters to a .226 average against him for his career. He is high risk and high reward and worth taking late in your draft.
10) B.J. Ryan—RP, Toronto Blue Jays
2007 Season Stats (0-2 Record, 12.46 ERA, 4.3 IP, 3 K)