Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Most fantasy drafts have ended and people are wondering how their teams will be this season.
Everyone is well aware of the “studs” but here are some players who are sleepers and could make a difference between a bad fantasy season and a championship one.
Catchers: (I do not consider Matt Wieters a “sleeper” that is why he is not on this list).
Chris Iannetta, Colorado: The thin air of Coors Field makes Iannetta a legitimate fantasy producer but he is still getting drafted in the late round of drafts. With a.264 average, 18 home runs and 65 RBI’s in his first season, Iannetta proved that he can handle a full season behind the plate. His numbers should only improve this season and you should be able to get him off the waiver wire or cheaply via trade.
Ramon Hernandez, Cincinnati: Being an Orioles fan I was well aware of Ramon Hernandez’s ineptitude behind the plate, however, when healthy, the guy has shown that he can hit. Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is even more hitter friendly then Oriole Park was so Hernandez should up his best stats of his career. The friendly confines coupled with this being a contract year for him should mean big things for Ramon Hernandez.
Kelly Shoppach, Cleveland: Even with the return of Victor Martinez, Shoppach should still get chances to show his stuff. He hit 21 home runs and drove in 55 runs last season. The Indians are paying almost 2 million dollars a year for Shoppach so it is unlikely they spent that money just to keep him on the bench all season.
Chris Davis, Texas: Everyone in the Rangers lineup can and probably will hit over 20 home runs this season, making Davis a very good fantasy play. Davis hit 17 home runs in less the 300 at bats this season, and with a full season this year he should be around the 30 home run/100 RBI mark. I predict Davis to be a top 5 first baseman by the end of the year.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati: I do not know if you can really call him a sleeper but he is going late in many drafts at the first base position. After a stellar rookie year, Votto will be inserted right into the heart of the Reds lineup. Despite not being protected by Adam Dunn this year, I expect Votto to be the next big slugger to come out Cincinnati.
Mike Jacobs, Kansas City: Jacobs hit 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs last season for the Marlins and should be around the same numbers this season. A low average is his Achilles heel, but he if he can hit around .260 then he will be a big time fantasy producer. The Kansas City lineup is not bad and Jacobs should be the center piece of it. If you are in a points based league then Jacobs is worth a major look.
Adam LaRoche, Pittsburgh: Many expected LaRoche to breakout after his arrival in Pittsburgh from Atlanta and he finally had production last year. Despite being a slow start in the first half of the year, LaRoche still ended last season with 25 homers and 85 RBI’s. If he can increase his first half production and stay on pace with his career second half production, LaRoche could be a 30 homer, 100 RBI guy.
Jose Lopez, Seattle: Many people can not even name anyone in the Mariners lineup besides Ichiro, but Jose Lopez is a star in the making. He put up more then adequate numbers last season, banging 17 homers and driving in 85 in a Seattle lineup where he had no protection. I think Adrian Beltre will have a career year, and he will be batting behind Lopez which will give Lopez pitches to see. Couple his power with a batting average around .300 and Lopez is a top 5 fantasy second baseman.
Mike Aviles, Kansas City: Aviles had a tremendous rookie campaign last season hitting .325 with 10 homers and 51 runs batted in. The dreaded “sophomore slump” could have some people worried and they might want to wait a month to see how Aviles performs before picking up. If you do this, he will not be around so I would acquire him now if you can. His power numbers are not spectacular but he will hit around .300 with 10-15 home runs and around 60 RBI, not bad production from the second base position.
Kahlil Greene, St.Louis: Leaving spacious Petco Park could be the best thing to happen to Greene. In 2007, Greene hit a career high 27 home runs and drove in 97 run, so he has shown he can put up numbers when healthy. If he can increase his average a little and cut down on the strikeouts then Green becomes a top 10 fantasy shortstop. Right now, I am sure he is available and should put up good enough power numbers to make him worth a look for most fantasy owners.
J.J Hardy, Milwaukee: Often overlooked not just in the major leagues but in his own lineup, J.J Hardy quietly put up 24 home runs with a .284 average last season. Hardy will either be batting second in the lineup or 5th or 6th which makes him valuable in the runs scored category if he bats second and the power categories if he bats in the middle of the order. Hardy seems to be in his prime and is in a contract year this year or next so he will be looking to put up some numbers this year.
Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland: I think the Indians will win the AL Central this year and believe that Peralta will have a monster year. Overlooking the way he spells his first name, Peralta brings some big numbers to the table. His 23 homers were a career high last year and he should beat that if he plays a full season. It is likely that someone drafted Peralta so you would probably need to trade for him, however, you can probably get him cheaply and he could help lead you to a championship.
Casey Blake, Los Angeles Dodgers: Overlooked last year because of the acquisition of Manny Ramirez was the impact that the Casey Blake trade had on the Dodgers. Blake had a great second half, almost seeming reborn in Los Angeles. With the emergence of the Dodgers young bats like Either, Kemp and Martin, Blake should get bumped to the bottom the order, but he will still produce.
Adrian Beltre, Seattle: Despite playing for a last place team, in a big ballpark and playing with injuries, Beltre still banged 25 home runs. Beltre is definitely looking for a big contract next year so he could put up some numbers similar to the 40+ home runs he hit in his last contract year. Beltre does not have much protection in the lineup, but a clean bill of health should increase his numbers and make 30 home runs a possibility.
Edwin Encarnacion, Cincinnati: At just 26 years old, Encarnacion is starting to come into his prime as a power hitter. The Reds lineup should be good, and Encarnacion is likely to be in the heart of the order. Trying to hit home runs might make his average dip but he should have comparable power numbers to last season.
Lastings Milledge, Washington: His numbers did not look that impressive last year but he did hit .300 in the second half of the season and finished with 14 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Milledge got off to a slow start last year in his first season of playing everyday, but with his first full season under his belt his numbers should increase. The Nats are building a decent young lineup and Milledge will be a major part of the rebuilding process. Expect him to be a 20/20 guy this year.
Adam Jones, Baltimore: He is my favorite player in the Major Leagues but he is not on the list solely for this reason. Jones started off badly last season and was showing signs of life before a foot injury put him on the shelf for the rest of the season last year. He bulked up in the spring and has been murdering the ball. Jones still needs to work on increasing the batting average and making more consistent contact but his power numbers should increase. I think he is a star in the making that you can get cheaply and keep in your keeper leagues for years.
Jay Bruce, Cincinnati: Bruce burst onto the seen last year banging 15 home runs in just 64 games in the second half of last year. He ended last year with 21 homers and more then 50 RBI's in limited action and should improve with a full season under his belt. For Bruce, 30 home runs seems more the attainable. Bruce has shown the propensity to strikeout but his power numbers will make him very intriguing.
Ricky Nolasco, Florida: The Marlins are starting to get back to the pitching and defense style of play that won them the World Series in 2003. Nolasco will be anchoring a Marlins rotation that ESPN’s Buster Olney called the best in the NL East. He had 15 wins last year, a 3.52 era and 186 strikeouts which made him one of the most productive fantasy pitchers by years end. Those numbers will be hard to duplicate but Nolasco has shown that he has all the tools to be a successful starter. His numbers could improve greatly making him a top 20 starting pitcher.
Zack Greinke, Kansas City: Greinke struck out a career high 183 last year and lowered his ERA to a respectable 3.47. Greinke was a highly touted prospect and is finally coming into his own as a major league starter. The Royals have an up and coming rotation with Greinke, Meche, and Bannister and their lineup should be able to score some runs in support of their starters. Greinke should improve his numbers from last season, and will strikeout around 200 batters this year.
Fausto Carmona, Cleveland: It is hard to call a guy who finished second in the AL Cy Young voting two seasons ago a sleeper but Carmona is precisely that. An injury plagued and poor 2008 performance help made him go in the late rounds in many fantasy drafts. Carmona is healthy and will be looking to prove that the 2007 season was not a fluke. While he might not reach his numbers in 2007, he should have in the neighborhood of 15 wins and 120 strikeouts.
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs: While Carlos Marmol was getting drafted in many leagues, the Cubs named Kevin Gregg their closer over Marmol. I, like many, expect the Cubs to win their division which means there will be many save chances for Gregg. He saved 61 games in his last two seasons with Marlins and with the Cubs success, the 30 save mark seems likely.
Houston Street, Colorado: Street was just named the Rockies closer over Manny Corpas. Injuries have made Street go from a top five fantasy closer to someone who is going un-drafted in many leagues. Colorado will not win as many games as they did in their run to the World Series two seasons ago, but they will not be as bad as they were last season. Street has shown to be healthy and is showing the same form he showed early in his career in Oakland and that means big time fantasy numbers.
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