If you are trying to find a sleeper candidate who can help out your fantasy baseball team this season, the best place to look is at the rookies and young players around the league.
Aging players who are coming off an injury-plagued season might be tempting, but I am always wary of betting on older players to recapture their former glory. There are instances where it happens, like David Ortiz's turnaround two years ago, but they are few and far between.
As you begin to plan out your draft strategy, make sure you keep these young players on the radar in the later rounds.
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
2012 stats: .301/.328/.471, 11 HR, 39 RBI.
Even though Salvador Perez is not an ideal prospect due to his lack of patience at the plate, he is more than viable as a starting catcher in the fantasy world.
One big reason that I am worried about Perez's long-term fantasy success is because of his inability to take a walk every now and then. That puts more pressure on his batting average to carry the load.
However, Perez showed far more power (in a limited sample) last season than I thought he would. It also helps that—despite an average over .300 with virtually no patience—Perez's BABIP was just .299 (via Fangraphs). So it doesn't feel like he just had a lucky stretch that enhanced his numbers.
Considering the lack of depth at the catcher position in fantasy right now, Perez has a great chance to become one of the five best players at that position before the end of the 2013 season.
I still don't know if I expect Perez to hit more than 15 home runs, but you don't need a lot of power to be successful as a catcher in fantasy.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
2012 stats: .285/.342/.463, 15 HR, 48 RBI, 3 SB.
Even though Cubs fans would have you believe that Anthony Rizzo will be the best first baseman in baseball very soon, his upside isn't that great.
What you saw last year in just 337 at-bats could be right along the lines of what Rizzo's career winds up as, with an obvious increase in power and run production due to more playing time.
And that is okay. Rizzo is going to turn into a player who hits 25 to 30 home runs per season with a good, not great batting average and maybe a handful of stolen bases because he is a good baserunner.
Before we talked about catcher being a soft position, but first base is starting to take a step back as more teams are putting their best athletes up the middle and in corner outfield spots.
The Cubs are not going to be a very good team, and there isn't a lot of depth in the lineup, so Rizzo probably won't put up great RBI numbers. But his power finally showed up in big league games last season and that will continue in 2013.
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
2012 stats: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175 K, 81 BB, 177.1 IP.
Remember before the start of 2012, when Matt Moore was supposed to be the hot shot American League rookie we were all talking about?
It's amazing how quickly things can change, even though Moore had a solid first season in the AL East. In fact, if you look at his numbers from June through August, he was terrific. His ERA never went about 3.48 and he struck out 94 hitters in 99.1 innings.
A full season of experience, not to mention an offseason of preparation for the daily grind of a 162-game regular season, makes Moore one of the biggest sleepers in this year's fantasy pitching crop.
Even though the control wasn't there for Moore at times last season, his stuff was still electric. His fastball still comes out of his hand with incredible ease, and the curveball is going to be a devastating weapon for a long time to come.
Don't forget about Moore in 2013, as he should eclipse the 200-inning mark with an ERA around 3.40 and at least one strikeout per inning.
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