Odds are that most fantasy baseball owners won't be fortunate enough to land Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout this spring, meaning they will have to rely on the production of their later picks in order to earn a fantasy title in 2013.
Enter the fantasy sleeper—the overlooked player whose production eventually turns him into a steal.
Below we'll highlight a trio of veteran bats flying under the radar this February.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers, 2B
2012 Regular Season Stats: 157 games, 588 at-bats, 21 home runs, 63 RBI, .230 AVG
The 30-year-old veteran went yard 21 times last season despite batting .230 (his worst average since his first season with the Brewers in 2003). Rickie Weeks finished 32nd in the National League in home runs last season, but 57th in batting average, causing many to overlook him.
That would be a mistake. Weeks offers tremendous value at second base.
Just consider the fact that only two other second basemen in the major leagues hit more home runs than Weeks in 2012—New York's Robinson Cano and Arizona's Aaron Hill. Weeks may not be the consistent force owners look for in the early rounds, but you're going to at least get some bang for your buck with him.
Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves, C
2012 Regular Season Stats: 121 games, 439 at-bats, 20 home runs, 67 RBI, .230 AVG
Like Rickie Weeks, Atlanta's Brian McCann had a down year at the plate in 2012. He batted just .230, which was a career worst for the seven-year major league veteran.
Still, McCann provides exceptional value for a catcher. He's hit at least 20 homers in each of the past five seasons, recording exactly 20 last season with the Braves. Although top-rated catchers like Boston's Mike Napoli and Cleveland's Carlos Santana may have more potential for big seasons in 2013, their recent production bears a striking resemblance to McCann's.
In McCann, you're getting a guy who's sure to get to the plate at least 400 times over the course of the season. Plus, he's good for a couple of dozen home runs, which increases his fantasy value.
Brett Gardner, New York Yankees, LF
2012 Regular Season Stats: 16 games, 31 at-bats, zero home runs, three RBI, .323 AVG
New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner will be playing motivated baseball in 2013 after missing all but 16 regular-season games last year because of a right elbow injury.
The 29-year-old left fielder is without a doubt one of the top 15 fantasy players at his position, but some may consider him risky considering how much time he missed in 2012.
Overlooking Gardner this spring would be a bad move, though. He batted .323 in his 16 appearances for New York last season. Granted, it's a small sample size, but Gardner looks ready to return to the role of reliable fantasy star (via New York Post's Dan Martin):
I probably rushed it back a little bit last year to get to the playoffs, but I felt great when I played. It’s completely in the rear view mirror, which is a good thing.
No one knows for sure of course, but 2013 looks to be one of Gardner's best years yet as a pro. He's certainly still improving.
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