Fantasy Baseball 2013: Top 40 Sleepers Who Should Be on Your Radar
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Want to win your fantasy baseball league? Well, you’ll need to strike gold on a few sleepers who wake up on your squad.
The term “sleeper” is tossed around so much in fantasy circles that it no longer contains a set meaning. Many people use it to label breakout candidates, while others use it to describe undervalued players. Some even slap it on “post-hype sleepers,” guys formerly in the spotlight who are now all but forgotten figures.
For this list’s purposes, players with those three billings are all included. The intention is that there are useful options here for league owners of varying shapes and sizes.
I apologize if some of the more obvious picks insult your intelligence, but those players might fit the sleeper mold for a person operating in a small, 10-team mixed league.
Also, keep in mind that this is not a ranking of these players’ overall value. A guy who is worth less in a vacuum could find a higher slot on this list because he represents a greater bargain on draft day.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
Ernesto Frieri thrived as the closer in 2012.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Don't count on him starting the season in the majors, but Travis D'Arnaud could eventually make a major impact as a backstop with a dangerous bat.
He looked poised to debut last year after posting a .333/.380/.595 slash line in Triple-A, but his season ended prematurely due to a torn PCL.
In the unlikely chance that D'Arnaud is awarded the starting job right out of the gate, he could emerge as a top-10 catcher.
The 21-year-old's chances of landing a spot on Colorado's roster initially appeared slim to none, but a torching spring is daring to change that.
After hitting four home runs in his first seven games, Arenado is pushing to seize the hot corner for the Rockies. A hitter at a scarce position playing half of his games in Coors Field is enough to draw some interest.
How safe is Ryan Madson a year removed from Tommy John surgery?
If he falters, Ernesto Frieri will be waiting to take back the job he excelled at last season. The 27-year-old struck out 80 batters in 54.1 innings last season, so he's more than qualified to assume the role again.
40. Shaun Marcum
Shaun Marcum is a solid starter when healthy.
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 7-4, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 109/41 K-BB
The entire New York Mets rotation consists of affordable fantasy intrigue.
With Shaun Marcum, it’s all a matter of health. He showed in the previous two seasons that he can post a mid-three ERA, 1.15 WHIP and around 160 strikeouts in a full season. That essentially makes him the National League version of Hiroki Kuroda.
But injuries reared their ugly head again last season, limiting the veteran to 124 innings pitched. After the Mets exploited his health uncertainty by signing him to a one-year deal, fantasy owners can benefit by employing the same tactic.
Since he never possessed much upside in the first place, rankers are pursuing more alluring alternatives and tossing Marcum by the wayside.
39. Denard Span
Denard Span could score 100 runs with the Washington Nationals.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .283/.342/.395 (BA, OBP, SLG%), 4 HR, 41 RBI, 71 Runs, 17 SB
A solid contact hitter with above-average speed, Denard Span is likely to get overlooked come draft day. Like Marcum, he also owns a timeshare on the disabled list.
Then again, he gets to set the table for a potent offensive attack in Washington, so he has that working for him. Insert him near the top of the Nationals' batting order and Span could hit in the .280s with 20 steals and 90-100 runs.
Not bad for a guy outside the overall top 250 all the major sites.
38. Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman can still hit, but can he stay healthy?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .259/.381/.444, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 12 Runs, 2 SB (32 games)
We’ll get to some young talent eventually. I promise.
Lance Berkman surprised many baseball fans by returning from the dead in 2011 to hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI. That resurgence failed to carry over into 2012, when he lasted just 32 games.
Rumors swirled about Berkman rejoining the Houston Astros as their first designated hitter, but fortunately, he dodged that bullet. Had he signed with Houston, Berkman becomes a fantasy afterthought.
Instead, he comes to Arlington to help fill the void in the middle of their order following the departure of Josh Hamilton.
Health is the key here, but if he could return to his 2009 levels of efficiency (.274, 25 HR, 80 RBI), Berkman is worth a late-round flier.
37. Dillon Gee
Dillon Gee improved his strikeout and walk rates last season.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 6-7, 4.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 97/29 K-BB
The casual fan might wonder what happened to Dillon Gee last year. He went from notching 13 wins during his rookie season to just six last year, but don’t be fooled by his win total.
Gee evolved into a more well-rounded pitcher last year, averaging 1.57 more strikeouts more per nine innings and 1.60 less walks. His ground-ball rate spiked to 50.3 percent, and he tallied a 3.54 xFIP before his season was cut short.
Though he survived 2011 with a large sprinkling of luck, he has proved his merit as a legit MLB starter who could help the bottom of a fantasy rotation.
36. David Murphy
David Murphy can put up lofty numbers with regular at-bats.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .304/.380/.479, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 65 Runs, 10 SB
With Josh Hamilton no longer in the fold, will David Murphy finally get a chance to approach the batter’s box on a regular basis?
It’s long overdue for the 31-year-old, who has tallied a career .285/.348/.453 slash line in five years serving as a stopgap option in Texas. In a career-high 521 plate appearances last season, Murphy set personal bests with a .304 batting average and 10.4 percent walk rate.
The average will likely revert back to the .280-.290 range, but Murphy could collect a 20/10 season if given the opportunity.
35. Ryan Cook
Ryan Cook cut down his walks after the All-Star break.
Leon Halip/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 6-2, 2.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 14 SV, 80/27 K-BB
The Oakland Athletics are carrying two young relievers with closer upside, so let’s go ahead and profile both of them. As Grant Balfour fights to recover from knee surgery in time for Opening Day, one of these two sophomores could start April with the job.
After earning an All-Star bid to meet the one player per team quota, Ryan Cook filled the part more during the second half. Despite registering a higher ERA and WHIP, he walked six batters through his last 35 innings pitched.
Let's hope that control is here to stay. He’ll need it to prove that last year was not a fluke aided by a .220 BABIP.
34. Sean Doolittle
Sean Doolittle is a dark horse closer candidate in Oakland.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 2-1, 3.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 18 Holds, 60/11 K-BB
The lesser known of the two options, Sean Doolittle performed well during his rookie campaign. The 26-year-old netted a 5.45 K/BB ratio alongside a microscopic 2.08 FIP.
While Cook benefited from a little luck, Doolittle's numbers could have been even better if not for a .316 BABIP.
He can’t talk to animals, but Doolittle makes plenty of batters murmur to themselves angrily as they take their walk of shame to the dugout.
33. Alex Cobb
Alex Cobb flew under the radar last year.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 11-9, 4.03 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 106/40 B-BB
Somewhere in Florida lies a tree that the Tampa Bay Rays use to harvest starting pitchers. We all know about David Price, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson, but they have another arm ready to become a reliable starter.
An inconsistent Alex Cobb did not garner much attention in 2012, but his 2.64 walk rate, 58.8 percent ground-ball rate and 3.67 FIP should excite fantasy owners looking for a late-round hurler.
An afterthought in most mixed leagues, Cobb could end the season as a top-50 starter, adding to Tampa Bay’s wealth of talent on the mound.
32. Jonathan Lucroy
Drafters can fill the catcher slot with Jonathan Lucroy.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .320/.368/.513, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 46 Runs, 4 SB
Notorious for its maddening offensive scarcity, the catcher position looks much deeper this year.
There’s a new breed of young power bats (Carlos Santana, Jesus Montero, Wilin Rosario) who will make filling this spot much less of a chore in 2013.
If you want to wait until one of—maybe even the last—round of your draft to select a catcher in a league where one starter is required, look for Jonathan Lucroy.
Had his suitcase not brutally assaulted him last May, Lucroy’s price tag would be much higher heading into 2013. Instead, he received just 96 games to boost his numbers.
Don’t read too much into his .320 average that was bolstered by a .338 BBAIP, as the 26-year-old slashed his strikeout rate to 12.7 percent. He could hit around .290 with 15 homers.
31. Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt could fit the post-hype sleeper mold.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .275/.360/.421, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 47 Runs, 12 SB
Most drafters are not salivating over a first baseman lacking major power. So why target Brandon Belt, who has notched 16 home runs through 681 career plate appearances?
For the first time in his career, Belt will receive the starting nod on Opening Day and a full slate of games to prove his merit. It’s not crazy to think the 24-year-old can improve upon his 6.2 HR/FB rate from 2012 and approach the 15-homer plateau.
He amends for the power deficiency by offering some speed. Few other men at the position can swipe 12-15 bags.
That production isn’t worth a king’s ransom, but ESPN ranks him outside its top 300, so this late-round flier will cost virtually nothing.
30. Bobby Parnell
Like it or not, Bobby Parnell will start as the Mets' closer.
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 5-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7 SV, 61/20 K-BB
Everyone in charge of rankings on major sites seemingly has no idea that Bobby Parnell is the New York Mets’ closer.
There isn’t major upside to be gleaned from Parnell. The 28-year-old reinvented himself last season, sacrificing some heat for precision. While the improved control is a welcome sign for the Mets, he lost a bunch of strikeouts in the process.
Still, if he holds on to the job—and I'm willing to bet that he does with Francisco and Brandon Lyon as his competition—and offers an ERA in the low-mid threes with a 1.20-1.25 WHIP and 30 saves attached, you have yourself a solid No. 3 closer.
29. Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier offered sneaky power during his rookie campaign.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .273/.331/.498, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 55 Runs, 3 SB
After rotting away in Dusty Baker’s purgatory for a large chunk of the year, Todd Frazier will enter this season as the Cincinatti Reds' regular third baseman.
Unless Baker is crazy enough to roll with Jack Hannahan instead (never rule out Baker’s ineptitude), Frazier will have the chance to bat in a lineup with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Take away the big names and third base begins to look really ugly. Frazier could provide good late value with 25 homers.
His batting average may be suspect, but he doesn’t bear the potential to torpedo the category like Pedro Alvarez or Mark Reynolds.
28. Andrelton Simmons
Andrelton Simmons is the best young shortstop that nobody is talking about.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .289/.335/.416, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 17 Runs, 1 SB (49 games)
Did you wait too long on filling the middle infield void?
Consider Andrelton Simmons, a 23-year-old who made a favorable impression with the Atlanta Braves at shortstop.
The youngster won’t draw many walks, but he showed terrific skill with the bat, making contact at 87.6 percent of pitches when swinging.
Simmons stayed stagnant on the basepaths during his brief major league stint, but he routinely swiped double-digit bags in the minors.
The Curacao native won’t morph into a superstar overnight, but he could hit in the .280s again with a few homers and 15 steals.
27. Jean Segura
Jean Segura can offer a cheap source of steals.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .264/.321/.331, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 19 Runs, 7 SB
Perhaps you want a cheap shortstop who can offer more speed. Although he’s a much larger question mark than Simmons, Jean Segura could amass 25-30 steals in his rookie campaign.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for Zack Greinke, Segura now stands to start at shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Despite putting up a doughnut in the home-run category last year, Segura has displayed some power in the past. He smacked seven homers in 94 minor league games before receiving an audition in Milwaukee.
Bill James projects him to hit .291 with six homers and 35 steals. While that’s certainly setting the bar high in the average category, the lofty steals prediction might not be completely far-fetched.
26. Greg Holland
Greg Holland ran with Kansas City's closer spot.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 7-4, 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 16 SV, 91/34 K-BB
Drafting Greg Holland is probably not for the squeamish.
Any young pitcher with a high propensity for walks always has the potential to unravel. If you’re looking for a sure bet, look elsewhere.
Then again, are any relievers sure bets?
Holland has two things that make him an intriguing fantasy option: save opportunities and strikeout ability.
He also improved as the 2012 season progressed, posting a 2.17 ERA and 1.07 WHIP after the All-Star break. If that pitcher shows up for a full season, congratulations on nabbing a premier closer at a major discount.
25. Jedd Gyorko
Jedd Gyorko has made a statement so far in spring training.
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .311/.373/.547, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 80 Runs, 5 SB (Double-A and Triple-A)
The San Diego Padres need offense. Jedd Gyorko can hit. So, what’s the problem?
San Diego most likely wants to delay his inevitable arbitration day as long as possible. Gyorko could turn into Robinson Cano from day one, and it still wouldn’t catapult the Padres to playoff contention.
Gyorko, who shifted from third base to second to steer clear of Chase Headley, hit .311 and smacked 30 homers in the minors last year. He’s crushed three more round trippers in early spring training action.
If he beats out Logan Forsythe, he can make for a rare 15-20 homer source from the middle infield spot.
Let’s just be careful to not expect the moon from Gyorko. Nobody is likely to be the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper this year.
24. Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth could still put forth a 20/20 campaign.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .300/.387/.440, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 42 Runs, 8 SB (81 games)
Everyone sure is quick to write off Jayson Werth.
Although his first season with the Nationals was considered a letdown, he still produced 20 homers and 19 steals.
He fixed his weak average in 2012, but suffered a major power outage, smashing just five home runs in 344 plate appearances.
Don’t bank on him regaining his 36-homer power stroke from 2009, but he can easily correct a career-low 5.3 percent HR/FB rate and hit 20 homers this season.
How many other 20/20 candidates are available to plug as a No. 5 outfielder?
23. Josh Beckett
Expect another revival from Josh Beckett.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 7-14, 4.65 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 132/52 K-BB
He’s terrible one year and awesome the next. We’ve seen this several times from Josh Beckett before.
The bad Beckett surfaced in 2012, posting a 4.65 ERA with a career-low 6.97 K/9 ratio. But before a proper eulogy could be prepared, the right-hander received a second life by getting shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In seven starts with the Dodgers to close out the year, Beckett registered a 2.93 ERA while striking out 38 batters in 43 innings.
With a friendlier ballpark, some added strikeouts of opposing pitchers and much less beer in the clubhouse, expect the good Beckett to make another appearance.
22. Tom Wilhelmsen
Tom Wihelmsen is a closer with a secure job and a K/9 ratio over 9.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 4-3, 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 29 SV, 87/29 K-BB
Tom Wilhelmsen would be getting a lot more recognition right now if he played for a better team.
After snatching the ninth innings in Seattle, Wilhelmsen finished the season with one more strikeout and a lower ERA than Jason Motte.
While the St. Louis Cardinals closer is still certainly a better option due to his lower walk rate and longer track record, Wilhelmsen a surefire top-five reliever on a team that struggles to crack most top-20 lists.
Scoop up Wilhelmsen in the late rounds and enjoy the bargain production.
21. Dan Uggla
The infuriating Dan Uggla could hit 30 homers again.
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .220/.348/.384, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 86 Runs, 4 SB
At some juncture of the season, Dan Uggla owners will lose it.
He’s going to strike out a ton, and there’s going to be a few weeks, maybe a month, where he’s not in the area code of making contact.
Remember to take deep breaths. Prior to last year, Uggla rounded out five consecutive seasons with more than 30 homers.
Uggla will need luck on his side to hit anywhere near .280 again, so those drafting him must accept that a .240 average comes with the territory. But with just 19 home runs? That’s not Dan Uggla.
He continued to generate fly balls at a comparable rate to previous seasons while also manufacturing a career-high 20.1 percent line-drive rate. If his 11.4 percent HR/FB ratio can get closer to his career mark of 15.3, Uggla should approach the 30-homer plateau again.
20. Emilio Bonifacio
Emilio Bonifacio must first win the starting job at second.
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .258/.330/.316, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 30 Runs, 30 SB
The Toronto Blue Jays could deprive fantasy owners throughout the world of a valuable speed commodity by placing Maicer Izturis at second base instead of Emilio Bonifacio.
Middle infielders are typically associated with speed, but few second basemen contributed significantly in the stolen base department. Only Jose Altuve and Jason Kipnis swiped more than 30 bags last year, and Ian Kinsler and Alexi Casilla tied for third with 21 apiece.
Give Bonifacio everyday work at the position and he can easily surpass the competition with 40 steals. Due to early uncertainty regarding his job status, he can be grabbed for next to nothing.
19. Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner offers a top-notch source of steals.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .323/.417/.387, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 7 Runs, 2 SB (16 games)
New York Yankees usually don’t make sleeper lists. If anything, they enter drafts with unwarranted hype.
Brett Gardner, however, somehow always falls under the radar. Even his own team has failed to utilize his plate discipline and blazing speed at the top of its batting order.
It’s easy to forget that Gardner was one of baseball’s best speed demons prior to sitting out nearly all of last season. He accumulated 97 steals combined during the previous two years.
Playing in Yankee Stadium allows him to earn a few cheap homers as well, which is more than Ben Revere and Juan Pierre can say.
18. Josh Reddick
Josh Reddick is falling in drafts despite his superb power.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .242/.305/.463, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 85 Runs, 11 SB
Here’s a fun fact: Eight players amassed at least 30 home runs and 10 stolen bases last year.
While Carlos Beltran can also make a claim to receiving a lack of respect in fantasy rankings, Josh Reddick is certainly perceived as the worst of this group.
Reddick’s skill set is similar to Jay Bruce, who will typically fall off the board around the fourth or fifth (if you get him at a discount) round. ESPN tabs Reddick at 182 while Yahoo positions him at 187, so he could be yours in the 17th round.
Expect a little regression, but don’t go overboard. While his HR/FB ratio jumped to 14.0 percent, nearly half of his batted balls were fly balls, so 25-30 homers is well within his reach again.
17. Norichika Aoki
Norichika Aoki stole 19 bags after the All-Star break.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .288/.355/.433, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 81 Runs, 30 SB
To examine the inverse of that Reddick stat, 12 players compiled at least 10 homers and 30 steals.
But only four of them hit above .260. Those select few? Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Jose Reyes and Norichika Aoki.
It took a while for fantasy gamers to catch on, but the Japanese star offered great value to whoever scooped him off the waiver wire.
He helped out in all five categories and amped up his aggression on the basepaths as the year progressed. If he matches this output in 2013, owners will land a steal in the middle rounds.
16. Jaime Garcia
Jaime Garcia could eventually put it all together and break out.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 7-7, 3.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 98/30 K-BB
Don’t give up on Jaime Garcia just yet.
Even before suffering shoulder ailments, his season may have appeared disastrous, but his peripherals tell a different story.
As Garica maintained his usual strikeout rate, he cut down his walks for the third-straight season while generating a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate.
He also yielded a 2.97 FIP despite that high ERA. A lofty .339 BABIP is partially to blame for this discrepancy.
At the very least, Garcia could return to 2012 productivity with a clean bill of health.
15. Chase Utley
Will Chase Utley ever play a full season again?
Bob Levey/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .256/.365/.429, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 48 Runs, 11 SB
Unlike most occupants of this list, the rankings on Utley seem fair. Neither ESPN nor Yahoo awarded him top-10 positioning at second base, likely because he hasn’t logged a full season since 2009.
The difference between the past few years is that gambling on Utley’s health will no longer cost a premium selection. If you need a second baseman around this time in the draft, you’re either taking a chance on another questionable big name (Rickie Weeks, Dan Uggla) or going the boring route with a Neil Walker or Howie Kendrick.
He’s no longer vying for the crown of fantasy baseball’s top second baseman, but a 20/15 isn’t out of the question if he manages to avoid a trip to the disabled list.
14. Vinnie Pestano
Vinnie Pestano could finally receive the chance to save games.
Jeff Curry/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 3-3, 2.57 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 36 Holds, 76/24 K-BB
With Chris Perez slated to miss at least three to four weeks with a shoulder strain, Vinnie Pestano could start the season as the Cleveland Indians closer.
He’s been Cleveland’s best reliever during the past two seasons, but Pestano still played second fiddle to Perez. If he receives the job in the short-term, the 28-year-old could run with it and never look back.
If Pestano seizes the ninth-inning gig, you’re looking at a top-10 closer. If he doesn’t, you still have a top-notch middle reliever that could provide valuable innings for owners in leagues with daily lineup changes.
13. Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas still boasts massive upside at third base.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .242/.296/.412, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 69 Runs, 5 SB
Get used to the sight of a Kansas City Royals hitter. There’s plenty more to come.
In the same list prepared last year, Mike Moustakas would probably reside even higher among the most appealing sleepers. One of the hottest bats in the minors had the potential to make an immediate impact in his sophomore season.
The 20 home runs were good enough for an affordable third baseman, but his 20.2 strikeout rate and subsequent low average hampered the 24-year-old from gaining mainstream fantasy recognition.
There’s still plenty of time for the former top prospect to grow, and a rise in his .274 BABIP along with natural progression could lift Moustakas closer to the .260 range. Drafters will struggle to find much better than a .260, 20-25 homer, 80 RBI season outside of the top-10 third basemen.
12. Glen Perkins
Wait on closers and take Glen Perkins late.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 3-1, 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 16 SV, 78/16 K-BB
Glen Perkins! At least that’s how Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation would announce the selection, and nobody should blame him for expressing such enthusiasm over this pick.
For some strange reason, ESPN and Yahoo! both rank the Minnesota Twins closer outside of their top 20. Let’s keep it between us that he struck out over a batter per inning with a 2.05 walk rate.
This could literally be one of the biggest steals of the draft.
11. Lorenzo Cain
Roll the dice on Lorenzo Cain one more time.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .266/.316/.419, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 27 Runs, 10 SB
Owners would be wise to bet on Lorenzo Cain once more.
The outfielder entered 2012 drafts as a popular sleeper choice, but missed three months due to a left groin strain. Cain eventually reminded everyone what all the fuss was about, as it took him a mere 61 games to notch seven homers and 10 steals.
That mix of power and speed should keep believers giddy for the 26-year-old’s potential. A 15/25 season is not out of his grasp.
10. Eric Hosmer
Wasn't Eric Hosmer a future first-rounder just a year ago?
J. Meric/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .232/.304/.359, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 66 Runs, 16 SB
This one is practically a requirement for sleeper lists these days.
A tremendous rookie campaign that screamed future superstar was followed up by the dreaded sophomore slump for Eric Hosmer.
His .255 BABIP is the prime culprit for his shortcomings, which is unfortunate considering the youngster probably allowed the early struggles to pull him out of his rhythm.
Hosmer still boasts major upside, but a .280, 20/15 season might provide more reasonable barometers for the upcoming year.
It does, however, remain a tad concerning that everyone is assuming Hosmer will be just fine. We should acknowledge that his .663 OPS made him one of the worst first basemen in baseball last year.
Don’t go crazy and choose him as a top-10 first baseman in a re-draft league, but Hosmer is worth mid-round consideration.
9. Mike Fiers
Mike Fiers' draft stock should catch fire as the season approaches.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 135/36 K-BB
So there’s a pitcher with a 9.52 K/9 ratio, 2.54 walk rate and 3.09 FIP that can be obtained with a late throwaway pick?
Maybe rankers don’t trust the breakout campaign of a 27-year-old rookie breakout or fear that 127.2 innings is an insufficient sample size. While these are valid concerns, ESPN barely placed him among its top-100 starting pitchers, so grabbing Mike Fiers late is an insanely low-risk, high-reward move.
There’s another guy who contracted similar peripherals, posting an 8.74 K/9 ratio, 2.52 walk rate and 3.05 FIP last year.
His name? David Price. Don’t worry, he cracked ESPN’s top 100.
8. Marco Estrada
Marco Estrada posted ace-like peripherals in 2012.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 5-7, 3.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 143/29 K-BB
If you read the last slide about Fiers, you might be feeling some deja vu here.
Milwaukee has another criminally undervalued late-bloomer in 29-year-old Marco Estrada, who pitched even better than his fellow underappreciated teammate.
How good is his 4.93 K/BB rate? Well, no other pitcher in baseball posted a K/9 ratio higher than 9.0 with a BB/9 rate below 2.0.
ESPN gave him a bit more respect than Fiers, slotting him at No. 68, but that’s also still way too low. Yahoo’s No. 45 ranking is a much better indicator of his worth.
7. Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo watched many balls clear the fences.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .285/.342/.463, 15 HR, 48 RBI, 44 Runs, 3 SB
Released from the hitter’s prison more commonly referred to as Petco Park, Anthony Rizzo erased memories of an abysmal major league debut in Chicago.
Rizzo hit .141 with one homer in 153 plate appearances with the Padres two seasons ago, prompting the Cubs to foster him in the minors for most of 2012.
When the organization finally called his name, he quickly made his presence felt in the middle of the batting order.
After overreacting in his poor first season, are drafters now in danger of making the same mistake and labeling him a superstar after 87 games?
Maybe, but that’s a chance worth taking, as long as you’re not going overboard and grabbing him in the fifth round of a 10-team league.
Most of the major projections pencil in Rizzo for 30 homers and around 100 RBI, yet most rankings situate him well outside the top 10 at his position.
6. Matt Harvey
Matt Harvey made an impressive debut with the Mets last season.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 3-7, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 70/26 K-BB (59.1 IP)
Do you like strikeouts? Of course you do, otherwise you’re playing the wrong game.
Consider taking a shot on Matt Harvey, who notched a 10.62 K/9 ratio during his inaugural major league season.
His 3.94 walk rate was a bit high, so anticipate his 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP rising. Still, any pitcher with ace upside that can punch out a batter per inning is always worth a look.
After throwing 169.1 total innings last year (mostly in Triple-A), the team probably won’t implement an innings cap on their young arm either.
5. Kenley Jansen
Everyone except Don Mattingly knows than Kenley Jansen is better than Brandon League.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
2012 Stats: 5-3, 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 25 SV, 99/22 K-BB
Kenley Jansen started out as a catcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, but they converted him into a pitcher that didn't take long to hone his craft on the mound.
In 145.2 career major league innings, the 25-year-old has registered a 14.58 K/9 ratio. He’s also slashed his walk rate each year, most recently cutting his free passes from 4.36 per nine innings in 2011 to 3.05 last season.
All it takes is a few bad innings from Brandon League and Jansen is one of fantasy baseball’s most-prized closers.
4. Josh Rutledge
Josh Rutledge displayed flashes of power and speed in Colorado.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
2012 Stats: .274/.306/.469, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 37 Runs, 7 SB
At first, Josh Rutledge looked poised to enter draft day as the trendy sleeper who lost his sleeper status since everyone wanted him.
Then ESPN ranked him No. 248 overall, so there’s still hope.
Filling in for an injured Troy Tulowitzki, Rutledge provided eight homers and seven steals in 73 games. With the star reclaiming his territory, Rutledge will relocate from shortstop to second base, which means he will possess dual-position eligibility by May.
His microscopic 3.1 percent walk rate presents a red flag, but come on, he’s a middle infielder with power, speed and Coors Field to call home. That’s good enough.
You can take him 100 picks earlier, and that could still be considered a relative bargain.
3. Ike Davis
Could Ike Davis hit 35-40 homers this season?
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2012 Stats: .227/.308/.462, 32 HR, 90 RBI, 66 Runs, 0 SB
I like Ike. Ha, I bet nobody has used that one before!
Wait, everyone did. Last year. He delivered on the power but marred it with a .227 average.
He entered enough of a groove to hit .255 after the All-Star break, and that’s just fine if he creams 32 homers again.
Take advantage of fellow owners who overvalue batting average and buy low on Davis.
2. Jeff Samardzija
Jeff Samardzija was an unheralded ace in 2012.
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2012 Stats: 9-13, 3.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 180/56 K-BB
The Cubs may have hurt many fantasy owners by shutting down Jeff Samardzija last September, but at least they kept his value low for 2013.
While the former Notre Dame wide receiver’s 180 strikeouts might not blow anyone away, he only needed 174.2 innings to achieve the feat. Had he kept pitching throughout the season’s finish, he would likely have joined a prestigious group of 13 other starters with at least 200 strikeouts.
Not in love with his 3.81 ERA? Fair enough, but his 3.55 FIP looks better, and the bloated number stemmed from a disastrous June that he overcame by posting ace-like numbers during the ensuing months.
Recently named Chicago’s Opening Day starter, Samardzija could quickly become an ace for some fantasy squads as well.
1. Salvador Perez
Salvador Perez is a future top-five catcher.
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2012 Stats: .301/.328/.471, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 38 Runs, 0 SB
A 22-year-old catcher with a career .311 average and some pop. Why wouldn't you take Salvador Perez?
He’s yet to test out his skills over an entire season, but he sports all the ability to hit over .300 and crush 15-20 homers. Considering half of Kansas City’s batting order made this list, counting numbers should come in bunches if all the young guns match the hype.
While the more aggressive rankers propel him near the bottom of the top 10 at catcher, I slot him at No. 6, ahead of Yadier Molina.