Solid infielders are hard to find in fantasy baseball, and some of the true high-value guys come out from under the radar to surprise us all. Naturally, the teams/owners that pick these guys up either on a whim or off the waiver wire reap the benefits of having them in the lineup, and all that the opposition can do is watch or make a desperate trade attempt.
Well, fantasy baseball enthusiasts, that's why I'm here. With my help, you can snag these surefire sleeper infielders before your rivals can, thus ensuring that the championship trophy is yours for the taking when the dust settles.
These young fellows may not be household names (yet), but mark my words. They have bright careers ahead of them, starting in 2013.
By picking these men at the right time in your draft, you'll not only be doing your team a favor, but also gaining leverage in potential trade talks by having some underrated value on your side.
Chris Nelson, 3B, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have proven to be a very hit-or-miss team, but should be able to undergo a fresh start this season under first-year manager and former team shortstop, Walt Weiss.
One of the men in the lineup sure to make an impact is Chris Nelson, who showed promise manning the hot corner last season. At 27 years old, the man is only just becoming an MLB regular and appeared in 111 games last season.
Through that stretch, Nelson batted .301 with nine homers and 53 RBI. He'll enter 2013 with a better idea of what to expect from MLB pitching, but should provide plenty of offense playing in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
The only knock against Nelson is that he isn't what one would call patient at the plate. His OBP last year was just .352 and if you play in a league where that stat counts, prepare to take a hit.
Otherwise, Nelson's bat should give your lineup some pop. If he's available in the late rounds, definitely take a gamble on him.
2013 Prediction: .286, 14 HR, 72 RBI, .323 OBP
Jed Lowrie, SS, Oakland Athletics
A lot of people are quick to write off Lowrie due to his being injured constantly, a prospect that hasn't fully lived up to expectations, etc. However, in Oakland, he may have found the perfect home.
The fact is that Lowrie is a fine Moneyball player, having hit .244 with 16 home runs, 42 RBI and a .331 OBP in 97 games with the Houston Astros in 2012.
Just the same, it's important that all fantasy players realize that drafting Lowrie carries a big risk under any circumstances. He's injury-prone and has never played 100 games in a season.
This year could easily be different as he is penciled in as Oakland's starting shortstop. He is also a switch-hitter, adding to his appeal as an offensive catalyst.
If he's available in the later rounds and you're looking for a possible utility player, definitely give Lowrie a chance.
2013 Prediction: .247, 19 HR, 62 RBI
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Unless you're a diehard Reds fan, chances are that you haven't paid much attention to Todd Frazier. That would be your first mistake.
The second would be thinking that this young man wasn't worthy of being drafted to your fantasy team as either your starting third basemen or a bench player, as he broke out last year and showed just how much potential he had at the hot corner.
In 128 games, Frazier hit .273 with a respectable OBP of .331, smacking 19 longballs with 67 RBI. He struck out 103 times, but so do most young power hitters.
That said, if third basemen are flying off the board and you need to join the party, Frazier is anything but a settlement. He is bound to build off of last season and be an even greater force in the Reds' lineup in 2013, meaning that he is definitely worthy of being in a fantasy draft.
2013 Prediction: .287, 24 HR, 79 RBI
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Machado was taken third overall by Baltimore in the 2010 draft, and he showed everyone why last season. In just 51 games, he hit .262 with seven home runs and 26 RBI while playing a key role in the Orioles' march to an AL Wild Card berth.
What makes Machado even more appealing is that he is only 20 years old, leaving him plenty of time to grow and develop on the MLB level. He has solid size for his position at 6'3", 185 pounds and should become even more of an offensive threat in the coming years.
He isn't going to smack 30 home runs and drive in 100 RBI just yet, but should be a lock for double-digit dingers and a respectable amount of runs batted in, depending on where manager Buck Showalter places him in the lineup. This young man is the future of Orioles baseball, and his continued improvement and remarkably high ceiling make him a prime candidate to be drafted in the later rounds, perhaps sooner, if one is feeling bold.
2013 Prediction: .271, 14 HR, 62 RBI