Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2013: Anthony Rizzo and Power Hitters Worth Watching

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 25, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2013: Anthony Rizzo and Power Hitters Worth Watching

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    With the 2013 MLB regular season rapidly approaching, fantasy baseball is, once again, taking the nation by storm. Drafts are being scheduled, players are being evaluated and every owner is asking one simple question.

    Where are the power-hitting sleepers in this year's crop of players?

    Some will be looking for the new generation of players, as power hitters emerge from the minor league ranks. Others will be on the lookout for the next Edwin Encarnacion, who makes the leap from an average contributor to an elite producer.

    Regardless of what you're looking for, power is at a premium this season.

    Who should you have your eye on?

    All rankings provided by ESPN.com.

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

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    Position: Right Field

    Age: 32

    Average Draft Position: 123.6

    2012 Season Statistics

    .260/.319/.460, 45 2B, 24 HR, 90 RBI

     

    The easy response would be to say that it's outrageous to call Nelson Cruz a sleeper. While I'm inclined to agree, the numbers don't lie in this instance.

    Cruz is going in the 12th round of the average ESPN Live Draft.

    While the veteran may have seen a dip in production in 2012, that's hardly a reason to fret. Even at 32, Cruz is one of the better power hitters in the MLB.

    Having spent the past month with the Dominican Republic's national baseball team at the WBC, Cruz has built himself a great deal of momentum.

    What's important to note is that Cruz will be in position for more RBI with Josh Hamilton out of the lineup. While Hamilton managed to get on base at a high clip, he also frequently cleared the bases.

    Expect Cruz to serve in that role this season, topping 30 home runs and 100 RBI while maintaining his 40-plus doubles.

Ike Davis, New York Mets

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    Position: First Baseman

    Age: 26

    Average Draft Position: 101.0

    2012 Season Statistics

    .227/.308/.462, 66 R, 26 2B, 32 HR, 90 RBI

     

    By the basic numbers alone, Ike Davis meshed extraordinary power with dismal hitting in 2012. According to a more in-depth breakdown, however, Davis was nothing short of elite after a slow start to the season.

    After hitting 12 home runs in 268 at-bats prior to the All-Star break, Davis clobbered 20 in 251 opportunities afterwards.

    When it comes to how Davis will fare in 2013, expect him to flirt with 40 home runs. While this may appear to be a lofty expectation, the 26-year-old enters the season with a clean bill of health, which is something he couldn't say in 2012.

    Davis will knock it out of the park, continue to hit two-baggers and drive in runs on a consistent basis. With David Wright hitting in front of him, those opportunities should come at a premium.

    Davis will be one of this year's breakout stars, with his power hitting serving as the main focal point for his success.

Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: Catcher

    Age: 23

    Average Draft Position: 212.1

    2012 Season Statistics

    135 GP, .260/.298/.386, 20 2B, 15 HR, 62 RBI

     

    In terms of pure power, Jesus Montero may not be your best bet. Hitting home runs at Safeco Field has never been an easy task, and catchers are hardly guaranteed to top 30 long balls.

    With that being said, Montero should be one of the top five catchers in terms of home runs hit come season's end. That's something worth exploring at one of the most frustrating positions in fantasy baseball.

    The reasons for his potential success are simple: The 23-year-old now has a full season under his belt and Seattle moved its fences in.

    According to USA Today Sports, the distance to straight-away center will be moved in between four and 17 feet, depending on the angle. That four-foot shift is consistent throughout, which suggests the deep ball will be more prevalent.

    Expect Montero to benefit as he racks up doubles, RBI and home runs.

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: First Baseman

    Age: 23

    Average Draft Position: 111.8

    2012 Season Statistics

    87 GP, .285/.342/.463, 15 2B, 15 HR, 48 RBI

     

    Prior to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was looking like a star in the making. After the 2013 WBC, however, Italy's slugger is looking like a star today.

    Feel free to bet the bank on this kid.

    Rizzo was sensational at the WBC, consistently providing the upstart Italians with power hitting. This is a continuation of the 2012 MLB season, when he hit 15 home runs and drove in 48 runs in just 87 games.

    In 2013, expect him to up the ante.

    Rizzo has been a dominant force against right-handed pitching, blasting 11 home runs on a .318 batting average when facing such competition. The question is, will he be able to improve upon his .208 average against lefties?

    Expect that answer to be yes—this kid is the real deal.

Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

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    Position: Left Fielder

    Age: 34

    Average Draft Position: 103.4

    2012 Season Statistics

    145 GP, .260/.366/.524, 30 2B, 35 HR, 110 RBI

     

    You know those players that produce at an obscenely high level but garner no respect? Josh Willingham is their master.

    After blasting 35 home runs and driving in 110 RBI in 2012, Willingham's average ESPN Fantasy Baseball draft position is 103.4.

    For those who claim it's a matter of consistency, don't fool yourself. Willingham has gone for at least 20 home runs in five of his past seven seasons.

    He's hit at least 29 in two consecutive years.

    Perhaps most encouraging of all is the fact that Willingham didn't slow down after the All-Star break. After going for 19 homers and 60 RBI before the All-Star Game, he hit 16 bombs and drove in 50 afterwards.

    In 63 fewer at-bats.

    Willingham returns to Minnesota, where he hit 21 of his home runs in 2012. Chances are, he'll do the same in 2013.

    Watch Willingham closely, as he could secure you plenty of victories.