Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Late-Round Players Having the Best Spring Training
With spring training coming to a close and Opening Day right around the corner, fantasy owners need to get their last-minute fantasy drafts in.
One benefit of having a fantasy draft this late is getting a longer look at spring training performance.
Not that spring training will make or break any player's season, but it might help give a fringe fantasy starter the confidence to get out to a great start in the regular season.
It also gives owners their first look at unproven players—or those returning from injury.
This slideshow highlights six players being taken late in fantasy drafts that are having a great spring training.
Domonic Brown, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
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After a terrific spring, the former top prospect is finally expected to get consistent big league at-bats.
Projected to be the everyday right fielder for the Phillies—Brown started off 2013 on a high note in spring training.
Totaling 28 hits in 79 at-bats, including seven home runs and 16 RBI, this spring has been a positive step forward for the 25-year-old.
After debuting at 22 in 2010, Brown has struggled in his big league at-bats the past three seasons.
In 433 career at-bats, he has hit only .236 with a mere 12 home runs.
Currently being drafted in the 22nd round of standard 10-team leagues—according to ESPN fantasy results—Brown is a high-reward pick that could prove to be a quality fantasy starter.
Aaron Hicks, CF, Minnesota Twins
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After landing on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list for four consecutive years, Aaron Hicks is finally going to get his chance to start for the Twins in 2013.
The former top prospect had a breakout season in 2012 while playing for Double-A New Britain. Hitting .286, stealing 32 bases and knocking 13 balls out of the park.
He also added 11 triples giving him an OPS of .844.
This offseason, the Twins traded the two players that were ahead of Hicks on the depth chart in center field—Ben Revere and Denard Span. That put the former first-round selection in a position battle with Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson—another former top prospect.
With the opportunity on the line to get his first big league action, Hicks showed the Twins that he was capable of being their everyday starter in center field.
In 61 at-bats he hit .361/.406/.656 with 10 extra-base hits and added 16 RBI. He had just about locked up his place as the starter much earlier this spring with an impressive three-home run game.
Batting leadoff for the Twins, Hicks will get a lot of crucial at-bats—he has a good eye at the plate, good speed on the basepaths and could be a steal for fantasy owners.
Brandon Belt, 1B, San Fransisco Giants
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Finally getting his chance to start every day last season, Brandon Belt did not live up to expectations.
Batting .275 is not terrible but only hitting six home runs is not the type of performance expected from a big league starting first baseman.
Despite the below-average first full-time season, Belt is still going to be starting for the Giants heading into 2013.
This spring he has shown the Giants that he is capable of performing at a higher level than he did last season.
In 19 games, Belt was scalding hot—hitting .433 with seven bombs, 17 RBI and a 1.360 OPS.
Belt showed a great ability to hit for contact and power in the minor leagues, and he will be looking to build on his successful spring.
Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
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The No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America—prior to the 2011 and 2012 seasons— Julio Teheran has long been expected to be an ace for the Atlanta Braves.
After going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA in his first stint at Triple-A as a 20-year-old in 2011, Teheran was sent back for another season in 2012.
He followed up his breakout season with a disappointing one, starting 26 games and finishing the year with a 7-9 record with an ERA of 5.08.
The weak 2012 season has put some doubt in Teheran's readiness for the big leagues.
However, he has since found himself back in the top-prospect talk with an unbelievable 2013 spring training.
In six starts, Teheran has pitched 26 innings and only given up three earned runs.
He has shown his superior stuff with a spring training-leading 35 strikeouts and impressive control with only nine walks.
He has given up only 2.4 hits per nine innings, good for a WHIP of 0.615.
Currently being drafted in the 22nd round of fantasy drafts, owners should jump on the Teheran bandwagon now before everyone knows about his potential.
Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
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Spending the better part of his first six seasons in the minor leagues, Alex Cobb finally got his chance to get consistent innings in the big leagues last season with the Rays.
He threw 136.1 innings with a 4.03 ERA and punched out 106 batters in 23 starts last season.
Now the former fourth-round pick is going to make his first Opening Day roster in 2013.
With his spring training performance, Cobb is showing the Rays that they have made the right decision declaring him a starter.
In six spring starts he has totaled 25.2 innings pitched, giving up only eight earned runs and striking out 28 batters. He has a WHIP of .935 and has shown good control by walking only five batters.
Also being drafted in the 22nd round in fantasy drafts, Cobb is looking to have a breakout season in his first full-time starting gig for Tampa.
Paul Maholm, SP, Atlanta Braves
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Another pitcher on the back end of the Atlanta rotation, Maholm is the oldest player to make this list of sleepers.
A former Pittsburgh Pirate and Chicago Cub, Maholm has shown improvement over the past few years of his career.
In 2011 and 2012, he had ERAs of 3.66 and 3.67, and also recorded a career high in strikeouts during the 2012 season. After playing half of the season in Atlanta in 2012, Maholm will be hoping to impress Braves fans in his first full season with the team.
He has started off his 2013 campaign very strong with a great spring training.
In six games started, he has pitched 25.1 innings and given up only five earned runs for an earned run average of only 1.78.
He also has picked up 18 strikeouts and has yet to give up a home run.
At 30, the left-hander may be getting overlooked by many fantasy owners.
With the potent lineup the Braves possess and the recent improvement by Maholm, he has the potential to be a quality late-round selection