Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2013: Versatile Stars Who Will Save You in a Pinch
Enjoy the first round of your 2013 fantasy baseball draft. When it's over, you'll still be left with nearly 20 or so positions to fill and a bench to outfit for an entire 162-game season.
As it usually is with fantasy drafts, it's the mid-to-late-round hits that really make your team successful in any given sport, or any given season.
Baseball is no different.
In fact, you could argue that fantasy baseball is the most in-depth and interesting sport to draft of the three major fantasy leagues (football and basketball being the others), especially when you factor in what I like to call "Swiss-Army-knife guys."
Like the actual knife, baseball's versatile players come in handy when you need them in a pinch. From playing multiple positions to filling in for injured starters, there's a premium in fantasy baseball for guys in that mold.
When you need them to play a different position, fill in for one of your injured starters or take advantage of another player's slow start, here's four guys you should find a way to pick up before the 2013 season starts.
Chicago's (White Sox) Jeff Keppinger
Keppinger might not be the most attractive name in the infield, but his versatility and ability to get the bat on the ball are both two aspects that you should not ignore.
After hitting .325 with Tampa Bay last season, the White Sox signed Keppinger for three years at $12 million per season. They expect him to get on base, extend innings and play multiple positions, as noted in this brilliant expose of Keppinger's role as one of the last dying contact hitters by Tyler Kepner of The New York Times.
He can fill in at three infield positions in your lineup (3B, 2B and 1B), and also has spent enough time to qualify as a DH in certain situations. If his red-hot start to spring training (.476 through March 27) wasn't enough to persuade you to pick up Kepp in the draft, then look no further than his extreme versatility and how that can impact a struggling lineup.
Minnesota's Ryan Doumit
Which Minnesota star will have the best season?
Doumit is a catcher, a first baseman and an outfielder in almost all fantasy league formats.
That information alone should be enough to make you second-guess his place on any draft board in the late rounds. Throw in an 18-homer, 133-hit season in 2012, and Doumit should find himself on your catcher sleeper list without the other position designations.
To top it all off, Doumit is listed as an outfielder and a DH—fortuitous because his move to the American League should include all three positions at some point this season for Minnesota.
Additionally, the Twins are always wary of Joe Mauer's and Justin Morneau's collective status. That makes Doumit the most likely candidate to get a lion's share of the work in Minnesota, and should in turn make him a must-add in this year's draft.
Philadelphia's John Mayberry Jr.
This recommendation certainly doesn't come highly after a rough spring for Mayberry Jr.
He's hitting just .197 so far in spring training for the Phillies, a disconcerting number after he had a chance to win the job outright coming into the first part of the regular season.
However, the former first-round pick will only be in his fifth pro season in 2013 and has the tools to be a good player. He's listed as both an outfielder and a fill-in for first baseman Ryan Howard—always a valuable tool given Howard's injury history the past few seasons.
Mayberry Jr. hasn't overwhelmed us with big-time stats. His 29 home runs the past two seasons are nice, but not indicative of an everyday starter. However, with a job on the line and multiple positions available to use him at during the season, keep Mayberry Jr. on your watch list.
I won't blame you if he's still available after the first couple of weeks of the regular season, but monitor his progress and see how Charlie Manuel is going to use him before giving up hope that he can help save your bench.
Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist
If there was ever a Swiss Army knife in the bigs, it's Ben Zobrist.
For the past four seasons, Zobrist has taken on a full-time role with the Rays despite not really having a position. He's played shortstop, third base, second base, first base and outfield. He would probably pitch and catch if Joe Maddon needed him.
He's never had less than 129 hits in each of those four seasons and is fresh off of an appearance with the United States team in the World Baseball Classic.
As a utility player, Zobrist always seems to come into the season with expectations of being the first guy off the bench, but injuries continue to force him into the lineup each year. He's produced well in that role and should be a nice value pick for you in the middle rounds if someone else doesn't beat you to the punch.
Having versatility on the bench and in your starting lineup can't be overestimated in fantasy baseball. Look for these four guys to be the spark you need, and continue to monitor the waiver wire for other versatility masters that will emerge in 2013.
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