Most fantasy baseball owners are done drafting their teams for the 2008 season.
But the season has only begun, and many owners delve through their league’s free agency to find potential sleepers that can help their team for the rest of the season. This is easier said than done.
Finding a player that will consistently produce for you every night is difficult to find on the waiver wire.
But occasionally, something useful is found in a heap of garbage.
In 2001, I snagged a shortstop named Hanley Ramirez off my league’s waiver wire. Boasting a rank of 550 on the Yahoo free agent list, I picked him up due to the fact that he was doing a considerably good job hitting leadoff for the Marlins at the time and was stealing plenty of bases. I would have never guessed at that time that in three years he would grow to be one of baseball’s elite infielders. Hanley Ramirez’s average draft position for this 2008 season was 2.7 in Yahoo public leagues. His stat line was incredible last season, hitting for a .332 average, scoring 125 runs, going yard 29 times and driving in 81 runs, not to mention stealing 51 bags.
So which garbage is useless in the trash of your league’s free agency? And which garbage can be recycled?
I’ll give you some names, and you decide for yourself.
(All players listed below are available in more than 80% of Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Leagues)
Richie Sexson – 1B, Seattle Mariners
He’s still 6'8'', strikes out more than a blind person trying to work a full count, and hits groundballs like a T-ball little leaguer, but I smell a comeback season. The lanky first basemen is seriously pissed that he sucked last season, and he can make himself happier (not to mention making Seattle fans happier) by hitting home runs. I think 29 would do the trick. Look for Richie to return to his 2006 season form, hitting for power and “raising” his batting average to a stomach-able .250. So if you’re looking for cheap homers and your team has a handful of quality hitters who bat over .300, hurry and snag Sexson.
Prediction: .247 BA / 73 R / 29 HR / 90 RBI / 2 SB
Casey Kotchman – 1B, LA Angels
Mr. Crotchman successfully secured the first base job in LA last season, catching balls thrown to him on defense, and hitting .296 at the plate. He only struck out in 9.7 percent of his at bats, yet his lack of power keeps him from being drafted in many fantasy leagues. Sandwiched by newly acquired Torii Hunter and budding superstar Howie Kendrick in the Angels lineup, Mr. Crotchman will see plenty of fastballs and more chances to drive in runs, so I expect better power numbers than the 11 HR’s and 72 RBI’s he produced last season.
Prediction: .301 BA / 78 R / 16 HR / 88 RBI / 1 SB
Luis Castillo- 2B, New York Mets
Castillo wasn’t happy when he was pranked by his fellow teammates who placed large amounts of gum on his hat in the dugout during a spring training game, but he’ll be a lot less sore at them when they drive him in over 100 times this season. He’ll be batting in Paul Lo Duca’s stead, in the two hole, in a god-like Met’s offense. The Mets are also the most aggressive base running team in the Major Leagues, so Luis will get his chance to steal a fair amount of bases this season. His downside? He has as much power as a Power-puff girl, so be sure to have some big boppers in your lineup to make up for his lack of home runs.
Prediction: .295 BA / 105 R / 1 HR / 41 RBI / 27 SB
Ray Durham- 2B, San Francisco Giants
I can’t believe I’m saying there is value in a batter hitting in the Triple A lineup the Giants have created for the 2008 season, but I believe the 36 year old veteran has a couple seasons left in the tank. Only three seasons ago, Durham hit for a very respectable .290 average for two straight seasons, before hitting .218 last season. But with the departure of the witch of a man called Barry Bonds, Durham will have to be a big run producer for the Giants, and I believe he will deliver.
Prediction: .270 BA / 65 R / 22 HR / 88 RBI / 10 SB
Akinori Iwamura- 2B/3B, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Iwamura will have to move over to 2nd base to make way for promising prospect Evan Longoria, but that won’t affect the numbers he put up at the plate. With the emergence of Tony Pena and development of superstar Carl Crawford, I expect Iwamura will touch home plate many times this season. Expect him to build on his promising rookie numbers. Pick him up for cheap steals, runs, a fair amount of homers and RBI’s and a decent BA.
Prediction: .280 BA / 100 R / 10 HR / 59 RBI / 15 SB
Jason Bartlett- SS, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Bartlett finished with 50 walks last season, a testament to his solid plate discipline, and he's only 28 years old. He also proved to be quite the thief, nabbing 23 bases while with Minnesota. His new team, the Devil Rays, love to run, so I expect Bartlett to grab even more this season. Although he is currently batting 9th for the Rays, I don’t believe the Ray’s skipper will keep Bartlett’s bat and speed at the bottom of his lineup for the whole season, and as Bartlett proves himself on the baselines night in and night out, he will inevitably be moved up in batting order. Bartlett is an example of a sleeper with great potential in fantasy baseball’s most shallow position, shortstop.
Prediction: .290 BA / 88 R / 9 HR / 69 RBI / 31 SB
Austin Kearns- OF, Washington Nationals
The Nats have a beautiful, brand new stadium. Beautiful and more importantly, small. Much smaller than the behemoth that was RFK stadium. And smaller means more homers. The Nats have vastly improved the beginning of their lineup from last season, with young, speedy players like Guzman and Milledge now setting the table for hitters like Zimmerman and Kearns to drive them in. Kearns had a great second half to end last season, and I smell the beautiful aroma of a breakout season for the 27 year old.
Prediction: .275 BA / 80 R / 26 HR / 96 RBI / 4 SB
Jose Guillen- OF, Kansas City Royals
The Royals acquired Guillen from the Mariners, and Jose is starting to look like quite the journeyman, playing for three different teams for past three years. Guillen did exactly what was expected of him in Seattle, and he put together a fine 2007 campaign, going yard 23 times and driving in 99 runs. He will see less batters on the bags in Kansas City however, so expect less than last season’s stats.
Prediction: .282 BA / 81 R / 21 HR / 87 RBI / 3 SB
Ramon Hernandez- C, Baltimore Orioles
Hernandez looked to emerge as a viable fantasy option after his 2006 season, when he blasted 23 homers and amassed 91 RBI’s. But the injury bug bit the promising backstop, and he proceeded to be stuck in a never-ending slump for the entire 2007 season. Hernandez is back and healthy, and I sense a rebound year for the talented 31 year old. He’s hitting in the heart of a lineup featuring on-base machines like Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Melvin Mora, so Ramon will see plenty of chances to drive in runs this year. Don’t expect to see him match his 2006 numbers, but expect something similar.
Prediction: .269 BA / 52 R / 19 HR / 79 RBI / 1 SB