Super Bowl. To this writer, this is a time for celebration. It means that football is all but over, and now it's time for Spring Training to take center stage. And what means more to Spring Training than Fantasy Baseball?
So, in honor of the Super Bowl, I offer my 2010 fantasy baseball sleepers. These are players that you can probably afford to wait until later on in the draft to pick, but they could have crucial benefits for your team.
For instance, last season in my 12-team, very competitive league, I drafted Zack Greinke in the ninth round. Greinke went on to be the American League Cy Young award winner in 2009 and was a great asset to my team.
Hopefully, you can find that diamond in the rough in your 2010 fantasy baseball draft. Here are some possibilities.
In MLB.com's 2010 Fantasy Preview, Johnny Cueto is slotted in the No. 82 position for starting pitchers. If this holds true for your fantasy league, Cueto could be a real steal. Owners might be frightened by his inflated ERA (4.61 in his two big league seasons), but this young man has electric stuff.
He's struck out at least 130 batters in both seasons of his career, and he's only 23. He's not considered the ace of the staff—in fact, he may start the season as the fourth or fifth starter for the Reds, but he could make a great (and cheap) No. 2 or No. 3 for your fantasy team in 2010.
Less than a month away from Spring Training, Mike Jacobs is still without a ball club, but the guy is still a slugger. The 29-year old is only one full season removed from a 30+ home run season with the Florida Marlins.
He had a down season in 2009, his first with the Royals, and he doesn't hit often or well against left-handed pitchers. But there should be a Major League team willing to give him a shot, and once that happens, so should you. With an abundance of talent at first base, Jacobs could provide fantasy owners with a cheap backup option in 2010.
There's a very good chance that this 21-year old will begin the season as a member of the Texas Rangers' starting rotation. But regardless of where and when he pitches, this kid is lights out.
He appeared in 20 games for the Rangers down the stretch last season, and struck out 39 batters in just 31 innings pitched—and only walked eight batters!
He pitched exclusively out of the 'pen in 2009, but the plan is to make him a starter in 2010. Should that happen, this kid will be very valuable to any fantasy team. And if he winds up in the bullpen, he becomes a great pick for leagues that have middle relief roster spots.
Andrew McCutchen came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in June of 2009, and wound up finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. He had 12 home runs in 433 at-bats, and swiped 22 bases (while only getting caught five times).
He can hit, he can run, and he has very little pressure on him playing for a small-market club. He can be very useful in rotisserie leagues, and leagues that award for stolen bases and extra base hits—of his 124 hits on 2009, 35 of them were for extra bases.
David Aardsma most likely went undrafted in your league last season. But all he did was save 38 games for the Mariners in 2009. It was a breakout season for the 29-year old, but there's no reason why he can't have another 30-save campaign in 2010 for the newly stacked Mariners.
There's a good chance that Aardsma will fall to the lower tier of the draft. Typically, closers are not drafted until the middle rounds anyway, and the first ones to go will be Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, K-Rod, et al. But if you want to go cheap on closers, Aardsma is a fit for you.
These guys are in a category by themselves. Some of the best sleepers are players with proven track records, but were sidelined by injuries last season.
Take, for instance, Rockies' southpaw Jeff Francis. He didn't pitch a single inning in 2009, and had a rough 2008, winning only four games. But he's healthy and could provide your team with solid strikeouts and wins while playing for a pretty decent Colorado team.
Some other potential injury sleepers include: Toronto's Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan; Oakland's resident DL man Eric Chavez; newest Atlanta Brave Troy Glaus; and you can't forget Brandon Webb.
Garrett Jones made his splash with the Pirates when he mashed 10 home runs in the month of July in 2009. He ended the season with 21 long balls, finishing seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
He split time between the outfield and first base last season, but with the Pirates bringing in Ryan Church, look for Jones to get most of his playing time at first. It's difficult to gauge just how this veteran rookie (he's 28 years of age) will look in his second full season, but he sure is worth a gamble in later rounds of your draft.
The Alcides Escobar era has begun. The Brewers sent incumbent shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Twins, paving way for Escobar to be a part of the Brew Crew. He's only 23 years old, so there will likely be some bumps in the road as he gets accustomed to Major League pitching, but there is plenty of upside here.
He saw limited action with the Brewers in 2009, finishing with a .304 batting average in 124 at-bats. But his game is built upon his speed, and he could approach 30 stolen bases before 2010 is done. The top tier of shortstops is rather shallow, so look for Escobar to be a prime sleeper target in your draft.