Ten True Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
One of my major pet peeves is "sleeper" articles that don't really feature true sleepers.
Many of them will give you names like Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, or Tommy Hanson that have already made a mark in the majors and draw a premium in drafts.
Others will give you names that any good fantasy player already knows, like Gordon Beckham (pictured), Matt Wieters, or Brett Anderson.
Or perhaps they will give you the names of some top prospects with the potential to take on major roles but who have no history in the majors yet, like Stephen Strasburg or Jason Heyward.
That is not the purpose of this article. My goal is to give you a list of names that you may not know that could help your fantasy team.
None of these players are among the top 100 hitters or the top 50 pitchers on Yahoo!'s player ratings, but they are names to remember towards the end of your draft that have the potential to make a big impact.
The odds are very good that the majority of these guys flame out and find their way back to the free agents list by June. However, if they pan out, they could have a very positive effect on your fantasy team.
Rasmus was only 22 last year when he became the everyday center fielder for the Cardinals.
Colby didn't have the greatest season last year, hitting only .251 on the season.
However, he is an extremely talented player with five-tool potential. He was widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball after posting 29 homers and 18 steals in 128 games as a 20-year-old in AA.
He could see a major bump in production now that he has a year of experience under his belt. Batting in front of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should give him plenty of opportunities to score as well.
Blanks is another 22-year-old that broke into the majors last year. After posting a .304/.393/.505 career line in the minors, Blanks slugged 10 homers in only 148 at-bats for the Padres last year.
Now that he is penciled in as the starting left fielder, he could be a major bargain in the power department. He has legitimate 30-homer power, though he will have to cut down on his strikeouts to post a useful batting average.
The parade of talented young outfielders continues with Travis Snider.
Travis got quite a few at-bats for the Blue Jays after tearing up the PCL early in the season. He only hit .241 in those 77 games, but he has significant extra-base power and a career minor league average of .304.
With Alex Rios in Chicago, Snider should get every opportunity to capitalize on his hitting ability this year.
Stubbs took a lot longer to get to the majors than the previous three hitters, but at 25 he's finally taken over a starting spot in Cincinnati.
Drew is in this spot mostly because of his speed. He stole 121 bases at a 77 percent clip in the minors and tallied 10 for the Reds last year in only 42 games.
While he showed little power in the minors, he also hit eight homers during that brief major league stint. I don't have to tell anyone how highly valued anyone that can produce power and speed numbers is in most drafts.
Whether that was an aberration or Stubbs finally developing his power, he still has value in the latter rounds as a potential source of 40 steals.
I finally stepped away from the outfielders and added someone at a high-demand position to the list.
Iannetta hasn't been the greatest fantasy catcher the last few years, but he is a strong power source (34 homers in 622 at-bats the last two seasons) and has a starting job in Colorado.
It won't take much of an improvement for him to be a big asset at catcher. This is a position where 20 homers, 80 RBI, and a respectable batting average puts you in the top five at the position.
With a little development and/or luck, Iannetta could get there in 2010. This is especially true since he'll be 27 in early April, the age where most hitters peak statistically.
You always have to pay attention to talented young pitchers that are expected to break into the starting rotation, especially if they play for a good team that will help their win totals. Wade Davis fits that description quite well.
Many will pay more attention to David Price, who is another talented Rays starter to keep an eye on (I left him off this list because he is far more well known).
However, Davis is nearly as talented and was similarly solid in the minors. He was also productive in six late-season starts, posting an ERA of 3.72 with almost a strikeout per inning.
He is exactly the kind of high-upside pitcher you should look for at the tail end of the draft.
After going fourth overall in the 2008 draft, Matusz quickly rose to the major leagues. He was absolutely lights-out in the minors last year and earned eight late-season starts for the Orioles.
Brian was hit fairly hard in the majors, as evidenced by his 10.8 hits per nine innings and 1.48 WHIP.
However, his control was relatively solid, and he struck out 7.7 hitters per nine innings.
If he can avoid the sweet spot of the bat even somewhat more frequently in his second stint in the majors, he could end up being a very valuable starting pitcher.
Some of you may have been burned by Bailey in the past. It seems like he's been an over-hyped prospect as long as people can remember, and he's gone through some growing pains at the higher levels of professional baseball.
That said, he's still only going to be 24 in May, even if it seems like people have been touting him since the mid-'90s. His biggest issue has always been his control, which leads him to put far too many runners on base.
He still has a pretty good arm, which he showed in nine straight solid starts to close the 2009 season. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of those starts, posting a 1.89 ERA and striking out 46 in 52.1 innings.
Maybe it was just a random hot streak and he'll return to his usual struggles this season—or maybe he's finally starting to figure things out and is finally turning into the pitcher many thought he would be several years ago.
I know that Bumgarner is still absurdly young. He's already at the major league level even though he won't turn 21 until August.
However, the kid can clearly pitch. Minor leaguers struggled to make solid contact against him, and he was similarly effective in a September audition for the Giants that consisted of one start and three relief appearances.
Bumgarner was about as dominant in the minors as a pitcher can be, and now that he is slated to be the fifth starter for the Giants, he is definitely a player to watch.
Yes, I'm reaching deep into the bag of potential sleepers with this pick.
As a White Sox fan, I watched him pitch fairly regularly last season. When he was on top of his game, he dominated opposing hitters with his 92-94 mph fastball and relatively effective breaking pitches. When he was a bit off, he couldn't get anyone out and hit the showers early.
With the move to San Diego, you could see a lot more of the former than the latter. The move to the NL is usually favorable to a pitcher, and the NL West is full of pitcher-friendly parks.
He also could benefit from being in the rotation the entire season rather than starting in the bullpen like last season.
The key for him will be throwing strikes. He had quite a few walks last season, and he struggled when he had to throw a fastball behind in the count and everyone knew it was coming.
While I wouldn't bet anything of significance on it, it wouldn't surprise me if Richard posted an ERA under 4.00 with a solid number of strikeouts. The only downside is the Padres aren't likely to help him much in the wins department.