Fantasy Baseball Preview 2010: Part Five—Keep an Eye on These Sleepers
In the fifth installment of this six-part series we look at a group of young players who you may either not have heard of, or have not deemed to be worthy of fantasy consideration…until this season.
Store this last group of names into your mental archives. These mid-to-late round sleepers (or mid-season pickups) could provide the statistical boost that wins you your league.
Julio Borbon—Outfield, Texas Rangers
Slated to be the everyday center fielder batting leadoff for Texas, Borbon is a thief on the bases. Having swiped 19 bags in less than a third of a season. He has a chance to become this year’s Michael Bourn.
Given the protection Borbon has in the Texas lineup, one can expect him to get 100 runs scored provided he can stay healthy.
Target Borbon in the middle rounds after the big-name stolen base threats are gone.
Wade Davis—Starting Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
This 24-year-old provides the Rays with solid depth at the back of their young pitching rotation.
Although he had one horrific outing against Boston in 2009, Wade gave up three earned runs or less in each of his other five outings.
Davis plays in a tough division, but gets enough strikeouts and keeps the walks down to be a good major league pitcher.
Given Tampa’s speedy defense, the acquisition of Rafael Soriano to bolster the back of the bullpen, and the announcement that the youngster won’t be put on an innings limit, Davis has the pieces in place to serve as a nice late-round sleeper for the back of your rotation.
Neftali Feliz—Relief pitcher, Texas Rangers
The Dominican flamethrower has the tools to jump to the front of the AL Rookie of the Year race and aims to open the season in Texas’ starting rotation.
Still only 21 (22 in May), Feliz is anchored slightly by control issues and his youth.
If he can continue to keep the walks down and the heater in triple digits, Feliz could be the talk of Major League Baseball by May.
Grab him as a mid-to-late round prospect with high upside. But be forewarned that he probably won’t pitch 200 innings if he stays in the rotation throughout the season, as he only pitched 108 between Triple-A and Texas last season.
David Freese—Third Base, St. Louis Cardinals
Freese is expected to be the Cards’ Opening Day third baseman.
With four successful seasons in the minors under his belt, the 27-year-old rookie begins his major league career in a powerful lineup.
He stands to benefit from having All-Stars like Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick to drive in.
Only target Freese as a speculative reserve pick towards the end of your draft. He hasn’t proven anything in the majors yet.
Carlos Gonzalez—Outfield, Colorado Rockies
Gonzalez sucked it up as a 2008 rookie in Oakland, then came over to the Rockies in the Matt Holliday trade.
Although Gonzalez struggled in his first month in Colorado, he hit .314 the rest of the regular season, batted .588 (no, that’s not a typo) in the postseason and provided five-category success for those intrepid enough to snag him off the waiver wire.
Since the A's surely wish they had Gonzalez back considering Holliday is long gone, Car-Gon should get substantial playing time in Colorado’s outfield and offer considerable upside as a OF4.
Jason Heyward—Outfield, Atlanta Braves
The 20-year-old phenom is currently in the Braves’ farm system but has demonstrated uncanny discipline at the plate.
Since Heyward has excelled at each level of the minors, manager Bobby Cox is considering having him begin the season in Atlanta.
If his immense talent translates at the big league level, Heyward stands to be a legitimate contender for National League Rookie of the Year.
Howie Kendrick—Second Base, Los Angeles Angels
Although we’ve been discussing him as if he were a fresh-faced prospect for years now, Kendrick enters his fifth season with untapped potential.
His roller coaster 2009 season involved a trip to the minors, a July callup and a .351 BA from that point through the end of the season.
Angel manager Mike Scoscia has platooned Kendrick with Maicer Izturis, but Kendrick is a far better offensive talent who should eventually take playing time away from Izturis.
Kendrick, who turns 27 in July, could be a shrewd under-the-radar acquisition towards the end of your draft if you still need a second baseman.
Clayton Kershaw—Los Angeles Dodgers
The 21-year-old hurler took three steps forward and one step back last year.
First, the 185 strikeouts he collected in 171 innings were very impressive and gave every indication that Kershaw’s talent is for real.
In addition, the southpaw also gave up only 10 hits more than his rookie season when he pitched 63.3 fewer innings.
Unfortunately, he allowed almost a walk every other inning in 2009. If Kershaw can harness his repertoire and keep his WHIP where it was in '09 (1.23), then the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter needs to be on your team as a SP3. Especially if you play in a 5x5 league.
Clayton has many good things going for him: He plays for a good team with a fantastic bullpen, and solid defense in a relatively weak division.
Matt LaPorta—Outfield, Cleveland Indians
We’ve been hearing a lot about this kid since he played with Team USA in the Beijing Olympics a couple years ago.
Now just 25, but coming off hip and toe surgery, LaPorta will be handed the Indians’ starting left field gig and may see some time at first base as well.
The Tribe recently acquired Russell Branyan to man first base full-time, but don't be surprised if you see more of LaPorta as the season winds down. The kid has bigger overall upside of the two.
Cameron Maybin—Outfield, Florida Marlins
Slated to hit second between Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins’ starting center fielder has gotten a lot of press as a major leaguer considering he hasn’t accomplished much yet.
Maybin will be just 23 in April and has yet to come close to tapping into his 20/20 potential.
Provided he plays well in spring training, keep an eye on Maybin as a possible OF5, and hope for the breakout that the Marlins envisioned when they traded for him from Detroit.
Given the protection he’ll be provided in the lineup, Maybin is being given every chance to flourish.
Nolan Reimold—Outfield, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Manager Dave Trembley sees Reimold as a fixture in left field for 2010.
With 15 homers, eight steals and a .279 batting average in 358 at bats, the 26-year-old has both the tools and buzz to get Oriole and fantasy fans equally intrigued.
Reimold’s 30—home run potential is exciting, but his impressive plate discipline coupled with the fact that Baltimore won't be a contender in the AL East anytime soon is what may keep him in the lineup.
Scott Sizemore—Second Base, Detroit Tigers
At first, the Tigers flirted with the idea of offering arbitration to veteran Placido Polanco and possibly signing free agent Orlando Hudson. Nevertheless, Jim Leyland decided to resort to the farm system and make the 25—year—old Sizemore his starting second baseman.
Coincidentally, Sizemore’s offensive skill set is not unlike Polanco’s and Hudson’s: a fistful of homers and steals to go with a solid BA.
But, he is strictly late—round consideration at this stage.
Travis Snider—Outfield, Toronto Blue Jays
One look at the 5’11”, 230 pound Snider, and visions of 40-homer seasons come to mind.
After an impressive stint at the end of the 2008 season, Snider was named the Blue Jays’ 2009 opening day left fielder.
The then 21—year—old struggled in Toronto, but dominated Triple-A after he was sent down.
When he was recalled in August, Snider played a bit better, but not as well as the year before.
He now faces starting 2010 in the minors, and will need a big spring training to stay with Toronto.
Still he has enough upside to stash on your reserve with a late pick.
Drew Stubbs—Outfield, Cincinnati Reds
Stubbs was forced into major league action after a flurry of injuries hit the Reds’ outfield in the second half of 2009. Upon his callup, Stubbs responded with eight home runs and 10 steals in 180 at bats.
While he has proven to be a legitimate threat on the basepaths in the minors, he doesn’t have a track record for hitting for power, having hit only as many as 12 homers for Single-A Dayton in 2007.
Stubbs shouldn’t be counted on as a power or speed threat. But if he hits more than 15 to go along with 30-40 steals in 2010, consider any additional run production gravy.
Joel Zumaya—Relief Pitcher, Detroit Tigers
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…but Joel Zumaya is healthy!
Unfortunately for his closer aspirations, the Tigers went out and got the best free agent relief pitcher available in Jose Valverde.
Even on the rare occasion that Zumaya isn’t injured and has his blazing 99+ MPH heater is humming, he hasn’t been able to put it all together long enough to stay on the fantasy radar.
But, if Valverde experiences a rough transition to the American League, take a flier on Zumaya.
To check out the rest of The Fantasy Baseball Hintbook 2010 Preview, click on the links below.
Part 1: New Names on Your Cheat Sheet
Part 2: Promoted to Stud Status
Part 3: Late Bloomer or One-Year Wonder?
Part 4: Young Talent That Hit a Rough Patch
Part 6: Thanks For The Memories