If you are a fantasy baseball avid, over the next few weeks leading up to your draft you will likely read more "Top Ten Sleepers for 2011" or "Under the Radar Players to Watch Out For This Year" articles than ‘Useful Financial Advice’ or ‘Finance for Dummies’ articles Brian Cashman or Al Davis will read. Although, on that note, everyone in America would be well-served to read some of those articles. Anyway…sleepers. What are they? What does the term sleeper mean? How young or inexperienced does a player have to be to be considered a sleeper? Well, let me answer those questions:
My unofficial, purely opinionated, but still useful definition of sleeper eligibility: If 30 percent or fewer of your league has this player on their sleeper radar, he can be considered a sleeper. If any more have him on their lists, he’s immediately ineligible.
To sum it up, Matt LaPorta is not a sleeper this year…neither is Andrew McCutchen…If LaPorta is on your list of sleepers, you probably don’t look deep enough into rosters to find real sleepers. If Miguel Cabrera is on your list of sleepers, this would be a good time for you to save yourself some frustration in 2011 by quitting your league.
Some people will contend that anyone can be a sleeper. For example, let’s take Dustin Pedroia. Everyone knows him and everyone knows he will be good. However, you think he’ll be the top hitter overall in 2011. (This is a hypothetical situation, but if you are reading this paragraph and thinking to yourself: “Oh hey, here’s someone else who thinks Pedroia will be the best hitter in 2011”, see my advice above for people with Miguel Cabrera on their sleeper lists.) Some people will say that this makes Pedroia a sleeper in your mind. In other words, they believe a sleeper to be someone who they think will exceed the general public’s projection. Well, those players are more accurately called "underrated players." They are well known, thus they are not players that will slip passed anyone’s radar and fall into your lap.
Now that we have established the definition of sleeper eligibility (If not, that was probably a waste of four paragraphs), let’s examine what flags to look for when choosing your sleepers. First, and most importantly, is potential. You can have all the playing time, surrounding hitters, etc., but if you don’t have potential you’ll just end up like Skip Schumaker. (In fairness to Skip, he was a useful second baseman in many 30 team NL only leagues).
Second flag: playing time. There is nothing more frustrating than a player dripping with potential held back by playing time…on second thought, there are actually a lot of things more frustrating. Regardless, playing time is key. Playing time can come in many ways; through injury, trades, or simply earning a starting spot.
Third flag: surrounding players. You have to feel bad for Rajai Davis; he scored merely 66 runs despite hitting .284 and stealing 50 bases. (He can thank his "power hitters" who were supposed to drive him in. That’s you Jack Cust and Kevin Kouzmanoff. On second thought, blame whoever believed those two would drive anyone in and refused to trade for somebody who could drive in runs). There are other flags to look for, however these are the three major flags to be aware of. Now, let’s move on to the sleepers at last.
(Drum roll, suspenseful music, anything else that would stimulate a dramatic aura)