I need to start off this sleeper with a bit of a disclaimer, or caveat if you will.
Unlike other fantasy baseball sleeper players I’ve written about, like Freddie Freeman and Sean Rodriguez, who are young players fresh off the farm looking for their breakout season, Barton has for the most part established himself as a useful player in the league but managed to do so in extreme under-the-radar fashion.
At the same time, despite being more established than the guys I just mentioned, Barton is an even deeper sleeper because playing with Oakland gets him little media coverage, and to go with it he doesn’t put up Albert Pujols-type numbers that force people to pay attention.
Still, by many of those whom are tuned in to SABR, advanced statistical metrics used to obtain the most accurate valuation possible of a player’s true contribution on offense and defense, Barton is regarded as one of the most all-around well-rounded and sound first basemen in the game.
Like I said, he will never be competing with Pujols and Adam Dunn for the home run crown, but that doesn’t mean Barton can’t help you take your fantasy baseball league by storm.
Last year, in his under-the-radar breakout season with Oakland, Barton hit .273/.393/.405 with a .798 OPS, 10 home runs, seven steals and 57 RBI. Not awe-inspiring, and definitely not top 20 in your standard mixed league, but here’s where it gets interesting. Remember that .393 OBP he had last year? That was fueled mostly by his impeccable plate discipline, as he netted a league-best 110 walks to 102 strikeouts.
Again, I’m not saying that Barton is going to carry the load for your fantasy team, but if you play in an AL-only format or in the deepest of mixed leagues, especially one in which walks are counted as a stat, Barton can be a much more helpful player than you think.
Playing with Oakland in their spacious stadium will almost certainly limit any progression in home runs, as Barton does not have enough of a power stroke to continue developing that aspect of his game, especially given the context of his home field. But there is still upside in batting average and walks, and if you find yourself in need of a fill-in midseason but find scarcity at the position, don’t shy away.
He’s really to be filed under “not sexy but gets the job done,” as a fill-in or occasional utility starter, but because of his relative unknown status among the commoners, it’s just as well to call him a very deep sleeper.
Most importantly, keep your league’s rules in mind. If walks and/or OBP are counted stats, Barton’s value jumps up, as those are his two strongest categories. Know how your rules impact his value and plan accordingly, but regardless of how you value Barton, you’ll find him available anywhere in the draft, as his ADP of 260 means he’s not even drafted in the majority of basic 10-team leagues.
2011 projected stats: .265 AVG, 97 BB, 11 HR, 51 RBI, six steals, 70 runs