Fantasy Baseball 2011: One Draft Sleeper from Every Major League Team

J. BatovskyCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011: One Draft Sleeper from Every Major League Team

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    This is sort of like last minute Christmas shopping. Here is one final tip for you before you have your fantasy baseball league draft. Sorry but I can't stop you from picking a bunch of stiffs. What I can do is give you a few ideas as to which "sleepers" might be able to help your team in spite of your other draft picks.

    There have been a ton of injuries this Spring, so some of these sleepers may get an early start. I have my own draft on Sunday, so I'll be reading this too when I'm done writing it. I've heard the phrase, "maybe you should take your own advice" before, so I just may have to do that.

    None of these guys are Rumpelstiltskin sleepers, but they will probably go late in your draft and a few maybe not at all. I listed the teams by division starting with the National League. Without further ado, here they are.

New York Mets, Chris Young SP

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    With Johan Santana out for at least several months, it seems Young has a solid hold on one of the starting spots in the Mets rotation.

    If the Mets offense stays healthy and lives up to expectations, there will be a lot of wins to go around.

    Young has pitched very well this Spring, so he may very well be the beneficiary of an improved offense.

Atlanta Braves, Brandon Beachy SP

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    Mike Minor was the one who was supposed to be taking a spot in the Braves starting rotation and making it his own. That hasn't happened.

    Beachy came to camp hungry and he simply ate up Grapefruit League hitters. As a result, Minor was sent to Triple-A and Beachy will be heading north to Atlanta.

    The kid has solid command and doesn't walk people which is always a plus. He has not shown a penchant for giving up the gopher ball either. He's going to surprise some people.

    Just don't let him surprise you.

Washington Nationals, Danny Espinosa 2B

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    I'm sure people are aware of the position scarcity at 2nd base. After the top few (Cano, Pedroia, a healthy Utley), the rest sort of get thrown into a hat and the names are drawn later in the draft.

    Espinosa is one of those guys. He was a bit overwhelmed late last season when he got a look with the big club, but that's nothing unusual.

    He does have some pop in his bat hitting 22 HR last season between two minor league stops. He can also swipe a few bags netting 25 in 2010.

    He could be a bargain source of HR and SB at a position of scarcity.

Florida Marlins, Gaby Sanchez 1B

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    Sanchez is at a deep position, and he is likely to be overshadowed by many of his teammates including Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, power phenom Mike Stanton and even Logan Morrison.

    In his first season in the majors, Sanchez showed he is capable of being a solid run producer by belting 19 HR and driving in 85. He is likely to cut down a bit on his strikeouts,and all of the other young players will have some experience under their belts.

    I'll be keeping Sanchez in mind later on in the draft.

Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Blanton SP

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    Yes, I am referring to that Joe Blanton. Of course he's not Halladay, Lee, Hamels or Oswalt, but that really doesn't matter.

    He's better than most fifth starters out there and doesn't have an ounce of pressure on him. He has averaged just over 6 IP per start over the past three seasons with an ERA just over 4.40.

    What that tells me is that the Phils don't score all that many runs in his starts. That is illustrated by a three year average of only 10 wins.

    Blanton pitches well enough to win more often than not. Maybe this year he actually will.

Chicago Cubs, Starlin Castro SS

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    Now I know Castro probably isn't a conventional sleeper. I have him on this list because I think he will improve from season one to season two more than most believe.

    While he hasn't shown much home run power, he has shown very good power to the gaps. A lot of those doubles just may turn into home runs this year.

    He has shown a much improved approach at the plate this Spring as well and consequently will be swinging at less bad pitches.

    I suggest bumping him up your SS list to around number six or seven.

    Yes I am serious and don't call me Shirley.

Cincinnati Reds, Travis Wood SP

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    The Reds rotation is in shambles at the moment with both Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey likely to start the season on the 15-day DL.

    Travis Wood will need to step up if the Reds are to weather the storm until Bailey and especially Cueto return to the rotation.

    He showed last season that he was more than capable of getting National League hitters out on a regular basis. He was strong across the board in most pitching categories. Pitching in Cincy should always make his ERA slightly inflated, but 3.51 as a rookie ain't too shabby.

    If I draft any pitcher from the Reds, it will be Wood.

Houston Astros, Brett Wallace 1B

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    This guy has shown everywhere he's been that he can hit, but teams keep trading him and he never seems to be given a fair shot to win a job. This Spring has been different.

    With regular playing time at first-base, Wallace has torn the cover off the ball. In 19 games he has 22 hits and 18 RBI to go along with .548 SLG and .922 OPS.

    He should be available late and worth a flyer in deeper leagues.

Milwaukee Brewers, Carlos Gomez OF

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    Gomez has so many skills one of which you can't teach, speed. His problem has been getting on base to actually use that speed to his team's advantage.

    This off-season Gomez has worked tirelessly with Brewers' hitting coach Dale Sveum to refine his approach at the plate. Okay maybe refine isn't the right word. Reinvent is probably better. Gomez has never had an OBP over .300 in his career.

    This Spring has been a revelation. Gomez is hitting .358 with an OBP of .370. Not only that he has been driving the ball resulting in .736 SLG and an OPS of 1.106.

    He's the starting center fielder and should be a cheap source of steals at the very least.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Neil Walker 2B

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    Neil Walker is another guy similar to Danny Espinosa. He has a slightly longer track record, but won't get you the steals Espinosa will.

    Walker has some pop (12 HR and 66 RBI in 2010) and hits for a high average as evidenced by his .296 mark last season.

    He's just 25, and I see his numbers improving significantly. He's not a household name, but he is a solid option at second base.

St. Louis Cardinals, David Freese 3B

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    Freese put up good numbers while being severely limited due to injuries.  He played in just 70 games last season and didn't play after June 27.

    However, he looked like a pretty solid offensive option in the time he made it onto the diamond, posting a .296 batting average and a .361 OBP.

    Freese has some pop in his bat, as evidenced by his 26-homer season at the AAA level back in 2008.  

    I don't expect to see those kind of numbers, but La Russa has shown faith in him and showered him with praise this season and that should be good enough for most of us.  With Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Lance Berkman in the lineup around him, he should have plenty of protection and should see plenty of hittable pitches.

    Here's hoping he stays healthy.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Ian Kennedy SP

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    Kennedy had a solid year last year if anyone actually noticed. He's stuck out there in Arizona where not a lot of people see or hear about him.

    He threw nearly 200 innings in 2010 and his peripherals were solid especially his WHIP and SO.

    He is going to be passed over in your draft on more than a few occasions. Don't make the same mistake the others will by drafting a pitcher with a bigger name at the expense of the actual numbers.

    I won't.

Colorado Rockies, Dexter Fowler OF

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    Fowler just turned 25 a couple days ago, and it's getting close to put up or shut up time for him.

    He struggled early last season, but seemed to get things straightened out in the minors and ended the season on a successful note in Colorado.

    He should get you some steals and score some runs hitting ahead of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

    Try him out, you just might like him.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Ted Lilly SP

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    Lilly is sort of in the same class as Ian Kennedy, but with a longer track record. Kershaw, Billingsley, and even Kuroda will get more pub than Lilly.

    Inexplicably enough, Lilly doesn't win a lot of games. What he does do is dominate the WHIP category. Over the last three years he has a cumulative WHIP of 1.12. He also has averaged 167 SO per season during that time.

    He's the second best starting pitcher on the Dodgers, but the odds are he may get drafted fourth.

San Diego Padres, Ryan Ludwick OF

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    Ludwick had two very good seasons in 2008 and 2009 while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He looked to be off to another decent start in 2010 when he was traded to San Diego.

    He struggled in the Padres' line-up. While he no longer has Albert Pujols or Matt Holiday around him, he should bounce back with a solid season.

    Ludwick is a good bet to be a solid back-up outfielder on a fantasy team. If the cards fall just right, he may be able to contribute as a part-time starter.

San Francisco Giants, Santiago Casilla RP

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    It was difficult to find an actual sleeper on this team, and Casilla won out almost by default.

    With closer Brian Wilson's status to start the season in question, the Giants may need someone to step into that closing role until the man with the beard is good to go.

    Casilla has more upside than Jeremy Affeldt as a temporary closer. He has three solid pitches and can bring the heat with the best of them.

    Monitor Wilson's status closely and keep this dude in mind.

Baltimore Orioles, Koji Uehara RP

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    I realize he is nursing a sore elbow at the moment, but it's starting to look like he will be ready for Opening Day.

    Kevin Gregg has had some success as a closer. I grant you that, but he is a true adventure at times. Gregg walks entirely too many hitters, and you really would like your closer to have an ERA well under 3.50.

    Uehara showed last year that he can handle the closer's role quite well. If he's healthy, he will probably get another shot.

Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard RP

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    Last season Bard's performance bordered on ridiculous, and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different.

    Everyone will focus on closers and most likely will reach for some. If you wait a bit longer, you can pick-up Bard who puts up better numbers than nearly all closers minus the saves.

    If you have the stomach for it, give it a shot.

New York Yankees, Andruw Jones OF

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    At the moment Jones isn't a starter, but all of that could change quickly. With Curtis Granderson nursing a strained oblique, Jones' chance could come as soon as Opening Day.

    Being able to hit in the middle of that Yankees' line-up could be what the doctor ordered for Jones to start producing once again.

    In any case, he would be a very late option in a deep league.

Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist 2B/OF

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    Zobrist had a down year in 2010. I don't think there is any disputing that. I can easily see him having a resurgence putting up numbers closer to those of the 2009 season.

    Zobrist has multiple position eligibility (OF/2B) in most leagues, and that certainly works in his favor.

    He has the ability to get you a power and speed combination which would work very well at second-base.

    Keep a close eye on him.

Toronto Blue Jays, Jon Rauch CL

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    Blue Jays' new manager John Farrell is currently spouting the company line. He's trying to convince everyone that Frank Francisco will not lose the closer's job due to his injury. Everyone knows he's blowing smoke if Francisco's stand-in gets the job done.

    Enter Jon Rauch. He has had a completely lights out camp, and had success last year as the Minnesota Twins closer. He is the Blue Jays best option by far.

    Rauch should go late and be a very cheap source of saves.

Chicago White Sox, Chris Sale P

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    Chris Sale is an interesting case. Is he a starter or reliever or maybe even a closer?

    It was confirmed about a week ago that he will NOT be the White Sox closer on Opening Day. That job went to Matt Thornton. Does that mean you ignore Sale on draft day? God no!

    He will be a primary set-up man for Thornton, but if Thornton struggles, Sale will be right there to step in.

    Another interesting angle is that many believe Sale's best long-term role may be as a starter. In that event, he may be a good pick-up in keeper leagues.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley OF

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    Brantley will be getting a full-time shot this season. He was originally slated to start in left-field, but with Grady Sizemore not likely to be ready for Opening Day, Brantley will start in center-field and bat lead-off.

    At every stop in the minors, Brantley didn't strike out, consistently got on base and stole his share of bases. So far he hasn't translated any of that to his time with the Indians.

    If it "clicks" for him, Brantley will be a good source of runs, steals and on-base percentage.

    The odds are he won't be drafted in your league, but keep an eye on him.

Detroit Tigers, Jhonny Peralta SS

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    Peralta is a lot like Yuniesky Betancourt of the Milwaukee Brewers, and they both aren't as bad as everyone makes them out to be.

    Neither one will be confused with Troy Tulowitzki, but if you want home runs in the teens and 70 RBI from the shortstop position, they will both do that for you.

    Now Peralta will be in Detroit from the beginning of the season. He has better hitters around him in the line-up, so I expect his numbers to improve somewhat.

    He's never going to hit .300, but there are going to certainly be worse options out there.

Kansas City Royals, Alcides Escobar SS

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    The Royals wanted him, and the Brewers' obliged. The question is, should you want him?

    Escobar's numbers from the 2010 season are a bit deceiving. He hit the ball hard on a regular basis, so his low batting average of .235 is an anomaly . He hit a lot of line drives, but unfortunately for him they were right at someone.

    He hit for a high average in the minors, so that part of his game should come around as early as this season. He has torn up the pitching this Spring at a .378 clip with a .420 OBP.

    He should be a good source of steals as well having averaged close to 30 stolen bases per season down on the farm.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Nathan CL

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    Okay first of all, this guy needs to invest in some sunscreen. He should be able to afford some with what he makes, right?

    He's back. Since the 2004 season, Nathan has arguably been the most dominant closer in the game. Any time you average 41 saves per season with a 1.87 ERA and 0.934 WHIP, you're doing something right.

    Having missed the entire 2010 season, Nathan will probably be an afterthought on draft day. Don't make that mistake.

    Matt Capps will most likely begin the season as the Twins' closer, but don't be surprised if Nathan supplants him in that role sometime during the season.

Los Angeles Angels of Anahein, Hisanori Takahashi RP

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    Let me say this. Fernando Rodney will either get hurt or lose his closer's job to Takahashi.  Rodney has never been an effective closer for anyone. Saving 37 games with a 4.40 ERA and 1.467 WHIP does not qualify.

    Takahashi has been a buzz saw this Spring basically taking down everyone he has faced. Opponents are hitting .143 against him, and he has compiled an astounding WHIP of 0.55.

    Mike Scioscia is a brilliant manager, and he is bound to figure out who gives the team the best chance at closing out games. My money is on Takahashi.

Oakland A's, Coco Crisp OF

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    Call me crazy, but this is going to be the year this guy stays healthy. He is in the final year of his deal and if he's ever going to play a full season, it most likely will be in a contract year.

    Crisp can contribute in numerous categories across the board when he is on the field on a regular basis. The problem is that he's never played in more than 145 games in a season.

    Someone may think they're smart and reach for Crisp in your draft. Let the sleeping dawg lie until it's time to pounce. Just be aware that Crisp is the kind of dawg that may just bite the hand that feeds him.

    Sorry about all of the canine quips. It's very late here.

Seattle Mariners, Erik Bedard SP

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    Yes, Bedard is alive and still pitches in Seattle.

    He didn't pitch at all in 2010, and maybe that's a good thing. He camp into camp this Spring healthy, and he's been showing off. He has been flat out dominant from the start.

    During the times when he has been healthy in his career, he has shown that he is most definitely a good pitcher.

    A lot of starters have gone down all over MLB this Spring, so a guy like Bedard could be a guy to step in for you until another of your pitchers gets healthy.

    Most people will be scared off by his injury history, but if you go into your draft with the right mindset, Bedard could end up being just what the doctor ordered. Not his doctor, your doctor.

Texas Rangers, Brandon Webb SP

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    I'm not kidding myself. Webb won't be ready to contribute all that much in the first half of the season. His "sleeper" status comes from the fact that he could be an important waiver wire acquisition around the All-Star break.

    So please don't go into your draft all hyped up to take Webb and look smarter than everyone else. You'll just simply look like a total spaz.

    The Rangers are taking it slow with Webb, and you should do the same.