Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Bargains at Each Position to Fill Your Roto Needs
What is a sleeper?
Ask your league mates, and you'll probably get a different answer from each of them.
To me, a sleeper is a player, no matter the pedigree, that I think is set to far outproduce expectations due to a relatively low ADP.
With rare exceptions, these players won't go for more than $5 in any auction.
Fantasy baseball is a game of profits and losses, sound investments and colossal mistakes.
Having a bench, and maybe a starting slot or two, filled by a bunch of good, cheap lottery tickets is a sure fire way to maintain depth on your roster and position yourself to win a league title.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few players you should target in the later rounds of your draft as MLB's preseason comes to a close.
Two Types of Catchers
Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
AVG Pick: 188.9
This will be Posada's 17th season strapping on Yankees pinstripes. Though no longer the team's No. 1 catcher (that responsibility falls on Dodgers defect Russell Martin), Posada should still be able to produce with the bat while serving as the Yanks' primary designated hitter.
Without the wear and tear of blocking pitches, look for a line of .270-20-80, at worst, in what should be the long-tenured backstop's last good season.
Will Outproduce: Carlos Santana (AVG Pick: 76.2). You remember how that knee injury looked? I sure do.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies
AVG Pick: 215.5
Although Ruiz is a career .260 hitter, his strong plate discipline suggests that he is capable of maintaining the .302 average that he posted last season. The 32-year-old catcher has walked more than he's struck out in his career.
Catchers tend to have a power spike in their early to mid-thirties. I'm not saying it's coming, but you can bet on .295-10-60.
Hawaiian Punch (Yeah, I Went There)
Kila Ka'aihue, Kansas City Royals
AVG Pick: 241, five percent owned
The smashing Hawaiian Kila Ka'aihue is finally being given his chance to make it in the major leagues, and he'll do it while hitting fifth in a potentially decent lineup. The Royals can make contact, so RBI opportunities might be there for the taking.
Kila hit 37 homers and walked 37 more times more than he struck out between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008. Struggling to adjust to higher level, pitching full-time in 2009 drooped his average from .316 to .252 and cut his power by 20 bombs.
Fine-tuning gave way to recovery in 2010 with a .319 average, 24 home runs and a 1.060 OPS.
Kila is a big dude (6'3'', 233 lbs) and he looks mean at the plate. He hit seven homers in the spring and could get off to a hot start. Buy now, sell in June, reap the profits and buy again next year.
Will Outproduce: Aubrey Huff (AVG Pick: 133.2)
Third Base Four Cat
Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
AVG Pick: 228, 50 percent owned
Very few 38-year-old athletes would decide to make a comeback after tearing their ACL. Chipper Jones has done just that and appears healthy heading into what could be his final season.
He had announced during the 2010 season that that would be his last, but perhaps he wanted his final baseball memory to be of himself walking off the field to applause rather than being helped off amid concerned groans.
Larry Wayne looked just fine this spring, with eight doubles and four homers over 62 at-bats. New manager Fredi Gonzalez has enough faith in the future Hall of Famer to keep him third in the lineup.
Use .300-85-25-85 as a baseline.
Will Outproduce: Aramis Ramirez (AVG Pick: 78)
Middle Infield Speed
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota Twins
AVG Pick: 227.9
A lot of people were surprised when the Chiba Lotte Marines posted Nishioka this winter.
The Twins scored the NPB's 2010 batting champion for a cool $5 million; Nishioka hit .346 last season for Lotte.
His OPS has steadily risen throughout his Japanese career, from the replacement levels of the low .700's to .820, .787 and .905 the past three seasons.
Nishioka stole 74 bases during his first two full seasons in 2005-2006, but he's not particularly fast and relies on his instincts to get good jumps on pitchers.
His three-time NPB Golden Glove defense will keep him in the lineup no matter his bat. With run producers Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hitting behind him, Nishioka could be a great source of runs.
Ron Gardenhire will give a smart baserunner the green light whenever he wants. Nishioka should be a good source of steals (25-30) with at worst a .285-.290 average.
Even better news, he's eligible at both middle infield spots.
Will Outproduce: Brian Roberts (AVG Pick: 131.5)
Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers
AVG Pick: 205.8
Switching from one side of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry to the other is serious business. Especially when you just helped your former team to a world championship, and your current team offered you more money.
Juan Uribe is eligible at 2B, 3B, and SS but will get most of his bats while playing the former two. He's just 32 years old and on a new three-year deal with a legitimate NL West contender.
Uribe is a good yearly bet for 20-25 home runs and his new manager, Don Mattingly, will preach patience.
The Dominican utility man showed a better eye last year than at any other point in his career, which is a sign that the free swinger might be showing better discipline as he ages.
Even if he doesn't, you can afford to take the batting average hit, 20+ home runs is a rare commodity for your middle infield.
Will Outproduce: Ian Desmond (AVG Pick: 133.6)
Michael Morse Stands Alone
Michael Morse, Washington Nationals
AVG Pick: 232, 12 percent owned
Research shows that when a player posts a spring training slugging percentage 200 points greater than his career average, a breakout may be on the horizon.
Morse's nine home runs paced the grapefruit league, and his .818 slugging percentage seems to indicate that he may have finally put it all together.
He OPS'ed over 1.000 during 80 at-bats last June and July, but more playing time led to pitchers adjusting, and higher strikeout totals for Morse towards the end of the season.
At 6'5" and 230 lbs, Morse is big and strong as A-Rod and looks every bit the part of a big-time slugger. His spring performance indicates that he'll expand on the 15 home runs and 12 doubles he hit over 266 at-bats last season.
Will Outproduce: Corey Hart (AVG Pick: 95.7)
Cheap Speed and Maybe Other Things Too
Coco Crisp, Oakland A's
AVG Pick: 238.6
Crisp's plate discipline has appeared to develop, ironically enough, after he left the Red Sox. Over 470 at-bats over the past two seasons, Crisp has walked 59 times and struck out on just 72 occasions.
He has also stolen 45 bases over that span. Crisp always had the speed but was never much afforded the opportunity to run.
Coco showed a nice little power spike in his 290 at-bats with the A's last season. He hit eight home runs, which put him on pace for a full season total in line with the 31 he hit (15, 16) between 2004-2005 with the Indians.
Crisp could be a valuable outfielder in all mixed leagues. Leading off for the A's, he'll be a plus in runs and steals and won't kill you in homers, RBI or average.
Will Outproduce: If healthy, Shane Victorino (AVG Pick: 82.8)
From Japan, with Love
Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers
AVG Pick: 178.8
Colby Lewis returned from Japan with a vengeance last season.
With new confidence in his slider, the 6'4'', 230 lbs Californian logged 201 innings, striking out 196 batters and walking just 65.
During his two-year absence from the MLB, the righty threw two seasons of 175-plus innings, each with dominant numbers, leading the Nippon League in K/9 and K/BB both years.
He was one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball last season and should far outproduce his draft ranking with better offensive support.
Will Outproduce: Matt Cain (AVG Pick: 82.8)
Worm Burning Fun
Tim Stauffer, San Diego Padres
AVG Pick: 241.9
The San Diego Padres made Tim Stauffer the fourth overall pick out of Richmond University in 2003. While he'll likely never live up to that billing as an elite ace, Stauffer keeps the ball on the ground and his team in the game.
His ground-ball rate last season was an elite 55 percent.
Although that number dropped to 49 percent in the second half of the year (closer to his minor league average), double play balls, good infield defense and a home run suppressing park should keep Stauffer's rate stats down.
At around 6.0 K/9, Stauffer strikes out just enough batters to make him worth owning. His control, which is already sound, should improve as he figures out major league hitters.
With a little bit of luck, Tim Stauffer could be a very valuable arm.
Will Outproduce: Trevor Cahill (148.7)
Finally in the Catbird Seat
Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
AVG Pick: 188.6
Of all the newly aspiring closers this season, Joel Hanrahan boasts the most eye-popping major league track record.
The 29-year-old has picked up a few saves over the past two seasons, but he hasn't been given a chance to come out for the ninth inning consistently.
Between Washington and Pittsburgh, Hanrahan has struck out over a batter per inning for each of the past three seasons.
His numbers peaked last year, with a 100:26 strikeout to walk ratio over 69 innings.
Against the Leo Nunez's and Brandon Lyon's of the world, Hanrahan is a safer bet.
Will Outproduce: Jose Valverde (AVG Pick: 133)