Chicago Cubs: Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers in Spring Camp

Tommy Stokke@StokkeTommyCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2012

Chicago Cubs: Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers in Spring Camp

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    There are roughly two weeks left before Opening Day as 14 spring games remain before the Cubs take the field against Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

    Strasburg and Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will highlight the big names when it comes to fantasy baseball. In fact, Castro may be the only Cubs player that fantasy owners across the nation expect much of anything from.

    More times than not, it isn't the player you draft in the first or second round that determines the success of your fantasy season. Instead, it's the diamond in the rough you find in the late rounds when most of the other owners walk away from the computer to auto-draft.

    Here are five Cubs sleepers who you can find later than their value in your upcoming draft.

Matt Garza

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    Matt Garza will be found somewhere around the 10th round in most fantasy leagues.

    I believe Garza is extremely undervalued here. Garza posted the best ERA in the NL Central last season (3.32) yet Adam Wainwright (coming off injury), Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are all being drafted ahead of him.

    If you're in a league that counts wins and losses, expect Garza to eclipse his 10 wins he produced last year. He struck out 197 batters last season, good for 17th in the majors. And you typically don't have to worry about durability issues with Garza.

    Compare Garza to the aforementioned pitchers, in addition to names such as Mat Latos, Jeremy Hellickson and Madison Bumgarner, and all will likely be selected higher than Garza in your league.

    Don't expect them to put up much, if any, better numbers than Garza. If Garza slips to you in the ninth or 10th round, thank the rest of the league and proudly select the right-hander.

Bryan LaHair

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    If you're drafting a Chicago Cubs first baseman, you're likely thinking of where to snag Anthony Rizzo. With LaHair struggling in spring training, the questions about Rizzo's debut this season have switched from "if" to "when."

    But if you're playing in a deep league, or NL-only, consider LaHair.

    In his brief stint in the majors last year, LaHair had 17 hits, eight for extra bases including two home runs. All in just 59 at-bats. More impressive was his .377 OBP.

    For the first time in his career, LaHair earned a starting position on Opening Day. I expect him to make the most of his opportunity.

    LaHair didn't wait all this time to have a prospect replace him after a few months.

    With what his stats projected last year, along with minor league experience, expect LaHair to hit 25 home runs while driving in 80. His OBP will be over .360 serving as an added bonus.

    He's been a power hitter his whole life and I don't think it's going to stop now.

Paul Maholm

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    Ryan Dempster or Jeff Samardzija might be the second Cubs starting pitcher you're looking to add in your deeper or NL-only drafts, but Paul Maholm is the safer bet.

    Maholm was just 6-14 last year for the Pirates, but a 3.66 ERA shows reason for optimism. He received just 14 runs of support in his first 10 starts of the year last year. Justin Verlander doesn't raise the Cy Young, let alone the MVP, with offensive support like that.

    He's playing on a better offense this season. Pitching at Wrigley Field shouldn't affect Maholm, as he's mostly a ground-ball pitcher.

    He won't register many strikeouts, but his WHIP (1.29 last season) won't hurt you as he doesn't walk many. He isn't flashy, but he's a safer option than Dempster and Samardzija.

    Samardzija, if he wins a starting spot, will be in his first season of starting in the majors. This will likely cause limits on his innings and pitches, potentially holding him back from reaching the numbers that Maholm can. Maholm is also more of a known-commodity.

    Dempster strikes out more, but he's 34 years old and his ERA has risen from 2.96 to 3.65 to 3.85 and finally 4.80 last season. It's hard to imagine him any worse, but it's hard to see him getting much better as well.

    If he's the Opening Day starter he will be matched up with the other team's ace more likely than not, making it even tougher to collect wins throughout the season.

Brett Jackson

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    Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano are in the way, but don't expect that to be the case for long.

    Jackson is a five-tool talent who will begin his season in Triple-A. I expect Byrd to be moved sooner rather than later thus opening center field to Jackson.

    From a fantasy perspective, Jackson provides a little bit of everything, without hurting you. You'll have to store him on your bench for the time being, but it will pay dividends in the long-haul.

    High strikeout numbers scare some, but Jackson has always posted an OBP of at least .380 everywhere he's been. He's got the potential to be a 20-20 player. Don't expect that this season, but expect him to produce those kind of numbers in relation to his playing time.

    His average may be a little low as he adjusts throughout the year to Major League-pitching, but he'll make up for it with a .380+ OBP, as well as power and speed.

    Outfield is a typically deep position in fantasy baseball, but those who are patient with Jackson will reap the benefits come playoff time.

Rafael Dolis

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    Carlos Marmol opens the season as the Cubs closer, but there are more than the 10 obvious reasons as to why he is on the hot seat.

    Those 10 obvious reasons? His blown saves last season.

    It certainly wasn't vintage Carlos Marmol last season as his strikeout numbers dropped, walks increased and ERA shot up to 4.01.

    Injuries and control issues have plagued Marmol, but his name is one of the biggest trade chips on the Cubs. One of those three reasons will open the door for Dolis.

    Kerry Wood may be next in line for the closer's role on the depth chart, but Dolis will be the one to get most of the looks.

    The Cubs already know what Wood can do in a closer's role, but Dolis is a wild card. Expect him to get the opportunities to save games to give manager Dale Sveum and the front office a peak into the future.

    Dolis saved 17 games last season in Double-A. It isn't uncharted territory for him.

    In the meantime, Dolis will have more of a seventh inning role as he awaits the trade or falter of Marmol. His numbers will be good enough to merit a relief pitcher spot on your team in deeper and NL-only leagues, and don't be surprised if he finishes the season with 15-20 saves.