It’s everyone’s favorite… sleepers and busts. I’ll try to go position-by-position but if I get off on a tangent and mention some people out of order, its my blog and I reserve that right.
Starting with sleepers…
And starting behind the plate, it might actually be time to call Joe Mauer and Buster Posey sleepers considering they are ranked at the back end of the top for catchers, but both claim to be 100%, with no prior injury concerns to speak of. It wouldn’t shock me if either was a top-3 catcher at season’s end. No one else really jumps out from the catcher’s spot and so I will probably end up drafting someone like Wilson Ramos who is on his way up, but doesn’t have an outstanding ceiling.
Moving to first base, I love Adam Dunn in points leagues this year. His average is a killer in rotisserie formats, but you can say I expect a rebound to the tune of .230, 25-30 HR and 80-ish RBI. Where he’s being ranked, he’s a bargain. I’ve talked ad nauseum about Mark Reynolds in my positional rankings, but the home runs, RBI and runs will be there. This is another guy that will kill you in batting average, but he has .260 potential. Deeper leagues should keep Anthony Rizzo in mind as a guy who may start in the minors.
I also like Ike Davis and Freddie Freeman as a late-round corner infield pick. Neither will likely be great, but both could be in the top 15 or so of first basemen. The downside is injury for Davis or some nasty slumps for Freeman.
Let me say, for the record, second base is a lot deeper than people think, as is third base, but we’ll get there in a minute. First of all, in shallower leagues, Chase Utley is falling into the fifth and sixth rounds in some drafts and he may not have 30 HR in him, but .285, 20 HR and 15 SB with some nice RBI and runs totals is worth more than that at second base. In a world losing its power, Aaron Hill is interesting because he has shown the potential for massive numbers. This is another guy who will do you no average favors, but if you need a late round middle infielder who has hit 30+ HR in a season before, Hill is a bargain. And in very deep drafts, I don’t mind stashing Gordon Beckham. The potential is still there and I’m waiting one more year before I abandon all hope.
Moving over to third base, Ryan Roberts is one of many guys with position flexibility (he is eligible at 2B too in most leagues). This is another guy who could go 20/20. I really like guys who have multiple position eligibility and I really like power/speed combo guys, so Roberts is on my watch list.
A couple later picks who could pay strong dividends… Jed Lowrie has more pop than most 3B/SS guys, but he needs to stay healthy to show it in the counting numbers. And Emilio Bonifacio could steal 40 bases with a helpful batting average if he gets everyday at bats.
Shortstop is legitimately shallow, but Ian Desmond has potential as long as he keeps his average high enough. There’s 15 HR and 30 steals there, though I wouldnt back on more than 11 and 20. But because the top shortstops are going so early, if I can’t land one of the top five or six, then I’m waiting for Dee Gordon. Guys like this are why I always target power early in rotisserie drafts. There’s always a 40-steal guy sitting around the mid-late rounds who won’t kill you anywhere else. Gordon won’t hit any home runs, but he bats for a respectable average, will score a bunch of runs and steal a bunch of bases. If I can get him late in a draft and plug him in at shortstop, I’m happy.
Outfield is as deep as anything, but a bit top-heavy as well. I’m going to call Andrew McCutchen a sleeper because his .259, 23 HR, 23 SB from last year was a down year compared to his potential. He was a .285 hitter before that season and I fully expect that, plus 25 HR and over 30 steals. A less exciting version of McCutchen is a guy people seem to have given up on, and that’s BJ Upton. He did have 23 HR, 81 RBI and 36 SB last year and yet he is going in the eighth round of some standard drafts. I’ve always been a Logan Morrison fan. He tapped into his power last year and showed he can top 25 HR in a full season, to go with a very useful average and a ton of run-scoring potential.
Delmon Young is one season removed from .298, 21 HR and 112 RBI in 2010. And I expect Colby Rasmus to hit for power in a home stadium where everyone in the lineup hits for power. So he is another late round target for a 4th or 5th OF slot. Also keep in mind Andre Ethier has a 30 HR/100 RBI/90 run season on his resume.
Sooooo many pitching sleepers… because the position is sooooo deep. I would make sure to grab one of the top 14 that I talked about on my starters rankings. Its always nice to have one bonafide money in the bank ace.
You can Jordan Zimmerman in the later rounds of a standard draft and get major value from it. I have Josh Johnson as both a sleeper and a bust, so don’t be surprised when he comes up later. He’s being buried in drafts, so you can take him, and love the 2.30 ERA and 1.00 WHIP for the 20-25 starts he’ll hopefully make.
I like Justin Masterson and Doug Fister, groundball pitchers who are routinely underrated. I also like Clay Buchholz, as long as his back holds up. He could end up the #2 starter in Boston.
There’s a group of relievers becoming starters. I like Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman if you’re looking for major breakout potential because both get a ton of strikeouts. Daniel Bard might take longer to adjust, but he also has great stuff.
For deeper leagues, I’m risking a late round choice of Brian Matusz. He was just SO bad last year, I know, but he was once projected to be an ace, and I’m giving the kid one more chance.
Finally, relievers… I wouldn’t call Tyler Clippard a saves candidate, or someone who could take over a closer job, but his ERA, WHIP and strikeouts are constantly underrated and helpful.
I think Jordan Walden is being wildly underrated, as is Kyle Farnsworth. I consider Kenley Jensen a sleeper in L.A. because he hasn’t actually won the closer job yet, but I believe he will. And finally, last year’s consensus top-3 closer, Carlos Marmol is going at the very end of closers and his strikeout potential is immense. He may be the most boom or bust closer in baseball, but I love that.
So ends the sleeper portion of this post, its all doomsday, death and despair from here, so grab a glass of water or refill your soda. And then we will move on to busts…
We will start this segment with one of my most confident picks to bust this year… Mike Napoli. He is being ranked as the #1 catcher in baseball, and while you will enjoy his 20-25 HR, the average won’t be close to where it was last season. Another safe bet bust to me is Lance Berkman. He had a great season last year, but he also had Albert Pujols in the lineup with him. I expect a big downturn in 2012.
Going out of positional order, I just need to point out all the “prospects” or overall kids being hyped beyond their potential upside for this season. Brett Lawrie, Dustin Ackley, Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, Mike Trout and of course Bryce Harper. I won’t likely own any of them because the hype has removed all the upside. To get them, you have to pay for the best case scenario and the only place to go from there is down.
I save a spot in this article every year for Adrian Beltre. In fact, I had a very nifty stat about the difference between contract-season Beltre in the .290’s and non-contract-season Beltre in the .260’s and then he went out last year and had a great year. But I still don’t think he will be better than the talented third baggers he is ranked ahead of by many people. I had Beltre at six in my rankings because of the risk involved with some of the guys behind him, but I fully expect Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez to be as good if not better.
People talk about Stephen Drew and how “any year now” he’ll break into the top five at his position and I’m done waiting. I don’t expect Ryan Braun or Josh Hamilton to play more than 100 games this season. Braun is already limited to 112 but people are drafting as if he’s a lock to PLAY every single game after the suspension. And Hamilton has had durability concerns for years, and has relapsed on his alcohol problems. Both are being overdrafted.
Tommy Hanson… I had an argument with a Braves fan just the other day about Hanson vs. one of my favorite fantasy pitchers, Matt Cain. He actually said he’d prefer Hanson. We don’t even know how healthy Hanson is at this point and he said he’s changing his delivery to lower the risk, but how will that affect his effectiveness? We don’t know.
Ian Kennedy won’t come close to his 2011 numbers, but he’s being drafted as if he will, so I won’t own him this year. Ubaldo Jimenez could return to being an ace, but I think his name is worth more now than his 2012 performance will be. He’s still good and will get strikeouts, but expect a bit more ugly performances sprinkled in. One reliever turned starter I am very skeptical of is Neftali Feliz because he wasn’t particularly good at the end of last season as a closer, so I’m not sure his stuff will translate as well as some of the others mentioned above. Finally, Jair Jurrjens is the “hipster” of fantasy drafts. Everyone thinks he’s underrated and they pulled one over on the league when they got him, but at the end of the day, they’ll be disappointed.
I’m also placing no stock in Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes. The majority of imports from other pro leagues have struggled, so I’ll take the under on all the projections for now.
Those are my sleepers and busts for now. Check back later for Q&A and other news and notes as things develop.
Those are my sleepers and busts for now. I’m sure more will be added.