It's February and than means you've likely purchased your first fantasy baseball advice magazine recently. Maybe you're up all night watching the MLB network or trolling twitter to see what's up with Nick Swisher. I love this time of year and I bet you do too! Having managed The Fantasy Man brand and Fantasy Baseball Express going into our seventh year, it's automatic that I'm getting bombarded with sleeper questions on a daily basis. The guy in the deli down the street asked me what I think of Bryce Harper already. My grandmother loves Jorge Posada (He's retired Grandma!). My dog Daisy spelled out Mike Trout with her morning chicken flavored dog food nuggets. It's fantasy baseball season! BOOM!
Here's a list of the players I like heading into the 2012 season that NO ONE is talking about and could be nice sleepers and provide some great value this year. So while every magazine and website is going gaga over the over hyped Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Emilio Bonifacio and my favorite, Lucas Duda, we'll look at other more, or less, established players. Who wants to find the next 2011 Alex Gordon or the 2011 Lance Berkman? I sure do.
Jason Werth, OF, WAS
Big contract last year and turned out to be a fantasy dud. However, the Washington Nationals are on the rise and could be a nice surprise team in 2012. With Mike Morse being a legit power source, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman healthy, there's some solid protection at the top of the lineup as I see Werth batting second or third in that lineup. I'm projecting .270ish, 20+HR, 17-22SB, 80RBI which should be undervalued as he approaches at the earliest, the 7th-10th round of a 12 team draft. You know what Werth will provide and you should expect slightly better numbers then what he produced in 2011 but if you can overlook the stigma, he'll turn out to be a nice player for you. He's durable and he'll be reliable.
Jason Bay, OF, NYM
Oh boy, dare I say it? Jason Bay the sleeper? No, I'm not nuts. Just hear me out because you can do a lot worse. You could over reach and draft Mike Trout as your third of five outfielders only to find out he won't make the team out of spring training when you could have drafted a fantasy reclamation project in Jason Bay (just my opinion). You decide, but there is value here towards the later rounds of your draft. By no means should you be drafting Bay in the 10th round of a 12 team draft, but if he's there at R15 and you need one or two more OF, you should make a profit. Think Lance Berkman 2011.
The Negatives - Bay was worse in 2011 then he was in 2010, he's been a bit injury prone, confidence is low, he's really been forgotten in fantasy.
The Positives - It's a new year, he's healthy, no pressure, fences moved in and lowered, take out '10 and '11 and he was a proven 30+HR/100RBI/10SB hitter, Only 33 so back end of prime, hit .351 with 3HR in his last 57 games last season.
Brian Bogusevic, OF, HOU
Bogusevic will be the starting RF in Houston by the end of 2012, recognize it. What's intriguing about Bogusevic is the power/speed combo he posses. In 2011, he had 4HR and 4SB in 164 total AB. Also had 40K's (he did however have 15BB). However, his first taste of the bigs was a disaster batting .194 with 1RBI in his first 39 games. He was sent back to AAA only to be recalled at the end of July and hit .313 with 4HR, 14RBI and .523 SLG% in 48 games. Looking at his minor league stats...
Overall 2011 (Includes majors) - 16HR/22SB in 597AB
AAA 2011 - .296BA, .374OBP, 12HR, 18SB in 433AB -
AAA 2010 - .277BA, .364OBP, 13HR, 23SB in 502AB
AAA 2009 - .217BA, .342OBP, 6HR, 22SB in 520AB
What jumps out at me is he's not a young prospect as he turns 28 in February. What doesn't jump out is that he was drafted in 2005 as a Starting Pitcher out of college, then made the transition to Outfielder in 2009. So since 2009, you can see his growth in just about every category. Give this guy a chance to play and I think you have a Drew Stubbs type minus a few SB and K's, but better BA and OBP. Great buy for a buck, especially if he gets the starting gig. I believe your OF in Houston will be JD Martinez, Jason Bourgeois, and Bogusevic with Jack Cust and Jordan Schafer platooning in. Bogusevic can pay any outfield position. Great value at the end of your draft. Think Alex Gordon 2011.
J.D. Martinez, OF, HOU
At 24 years old, 6'3/205lbs, he's a few years younger then Bogusevic so there's more room for growth here. The Houston Astros are weak on offense with Carlos Lee as their main bopper, and he's not scary anymore so the protection for Martinez could be slightly lacking. That's the only downside. What jumps out at me is that Martinez should bat 3rd in front of Lee or 4th behind him, so he'll be primed for success if he can build on what he did in 2011 which was .274BA, 6HR, 35RBI in 208AB in the bigs. Martinez tore up the minors and batted .338BA, .414OBP, 13HR, 72RBI in 317AB in AA before he was called up. The potential is here to grow and break out but he's hiding in the shadows of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Matt Moore, etc. For a guy slated to bat 3rd or 4th and start in the OF barring any Spring Training surprises, he makes for a sweet sleeper in the later rounds of your draft with nice value primed for profit.
Sean Rodriguez, 2B/SS/3B, TB
Sean-Rod has the talent to be a great fantasy player. He posseses a power/speed combo and offers multi-positional eligibility. The value here at the end of your draft is off the charts.... if we can get him everyday at bats, and I'm talking 500+. If he has a great spring, which he always seems to do, he should win the everyday SS job from Reid Brignac. In 2011, Sean-Rod hit .223, 8HR, 11SB in 373 AB as a utility player. Project that over a full season with consistent AB, confidence in a starting job, the fact that he hit an average of 20 HR in the minors four years in a row, and he'll only be 27 in April.... you have to like the odds. He has to win the SS job with a hot spring but this guy has the talent to make you a nice profit on draft day late in the draft.