Well, here we are in the final weeks of exhibition games, just before the regular season gets underway. Many of you have already either drafted or are preparing to and this final installment of our pre-season Sleepers to Watch as well as our Players To Avoid will hopefully give some of you enough of an edge to better compete in your leagues this season. As always, if during the year you have any questions/concerns, please feel free to send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Last season we received over 1250 such emails)! Good luck to all the owners out there…
Erick Aybar-SS-Angels- Last year owners of this speedster got a real treat when, after the All-Star break, Aybar went off and had an explosive second half (.326-6-22 with 15 steals). Now poised to settle in batting second, Aybar should garner more runs and stolen bases on a team where such stars as Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are also part of this potent lineup. He already has a lofty batting average which should end up at around .285 by season’s end.
Lorenzo Cain-OF-Royals- Going late in drafts, here is another speedster with some major league pop that was a sleeper candidate last season, but injuries (hip, hamstring), limited him to just 61 games. With Royals top prospect Will Myers getting traded to Tampa Bay, Cain will be in an everyday role at the top of the lineup for years to come as long as he can stay healthy. You can modestly expect him to turn in numbers like 15 HRs, 25 stolen bases, 75 runs, with a .280 BA.
Kyle Seager-3B-Mariners- Right off the bat, (if you’ll pardon the pun), we wouldn’t normally recommend that you draft a Mariner, but Seager qualifies because he potentially can be a five category contributor, especially for those in deeper formats. He leads his team last year in both homers and RBIs, however his only downside is that his hitting was awful at Safeco Field while he flirted with .300 on the road. On the plus side of his 20 home runs, 10 were hit from both sides of the plate. We also like the fact that he has some speed, enough for about 15 SBs, plus he could be 2B eligible in some formats.
Allen Craig-1B,OF-Cardinals- Definitely undervalued and available in mid-rounds of drafts, his OPS has been over .875 for two straight seasons. He hits for average and has some pop to his bat making him a good second tier OF. He started last year platooning and then had a knee injury and still managed to end the season with 22 HRs, 91 RBIs, and a .303 batting average. His dual-eligibility is also a plus. We cannot see why Craig, if healthy, can’t post a line of 28/110/.305 this season.
Billy Hamilton-OF-Reds- The shortstop/converted outfielder, is without a doubt, one of the fastest players in the league. Between Triple-A and Double-A, Hamilton swiped 103 bases in 2011 and 155 last year. 155!!!! Are you kidding me? He won’t offer you any power but if you can stash him on your bench in mixed leagues, and he gets a chance to play regularly, he could post 75-80 steals. Even if Hamilton becomes a midseason regular, he could get you 45-50 steals. Either way he is a sleeper to watch!
Chase Headley-1B-Padres- If ever a red flag should go up with today’s sensitivity towards performance enhancing drugs, Headley should be its poster boy! Here is a guy who, before last year’s 31 HR explosion, only averaged nine dingers over the previous four seasons! In fact, he had more home runs (19) over the final two months of last season than he had in all of 2010 and 2011…combined! So being skeptical when deciding if and/or when to draft Headley is a real conundrum. Those owners that pass on him thinking that last year’s numbers will not be repeated make the task easier for those in need of a ‘potentially’ high powered, second tier 3B who can help in all five categories.
Anthony Rizzo-1B-Cubs- The 23 year old Rizzo, traded from San Diego to the Cubs in the off-season last year, quickly became a bright spot in Chicago with real power numbers. His numbers are weaker vs lefties posting just a .599 OPS against them, but he is only 23 and adjustments can still be made. Coming of an effective September where he put up a .281-5-17 line, we think he’s a potential 2nd tier 1B who could put up a 23-80-.282 line this season.
Wil Myers-OF-Rays- This 22 year old rookie is the most riskiest of our sleepers. Most rookies, especially those who will probably not play an entire season are. Myers, who was traded for James Shields in the off-season, has been rumored to be the next American League Rookie of the Year. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Myers was the minor’s best hitter last year going 37-104-.314. However, be aware that the Rays are expected to keep Myers in the minors for the first month or two so our forecast is based on him missing up to 1/3 of the season. Therefore you can look for numbers like 21-72-.280 which is still serviceable.
Jesus Montero-C-Mariners- We know what you’re thinking, “Two Mariners made their Sleepers to Watch list? Have they lost their minds?” Well consider this; Montero was, if you remember, one of the Yankees top prospects and in his first year with Seattle he belted 15 HRs. With the fences now being brought in at Safeco Field, that number is certain to rise. Although a defensive liability, 54 steals in 56 games against him last season, it’s his offense that fantasy owners care about. Look for 19-20 HRs, 70 RBIs, and a .264 BA.
Brett Lawrie-3B-Blue Jays- We like Lawrie for his potential to hit 20 home runs, steal 20 bases and score 100 runs. Plus he was hitting .282 last August until injuries forced all of his numbers to decline. If you look at his MLB resume, you’ll find that in 168 major league games, he has 20 HRs and 20 steals and is playing in a hitter-friendly park. He has all the ingredients of a sleeper and at a low cost.