Every team has them, one or two players who’ve had flashes of brilliance here and there but have never quite put it together. Those of us who’ve partaken in the Fantasy Baseball arts can tell you there’s nothing like taking a flier on a high upside kid who makes a splash in the big pool, with the big fish, and doesn’t get eaten. Of course you don’t always get Trout, sometimes you end up with Carp. Carp isn’t very good no matter how you cook it. So it’s important to pick your rat poison carefully in the late rounds of your fantasy draft. You want to go for upside but you often need versatility as well. Last year for instance if you picked the Smoak salmon over the apricot Rizzoto you probably ended up eating Humber pie for desert.
Below is a list of players from every NL team whom I’d describe as “sleepers.” By sleeper I mean a player who will likely drift into the later rounds of most drafts and who may not even get drafted, but who may end up accumulating considerable value over the season. Sometimes it can mean the difference between winning your league championship outright, or having to listen to your cousin Freddy lecture you on unsustainable BABIP for an entire off-season. In some cases I may take the liberty of picking two sleepers from a single team if I feel that they truly qualify under the “sleeper” criteria. I’m going to start with our NL only players and hopefully conclude with AL sleepers next week. The criteria are as follows.
Player must possess at least one characteristic from each of groups A, B, and C.
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|1. Top 10 organizational prospect||1. 6 weeks of 700+ OPS (majors)||1. Sports outrageous facial hair|
|2. 6 weeks of 500+ SLG (majors)||2. Has a sister named Francine||2. 6 weeks of 300+AVG (majors)|
|3. Terrified of spiders||3. Stole 20+ (majors or minors)||3. Hit 14 or more dingers|
|4. .340+ OBP for a season||4. Sub 4 ERA||4. 100 hits (majors or minors)|
|5. Is left-handed||5. 1st round pick||5. Under 1.2 WHIP|
|6. Racked up 20 saves||6. Is right handed||6. Corporate buttock tattoo|
|7. Drinks Dr. Pepper||7. Year of 800+ OPS in minors||7. Mid 90’s fastball|
|8. 3 major-league offerings||8. Averaged a K / inning||8. Is a switch hitter|
|9. Pitched 140+ innings||9. Plays the ukulele||9. Won 10 games|
Note: Unless otherwise specified benchmarks are for a full major league season.
Nathan Karns SP
The Nats were a tough one to start with, there just aren’t many sleepers on this roster. I wanted to go with Anthony Rendon at third but unless Zimmerman goes down I don’t think he has a shot, at least not until later in the year (it’s scary to think who they may be tempted to trade Rendon for at mid-season). I like this kid Nathan Karns, good velocity, good movement, and a good approach. He can work out of the bullpen or start, this kid has great stuff. If Haren goes down he may be the guy.
Qualifying Criteria: A8 / B5 / C7
John Lannan SP
I thought about John Mayberry who slugged .410 with 8 homers and a .737 OPS in the second half last year, but then I saw John Lannan. I’ve always liked this guy’s tenacity and I think he’s a perfect match for the Phillies. If things break right Lannan could win 14 – 16 games. Remember he pitched 184 innings with a 3.70 ERA in 2011.
QC: A8 / A9 / B4 / C9
Remember this guy? He’s going to be back probably sometime before the break, and he’s going to be peachy, like a Georgia peach … get it? Georgia? Atlanta? Never mind. You need look no further than this guy’s 2011 totals to cringe (if you’re a Met fan!).
QC: A9 / A8 / B4 / C8
The Mets have some really interesting options in the “sleeper” category. I considered Valdespin or Murphy (who I think may have a huge year). But if we’re talking a guy who will probably drift into the later rounds who could really help your team, Parnell may end up racking up the lion’s share of saves for the Mets.
QC: A8 / B4 / C7
Jordany Valdespin 2B/OF
Ok, after looking at Jordani’s line from today I’m going to include him. It’s not really a stretch to project this kid hitting 15 homers with 20+ stolen bases and a .270 AVG if he wins an OF spot outright, and that’s definitely sleeper territory.
QC: A1 / B3 / C4
The Marlins are like the opposite of the Nats. Have you seen their roster? Who are these guys? Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi have the potential to put things together, but I’m going to go with Justin Ruggiano and his .313 AVG, .581 SLG, and 990 OPS in 288 at bats last year, oh and he had 14 stolen bases. This guy is almost too good to be a sleeper, but he is on the Marlins with a guy named Giancarlo, so he may not get noticed much.
QC: A2 / B1 / C2
Jon Jay OF
The Cardinals were tough. They didn’t have a lot of sleeper candidates, their bullpen is muddled albeit deep, their outfield is crowded and injury prone. Oscar Taveras is by some (overzealous Cardinal fans) proclaimed the best hitting prospect in the Galaxy, (were it not of course for Ugz Rasglog in the Great Andromeda Nebula we’d be saying “best hitting prospect in the Universe”) … Taveras will probably hit the scene later in the year so for those who don’t want to wait, there is perennial waiver-wire resident Jon Jay and his 19 SB’s, a .300 AVG and a .359 OBP from last year. He’s not really a sleeper, but he’s a guy who will probably fall into the later rounds as he’s missed some time last couple of seasons.
QC: A4 / B3 / C2
I thought it over and realized this guy is just too good and the Redbird outfield is just too injury prone not to include him. Pretty sure he’ll be up for good after the break regardless so it isn’t too much of a risk if you can carry him. He’s officially one of my sleepers.
QC: A1 / B7 / C4
Zack Cozart SS
I was thinking of going with Shin-Soo Choo but that fantasy cat’s been out of the bag for a while now. No, I think I’ll go with Cozart, whose name rhymes with Cuisinart and who hit the scene with a big splash in 2011 but suffered a bit of a sophomore reality check in 2012. Still, he hit 15 homers and will likely go undrafted until the later rounds, so if you’re looking for some pop from the position you could do a lot worse.
QC: A1 / B3 / C2
I love this guy, he’s the new Choo. He’s got a quick bat, quick feet, and some pop. Suffered a bit from a platoon split but if you can carry him his 30 steals alone make him worth it. Honorable mention: Carlos Gomez – (CarGo II?) our old squeaky voiced friend who had a break out season is definitely worth a flier.
QC: A4 / B3 / C2
On a team with oodles of sleeper candidates, A.J., to Walker, to Liriano, there’s no doubt. This kid reminds me a little of Roberto Clemente. Little known fact – he had to change the “e” in his name to an “a” to get around the Wilpons’ Sterling copyright … He’s McCutchen light at least.
QC: A1 / B3 / C8
Jorge Soler OF
Keep an eye on this kid folks, he’s been described as a right handed Cliff Floyd with out the blood curdling pulled-hammy screams. Sick power, and good eye, kid seems to be the complete package. He’s tough to qualify because he came out of Cuba pretty much Major League ready, but I understand he plays the ukulele. He could be 2013’s version of Yoenis Caspides (maybe without the steals).
QC: A1 / B9 / C8
Brandon Belt 1B
I hate this pick because of the hype this guy had surrounding him when he came up. He seemed to figure a few things out in the second half last year and he did hit 16 dingers. He’s also been tearing it up this spring so maybe he’s on the verge of realizing some of that potential, but don’t Belt on it.
QC: A1 / B7 / C3
Luis Cruz 3B
Easy one. Did anybody notice this kid was like the only guy on the Dodgers roster who could hit down the stretch last year? Ultimate under the radar guy on a team stacked with big names. He’s a bit of a stretch but I’d keep an eye on him at a position that’s become increasingly thin on offense. He can rack up hits and he gets on base.
QC: A4 / B7 / C4
I dropped this guy early last year because of his name … didn’t sound like a first baseman’s name to me (first basemen have names like “Lance” or “Ike” or “Tony”) — he sounded like a catcher or 3rd baseman. Dumb dumb dumb — 20 dingers, 18 steals and 43 doubles later I was kicking myself. He plays a big offensive position but don’t let this guy fly under the radar in deeper leagues, he can do a little of everything.
QC: A4 / B7 / C3
He’s suspended, but Yasmani’ll be back, and he’ll hit, even in June when his testosterone will be back to normal levels. If you can’t get past the PED thing, over Yonder is Yonder Alonso, a borderline sleeper. If you miss out on the elite catchers, Grandal could be sneaky way to shore up your catching later in the season. He’ll get passed up by most.
QC: A1 / B7 / C8
There you have it sports fans, I’ve got a few others in my pocket that I’m going to keep for myself, but feel free to add any you think I may have missed in the comments section. You can never have enough sleeper candidates.
As an added bonus, here is a handy little instrument on durability that I found on Bleacher Report. On this chart, Red = high injury risk, Yellow = a moderate risk, and Green = low risk. I don’t agree with it in places but it’s not bad as a whole.