Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All-Sleeper Fantasy Team

James Loney has a sweet swing.

Too many fantasy columns regarding "sleeper" picks just write about players that everybody else in your league knows as "sleepers," ergo removing their sleeper status.

This is not one of them. From a practical drafting standpoint, these guys can actually be had in the last 2-3 rounds. Behold...

C-JR Towels, Astros

Towels batted .375 in his cup of coffee with Houston last year, even producing a 4-4, 8 RBI performance in a single game. This youngster has speed, toughness and a good contact bat, which should lead to solid fantasy numbers in his rookie year. Think Russell Martin Lite, a .360-range OBP with 10-12 homers and steals, he'll do enough right to make you glad that you didn't reach on a catcher early in the draft.

1B-James Loney, Dodgers

Loney may go earlier than the last 2-3 rounds of your draft, depending on the other owners in your league. But you can wait on drafting a first baseman, and fill out your other positions while the rest of your league are spending high picks on guys like David Ortiz and Prince Fielder. Loney has proved to be a hitter throughout his minor league career with the Dodgers, and didn't disappoint last year batting .331 with 14 homers in less than a full season. His plate discipline also make him a good play in OBP leagues.

2B-Aaron Hill, Blue Jays

Perpetually undrafted, and perpetually added to somebody's team mid season due to injury or an underperforming second baseman, Hill has been solid for two seasons in the majors. Will this be the year he finally breaks the .310, 17 home run mark? He has that potential, but they don't call 'em sleepers for nothing.

3B-Ian Stewart, Rockies

Lodged behind Garrett Atkins, the Rockies have been both dreading and awaiting his arrival to the bigs. With the corner outfield and hot corner currently occupied, the front office is going to have to make a move to make room for the former 10th overall pick. Don't be surprised if Atkins gets traded for pitching, and Stewart take over in the second half. It's far from guaranteed, but a good pick if you have the room on your bench and a bit of patience.

SS-Jason Bartlett, Rays

No longer a spring chicken, Bartlett had to wait until age 28 to lodge his first full season in the bigs, and surprised some with a 20+ steal season, also hitting 7 homers. Now the number 9 hitter for Tampa, his run totals should remain the same or improve with Carl Crawford hitting 2 spots behind him. He won't win you the league, but a good fill-in player or steals specialist with potential for more.

CF-Michael Bourne, Astros

Bourne swiped 18 bases last season, 8 this spring and will bat leadoff ahead of Pence, Berkman and Carlos Lee. What more could you ask for? A great speed guy to have on your bench, and if the guy is on a .350 OBP, 100+ runs, 70 steals pace, who are you to keep him out of the starting lineup? A cinch to surpass Juan Pierre's numbers in 2008.

RF-Travis Buck, Athletics

Another leadoff hitter, but with a lot less speed. While Buck did steal 4 bases last year, it's his plate discipline and power potential that make him intriguing. Although Oakland should, in a word, suck this year, Buck could score 80-90 runs, with 60-70 RBI. Doesn't sound too spectacular, but if he hits with power a move down in the lineup may be warranted. The next Jason Bay could be on the horizon, for whatever that's worth. He's owned in less than 1 percent of Yahoo leaugues, so grabbing him in the final round should prove easy.

LF-Andre Ethier, Dodgers

Simply a good hitter. He'll be asked to make productive out and advance runners in the number two hole this year, but Ethier will be a productive fantasy outfielder. Expect a .360 OBP, 80 runs, 17-20 homers, 75 RBI season, no sweat. And for a guy that is ranked behind even guys like Rocco Baldelli and Coco Crisp, he's a great late round value pick.

SP-Kyle Kendrick, Phillies

During 20 starts last year, Kendrick proved that he has the ability to be an effective control pitchers, he won't miss a ton of bats, and his WHIP won't be stellar, but with a powerful Phillies offense he should win12-15 games and post a sub-4.20 ERA. In today's fantasy pitching landscape, that's someone who should be owned in every league, but is going undrafted in most. Pass on the likes of Jason Schmidt or Kyle Lohse and draft late Kendrick instead.

SP-Joe Saunders, Angels

Another youngster who acquitted himself well last season, Saunders is penciled in as the Halos' number three hurler. Featuring a strong arm and some Southern moxie, Saunders should go for 14+ wins this season and 140+ K's. If his WHIP improves to below the 1.30 level, he'll be a steady starter for your team. A low risk, high reward later round selection.

Closer-Heath Bell, Padres

After last season's playoff run meltdown, it's clear that Trevor Hoffman is on his last legs. But when the organization chooses to replace him or Hoffman decides to retire is anyone's guess. It likely won't be this year, but if they are forced to turn elsewhere at some point, set up man Heath Bell should be more than up to the task. A power arm with stellar stikeout numbers and an admittedly Rod Beck-esque delivery, his time to take over the 9th inning will come at some point. Draft him in the late rounds, and he'll even contribute as an 8th inning man with strikeouts and stellar ERA/WHIP ratios.


Red said...

Heath Bell for Closer!

Dave H said...

Bell fo sheez.

And Nathaniel, thanks for the Dodger Dogs, finally ate them last weekend.