Top Targets: Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer, Jesus Montero
Post Hype: Jason Castro, Nick Hundley
New Skills/Opportunity: Tim Federowicz, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Vogt
Matt Wieters is my top catcher sleeper. He had a small breakout during the 2011 season but I believe there is still quite a bit of upside for fantasy owners... Joe Mauer has been injured more than most owners can stand but he is still a talented hitter. Where Mauer is being drafted now is low enough to take a chance with him...Stephen Vogt can hit with any catcher in the game, his defense is just okay. Vogt is doing his best this spring to prove to manager Joe Maddon that he belongs in the majors and behind the plate.
Top Targets: Bryan LaHair, Adam Dunn,
Post Hype: Chris Davis, James Loney
New Skills/Opportunity: Yonder Alonso, Anthony Rizzo
You may look at the names above and find it strange that two players on the same team are listed as sleepers. But Bryan LaHair plays a passable left field and the Chicago Cubs need all the bats they can get. Anthony Rizzo has been a beast this spring and deserves a shot to begin the season in the majors...Old man James Loney (not really that old) seemed to have himself a Jose Bautista moment last summer. After working with new hitting coach Dave Hansen, Bautista has changed his stance and swing to prevent his shoulder flying open and thus sapping his power. You can check out an objective review of the change at Chad Moriyama's Blog.
What is clear though is that Loney has changed his approach and swing over the last two months in a way that has drastically affected his hit distribution and production. As such, the possibility does exist that his numbers could improve significantly in 2012 if the changes he has made carry over on a consistent basis.Third Basemen
Top Targets: Brett Lawrie, Martin Prado, Ryan Roberts
Post Hype: Ian Stewart, Edwin Encarnacion, Wilson Betemit
New Skills/Opportunity: Jimmy Paredes, Brandon Inge
Brett Lawrie has made such an impression on the baseball world that he has become monstrously overrated. I've seen more than one projection by respected analysts where he comes in hitting over .300 and approaching a 30/30 season. I would not pay the price he is getting right now...I prefer a low-cost Edwin Encarnacion or Wilson Betemit to $30 it will take to roster Lawrie. Both are scheduled to get nearly full-time at-bats this season...Jimmy Paredes will not be much of a keeper in most NL-only leagues with the Astros moving to the American League. Paredes should provide some cheap steals even if he finds himself filling a utility role rather than starting shortstop or third basemen...Brandon Inge is fighting for the starting second baseman job in Tigers camp. If he wins he should provide solid production for a low price.
Top Targets: Jose Altuve, Ruben Tejada, Jemile Weeks
Post Hype: Gordon Beckham, Tyler Green, Sean Rodriguez
New Skills/Opportunity: Steve Lombardozzi,
Sometimes analysts will refer to a player and give his stats over his last 300 MLB at-bats. Often they are doing this unfairly. When a player gets 300 at-bats over four years and several separate call-ups, the opportunity to succeed in the majors is small. Tyler Green needs an opportunity to show he belongs in the majors. This spring he is competing for an opportunity thanks to the injury to Allen Craig...Gordon Beckham and Ozzie Guillen never seemed like a good mix to me. But I like his chances of a rebound under new manager Robin Ventura. It is almost like a change of scenery without actually going anywhere. The entire White Sox roster should benefit from a more relaxed environment...I love Jose Altuve, reminds me of Dustin Pedroia without the laser show.
Top Targets: Emilio Bonafacio, Dee Gordon
Post Hype: Sean Rodriguez, Jed Lowrie, Alcides Escobar
New Skills/Opportunity: Zack Cozart, Trevor Plouffe, Adrelton Simmons
Emilio Bonafacio has to prove that he can contribute on a daily basis even when his BABIP isn't soaring over .400 in one of his insane hot streaks. Even off the bench he's good for 20-30 steals so don't sweat the small stuff if he isn't named the regular center fielder...Dee Gordon is leading off for the Dodgers and could steal 80 bases if allowed to run at will. He has the green light thus far...Jed Lowrie could hit 20 homers and steal a few bases this season. He has a better bat than you think...Adrelton Simmons has only a small chance of becoming the Braves shortstop THIS season. But he is impressing everyone this spring.. He has a bat you need to remember when he gets his opportunity. I like him a lot more than Tyler Pastornicky on a long term basis but even Pastornicky should be able to steal you bases on the cheap.
Top Targets: Yoenis Cespedes, Shin Soo-Choo , Luke Scott,
Post Hype: Colby Rasmus, Travis Snider, Fernando Martinez, Domonic Brown,
New Skills/Opportunity: Lorenzo Cain, Nate Schierholtz, Michael Saunders
A friend suggested that I was bound to own Yoenis Cespedes this season based on my love for the toolsy young players with star potential. I could not argue with him. I just fear the price will turn me off. Clay Davenport sorted through all the Cuban statistics to come up with some projections and comparable players. Ultimately, it looks like Cespedes and Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles are not too far apart...Nate Schierholtz has been given a starting role in San Francisco (probably at the expense of Brandon Belt for now). He could cheaply provide 20-25 homers in full-time at-bats...If I get to Dollar Dayz in my NL-Only leagues I'd spend a dollar on Fernando Martinez...Michael Saunders says that if he goes down this season it will be done swinging the bat like a man. He hired a hitting coach Mike Bard to shorten his swing and teach him to utilize his lower half. He is using a 60-ounce bat in the cage so he can't revert back to a more "handsy" hitter. He will start the season as the Mariners center fielder.
Top Targets: Ubaldo Jimenez, Johan Santana, Ryan Dempster, Max Scherzer
Post Hype: Brandon Morrow, Jonathan Sanchez, Homer Bailey
New Skills/Opportunity: Gavin Floyd, Matt Moore, Drew Pomeranz , Jeff Neiman, Luke Hochevar, Robbie Erlin
Johan Santana looks healthy. He's throwing in the low 90's. His fine control is not all the way back yet but he is throwing strikes...Ubaldo Jimenez has his velocity back and should be much better this season if he can avoid injury...Jeff Neiman and Luke Hochevar both showed improved skills in the second half of the 2012 season and could be very good for cheap money.
Top Targets: Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen,
Post Hype: Scott Downs, Jeff Samardzija,
New Skills/Opportunity: Addison Reed, Cesar Cabral, Brian Shaw, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Mattheus, Brad Brach
Brad Brach was selected by the Padres in the 42nd round of the 2008 draft. He is the future closer of the Padres... Cesar Cabral was a Rule V pick dealt to the Yankees from the Royals for cash. The Yankees want him to make the team as their second lefty out of the pen...Do not draft Addison Reed as if he is already the closer, draft him as a future closer. This may not be the season he receives that opportunity.
Bench/1st Call-Up Players to Watch:
Luke Hughes, Michael Martinez, Eduardo Nunez, Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Ryan Flaherty, Matt Antonelli, Corey Brown,
Adam Laroche is not healthy. Tyler Moore could have a major league impact sooner than expected. Moore will not have a great OBP but he can slug 25-30 homers without question...The Phillies are an aging and brittle team. Michael Martinez could get a ton of playing time and his bat is improving. If Rick Ankiel can not get the job done in center field for the Nationals, Corey Brown could get a quick call-up. He impressed a lot of people this spring.
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