The annual All-Sleeper Team has arrived. This report has taken many forms but as always it is jam packed with names for your consideration. There are at least three names listed at every position. If you like this article please share it (with strangers if not your league mates).
Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners
Here are some stats for Montero that you may have missed - he hit 310/343/498 last year when playing behind the plate; on the road he batted .295/.330/.438 with nine homeruns in 258 at-bats; and his HR/FB was a healthy 13.4 percent on the road. Did you know that in 2012 Safeco Field tended to reduce right-handed power by 30 percent? Runs were reduced by 22 percent. The Seattle Mariners are attempting to move their park factors closer to neutral in 2013 by bringing in the outfield walls. Safeco will still be a tough park for hitters but it should be a little less intimidating this season. Montero still has superstar potential.
UPSIDE: .280/.330/.480 with 25 homeruns
Erik Kratz, Philadelphia Phillies
Erik Kratz has been around for a while. He has a great reputation as a defensive catcher. Supposedly, pitchers love to throw to him. His bat looks better than the average catcher and his power looks like it could be around league average if not a bit better. Last season in the minors he hit .266/.326/.540 with eight homers in 141 plate appearances. He was called up to the Phillies and received 157 PA in which he batted .248/.306/.504 with nine homeruns. He was scheduled to spend 2013 in the majors as a back-up but thanks to Carlos Ruiz getting himself suspended, Kratz figures to get an extra month of starter at-bats. He should be more than worth his purchase price.
UPSIDE: 350abs, .250/.310/.460 with 15 homers and a few stolen bases.
Others to Consider: Jason Castro, Houston Astros; John Jaso, Oakland Athletics; Rob Brantley, Miami Marlins
Ike Davis, New York Mets
Davis began the 2012 season recovering from the Valley Fever which can severely weaken people for long periods. Davis chose not to complain about it but after the season finally admitted that he was not right the first few months of the season. His second half was a better indication of what Davis can do. He batted .255/.346/.542 with 20 homers in his last 251 at-bats. Davis has seen more than his fair share of injury and illness in his short career. It is possible that some of your league mates will perceive him as injury prone or even as a mediocre hitter. Do not believe it. Davis has very good power and has the patience and discipline to hit for a solid batting average (a skill becoming more rare).
UPSIDE: .275/.365/.500 with 35-plus homeruns
Others to Consider: Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants; Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins;
2B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
In the minor leagues Matt Carpenter has produced numbers that would mediocre at best coming from your first baseman or outfielder. But at second base (particularly in NL-only leagues) he would be a very solid fantasy option. He hits for a solid to good batting average with a strong on-base percentage driven by above average walk rates and improving contact skills. He has average or maybe slightly better power and should safely hit in the 10-15 homer range every season with more a clear possibility as he gains experience. He does not have great speed but will steal the occasional base given the opportunity. Best of all, manager Mike Matheny seems to like him and has projected him as a potential leadoff hitter. He only qualifies at the corners for now in most leagues but should be eligible at second within the first week or so of the regular season.
UPSIDE: .290/.370/.470 with 15-18 homeruns and a few stolen bases and a ton of runs scored
Others to Consider: Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners; Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Donaldson’s numbers as a major leaguer look mediocre overall. It would be pretty easy for a fantasy owner to overlook a player with a .232/.280/.386 slash in 328 plate appearances. However, he hit a very solid .290/.356/.489 with eight homers, 26 RBI and three steals in 47 games after returning from a stint at Triple-A. Donaldson is just 27-years old and general manager Billy Beane has declared that Donaldson will be the starter at third base in 2013. While 47 games is just a small sample of Donaldson’s season – his line at AAA Sacramento was .335/.402/.598 with 13 homers and five steals in 234 plate appearances. Donaldson has BABIP issues. Last season in the majors it was just .278 (far below average) and an indication that his poor start to the season was at least to some degree bad luck.
UPSIDE: .280/.350/.450 with 15-20 homers and 5-10 stolen bases.
Others to Consider: Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays; Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians;
SS Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks
Cliff Pennington is not popular among fantasy owners. He does not hit for much power and his batting average at times has been pathetic. So why is he listed here? He has skills and tools that indicate he has not reached his full potential just yet. Pennington has tremendous speed and solid base stealing skills. He has solid patience at the plate and makes decent contact. Now he is moving from Oakland's tough pitcher centric park into the Diamondback's Chase Field which favors hitters. He has been working with Diamondbacks hitting coach Don Baylor on shortening his swing. If his BABIP bounces back from his career low .259 in 2012 towards his career levels he could have a very nice season at a weak fantasy position.
UPSIDE: .275/.350/.425 with 10-12 homers and 25-plus stolen bases and a truckload of runs if he leads off.
Others to Consider: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles; Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers
OF/1B Chris Carter, Houston Astros
Chris Carter is seen as a player with tremendous power who is not a talented enough hitter to be a star in the Major Leagues. In actuality, 2012 was Carter’s first extended opportunity to play in the major leagues. He does in fact have massive power but he also has more patience at the plate than his K-rate would seem to indicate. His strikeout rates were not so bad in the minors and he even showed some ability to hit for average. He is moving from one of the better pitchers’ parks in baseball to one that actually boosts right-handed power stats. In 2013 you could see a decent batting average with gargantuan power (nice to have with overall power numbers dropping).
UPSIDE: .270/.370/.550 with 30-plus homers and a few stolen bases
OF Jose Tabata OF Pittsburgh Pirates
How good does Travis Snider have to be to keep Tabata on the bench all season. Admittedly Tabata has fallen off the last few years. But he was once lauded for his power potential and showed a knack for base stealing. He kicked off Spring Training looking determined to win back at least a share of the job starting in the outfield corners. At this point it looks like Snider will start but Tabata has made the team. His price should be ultra low and Snider has not been much better than Tabata as a major leaguer. He makes an excellent flyer in deep NL-only leagues or in deep mixed leagues with bench spots.
UPSIDE: .275/.340/.400 with ten homers and 20-plus stolen bases
OF Jordany Valdespin, New York Mets
His Spring Training performance has probably jacked up his price on those of us with post-Easter drafts this year. The Mets have no established outfielders on their roster coming into the 2013 season. This has provided Valdespin and others with a fantastic opportunity for Major League playing time. He is not a patient hitter but makes excellent contact. He has the power to hit 15-20 homers and the speed to steal 20-plus bases in a full season.
UPSIDE: .280/.340/.440 with 15-plus homers and 20-plus stolen bases
OF J.D. Martinez, Houston Astros
He is a tough pick since he will begin the season in the minor leagues. With a career batting line of just .252/.313/.375 it would be easy to dismiss Martinez as just another mediocre Astros outfielder. You would be missing out on a player with huge breakout potential. In the 603 at-bats that led to the line above Martinez hit 17 homeruns and collected 90 RBI. It becomes even more encouraging when you know his career minor league batting line was .334/.397/.532 in over 1200 minor league at-bats. He certainly has no obstacles to consistent playing time. Special thanks should go to my friend Dave McKay of thefantasysportsbrain.com who likes him even more than me.
UPSIDE: .300/.360/.450 15-20 homeruns and the odd stolen base
OF Andy Dirks, Detroit Tigers
It would be easy to dismiss Dirks as a BABIP fluke and pass on him during fantasy drafts. That might be a mistake. Dirks has a track record of high BABIP and high batting averages in the minors. Dirks is a strong contact hitter with some patience at the plate. He swings at too many pitches out of the zone but makes much better than average contact. He is not a power hitter but with an uptick to his plate discipline he could hit for average power. His Achilles issue kept his decent speed under wraps but Dirks has the skills to steal bases. There is some talk of Dirks platooning with Avisail Garcia. That seems unlikely but even if true; Dirks would be on the strong side of it.
UPSIDE: .300/.350/.450 with 15-20 homeruns and 10-15 steals
Others to Consider: Colin Cowgill, New York Mets; Gerardo Parra, Arizona Diamondbacks; Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals; Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels; Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles
MI Eric Young, Jr., Colorado Rockies
Eric Young has been neglected by the Rockies for a long time. He has awesome stolen base potential. He makes excellent contact and has shown patience at the plate. He should hit for average if given consistent at-bats and new manager Walt Weiss seems determined to make better use of Young. He only qualifies at outfield in most leagues at this point but could see time all over the field. He came up as a second baseman.
UPSIDE: .290/.350/.425 with 40-plus steals and a few homers
Others to Consider: Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers; Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees
3B Matt Dominguez, Houston Astros
His strength as a Marlins prospect was his excellent glove. Scouts believed in the potential in his bat but there was very little statistical evidence that he could hit. Last year he began to work on his swing with coaches and changing his hand position to create less movement and a shorter swing path. The results have been promising. At his present ADP he will cost nothing so the risk is minimal. The payoff could be pretty good especially relative to his cost.
UPSIDE: .290/.330/.450 with 15-plus homers
Others to Consider: Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners; Brett Wallace, Houston Astros
DH Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
After his stint in the minor leagues Lind was an above average player in every remaining month of the season. Health is obviously the largest obstacle between Lind and a full season of statistics worthy of a major league first baseman. In an off- season where the Blue Jays have filled every hole on the roster and added a ton of depth, they have done nothing to indicate they have lost faith in their first baseman (well, besides move him to designated hitter). See my article for an expanded look at Adam Lind.
UPSIDE: .280/.350/.500 with 30 homers
Others to Consider: Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox; Raul Ibanez, Seattle Mariners
SP Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Not every pitcher develops as quickly as Stephen Strasburg. Justin Verlander took a few years to put it together. The same is true with Cole Hamels and David Price. Scherzer showed many signs of reaching his incredible potential during the 2012 season. His K9 took a big jump supported by a similar jump in his swinging strike rate. His solid control and strikeouts limit the damage down by his less than ideal HR9.
UPSIDE: 20 wins, 3.50 ERA and 250 strikeouts
SP Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
The fraying in his shoulder will keep a lot of owners away from Jaime Garcia. It will also bring his price way down, possibly into the lower single digits. That provides you with an opportunity to purchase a very talented pitcher on the cheap. Garcia has a great swinging strike rate with a solid K9 that should improve. He has good control and a nice groundball rate. He plays for a very good Cardinals team with a nice defense. For what should be a very small investment you could win big. Garcia is already throwing and will face hitters today (Saturday, Feb. 16th).
UPSIDE: 15 wins and an ERA< 3.50
SP Phil Hughes, New York Yankees
The mini-Rocket has not reached the once lofty heights the Yankees were hoping he would. He has been solid and flashed some of the greatest but has not been able to sustain it for any great length of time. In 2012 his swinging strike rate jumped back up and his K9 jumped with it. With some regression to his HR/FB, Hughes could have a big season in 2013 leading into his first shot at free agency.
UPSIDE: 15 wins and an ERA < 4.00
SP Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Kyle Kendrick has been nothing if not inconsistent in his time spent as a major league pitcher but has usually posted acceptable ERAs and WHIPs. But his strikeout rates have left much to be desired. He won't be confused with Stephen Strasburg anytime soon but thanks to a change in his pitch usage he seems to have hit on the key to greater dominance. He has reduced his use of the cutter in favor of his 2-seam fastball (a sinker) and his change-up. The result was a K9 over 6.0 for the season and approaching 7.0 K9 in the second half. If the improved strikeout rate sticks with his control (2.60 career BB9) and strong groundball rate (45.8 career GB percentage) he could be a huge breakout pitcher this season.
UPSIDE: 12-plus wins and an ERA < 4.00
SP Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Many forget that Porcello is still just 24-years old. He spent very little time in the minors and has been forced to develop his skills on the major league stage. Given the way he has been thrown to the metaphorical wolves, Porcello has done quite well. The perception of Porcello is no doubt as an average or perhaps slightly above average starting pitcher. What is not as obvious to most observers is how much the Tigers awful defensive infield hurts Porcello. Porcello is a groundball pitcher (52.3 career GB percentage) and defense matters to him a great deal. His velocity has been on the rise and he now pitches in the low to mid 90’s. His strikeouts have been lower than fantasy owners would like to see but his K9 has seen small increases the last two seasons and his swinging strike rate has also risen to nearly average. If his slider had been more effective in 2012 it may have gotten all the way there. He has been emphasizing his curveball as an alternative to the slider this spring with great results. This is a pitcher who could explode on the scene if traded to a team with an effective infield defense (the Orioles would be a great spot for him).
UPSIDE: 15 wins and an ERA < 3.75
Others to Consider: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians; Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles; Jacob Turner, Miami Marlins; Erasmo Ramirez, Seattle Mariners; David Phelps, New York Yankees
MR Christian Garcia RHP Washington Nationals
He will be a bit late to start the 2013 season but in keeper leagues that should not be a major problem. His late arrival will also reduce his already low cost. Garcia was a top prospect of the New York Yankees but a series of elbow problems prevented him from pitching much and eventually robbed him of his stellar stuff. After two Tommy John Surgeries and a third procedure to remove bone chips, the Nationals picked him up and placed him in the bullpen. His high nineties stuff was back and his hammer curve was back and his change-up is solid. Saves are probably not in his near future but stranger things have happened.
UPSIDE: 65 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10K9, 3.00BB9,
MR Sean Doolittle LHP Oakland Athletics
The one pitcher that you should be looking for in the Athletics bullpen is Sean Doolittle. He was drafted with the 41st overall pick as a first baseman but knee injuries almost ended his career. The A’s converted him to pitching and rushed him through the system in 2012. From Class A to the Major Leagues - 17 games, 26 innings, 1.04 earned run average, 50 strikeouts, 8 walks. He has a very deceptive delivery and a blazing mid-90s fastball. He could stabilize the A’s closer position for several years.
UPSIDE: 20 saves with a ridiculous K9
MR Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
Herrera has it all. He has the strikeout rate, excellent control and a great ground ball rate.Herrera is good enough to be worth drafting in deeper leagues even without the possibility of saves.If the Royals regain faith in Herrera's health they could potentially place him back in a starting role where he would have frontline pitcher stuff.
UPSIDE: Superb ratios with 15-plus saves and 80-plus strikeouts
Others to Consider: Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays; J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds; Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox
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