||2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Published: March 21, 2013, 7:31 am
2013 FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPERS
Travis d'Arnaud, NYM: The top catching prospect was the big prize in the RA Dickey trade for the Mets this off-season back in mid-December. d'Arnaud is a very good hitter with a good eye and deceptive speed for a catcher. However, his defense and game-calling are his biggest weaknesses, but those can be improved over time. He could also stand to have more patience at the plate and take a few more walks, but that too will likely come in time. The way he has rolled through the minor leagues, expectations are high in the Big Apple. With his bat, d'Arnaud will likely hit in the upper half of the Mets lineup.
Yasmani Grandal, SD: The former first-round pick out of Miami made a good impression last season hitting .297 with an OBP of .394 in 192 at-bats. Unfortunately, he got suspended 50 games for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. Needless to say, this puts a damper on his 2013 fantasy value. However, the 2013 season is not lost. Grandal is a smooth-swinging switch-hitter who is often compared to the likes of Victor Martinez. He's definitely someone to keep on your radar as the season progresses. He could be a steal off of the waiver wire in June.
Mike Zunino, SEA: Zunino is a bit of a deep sleeper here, but he's a good power hitter with great defense behind the plate. In fact, his strong arm and especially his game-calling are more developed than they probably should be for a guy turning 22 in March. Like the Mets with d'Arnaud, the Mariners are expected to rush him to the majors. The only big criticism of Zunino is his tendency to strike out. However, he does have excellent bat speed, so he could grow into more of a contact hitter. It's worth noting Zunino was named the 2012 Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur baseball player in America. Just throwing that out there.
Matt Adams, STL: Adams is a major power-hitting prospect that has crushed the ball on every level in the minors. He was eaten alive by major league pitching last season, but the fact he's hit at least .300 every season in the minors suggests he could develop a better eye at the plate. It's also encouraging to know because of his increased walk rate, his OBP has improved the last 3 straight seasons in the minors. The biggest knock on Adams is his defense. Because of this, he's likely stuck at first, or perhaps at DH on an AL team. However, the Cardinals are not in any hurry to move Adams, as he was one of the main reasons they were willing to part ways with Albert Pujols. Provided he can get regular at-bats, Adams could make an impact this season.
Anthony Rizzo, CHC: Rizzo isn't a huge sleeper here as he hit .285 last season with 15 homers, 48 RBI and 44 runs scored for the Cubs. That said he could still be overlooked by some of you in standard mixed leagues. He made his way from San Diego to Chicago last off-season and has established himself as the Cubs' every day first baseman. Rizzo showed he has trouble hitting lefties, but at the same time, he made good adjustments at the plate in the final months of the season, so that could improve. Heading into 2013, he should hit in the middle of the Cubs' lineup and is seemingly on the verge of a breakout season.
Jonathon Singleton, HOU: Like Grandal, Singleton starts the season suspended for 50 games. But unlike Grandal, it was for testing positive for marijuana not testosterone. So the kid smoked a little dope, big deal. Come on, baseball, get with the times. Personal feelings and suspension aside, Singleton is a big left-hander who, simply put, can hit. He's put up a good average every year in the minors. He's an elite first baseman prospect, but with the Astros heading to the AL, he could be turned into a DH. Even after his suspension is over, Singleton will have to continue last year's success in the minor leagues first before he gets promoted to the majors, but that promotion seems to be inevitable. He may not make his major league debut until late in the season, but for those of you in keeper leagues, keep him on your radar.
Alexi Amarista, SD: Amarista made his way to the Padres from the Angels last season in the Ernesto Frieri trade. He had a rather unspectacular major league debut, but showed versatility in the field getting playing time at second, short and outfield. Don't be discouraged by last year's .240 average. He averaged hitting .314 during his time in the minors. He has limited power, but his real fantasy value lies in his speed. He's been compared to the likes of Emilio Bonifacio. Once he gets regular playing time, he could develop into a roto league option for average, steals and runs.
Johnny Giavotella, KC: Giavotella is a bit of a deep sleeper here as he'll have to win the starting second base job from Chris Getz in spring training before he can become an option in fantasy. He did hit.302 in the minors, so there is reason to believe he can improve on his major league average of .243 the last two seasons. He has a good eye at the plate too, as he only had 20 less walks (192) than strikeouts (212) in 5 minor league seasons. Unfortunately, that hasn't translated to the bigs yet as he's looked clueless at the plate during his short stint in the majors. His average and pitch recognition is expected to improve in time, but it's his defense that could really hinder his progress. Keep an eye on the position battle between Giavotella and Getz this spring. If Giavotella wins the job, he could be worth a flier in deeper or AL-only leagues.
Kolten Wong, STL: The 22-year old Hawaiian is already considered by many to be the Cardinals' second baseman of the future. However, there are some things that have to fall into place before the Kolten Wong era begins. For starters, he'll have to improve on his defense if he wants to win the starting job this spring. He's also raw as a base stealer evidenced by the fact he stole 30 bases and was caught 16 times in two minor league seasons. That said he did hit .311 in the minors. The Cardinals love this kid's attitude and work ethic and no doubt will give him every opportunity to be their starting second baseman. He does have keeper value, but his fantasy value this season is directly tied to how he fairs in spring training. If he wins the job, he's immediately a NL-only option.
Jurickson Profar, TEX: Widely considered baseball's top prospect, Jurickson has 5-tool potential and a great eye at the plate. He's a switch-hitting raw talent that mowed right through the minor leagues last season as he started the year in Single-A and finished the season in the major leagues with the Rangers. Not to mention, he'll only be 20 when spring training begins. Quick anecdote, he has the same birthday as my mom, February 20. Happy Birthday, mom! He's a superstar in the making with one thing working against him: opportunity. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler manning the middle infield, Jurickson will likely start the season in the minors as the Rangers want him to continue to get regular at-bats, something he likely won't get initially in the majors. In addition, he's drawn favorable comparisons to Justin Upton. He's already keeper league material, and those of you in dynasty leagues, likely knew about him last year, but he's still probably another year away from being a mixed league option. If he doesn't make the Rangers' Opening Day roster, make sure you're ready to pounce on him when he gets the inevitable call-up at some point this season.
Jean Segura, MIL: Segura made his way to Milwaukee via the Zack Greinke trade and played admirably upon his arrival. In only 148 at-bats last season, he hit .264 for the Brewers with 7 stolen bases. If his minor league numbers are any indication, both his average and stolen bases should improve. He'll get some RBI's and score a decent amount of runs, but he doesn't really have much power to speak of. In a full season, a .280 average with close to 30 stolen bases is a very realistic expectation. There'll likely be some growing pains along the way this season, but he has great speed, good defense and the upside is undoubtedly there. The Brewers seem to really like what they see in their shortstop of the future. He's just NL-only material for now, but depending on how he progresses this season he could become a deeper mixed league option.
Andrelton Simmons, ATL: It sure didn't take long for Simmons to get promoted to the majors. He made his major league debut last June. His first major league stint lasted about 5 weeks. He was recalled in September and stuck with the team the rest of the season. Despite playing in only 49 major league games, he still managed to keep his batting average hovering around .300 as he hit .289 in 166 at-bats. In fact, there's already talk about the Braves possibly using Simmons as their leadoff hitter this season. If that happens, and he's hitting in front of guys like Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers, he'll definitely get a boost in his runs scored. He'll likely never be among the elite shortstops in the game, but he does enough across the board where he should be considered in deeper mixed leagues.
Jedd Gyorko, SD: Over the last 3 years, Gyorko has played all over the infield. He won the Brooks Wallace Award in 2010 as the best shortstop in NCAA during his time at West Virginia. He then was immediately moved to third base upon his arrival to the minors. And now, he's in the process of trying to be the Padres' starting second baseman. Gyorko is considered one of the top prospects in the game. He'll likely be listed as a second baseman in your league, but I listed him under third baseman here. Sue me. He doesn't have ideal footwork for second base, but with Chase Headley firmly entrenched at third, it only makes sense the Padres want to move him in order to get his bat up to the majors sooner rather than later. Speaking of his bat, this kid can flat-out hit as he has a career .310 average in the minors. The Padres admittedly wanted to call him up last year, but just didn't have the room on their roster. He has steadily progressed every year in the minors and is primed to bust onto the fantasy scene this year. He should provide fantasy owners with a good average, good power and a good eye at the dish. Keep in mind, him winning the second base job this spring is not set in stone. There is the slight chance he could once again start the season in the minors. However, his major league debut this season is imminent. Plus, with Gyorko playing a shallow fantasy position like second base, he's that much more appealing.
Mike Olt, TEX: Olt has a ton of opportunity in front of him this year. He could start the season as the Rangers starting first baseman or he could start the season in the minors. It all depends on how he performs this spring. He has more experience at third, but with Adrian Beltre there, it seems first base is the way to go. Come to think of it, this is a very similar situation to Jedd Gyorko's. At any rate, Olt is a big slugger that has good power potential. Despite being named any several trade rumors, the Rangers think incredibly high of him as he went from Double-A straight to the majors last season. If he can get regular at-bats, something he never got last year, he could put up good numbers in the power categories. Keep an eye on his spring. If this guy makes the Opening Day roster, he's worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues.
Josh Vitters, CHC: Vitters is another one of the many deep sleepers I have on this list. Drafted as the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, he's never really lived up to the Cubs' expectations. When Aramis Ramirez was dealt to Milwaukee, he had the chance to take the starting third base job, but never did anything to set himself apart from the competition. He struck out too much, walked too little and frankly looked like he didn't have a clue at the plate. That said the Cubs still like his upside. If he can adjust to the major league game, he has the potential put up a decent average and some decent power numbers. Unfortunately for Vitters, this could be his last legitimate chance to crack the major league roster with the Cubs. He'll have to be more disciplined at the plate if he has any chance of sticking long-term with the big league club. He's nothing more than a NL-only option, but has a slight chance to develop into someone you might want to consider in deep keeper leagues.
Avisail Garcia, DET: Despite only playing 55 games in Double-A, the Tigers called up the big prospect last season and was actually kept on the roster through the ALCS. Garcia never showed the power he displayed in the minors, but he did hit safely in 12 of 20 games in which he got an at-bat. Even with limited playing time, he managed to keep his average well over .300, finishing the season with a .319 average. Detroit absolutely loves what they have in Garcia long-term, but they also have an overcrowded outfield and not enough playing time to go around. Meaning, there's a good chance Garcia could start the year in the minors. They love his 5-tool potential, but they'd rather it further develop in the minors than waste away on their bench. Of course, if he has a great spring, all bets are off. That still remains to be seen, but if he does start the season in the minors, he's likely only an injury or demotion away from getting the call. Keep an eye on him and see how things play out this spring. He's likely still a year or two away from being a legit mixed league option, but is already worth a flier in keeper leagues.
Billy Hamilton, CIN: As one of the most exciting prospects in baseball, Hamilton's major league debut could very likely be this season. If you're not familiar with Hamilton, this kid can flat-out run. He profiles as your prototypical leadoff hitter with great speed, a knack to get on base and hits from both sides of the plate. He stole a minor league record 155 bases last season and stole 103 in 2011. In addition to his speed, he's a good hitter as he hit .305 last year and improved his strikeout to walk ratio from 133/52 in 2011 to 113/86 in 2012. He also improved his on-base percentage from .340 in 2011 to .410 in 2012. And he did all of this in 2012 with less at-bats than he got in 2011. That's the good news. The bad news is the Reds moved Hamilton from shortstop to center field, so there will be an adjustment period as he gets used to playing outfield. Plus, the Reds recently traded for Shin-Soo Choo to man center field, so there's no obvious spot for Hamilton, at least initially. However, if he keeps hitting, and subsequently running, the way he did in 2012, the Reds will have a hard time not promoting him to the bigs. Once he makes it to the majors, he'll make an immediate fantasy impact, especially for those of you in roto leagues.
Starling Marte, PIT: The highly-touted Marte made his major league debut late last July, and despite going on the DL, he stuck with the big league club the rest of the season. As the Pirates leadoff hitter, he only hit .257 and struck out a whopping 50 times in 167 at-bats. However, going by his numbers in the minors, his average and pitch recognition should improve. He probably has another year before he reaches his potential, but with some major league polish he could develop into a player comparable to that of Carl Crawford. He has a good combination of speed and power and at times last season gave us a gander at just how good he can be. He was also named MVP of the Dominican Republic Winter League Championship Series, so he's looking really good heading into spring training. Target Marte late in drafts as he makes an intriguing late-round pick in standard mixed leagues.
Wil Myers, TB: Myers is a top prospect that made his way to Tampa from Kansas City in the James Shields trade. A converted outfielder from catcher, he already has a major league-ready bat and plays good defense. The Rays are going to give him every opportunity to make their Opening Day roster this spring. Some people are already touting Myers as a potential AL Rookie of the Year and this year's “Bryce Harper”. Of course, it all depends how he performs at spring training, but it seems to be very likely he'll get called up at some point this season if he does in fact start the year in the minors. He hits for a good average and puts up good numbers in all of the power categories. If there's any real weakness to Myers' game, aside from the lack of stolen bases, it's that he strikes out far too often. Like most of these young guys, his pitch recognition will likely improve in time, but that alone won't keep him off the big league roster as he has the overall skills to make a fantasy impact immediately. Provided he makes the major league club out of spring, he makes a nice late-round draft pick in most leagues. Even if he starts the season at Triple-A, he's still worth taking a flier on late in drafts.
Oscar Taveras, STL: The 2012 Texas League Player of the Year, Taveras is a good hitter with impressive power. He hit .321 with 23 homers, 94 RBI and 83 runs scored at Double-A last season. He also has a surprisingly good eye at the plate for a 20-year old and improved his contact rate as the season progressed. Like Myers, Taveras has been mentioned in Rookie of the Year discussions, but he's still somewhat of a deep sleeper. The Cardinals will admittedly give him a long look this spring, but their outfield is crowded, so he'll have to really impress to open the season on the big league club. Chances are he'll start the season in the minors, but will likely make his major league debut at some point during the season. He has 30-homerun potential, but is probably still a year or two away from being a regular starter. Nonetheless, he is worth taking a flier on now in deep keeper leagues.
Trevor Bauer, CLE: Bauer made his way to Cleveland this off-season in the Shin-Soo Choo trade. He got a cup of coffee near the middle of last season with Arizona but didn't fare very well. In 4 starts, he was 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. The Diamondbacks were willing to cut ties with the top prospect because of his lack of control and the fact they considered him somewhat of a headcase. However, he's getting a fresh start in Cleveland and new manager Terry Francona is committed to giving Bauer every opportunity to break camp with the Tribe. Control issues aside, he has an electric arm and still managed to strikeout a hitter an inning during his short major league stint. He can hit 100 mph, but typically pitches in the mid-90's. He also has a good cutter, a good slider and an above-average changeup. He's also been applauded for his conditioning routine. He could start the season in the minors if the Indians feel he needs more fine tuning. But if he cracks the Tribe's rotation the spring, he'll be a good source of K's and possibly more if he can develop more command. Bauer is a great player to take a flier on late in drafts.
Dylan Bundy, BAL: Bundy is a really deep sleeper here, but this kid has been highly-touted out of high school and has tremendous upside long-term. He throws a plus fastball and cutter, and is working this spring to improve his changeup. He's also been working hard to improve his control and command. He carved up the minors last season to the tune of 119 K's in 103.2 innings pitched and a 2.52 ERA. That said, he's only 20 years old and is incredibly untested against major league pitching as he's only thrown 29 pitches in 1.2 innings in the majors. He'll likely start the season in Double or Triple-A, but like last season will most likely get a call up at some point, perhaps as early as June. Already dynasty and deep keeper league worthy, Bundy is still only worth drafting late in AL-only leagues. Of course that could change if he has a great spring, but realistically he's probably another year or two away.
Gerrit Cole, PIT: The #1 pick in the 2011 draft and former teammate of Trevor Bauer's in college at UCLA, Cole will likely make his major league debut this season. Temper your expectations, but he could make a fantasy impact in mixed leagues this year. He mowed through all 3 levels of the minor leagues last year with a 2.8 ERA, 1.2 WHIP and struck out a batter an inning. The kid throws smoke regularly hitting 98 mph on the radar gun. He also throws a plus cutter, slider and a nasty changeup. He has the potential to be a future ace and gets compared to the likes of Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. The Pirates are probably tempted to start Cole in the majors, but he'd be better served starting out the season at Triple-A. A June call-up isn't just possible, it's very likely. For those of you in deep mixed leagues, and especially keeper leagues, be ready to snatch Cole off the waiver wire the moment he's promoted. Jose Fernandez, MIA: Fernandez is one of my deepest sleepers on the list. As a Cuban defector, he has quite the compelling story, as he sailed over miles and miles of shark-infested waters to get here. As the Marlins' top pick in the 2011 draft, the 20-year old Fernandez is quickly making a name for himself and is the top arm in Miami's farm system. The talented right-hander throws a fastball that can reach 99 mph. He also throws a plus curveball and slider, and has been working hard this off-season to develop an effective changeup. There's no denying the kid has electric stuff as he whiffed 158 hitters in 134 innings pitched in two levels of Class A last season. However, he's likely going to spend most of the season at Double or Triple-A as he's not quite major league-ready just yet, but could make his major league debut with a late-season call-up. The Marlins are admittedly in no hurry to rush him to the majors, but if they're so far out of contention by the end of summer, they might be willing to give him a look. If that happens, he's worth a flier in deep keeper leagues.
Shelby Miller, STL: The fireballer from Houston is the top arm in the Cardinals' system and consider by many to be a possible NL Rookie of the Year candidate. He had some struggles in the minors, but made adjustments and cruised all the way to a September promotion. He continued to pitch effectively in the majors with a 1.32 ERA, .95 WHIP and 16 K's in 13.2 innings pitched. That includes a start in early October in which he threw 6 scoreless innings while only giving up one hit, two walks and striking out 7. Granted, that's just a small sample, but it gives you an idea of how effective he can pitch nonetheless. He throws a fastball in the mid-90's with some natural sink, a plus slider, a 12-6 curve and has developed a decent changeup. Provided he has a good spring, he has a great shot at making the Cardinals' Opening Day rotation, especially considering Chris Carpenter is done for the year and Jaime Garcia is nursing a shoulder injury. Even if, for some reason, he doesn't break camp with the Cards, he's still worth a late-round draft pick in most leagues, especially keeper leagues, as he's able to make a fantasy impact almost immediately.
Tyler Skaggs, ARI: Skaggs is a 21-year old southpaw with a 3-pitch arsenal: a fastball, curve and changeup. He won't blow anyone away, but he does possess good command. He impressed in the minors last season and made his major league debut in late August. He got six major league starts last season with mixed results. He looked good during his first three starts, but then fell apart during his last three. This was blamed mostly on diminished velocity. As a result, he was shut down for the year. Subsequently, Skaggs has worked hard in the off-season putting on 23 more pounds and reportedly started his throwing program earlier this year than last. He'll be fighting for the 5th spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation this spring, but will have to develop better control if he plans on winning it. Arizona is confident Skaggs is better than last year's 5.83 ERA indicates. He'll very likely be in the majors at some point this season even if he doesn't break camp with the Diamondbacks. Skaggs should be considered a late-round flier in deep keeper leagues, and a wait-and-see option in mixed leagues.
Steve Cishek, MIA: As Heath Bell's struggles last season kept piling up, so did Cishek's save opportunities. He made the most of them to the tune of 15 saves in 19 attempts with a 2.69 ERA and 68 whiffs in 63.2 innings pitched. Considering last year's success, he's easily the front runner to be the Marlins' closer heading into spring. He throws a low-90's fastball, a nasty slider and an ever-improving changeup. He strikes out a hitter an inning, but there is some slight concern that he tends to walk more batters than you'd want to see from your closer. However, if he can keep the walks at a minimum, he could get near 30 saves this season. Consider Cishek a sneaky source of saves in most mixed leagues.
Sean Doolittle, OAK: Doolittle made a name for himself at the University of Virginia as a solid hitter and pitcher. He was originally profiled as a top prospect at first base, but knee injuries forced him back to pitching. The southpaw had a dazzling rookie season last year throwing 47.1 innings with an impressive 60 strikeouts to go along with a 3.04 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. And he did this throwing almost solely fastballs. Doolittle is a bit of a long shot for saves in Oakland, but with assumed closer Grant Balfour still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Doolittle could get a shot at some save opportunities at some point down the road with a good spring. Ryan Cook, the A's projected set-up man and main return in the Trevor Cahill trade, will likely get the first chance at saves if Balfour struggles or gets injured. However, if he falters in the role, Doolittle is your guy. He definitely needs a few things to go his way, but has the makeup to thrive as a closer if given the chance.
Kyuji Fujikawa, CHC: Fujikawa is a veteran closer from Japan that has converted over 200 saves with a career 1.36 ERA in seven seasons. The Cubs paid handsomely for his services and hope he brings some stability to their bullpen, and ultimately at closer. He has converted at least 17 saves, and as many as 46, every season since 2006 for the Hanshin Tigers. He primarily throws fastballs, but has a plus forkball, an effective curveball and a rarely used changeup and cutter. It remains to be seen how major league hitters react to his fastball, but he does have impeccable control, something that projected Cubs' closer Carlos Marmol tends to lack. In fact, Marmol's WHIP has steadily gone up the last 3 seasons. Chicago has said they intend to start the season with Marmol at closer, but you better believe his leash will be a very short one. At the first sign of trouble, the Cubs will not hesitate to turn to Fujikawa. Of course, it's always hard to predict how Japanese players will adapt to the major league game, but I can see him having a career path similar to that of fellow countryman Kazuhiro Sasaki, the Mariners closer from 2000-03. Thanks to the struggles of Jose Mesa at the time, Sasaki got a shot at the closer role with Seattle and ran with it. At the very least, Fujikawa is worth drafting in most deep leagues as a handcuff to Marmol. At best, he could develop into a top 10 fantasy closer. By the way, his first name “Kyuji” actually translates to “baseball kid”.
Stephen Pryor, SEA: Pryor is a big righty at 6-4, 250. He's being touted by many as Seattle's closer of the future. He throws an explosive fastball that regularly hits the high-90's, a slider that drops almost a foot, a cutter and he mixes in a changeup that's almost 10 mph slower than his fastball. He struck out almost 12 hitters per 9 innings and has a career ERA under 3 while he was in the minors. Upon his promotion the majors last season, he was a very effective reliever, as he struck out 27 hitters in 23 innings with a 3.91 ERA. However, the bad news is he was plagued by walks as he gave up 13 in those same 23 innings. Control problems have haunted Pryor since the minors and are really the only thing (aside from injuries of course) keeping him from reaching his potential. He'll likely start the season as the Mariners' set-up man or at the very least he'll have a late-inning role. Of course, if Seattle falls out of contention, Tom Wilhelmsen struggles or the Mariners trade Wilhelmsen, all of which are very possible, Pryor would likely be the first in line for save opportunities. He makes a nice speculative pick in deep mixed leagues.