Fantasy Sports R Us

BY TODD FARINO

2010 will be an interesting year for sleepers. There are a ton of players who are well known, but are capable of a sleeper type season. There are also a ton of players that are young players ready to bust out. I’ll layout several of each for you in this article. These players will not be on most managers draft lists and if they are they will be way down on the list. That is if they don’t read articles like this one. Most of these players should be targeted later in the draft to maximize value.

I define a sleeper as a player who will perform well beyond his expectations or seasons he has played in the past. A sleeper can be a rookie, life long minor-leaguer, or a veteran. The difference between a sleeper and a breakout player, normally the sleeper is not a stud and hasn't had a huge season yet in his career. The breakout player has had big years, but could be in a slump or coming off a terrible year.


2010 Sleeper Pitchers

Billy Wagner RP, Atlanta Braves

Last April, Billy Wagner was on the shelf for most of the season. Tommy John surgery was the cause and most players would have sat out the whole year, but Wagner was determined to get back and get back he did. After being traded to the Red Sox in late August, Billy Wagner proved he can still pitch. In 17 appearances in 2009, Wagner racked up 26 strikeouts and a surprising 1.78 ERA. Although his control wasn't perfect, Wagner showed no ill effect from the surgery. Better yet, he didn't lose his fierce competitive demeanor on the mound and that is part of his effectiveness. It seemed to be MIA the last few months he pitched with the Mets.

In 2010 Wagner will be the closer for the Atlanta Braves and they make an excellent fit for the strong-willed lefty. The Braves have a solid pitching staff of Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Kenshin Kawakami, and Tim Hudson and with an inconsistent offense the Braves will be involved in plenty of close games. That means lots of work for Wagner and plenty of save opportunities. My projections at The Closer Report gave the Braves 51 saves as a team, so Wagner projects to rack up at least 40 saves himself.

The negatives on Wagner aren't much, but you have to worry about his health and the impact of surgery. Pitchers normally come back stronger after Tommy John surgery because of the rehab involved. They tend to lose strength by the second season after the surgery, so it will be interesting to see how Wagner's arm holds u
p. Health has always been a concern for Wagner, but after nearly a year of rest he is poised for a long healthy year.

Currently, Wagner's ADP is round 14. He is much more valuable then that and managers need to understand his value as a lefty and his K/9 rate. If he is there in round 12, don't hesitate to draft him.

2010 Projections: 40 saves, 4 wins, 80 Ks, 2.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP


Ryan Madson RP, Philadelphia Phillies

Madson is a big-time sleeper in 2010 with all the problems Brad Lidge has going on. To start, Lidge had two minor surgeries in the off-season and the latter was on his elbow. Odds are he won't be ready to start the season and that means Ryan Madson will be the Phillies closer on opening day. Even when Lidge is ready to pitch, he will need time to get his strength up, which means more time for Madson. Then there is still the question of Lidge’s mechanics and control. With all those problems and the fact he is in his last year of his contract, Ryan Madson could be the closer for awhile if not the whole season in Philadelphia.

In 2009, Madson recorded ten saves in sixteen chances and in the end didn't handle the closer job very well when he got the job in June. In roughly 2 weeks, Madson blew three saves and three losses before losing the job back to Lidge. Brushing that aside, Madson is in his prime and has everything you need to be a great closer. During that stretch, Madson depended on his fastball a bit too much and hitters were sitting on it. That's bound to change as Madson gains confidence in his other pitches and he will have a great season, recording up to 20 saves. It all depends on how long he pitches, but 40 saves is possible if he closes the entire season. He will also give you a very strong K/9.

2010 Projections: 22 saves, 4 wins, 83 Ks, 2.97 ERA, 1.24 WHIP


Erik Bedard SP, FA

Since being signed acquired by the Mariners in trade, Bedard has been a certified bust. Part of his problem has been injury compounded with lack of confident. Last July, Bedard had season ending surgery to repair a torn labrum and in the off-season was denied arbitration by the Mariners. Currently he is drawing interest from the Orioles, Royals, and White Sox. It’s likely he wouldn’t be ready to pitch until late May or early June, but when healthy he is an extremely effective starting pitcher.

Bedard is the most talented FA pitcher left on the market. We've seen what he can do and in his first two years with the Mariners Bedard was 11-7 with 162 strikeouts in 164 innings. He's pitched well, just not much over the two year span due to injury. I believe 2010 will be the year he turns it around and a change of venue would be nice for Bedard and the possibility of going back to the Orioles is intriguing. Bedard is finally getting healthy, feeling good, and according to his own words he is ready to put in a full season once he gets back from rehabbing his shoulder.

At 31, Erik Bedard is still in his prime and on the right team could put up outstanding numbers and provide your fantasy team with a very late round draft pick and a deep sleeper threat.

The True Guru Projections: 12 wins, 168 Ks, 3.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP


Neftali Feliz RP, Texas Rangers

Ever since the Rangers acquired Neftali Feliz they knew they had something special. The young flame thrower came up last year for the Rangers and looked brilliant, even throwing 101 MPH in his debut. He pitched 31 innings, striking out 39 and had a microscopic WHIP of 0.68. The Rangers will watch the amount of innings he pitches to make sure he remains healthy. Where he will be used in the bullpen is also still a mystery. Odds are the Rangers will use him in the Setup role and platoon it with CJ Wilson. What is not a mystery is his talent and the fact that he will be on the Rangers roster come opening day.

Neftali will get saves and he will record a ton of strikeouts. He will be used to relieve Francisco as CJ Wilson makes a much better 8th inning guy. You can definitely get him with a very late draft pick, likely 25th or 26th round.

2010 Projections: 11 saves, 5 wins, 95 Ks, 1.65 ERA, 0.91 WHIP


Other Sleeper Pitchers
Mat Latos SP, Padres
Brandon Morrow SP/RP, Blue Jays
Matt Lindstrom RP, Astros
Rick Porcello SP, Tigers
Jason Motte RP, Cardinals


2010 Sleeper Hitters

Clint Barmes 2B, Colorado Rockies

Clint Barmes is a late bloomer. Barmes will turn 31 in March and has only started to develop into a fantasy hitter the past couple of years. Last year he set career highs in home runs, hits, RBI, and runs. Allot of that was because he was a starter for the first time in 2009. The Rockies like what they have in Barmes and they see him as one of the best 8-spot batters in the NL. Even if they move him up in the lineup, Barmes will be even more effective. He is a savvy veteran that has finally figured out pitchers, and will continue to get better in 2010. The Rockies should have an outstanding offensive season with their mixture of young energetic players and proven veterans. I've always contended that young and old players can be energized or reenergized by a core of young starters. Barmes has had solid home run numbers in some seasons and a great average in others. Barmes should put it together this year and have a career year.

Don't jump to quick on Clint Barmes, but he is my Aaron Hill of last year. Hill was a top sleeper of mine in 2009, and this year at 2B it's Barmes. He won't exactly put up the numbers Hill did, just a disclaimer. He will have an outstanding season as your fantasy baseball second basemen. Another bonus is he should qualify at shortstop (16 in 2009) in allot of leagues.

2010 Projections: .282 BA, 26 Hrs, 90 RBI, 77 Runs, 15 SB


Carlos Gonzalez OF, Colorado Rockies

You can probably tell that based on this being my second Rockies player, but they will have a good offense this year. Carlos Gonzalez is part of the stellar young Rockies outfield. He joins a core of young outfielders including Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith. Savvy veterans Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs make for a fast and powerful outfield. Last year Gonzalez was blowing it up in AAA and the Rockies brought him up and he continued his hot streak in the majors. In limited at bats (278), Gonzalez hit 13 home runs and stole 16 bases. He is a sneaky fast powerful player. His batting reminds me of Hanley Ramirez from the left side. He has the ability to hit to all fields with authority. Carlos Gonzalez can be a streaky hitter, where he'll get hot for awhile and cool down, but in the end he will have the numbers.

At 24, there are few players at that age who have more upside than Gonzalez. His lack of experience and consistently make him risky, but if he continues where he left off, he will have an outstanding season. He is easily a 20/20 candidate and that puts him high on my radar and right now he's going around the 127th pick in drafts. That is in the same territory as Andrew Bailey, Vlad Guerrero, Jay Bruce, and Chad Billingsley. I think he is better then all of those players except Bailey, who he is equal to if not better. Draft him as early as the 9th round. He will be worth it.

2010 Projections: .280 BA, 23 Hrs, 67 RBI, 89 Runs, 29 SB



Chris Young OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Last season was another terrible season for Chris Young., but if you look deep into his numbers you will see he that after August he batted .278 with 8 home runs. Watching Young it looked like he figured out his problems and was producing more to our expectations. In 2010 he will be the starting centerfielder for the Diamondbacks and at 26 with 1700 career at bats he is in his prime. Look for Chris Young to explode this year, backed up by a young, powerful, and energetic Diamondbacks lineup.

In his best season, Young hit 32 home runs, stole 27 bases, and batted .237. You can’t expect that much better of an average, but a serious improvement in home runs and stolen bases will occur. Since breaking the 1500 at bat barrier, Young’s numbers have improved and they will continue as he enters the prime of his career. Currently, Young is going 327th in drafts. For you non-math majors, that is roughly the 28th round. Chris Young is a steal after the 20th round. Draft him as a fourth outfielder, and by the end of the season he will be a starter.

2010 Projections: .252 BA, 25 Hrs, 83 RBI, 79 Runs, 23 SB


Jordan Schafer OF, Atlanta Braves

Schafer came onto the scene last season and belted a home run in his first at bat. He cooled off after a hot start, but that was expected with a rookie. The reason for his downward spiral was his bad wrist, which he had surgery on to remove bone spurs in August effectively ending his season. He is back to hitting and hitting with full power. Schafer has a lot of competition for a starting gig in the Braves OF with Gregory Blanco, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, and Melky Cabrera. He’ll even have some pressure from top prospect 21-year old Jason Heyward. Still, Schafer looked great last year in his rookie season. I have no doubt that he will make the roster, unless the Braves choose to give him at bats in the minors. Either way he will come up at some point if he isn’t on the roster and he could give your fantasy team some much needed power and offense. His best chance to make the roster is to out play Matt Diaz in spring training and that is very possible. My projections are very conservative and can change depending on his role. Schafer has the talent to be a 20/20 if he gets the playing time. You should be able to draft Schafer extremely late in the season, seeing his injury and shorten season went by quite last year.

2010 Projections (assuming 400 at bats): .288 BA, 11 Hrs, 46 RBI, 64 Runs, 8 SB


Other Sleeper Hitters
Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins
Mile Aviles, SS, Royals
Ryan Hanigan C, Reds
Brandon Wood 3B/1B, Angels
Travis Snider OF, Blue Jays
Kyle Blanks 1B, Padres