Sports Outside the Beltway

2007 AL Fantasy Sleepers

It’s Fantasy Baseball season! That’s right. Football is over, Spring Training is here, and we’re 30 days away from Opening Day. That officially puts us in Fantasy Baseball Season.

Everyone knows that Albert Pujols should go number one, although I have seen Johan Santana and Alfonso Soriano go first overall. We all know that Paul Bako isn’t going to go in any draft of any type. There are some certainties and there are some question marks.

This blog is about those players who tend to fly under the radar in drafts, players who I believe will break out and will get good value, and players who are going to bust and will not provide proper value at a certain draft spot. I’ll sort it out by position and by league. Here we go with the American League, the National League will be ready in a day or two.

American League

Catcher – Mike Piazza: Piazza seems to be going really late in drafts. I’ve seen Jason Varitek, David Ross, and even Jason Kendall. Piazza is hitting in the American League West this year, as a DH! He should get 500+ at-bats and be able to put up better numbers than last season. Don’t expect Frank Thomas numbers though, you’ll get burned. I’d put him just behind the big guns in the AL.

First Base – Dan Johnson, Lyle Overbay: These are two guys that are having a hard time even getting drafted. I’ve already been in three drafts and Johnson didn’t go in any and Overbay went in the final 3 rounds of two drafts and didn’t go in the third draft. Johnson is a wait and see player. He may need to prove himself in Spring Training but he’s at his prime age and could provide a .285-25-100 season if playing time allows. Overbay has more upside. He has the likes of Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, and Alex Rios in his lineup and he will be slotted nicely in the middle. He had career numbers last year (.312-22-92) and he could turn some of those 46 doubles into more homers. Look for him to out up a .300-25-100 season or better.

Second Base – Jorge Cantu, Julio Lugo: Second base is a shallow position, especially after Brian Roberts in the American League. Jorge Cantu reported to camp in excellent shape and worked his rear-end off this offseason, determined to put up better numbers than he did when he went ..286-28-117 in 2005. He’s healthy and is swinging well this spring. Lugo could put up better numbers than Roberts. Lugo has an incredible lineup behind him. He could easily spray balls off the Monster in right all season long. I’d bank on a .285-12-60-25-100 season and get him a couple rounds after Roberts. Cantu can be had in the final 5 rounds.

Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta, Bobby Crosby: Peralta was a huge disappointment last season. Last year he hit just over half the homers, his average was 35 points lower and his RBI were 10 less. He’s finally filled out his frame and should be done growing. He will be flying well below the radar in all casual leagues and even some competitive leagues. He could return to his 2005 form but buy low, don’t jump early on him. Everybody knows what’s wrong with Crosby. Health. He claims to be fully healthy and ready to prove he can be a middle of the order hitter. Crosby was listed by many, including the great Peter Gammons, as pre-season MVP last year. Not exactly fair to him. He’ll go late and provide good number, top 10 shortstop numbers in mixed leagues.

Third Base – B.J. Upton, Alex Gordon: You’re probably thinking to yourself right now “this guy is crazy. B.J. Upton!” That’s right! Mr. Upton is getting a ton of work at third, short, second, and outfield (he’s actually playing RF today in a seven inning intrasquad game). He could be Chone Figgins 12 rounds later. Be careful though, he still could be a bust but I would bet 80/20 he puts up good numbers. Draft him late as a bench player and monitor his progression. Alex Gordon is a beast! If he makes the team out of Spring Training he could win Rookie of the Year. Watch him closely, he’s definitely worth a late round selection on your bench, if he makes the team he belongs as your 3B or UTIL.

Outfield – Rocco Baldelli, Kenny Lofton, Curtis Granderson, Nick Markakis: If you want the number player that could give you first or second round numbers in eighth round then Rocco Baldelli is your man. I’m not giving this a second thought. I believe Baldelli will put up numbers no worse than .300-25-80-20-100 and he could be a right handed version of Grady Sizemore. Kenny Lofton is going undrafted in a lot of leagues. This old man can still hit, especially now that he is in Arlington and has Young, Teixeira, Blalock, and Kinsler hitting behind him. Lofton could go .300-8-50-30-100 in the last 3 rounds. Curtis Granderson is a talented young hitter. He is determined to cut his strikeouts down this season. If he does that and runs a little more, has the speed to steal 25, he could be in line for .280-25-75-10-95. Markakis has incredible strike zone judgment. He put up good numbers last as a rookie and I’ll bet he puts up better numbers this year. He’ll be hitting 3rd in front of Tejada and Huff and behind Roberts and Mora.

Starting Pitchers – Dan Haren, A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza: Haren is a gamer. With Zito gone and Harden’s health uncertain Danny Haren knows that his team needs him to be huge and he is the type of competitor to rise to the challenge. Look for him to be competing for the AL Cy Young Award. Burnett, when healthy, has some of the best stuff in the game. He has an opt out clause in his contract after the ‘08 season and could be pitching like he’s ready to use it. Look for 14+ wins and 200 K. Matt Garza is a phenomenal young pitcher. He put up numbers consistent to Matt Cain in the minors and projects as a future #2 guy in the rotation. He’s a great option for keeper leagues and a good option in all other leagues. Get him in the final 3 rounds.

Relief Pitchers – Joe Borowski, Seth McClung: If you’re looking for some sleeper saves look no further. Although Borowski hasn’t been named the closer he is most likely to get save opportunities for the Cleveland Indians, the team that I believe will win the AL Central this year. You have to look past Seth McClung’s numbers last year as a starter and look at his relief stats (4-2, 4.43 ERA, 21 K, 21 BB, 22.1 IP, 6 sv in 7 chances) and AAA stats (1-0, 2.20 ERA, 5 sv, 26 K, 2 BB, in 16.1 IP). The Rays are a better team than last year and he should be able to give you plenty of saves as a very late draft choice.

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