Sports Outside the Beltway

NL Fantasy Sleepers

You already got a look at my American League Fantasy Sleepers with my last blog, now it’s time to move onto the National League Sleepers.

Nation League

– Chris Iannetta: Iannetta should easily win the starting catcher job in Colorado this spring. His best competition is aging veteran Javy Lopez. Iannetta has the ability to hit for a good average (.303 career in the minors) and produce double digit homers. He is well worth a late round pick and should be a top 10 overall catcher very soon. Plus he hits in humidor-less Colorado this year.

First Base – Conor Jackson: With the perfect combination of discipline and strike-zone judgment Conor Jackson could put up huge numbers in the middle of Arizona’s lineup. He makes consistent, hard contact. His gap power could produce 25 homers and he could easily drive in 100 runs while batting over .310. Jackson goes in the last 3 rounds and sometimes undrafted. Grab him, especially if your league has CIF in addition to 1B and UTIL.

Second Base – Chris Burke, Kaz Matsui: While Burke is currently blocked at 2B by future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio the Astros are going to find him playing time in CF. He could bat at the top of this order and produce 100 runs and 12-15 homers with 20+ steals. Kaz Matsui is more of a longshot. He has to first win the 2B job in Colorado. Then he has to hold onto it if he wins it. In 113 at-bats in Coloroado, Matsui hit .345 with 2 homers, 22 runs, 19 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. Incredible numbers! Monitor him closely and if he wins the job grab him out of the free agent pool.

–Stephen Drew, Felipe Lopez: Stephen Drew came out of the gates swinging last year. He hit .316 in 209 at-bats with 5 homers, 13 doubles, and 7 triples. Drew is going to be the Diamondbacks’ starting SS this year and should get 550+ at-bats. He could provide great punch with a stat line around .285-15-80-10-90. Felipe Lopez is playing on a team that is going to try and get wins by using grit and letting players use their God-given talent. This is good news for Felipe Lopez. Lopez stole 44 bases last year. More importantly he learned how to take walks, 81 of them to be exact. He will be on 1B a lot this season and the Nats will need to find any way they can to score. Lopez is a sleeper to get 50 steals. He should also improve on his .274 AVG a bit. Don’t expect him to top 20 homers again though, look for 15-17 tops.

Third Base – Morgan Ensberg, Wes Helms: Get past Ensberg’s .235 AVG and 387 at-bats from last year. Look at his other numbers: 23 homers in 387 at-bats and 101 walks. Ensberg has improved his eye and has the protection of Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman in front of him now. Ensberg could put up huge numbers this year. Wait and grab him late. You’re probably thinking to yourself right now “Wes Helms? Why in the world would I want this guy?” I’ll tell you why. He’s the starting 3B for the Phillies (meaning he gets to hit in one of the 5 best hitters parks in the league, not to mention in a lineup with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins), he hits lefties with the best of ‘em (.336 in 107 at-bats), and has hit .316 over the last two years. Put him on your watch list because he most likely won’t go in any draft. Grab him out off of the free agent bin once you get a roster spot open. Oh yeah, he’s eligible at 3B and 1B too.

Outfield – Brad Hawpe, Luke Scott, Chris B. Young, Barry Bonds: Brad Hawpe put up good numbers last year (.293-22-84) and was available in the free agent pool. He won’t be available via free agency this year. He is going somewhere in the 14-18 round range and I’ve even gotten him in the last round in one draft. He is quite the uncommon by posting better numbers away (.303-16-48) than at Coors (.282-6-36). Don’t look for that to happen again. The humidor is gone and Hawpe proved that he can hit away from Coors. He could easily approach .310-30-100 this season. Luke Scott put up huge numbers in his major league stinit last season (.336-10-37 in 214 at-bats). He should win the starting job but will sit against lefties. If you are a competitive fantasy leaguer I would grab him in the last two rounds and sit him when the Astros face lefties. He’ll produce against righties. Chris B. Young is gonna be in the rookie of the year running all season long. He has 20-20, even 25-25 potential right away. Be careful though, his average will be in the .260-.270 range but if you can make up for it then grab young in the last 2 rounds, he seems to be going undrafted in almost every mixed-league. Bonds is Bonds. You know he can hit if healthy. Grab him, but don’t reach for him.

Starting Pitchers – Dave Bush, John Patterson, Tim Hudson: Dave Bush, if you haven’t read any other fantasy blogs, is the talk of the fantasy sleeper world. Everyone, including me, expect him to break out in a big way this year. Sure his ERA was 4.41 last year and he went 12-11. He’s 27 now and his secondary numbers suggest he is ready to bust out. He only gave up 18 homers and more importantly posted a WHIP of 1.13. His “converted” ERA, according to Bill James Handbook, was 3.47. The youngsters in that Brewers team are going to hit and they are going to field. Bush should put up 14-16 wins, an ERA below 4.00, and 160+ strikeouts. John Patterson has ace stuff. John Patterson also needs ace bandages everywhere. Grab him in the mid-late teen rounds and watch his progress. If healthy he can be amongst the league leaders in ERA, SO, and WHIP. Tim Hudson has worked out like a horse this offseason. He said he is putting his “horrible season” of last year behind him and working hard to get back to where he was when he was in Oakland. Look for Hudson to be somewhere in the middle of where he was in Oakland and where he was last year in Atlanta, which means great numbers! Grab him in the mid teen rounds.

Relief Pitchers – Jonathan Broxton, Tony Pena, Bill Bray: I don’t care if Saito is the closer in Los Angeles, Jonathan Broxton will likely get double digit saves and record over 100 strikeouts while posting an ERA below 3.00. Grab him late and laugh at everybody who missed out on him. For keeper leagues this guy is the closer of the future for the Dodgers. Tony Pena is someone to simply keep an eye on. Watch Arizona closer Jose Valverde and see if he struggles. If Valverde struggles and so does the team look for Arizona to trade Jorge Julio and put Tony Pena in at closer for good. Same can be said for Bill Bray in Cincinnati. Mike Stanton and Dave Weathers are supposed to split all the saves but young Bill Bray is the future closer. Watch the closer situation in Cincinnati and grab Bray if he gets the job midseason.

That’s all for now (fantasy-wise), I hope you enjoy the Fantasy Sleepers and good luck in your leagues!

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