With spring training in full swing and the regular season almost upon us, some fans are watching games in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, others are monitoring the progress of vets and rookies alike. Still another group are feverishly preparing for another rite of spring; that of the fantasy baseball draft. While people hope they get a high draft spot so they can grab a Pujols, Cabrera or Bautista, the fantasy season is not won with those guys alone. Sure they contribute greatly, but it is the sleepers, the ones drafted in the later rounds, that are key. Here are some of the sleepers that could help win some championships this baseball season:
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City
Finally making his way to The Show, Hosmer struggled at first but found a groove in the second half. Some aren’t sold on Hosmer just yet, but the talent is there to be a surprise fantasy producer. He’ll hit somewhere around .290 with 20+ HRs, 90+ RBIs and maybe reach double digits in steals. Playing a deep position, he could be one you wait to draft while focusing on other areas.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto
After a very impressive debut late last season, some experts are advising avoidance on Lawrie. However, he is the real deal. Lawrie has the potential to produce a 20/20 season right now and bigger down the road, making him a prime keeper league candidate. He’ll likely hit behind Bautista, Lind and Encarnacion, so the RBI opportunities will definitely be there.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay
After being a highly touted prospect for some time, Jennings was on fire to start his big league debut before tapering off late. That mini-slump may cause him to slip down draft boards, but that’s your gain. Jennings can hit around 20 HRs and swipe 40 or so bases, but not produce big RBI numbers. However, he is still valuable as 2nd OF on your roster.
Cameron Maybin, OF, San Diego
Another young, fleet-footed outfielder, Maybin could be a steal in the later rounds. Playing in PETCO Park will surpress his power numbers, but that’s not really his forte. He will easily reach 40 SBs and in a new look lineup his run totals will rise. With the uncertainty surrounding similarly projected OFs, Maybin could be a good pick late in the draft.
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay
One of the top prospects in all of baseball, Moore was dominant late last season. Likely to grab a spot in the Tampa rotation, he’ll continue fulfilling his considerable potential. Expect 12-15 Ws, 150-180 Ks, an ERA around 3.2 and a WHIP in the 1.1-1.2 range from the latest in a long line of Rays hurlers.
Ike Davis, 1B, NY Mets
Davis was already in the midst of breaking out last year before a May injury ended his season. If he can stay healthy he could put up a .280/25/90 line in the middle of a vastly different Mets lineup. The injury will scare off some people and while there is risk, the rewards could pay off big.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland
After tearing up Triple A, Kipnis showed some promise in his short time in the Majors. He’ll be Cleveland’s starting second baseman with potential though he’s still adjusting. An average of .270-.280 with 10-15 HRs to go along with 15-20 SBs could pay dividends is he breaks out over the course of the season.
Kenley Jansen, RP, LA Dodgers
He’ll be battling Javy Guerra for the closer job, but Jansen has the better stuff to remain there in the long run. The amount of saves he gets depends on when he locks down the job, but 20 is the smallest you could expect if not more. He’ll also contribute a few Ws, an ERA around 2, to go along with an impressive K rate.
Bud Norris, SP, Houston
Rounding out your pitching staff in the last rounds can be very hit or miss. Norris could be a sleeper to fill one of your last picks. He’ll likely only get 10 Ws and an ERA north of 3.5 but should get between 180 and 200 Ks, which for where you’ll pick him isn’t all that bad.