In this feature of fantasy baseball, some of the top fantasy baseball sleepers for the 2013 season will be uncovered for our loyal followers to see. Read on to discover a handful of players who will probably be drafted later than they should in most fantasy baseball leagues while keeping in mind player "value" is the key to winning a championship.
To gain an advantage over your competition you have to find good value at cheap prices. Anyone can make a good first round selection; the key to winning though, is finding some hidden gems in the middle to late rounds of your draft. There is a good probability that some, if not all, of the following players will do just that.
Enough banter, here are the 2013 fantasy baseball sleeper picks:
Salvador Perez (C, Royals): Perez was supposedly going to be a huge sleeper last season, but an untimely knee injury forced him to have surgery in Spring Training and miss the entire first half of 2012. Now fully healthy and only 22, this kid has superstar potential. Do not hesitate to draft him in the later rounds once some of the bigger names fall off the board as I think he can hit over .280, bash 15+ home runs and possibly knock-in 85+ runs while snagging between 5-10 bases.
Tyler Flowers (C, White Sox): With A.J. Pierzynski no longer in the backstop picture, Flowers will finally get his opportunity for consistent playing time. He is much better defensively without question, but hitting only .213 in limited playing time leaves a lot to be desired. Flowers is a player worth keeping an eye on (after the draft), as the confluence of increased playing time and being an optimal age makes a breakout a real possibility in 2013.
JP Arencibia (C, Blue Jays): JP had a breakout rookie campaign in 2011, but struggled mightily last season at the plate (.233, 18, and 56). Expect a return to 20+ home runs and an increased opportunity to knock in plenty of runs with the revamped Toronto lineup. He is worth a flier in the later rounds of your fantasy drafts and could yield great returns in 2013.
Kendrys Morales (1B, Mariners): Recently inking a one-year, $5.25 million dollar deal, means that Morales will essentially start out his Mariner career in a contract year. He is only 29 and is coming off a year in which he hit .273 with 22 home runs and 26 doubles. Now fully healthy and coming off a second-half which saw him hit 14 of those 22 home runs, I fully expect him to hit .290+ with 25-30 home runs making him a potential steal come draft day.
Ike Davis (1B, Mets): Why is a guy who hit 32 home runs on this list you ask? The reason is that for some reason people still do not believe in this kid. Davis is coming off a season in which he battled fatigue connected to an ailment known as "valley fever." If he is now 100% and ready to rock, he can finish among the Top 10 in this category and be a steal in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
Anthony Rizzo (1B, Cubs): Sharing the spotlight with Starlin Castro, Rizzo (only 23) is primed for a true breakout season in 2013. If you can get past his quirky batting stance, he has potential star written all over him. Coming off a year in which he hit 15 home runs in 337 at bats, expect big things this year. He takes a big step forward this year and projects out to the tune of .275, 25-30 and 90.
Eric Hosmer (1B, Royals): At just 24 years old, Hosmer is still learning and more importantly improving. The Royals have hired a new hitting coach in hopes to show him what he was doing wrong last season. Look him for him to bounce back this season and hit over .270 with 20 bombs.
Jurickson Profar (2B, Rangers): Profar, only 19, made his MLB debut upon a surprise call-up late last season. At 5'11" 165 lbs. he is not going to strike fear into opposing pitchers as he walks to the plate, but this kid has unlimited offensive potential once he becomes acclimated to big league pitching. Those in dynasty type leagues, be sure to grab him. He may have a hard time getting on the field this season with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler slated to start up the middle, but could become a valuable utility player and even see some time in the outfield.
Josh Rutledge (2B, Rockies): He was another young player that got an opportunity for Colorado in 2012, as he primarily replaced an injured Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. He showcased a nice combination of power and speed, hitting .274 with eight home runs and 37 RBI on his way to becoming the front runner to be the Rockies’ Opening Day second baseman. He should be able to provide help to owners in all five standard categories.
Kyle Seager (2B, Mariners): A solid sophomore campaign saw Seager hit 20 home runs and knock-in 86 runs, but the real reason you can still put him in this category is the fact he plays for the Seattle Mariners and remains under the radar. With the fences scheduled to be brought in as much as 17 feet in some areas at Safeco Field, and the added protection of Morales and Morse, look for Seager to increase or at least maintain those numbers.
Will Middlebrooks (3B, Red Sox): The man who replaced "Youk" may be on a lot of people's radar already, having hit .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in his rookie campaign (267 ABs). At only 24, Middlebrooks in the young offensive third basemen teams kill for. He should produce nicely hitting behind Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. I could see him putting up numbers comparable to Ryan Zimmerman and cost about half the price.
Manny Machado (3B, Orioles): This 20-year old converted shortstop is something to watch because he appears to just be scratching the surface of his enormous potential. He will most likely endure some growing pains, my best advice is to draft him as a backup and be ready to throw him in if and when he begins to blossom at the dish.
Todd Frazier (3B, Reds): Most of us might remember Todd from 1998 when he helped the team from the small town of Toms River, New Jersey win the Little League World Series. He just turned 27 this week and is coming off a season which saw him hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI in just 128 games! He has the potential to breakout in a big way.
Brett Lawrie (3B, Blue Jays): He just turned 23 years old and has plenty of big years ahead of him. The new and improved/stacked lineup north of the border can only help take some of the pressure off the youngster. He has the power and speed to be a 20-20 player this season. Given the depth of the lineup in Toronto, he could approach 100 runs scored and 70-75 RBI.
Dee Gordon (SS, Dodgers): This kid can absolutely fly and may be the fastest player in baseball. The problem is all that speed is for naught if you he cannot get on base at a consistent clip. If he can hit closer to the .304 batting average he posted during his rookie campaign, rather than the .228 batting average he managed last season, he could be a potential candidate for 50 stolen bases and 90-100 runs scored in a very potent Dodger lineup.
Jean Segura (SS, Brewers): The future for the Brewers at the shortstop position is here and with Segura's speed he could eventually become the leadoff hitter for the Brew Crew. At only 22 years of age, keep tabs on him because you can't teach speed and he has a 10 home run and 50 stolen base season under his belt in the minors.
Jurickson Profar & Josh Rutledge (see above)
Lorenzo Cain (OF, Royals): Cain came into last season with some high expectations, but was limited to only 61 games due to a myriad of injuries, including a hamstring injury which ended his season early. While he was on the field Cain displayed flashes of brilliance. If he can stay off the IR and on the field, Cain could become a consistent power and speed threat that many owners covet.
Ben Revere (OF, Phillies): Revere is a true burner on the bases, racking up 40 steals last season while hitting .294 in over 500 at bats for the Twins. I expect Revere to man the leadoff spot for the Phillies in 2013 on his way to another 40+ steal season. Keep in mind over six seasons in the minor-leagues he hit a combined .326 and found a way to get on base.
Desmond Jennings (OF, Rays): I will bet he was on a lot of writer's sleeper lists last year and failed to take that major leap forward in his career, but Jennings has the rare combination of speed and power. I am going to chalk last season up as the old sophomore slump in terms of expectations. Many people seemed to forget that despite the slow start, he finished with 13 home runs, 31 stolen bases and 85 runs scored. Entering his third season and only 26 years old, Jennings is in good position to come through for fantasy owners on draft day by providing the potential to hit 15+ home runs and steal 40+ bases.
Tyler Colvin (OF, Rockies): Still not quite sure why the Cubs gave up on Colvin, but last season Colvin hit .290 while belting out 19 home runs and driving in 72 runs to go along with 11 stolen bases. Depending upon your league, he may eventually gain eligibility in your league at first base as well making him more versatile within your roster.
Peter Bourjos (OF, Angels): The Angels finally created some breathing room on their roster by dealing Kendrys Morales to Seattle and I would assume Peter Bourjos is going to be the beneficiary. Bourjos is coming off somewhat of a disaster of a season in which he saw limited playing time, but he simply has too many skills to fall off the map that quickly and decidedly. If you can scoop him up in the latter rounds of your draft and he can return to the level of play he was experiencing in 2011, you are in for a nice bonus.
Mike Fiers (SP, Brewers): Last season, as a 27 year old rookie, Fiers racked up an impressive 135 strikeouts over 127 innings on his way to becoming one of the Brewers more reliable starters. He has proven over his minor league career that his K/9 is legit, so Fiers could become a very nice sleeper to target in 2013.
Matt Harvey (SP, Mets): With his spot in the rotation locked and no expected inning limitations on him this season, Harvey could provide owners with very nice value. He showed his worth last year posting a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 70 punch-outs over 59.1 innings. The former 7th overall selection in the 2010 MLB draft, Harvey is in good position to contend for Rookie of the Year honors in the National League.
Jarrod Parker (SP, Athletics): If you are have issues believing that Jarrod Parker can become that top of the rotation ace he has long been projected to be, please use the ALDS as an example of what he can do against two of the best hitters in baseball. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder went a combined 0-11 against Parker in the series, ouch. He finished with a 13-8 record as a rookie and mowed down 140 batters while posting a sub 3.50 ERA in 181 innings. This 23 year old has a ton of upside, so be sure to target him in the middle to late rounds.
Greg Holland (RP, Royals): Once Jonathan Broxton was sent packing, the Royals gave Holland the opportunity to close games in 2012 which turned out to be the best decision they made all year. He finished with 16 saves, a sub 3.00 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 67 innings. The Royals are improving and have an influx of young talent on their roster. The price tag on Holland will be very reasonable and he could yield fantastic results, like 70+ strikeouts and 20+ saves.
Bruce Rondon (RP, Tigers): The bullpen situation in Detroit is very muddled right now with names like Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburqueque and Joaquin Benoit all having the ability to close games; however, the name to keep your eye on is Bruce Rondon. Last year Rondon had an excellent season, posting a 1.53 ERA, 29 saves and a 11.2 K/9 rate through three levels of the Tigers' minor league system. He has yet to make his big league debut, but the Tigers have purchased his contract from their Triple-A affiliate which likely means he will be on the Opening Day roster. Keep on a close watch on this situation because if he wins the job, he will close games for a World Series favorite and be in a line for a monster year.
Jason Grilli (RP, Pirates): As the setup man last season, Grilli racked-up 90 strikeouts in only 58.2 innings pitched. Now with Joel Hanrahan out of the picture, this is his job to lose. While he may not finish in the Top 10 for closers, he can and will add value to your fantasy team.
With that, here are my closing thoughts (see how I did that):
A successful fantasy baseball draft is all about snagging as much value as you can at each pick. Make note of these guys and seize the opportunity to land them if you are provided the opportunity. Keep a close eye on them all during Spring Training, though because there is always the potential for slow starts, injuries, and other managerial decisions. As a prospective fantasy champion, you always want to be up to speed with the latest news before your draft.