In every fantasy baseball league, there’s always one guy who makes a surprise pick or two during the draft. He’s usually the guy who’s done his homework on Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Prospects. He’s the guy who reads Fantasy Baseball Dugout.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout is proud to present its 2008 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Prospects. The criteria for qualifying as a sleeper prospect is that the player was not a regular for the 2007 season and that the season was his first in The Show. Most fantasy baseball sleeper players were September call-ups to The Bigs, but some you probably would not have heard of unless you were an avid minor league fan.
#1 — Joba Chamberlain, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees
Once a hefty 272 pound pitcher at D-II Nebraska-Kearney, Chamberlain lost weight and was simply dominating at every professional level in 2007. He’s an interesting guy–a Native American member of the Winnebago tribe.
A hamstring injury hampered Chamberlain and he did not make his pro debut until May. He then made it all look easy.
Chamberlain started at Hi-A Tampa where he went 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 40 innings while holding hitters to a microscopic .181 average. He was promoted to AA Trenton where he went 4-2 in seven starts with a 3.35 ERA and a massive 66 K’s in 40 IP’s. After three appearances at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre where he fanned 18 in 8 innings, Chamberlain was promoted to the Yanks.
You would think that Chamberlain’s meteoric rise would have been too much to put up similar numbers with the Bronx Bombers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Chamberlain worked out of the bullpen and appeared in 19 games. In 24 IP’s, he fanned 34 while walking just 6 and giving up 12 hits. Opponents were nearly invisible against Chamberlain at the plate with a .145 BA. Chamberlain’s ERA in the bigs: 0.38.
Chamberlain has the makings of a closer or a #1 starter. Manager Joe Girardi is going to be hard pressed to not move him quickly into that #1 starter role in 2008. Watch his status closely during Grapefruit League games. You could end up with a mid-round steal in Chamberlain.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout considers Chamberlain to be a top 20 pick among all pitchers in the 2008 fantasy baseball draft. He will win at least 15 games in pinstripes and will be a dominant strikeout machine with enormous upside potential in future years.
# 2 — Clay Bucholz, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Bucholz is the best home grown pitcher from the Sox farm system since Roger Clemens. This guy is certainly no surprise given the fact that he tossed a no-no in just his second major league start last season against the Orioles. He likely would have made the Red Sox post-season roster had Boston not shut him down with a tired arm.
Bucholz was simply dominant in the minors last year and is another strikeout machine for leagues who take whiffs into account. Bucholz averaged 12.3 strikeouts per 9 IP last year in the minors with AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket.
All this despite the fact that Bucholz was not a full time pitcher until 2005 when he was picked in the first round supplemental draft by the Sox. Several teams stayed away from Bucholz because of an April 2004 theft arrest.
The right hander tops out at 95 MPH with his fastball and has a 12-6 curve to go along with an effective change. Most scouts would like to see him rely on his fastball more and it remains to be seen if he can hold up for an entire season as he pitched a career high 149 IP’s last year and was gassed at the end of the season.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout projects Bucholz as the # 4 starter this year for Boston behind Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Lester. He’ll get his chances to impress and will probably be the Sox # 2 man by next season.
# 3 — Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder, Boston Red Sox
Ellsbury is another guy who is already well known, yet still qualifies as a rookie. Ellsbury relieved a slumping Coco Crisp in the World Series last year and hit a sizzling .438 in the Fall Classic. This was after hitting .361 in September while playing for the injured Manny Ramirez. Not to mention, a Pawtucket record of a 25-game hitting streak.
Ellsbury hit .353 last year in just 116 AB’s. He won’t hit for much power, but is a force at the top of the lineup for a Red Sox team that will score a lot of runs. And, Ellsbury will help your all important stolen base totals. He swiped 9 in the Bigs last year and a total of 50 overall with his three clubs.
The ceiling is high for Ellsbury, but there’s no guarantee he will be with the club when the Sox break camp. While it is rumored that Boston is trying to move Crisp, Ellsbury may have to wait for a mid-season call up to break the starting lineup if the Red Sox can’t move Crisp.
# 4 — Ian Kennedy, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees
Kennedy is another Yankee who benefited from exposure in a September call up. He started three games and had a sparkling 1.89 ERA while holding opponents to a .191 BA.
Kennedy rose through the Yank’s farm system like a torpedo last year moving from Hi A Tampa to AA Trenton to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, before joining the pinstripers in September. His combined record was 13-3 with 178 strikeouts in 166 IP.
Kennedy’s best pitch is his changeup which has a nice run to it. He can hit 92 MPH, but is often criticized for a too slow curveball which can bottom out at a middle-schoolish 69.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout sees Kennedy as the # 5 starter in the Yankees rotation in a crowded pitching corpse that includes Wang, Petitte, Chamberlain, Hughes, and Mussina. Kennedy should win at least 12 games in 2008.
# 5 — Evan Longoria, third baseman, Tampa Bay Rays
Another name you’ve heard of, but more likely because of its similarity to many men’s fantasy, and I’m not talking baseball at all here. Longoria was the third overall pick by the Devil Rays in 2006 out of a stellar All-American career with the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
Longoria, who played shortstop in college, is seen more as a third baseman in the Bigs. His lack of speed projects him better at the hot corner where he has soft hands and good body control that will likely push Akinori Iwumara over to second.
Longoria will get plenty of playing time for the Devil Rays and is the favorite to be the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008. Longoria is a .300+ guy with 30+ homers, even in his rookie campaign.
Last year, Longoria played at AA Montgomery and AAA Durham in one of the best farm systems in the MLB. He hit 26 homers while knocking in 97 RBI. Longoria also belted 29 doubles.
The knock on Longoria is that he can sometimes be too aggressive at the plate, sometimes chasing bad pitches. This led to 110 strikeouts last season.
# 6 — Brandon Wood, SS/3B, Los Angeles Angels
In 2005, Wood broke into the pro ranks with 43 home runs for High A Rancho Cucomonga. His season with the Quakes pinned Wood as a superstar, but his stats since, while good, have been a bit more pedestrian. He hit 23 homers and .272 BA at AAA Salt Lake last year.
Wood has power, but also strikes out a lot. He fanned 120 times at Salt Lake last year before getting 33 AB’s with the Angels. Critics site that Wood often tries to pull the ball too much which makes him susceptible to outside pitches.
The Angels still have Aybar, Figgins, and Izturis in the mix at shortstop, but none of these guys have the pop that Wood has. Expect Wood to be the Angels third baseman this season.
# 7 — Adam Miller, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Miller has been dominant in the minor leagues, but has been injury prone so be sure to check his status before drafting him in March. He only pitched 65 innings last year at AAA Buffalo where he went 5-4, 4.82.
When he’s healthy, Miller can be lights out. He has hit 97 on the gun, although not as of late. Still, his slider is very impressive and clearly his best pitch. Miller has been more effective as he’s matured as a pitcher and not tried to blow his heater by everyone.
We see Miller as an eventual starter, but he’ll probably start 2008 in the Tribe’s bullpen or will battle the more experienced Aaron Laffey for the #5 starting job behind Sabathia, Carmona, Westbrook, and BallparkBob lookalike Paul Byrd. We’re thinking Laffey will earn the # 5 spot just to add a second southpaw to the Indians’ rotation.
# 8 — Daric Barton, first baseman, Oakland A’s
Barton was acquired from the Cardinals in 2004 in the Mark Mulder deal. After moving from catcher to first base, Barton had a streaky year in 2007 for AAA Sacramento where he hit .293 with 9 HR’s and 38 doubles.
He has no wheels and is not a power hitter despite weighing 205. Recently, he’s been getting more loft on his stroke, but he’s basically a line drive hitter of the Kevin Youklis mode.
A left-handed hitter, Barton will likely be the A’s starting first baseman this year unless Dan Johnson can beat him out which appears to be unlikely. He’s strong and hits the ball extremely hard so if Barton can pick up more of a homerun stroke, he could change his game and be a 20+ homerun hitter.
# 9 — Luke Hochevar, Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals
I know, picking a pitcher on the Royals is crazy, but this one is worth a look. Hochevar was the number one overall pick in the 2006 draft. His stats last year were, quite frankly, not impressive either — 4.69 at AA Wichita and 5.12 at AAA Omaha.
But, that’s why we call them sleepers. Hochevar, 24, hits 95 with his fastball and has a late-breaking curve that can be devastating. He needs to work on his control and how well he does with his control will determine if he makes the big club in April.
Expect Hochevar to battle Kyle Davies for a spot in the Royals’ rotation behind Meche, Bannister, Greinke, and De La Rosa. Based on his less than impressive minor league stats, you’ll be able to pick up Hochevar in the late rounds and he could prove to be worth the gamble in large leagues.
# 10 — Jeff Clement, catcher, Seattle Mariners
Clement can flat out rake. But, there’s just one problem, the Mariners don’t have an opening behind the plate with Kenji Johjima there.
Clement broke Drew Henson’s national high school record with 75 career homeruns out of Iowa. Clement went on to play college ball at Southern Cal spurning the Twins offer in the 2002 draft.
The left handed hitting Clement stroked 20 dingers last year at AAA Tacoma with a .275 BA. He was streaky last year at Tacoma and his stats suffered from playing at cavernous Cheney Park in the Pacific Coast League. Clement slugged over 100 points higher while playing on the road.
With Johjima entrenched as the Mariners’ catcher, however, Clement will have to get his AB’s as a DH or when the M’s give Johjima a breather. Johjima hits righty so the left-handed hitting Clement should get some shots when the M’s face a bevy of right handed pitchers.
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