There are known in the industry as fantasy baseball sleepers, but in a way, that tag is a bit of a misnomer. Winning in fantasy baseball is really not about identifying sleepers, but about identifying value picks. All of the managers are going to feel good about their teams, because they are all going to pick up solid players early on; it’s the managers who get value in the second half of the draft’s rounds who will win the league.
In a lot of leagues, inexperienced players will pick players from their favorite teams. My brother Jon always stocks his fantasy baseball roster with Orioles which hasn’t been a great strategy over the past few years and has usually resulted in his team being a perennial cellar dweller.
Fantasy Baseball Value Draft Picks
Other fantasy baseball managers like to pick big names at the expense of lesser known players who put up similar stats. If you’re a New Englander, you probably are in love with Boston’s Jason Bay, but you can pick up lesser known Jermaine Dye of the White Sox or Brad Hawpe of the Rockies about five rounds later and get similar numbers.
Winning fantasy baseball leagues is all about picking up value late in the draft and then avoiding injuries.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout’s BallparkBob reviews some of his favorite 2009 fantasy baseball sleepers in the outfield category.
2009 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Value Draft Sleepers
National League Outfield Sleepers
Cameron Maybin, OF, Marlins — Cameron Maybin was profiled in an earlier article on Fantasy Baseball Dugout and we think he’s the real deal. If you bump Hanley Ramirez from the leadoff position, you must have some talent. The Marlins are going to score some runs this season and Maybin won’t disappoint with his average, OPS, runs scored, or stolen bases. We also think he has more power than he’s shown recently and project 10-15 homers for the young center fielder.
Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals — Much has been made about Dukes’ talent and his run-ins with the law. Even Dukes stats are unlucky – 13 homeruns and 13 stolen bases last year in just half a season for the Nationals. If Dukes can keep his head on straight, he’ll be a 25-25 guy in the Nationals’ outfield this season.
Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates — McLouth endorses 13, it’s his jersey number and his numbers are not superstitious at all. It’s hard to consider a player who made the National League all-star team last year as a breakout player, but we think he’ll top his 2008 numbers when he hit .276 with 113 runs, 94 RBI, 26 homers and 23 stolen bases. McLouth had not had a starting role for three years and he wore down over the second half of the season. McLouth hit .469 on first pitches last year.
Josh Anderson, OF, Braves — Here’s a guy who is out of options and may not even win the Braves’ center field job. Quite frankly, he’s been beaten out by Jordan Schafer this spring. Schafer, who was suspended for 50 games for using HGH, has a .396 average this spring compared to Anderson’s .286. Schafer has 5 stolen bases compared to Anderson’s 2, but Anderson has 82 stolen bases over the past two minor league seasons. If the Braves think Schafer is ready, expect Anderson to be traded so he’ll play somewhere. On the other hand, if the Braves go with Anderson, expect Schafer, 22, to play at Triple-A. Keep an eye on this one; the Braves’ center field job is a real interesting situation.
American League Outfield Sleepers
Rajai Davis, OF, Athletics — The speedy outfielder will compete for a position in an interesting, young A’s outfield that includes Ryan Sweeney and Travis Buck to go along with veteran Matt Holliday. Davis has 52 stolen bases in 208 career games as a backup outfielder over the past three seasons with Pittsburgh, Oakland, and San Francisco. Davis has 6 stolen bases already this spring.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians — Choo had 14 homers and 58 RBI last year for the Indians and appears to have won the starting right field job. He turned some heads in the World Baseball Classic and was the only MLB player on a strong Korea team. Choo projects as a 20+ homer guy this season with 80+ RBI.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees — It’s hard to imagine anybody in New York flying under the radar, but Brett Gardner just might be. You know how we like speed in fantasy baseball where stolen bases are so over-rated. Gardner played in just 42 games last year and had 13 stolen bases. Although his average was just .226 to go with 0 homeruns, he is battling Melky Cabrera for the starting CF job in The Bronx this year. Joe Girardi has said that he won’t platoon in center field and one of these guys will win the job. Both performed well this spring as Gardner is hitting .383 and Cabrera is hitting .313. Keep a close eye on whom Girardi announces as his man in the next few days.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers — Nelson Cruz, in his fourth season with the Rangers, has finally won a starting position in right field. Cruz hit 7 homeruns last year in just 115 at bats. Given a starting role, we project Cruz as a 25 homerun guy with 80+ RBI.
Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays — Snider appears to have earned a starting outfield job for the Jays, but he’s not a very good outfielder and if he hits well, he could see more time at DH. He hit 2 homers in just 21 games last year and has 3 homeruns already this spring. The rap against Snider is that he strikes out a lot, but that doesn’t hurt you in most fantasy baseball leagues.
2009 Value Draft Picks Summary
If you are a good fantasy baseball league manager, you don’t really have any sleepers on your list. What you do have is the research to identify value picks. Put your time in this week and you’ll be ready for the draft; you won’t have to work this hard again all season.