Everybody is looking for a sleeper in their fantasy baseball draft. Whether you win the fantasy baseball league or not, having bragging rights for finding that rookie sensation is a nice consolation prize, even if you don’t end up winning the pennant.
While finding that unknown diamond in the rough is great for your ego, you’re more likely to find a dud than a stud.
Here’s a look at some of the top 2010 fantasy baseball pitcher sleepers and fantasy baseball pitcher prospects for your 2010 fantasy baseball draft.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals — Its hard to say Stephen Strasburg is a sleeper, but he is a newcomer. Probably the most highly-touted pitcher to ever put on a uniform, Strasburg will likely start the season in the minors, although the hype has never been higher for a first year pitcher. We’ve been writing about Strasburg for almost two years now and his potential is clearly unprecedented. Strasburg will have some rough patches along the way, but he’s clearly the future of the Nationals along with Ryan Zimmerman. With an improved lineup in Washington, he may actually win some games too once he’s called up in May or June.
Aroldis Chapman, SP, Reds — We have already told you a lot about Aroldis Chapman in previous articles, as he was negotiating and ultimately signing with the Cincinnati Reds in what may have been the most surprising signing of the Hot Stove season. In Chapman’s debut, he hit 102 on the radar gun in front of less than 2000 Spring Training fans. Chapman is the Cuban pitcher who defected in the off-season and signed a lucrative 5-year deal with Cincinnati. It’s a signing that is making Reds fans feel like they have a legitimate shot of winning a mediocre NL Central title this year. Expect Chapman to start 2010 in the minors, but only be there for a month before getting the call to Cincy.
Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles — Brian Matusz is 23, left-handed, and went 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA in 2009. He has a mid-90′s fastball to go with a nasty slider and a solid curve. He just needs to work on improving his change up. Matusz is the fifth ranked prospect, according to the MLB web site, was the top pitching prospect out of UC-San Diego in 2008, and is part of an improving Orioles pitching staff. Look for Matusz to open as the Orioles # 4 starter and to compile some solid numbers in 2010.
Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers — Feliz held opposing minor league and major league batters to a microscopic .140 batting average in 2009. He fanned over 11 per 9 IP. Feliz came to Texas in the Mark Texeira deal and he did not disappoint in his major league debut in August when he struck out the first four hitters he faced; that’s the first time that has happened since 1962. Feliz was 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 31 IP while fanning 38. He gave up just 14 hits in those 31 innings and earned two saves. Frank Francisco is pegged as the Rangers’ closer for 2010, but don’t be surprised if Feliz takes his job by year end.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants — The Giants may soon have somebody to add to the best 1-2 pitching punch in the majors in Lincecum and Cain. The 6′ 4″ lefty has a 27-5 record and 1.65 ERA in his two seasons since being the number 10 pick in the 2007 draft. Madison Bumgarner has a fastball in the high 90′s with a great tail on it. He is working to improve his curve and slider and has just started throwing a change up. His work ethic is top notch. The Giants gave Bumgarner a call late in the 2009 season, despite being of the tender age of 19. For the Giants, they must consider him to be untouchable and he won’t spend the entire season in the minors; expect him to be a mid-season addition.
Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays — He was the first round pick of the Phillies in the 2006 draft and has an impressive bloodline being the son of Doug Drabek, NL Cy Young winner in 1990. He throws in the mid-90′s and possesses a sharp curve. Last year, mostly with Reading, Drabek was 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA. He’s never pitched at Triple-A, but could fit into the Jays rotation this year as a fourth or fifth starter. More likely, however, he’ll start in Triple-A this year and be a late season call-up as the Jays allow him to spend another season in the minors to develop since Toronto isn’t going to compete this year anyway. The Phillies hated to give up on Drabek and it took the best pitcher in baseball to get the Phillies to bite when Philadelphia tossed him to the Jays in exchange for Roy Halladay. During Spring Training, Drabek has a baseball card of Halladay hanging above his locker to remind him of the enormous expectations being placed on him in Ontario. Drabek may not start the year with the Jays, but he’ll be active at some point in 2010.
Wade Davis, SP, Rays — Wade Davis came up last year for one spot start and had the Tampa fans talking thanks to an electric curve ball. He’s a workhorse and is the possible # 5 starter for the Rays this season if he can beat out Andy Sonnenstine. Davis doesn’t rank with the elite prospects, but could end up as a consistent performer. He’ll get his chance to earn a rotation spot for the Rays this season and one fantasy baseball site actually thinks he could become the ROY.
Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks — Ian Kennedy, 25, was a first round pick in the 2006 draft. With the #4 and # 5 spots in the D-Backs rotation up for grabs, Kennedy has a chance to win one of those. Kennedy is more famous than most pitchers with 12 lifetime MLB starts, but that’s because he’s spent parts of the last three seasons as a Yankees emergency call up pitcher. This should be Kennedy’s first legitimate shot at being a permanent major leaguer.
Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians — Carlos Carrasco came to the Indians from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal. He was the Phillies #1 pitching prospect, just ahead of Kyle Drabek. Carrasco is said to already be major league ready, but his 2009 stats did nothing to impress. In 22 IP, he was 0-4 with a 8.87 ERA and a 2.28 WHIP. Yuck!
Aaron Poreda, RP, Padres — Aaron Poreda came to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal. He pitched in 14 games last year and compiled a 1-0 record with a 2.70 ERA. His WHIP (1.73) has to be a concern with 13 walks versus just 12 strikeouts. Poreda will likely start 2010 in the minors, but he has a plus fastball to go with a plus curve and has potential to be a solid setup man or starter for the Padres late in the 2010 season and will be with the club for keeps in 2011.
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays — It looks like Jeremy Hellickson has been beat out for a chance at the Rays rotation in 2010 by another prospect, Wade Davis. His WHIP over 114 innings last year in Double-A and Triple-A was an inconceivable 0.89! While playing in the rugged AL East is no picnic for any pitcher that has to face the Red Sox and Yankees so often, the real value of Hellickson in keeper leagues might be the fact that the 22-year-old righty is top notch trade bait. The ace of the Durham Bulls staff in 2009 should be ready for the Show full-time in 2011, but with the young Rays staff, Hellickson may be used as a tantalizing lure for veteran players for Tampa Bay which is stocked with young pitching talent. Hellickson is only an injury away from a 2010 call up.
Casey Kelly, RP, Red Sox — Casey Kelly is the # 14 prospect on the Baseball America list for 2010. Kelly has a fastball that he cutely moves at different speeds and his curve is his best pitch. His 2.08 ERA and 0.85 WHIP raised eyebrows for Sox fans last year. Kelly will likely spend a full season in the minors in 2010 and be ready full time in Fenway for 2011 if he continues to impress. Expect to see him on this list again next season.