We all love value picks. We all love sleepers. Who will be this season’s Lance Berkman, Joel Hanrahan, or Ian Kennedy?
BallparkBob reviews his top sleepers at each position for the 2012 season.
Catcher — Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
Wilson Ramos is best known as the guy who got kidnapped in Venezuela this off-season before a daring rescue saved him. But, he may be quite more well-known in 2012 now that Pudge Rodriguez is gone. The 24-year-old’s ability to hit for power and average makes him an enticing sleeper for 2012. In just 389 at bats, Ramos hit .267 with 15 homers, 52 RBIs and 48 runs scored. He will not be pushed by backup Jesus Flores and should get the vast majority of the playing time. Based on his 2011 season, Ramos is capable of a .270 year with 20 home runs and 65 RBI in an improved Nationals lineup.
First Base — Ike Davis, New York Mets
Mets first baseman Ike Davis finished an injury plagued 2011 season with seven homers, 25 RBIs, 20 runs scored and .302 batting average in just 149 at bats. That’s coming off of a rookie season in 2010 where he smacked 19 homers and 71 RBI. Davis didn’t play after May 10 last year due to an ankle injury and then a series of unfortunate medical mistakes by his doctors. The Mets are moving in the fences at Citi Field. That can only help a 6? 4?, 230 pound power hitter like Davis.
Second Base — Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
When most baseball fans think of Michael Cuddyer, they don’t think about a second baseman, but Cuddyer, depending on your league’s rules, may be just that. Hence, his value in moving to hitter friendly Coors Field is increased even more. In 2011, Cuddyer played first base and right field for the Twins, but he also appeared in 17 games at second base, not to mention pitching one inning. That qualifies him as a keystoner in most leagues. Cuddyer, 32, hit 32 homeruns for Minnesota in 2009. He can match that total in Colorado this year.
Third Base –Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays
Brett Lawrie’s 2011 rookie debut was delayed by a broken hand and then ended early by a broken finger. That didn’t disappoint the Blue Jays faithful, however, who saw Brett Lawrie crack 9 homeruns in just 150 at bats and hit .293. His limited at bats last year may have fantasy baseball managers overlooking him in 2012.
Shortstop — Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
Stolen bases are over-rated in the fantasy game when compared to the real game of baseball. And, Dee Gordon, son of ex-Major League reliever Flash Gordon, will light up the stolen base charts in 2012. In just 224 at bats and 56 games last year, Gordon swiped 24 bases and was caught on 7 occasions. If he plays in 156 games instead of 56 in 2012, that projects to 67 stolen bases and a possible league lead. Coupled with a .304 average last year, Gordon, 23, offers exciting fantasy baseball potential for 2012.
John Mayberry, Jr., Philadelphia Phillies
Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. smacked 15 homers in 2011, with 49 RBIs, 37 runs scored, eight steals and a .273 batting average in 267 at-bats. That gave the Phillies the impetus to allow veteran Raul Ibanez to walk into free agency. We’ve upped our Mayberry Jr. 2012 projections to 25 home runs and 90 RBI.
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings is a five tool guy who put in 247 at bats last year for Tampa where he was .259/10/25/20. Project that out to a full season and Jennings is 20 home run 40 stolen base player.
Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds
In only 279 at-bats, the left fielder drilled 18 homers and drove in 50 runs last year for the Reds. Chris Heisey will be pushed for playing time by Ryan Ludwick, but it appears to us that Heisey is the pure winner in that battle.
Designated Hitter — Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
I can’t recall a regular player who had a higher strike out total than batting average. Dunn had 177 strikeouts while hitting .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs and 36 runs scored. He can’t possibly be that bad again in 2012, can he?
Starting Pitchers –
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
If you want to get some attention quickly, do what Matt Moore did last year when called up late in the year. Moore pitched 5 innings in a start against the Yankees and struck out 11. Against the Rangers in the ALDS, Moore gave up just one run in 10 innings of work. Moore went 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham this season, striking out 210 batters and walking only 46 in 155 innings. ESPN Baseball Insider Keith Law ranked Moore as the No. 2 prospect in the game. The Rays agreed. They have locked up Moore for 5 more seasons with 3 additional seasons as an option.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
Teheran is a Rookie of the Year candidate for the pitching rich Braves. Teheran received a late call up last year for Atlanta, but he’ll be slotted into the starting rotation this year. At Gwinnett, Teheran was 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA. The Braves have 7 solid starting pitchers for 2012 and may deal Jair Jurrjens for a hitter. Teheran will battle Randall Delgado for the # 5 starting role, but we see Delgado spending most of the season at Triple-A again.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
In two years with the White Sox, Chris Sale has held opposing hitters to a .203 average as a reliever. For 2012, Sale makes a move into the Chicago starting rotation. With Sale’s ability to strike out batters (10.6/9IP), he will have success with the White Sox despite pitching in a homer friendly field for half of the games.
Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves
Beachy notched only 7 wins in 25 starts last season for Atlanta in his rookie year, but he deserved better. His 3.68 ERA and 1.21 WHIP should improve for his second season in the Bigs. We especially like his strikeout ratio (10.7/9 IP). Beachy is a 15 win guy in 2012.
Relief Pitchers –
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
Jim Johnson had 6 wins and saved 9 of 14 in 2011 with a 2.67/1.11. There was thought of making Johnson a starter, but a bad back makes his move to the bullpen permanent. He was the closer in September after Kevin Gregg’s poor season with 22 of 29 saves converted with a 4.37 ERA and dreadful 1.64 WHIP.
Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
Rafael Betancourt converted 8 of 12 save opportunities last year with a 2.89/0.87. He’s a veteran at age 37. Don’t expect much competition from next in line Matt Belisle; Belisle was perfect in 2011 blowing 7 out of 7 save opportunities. Rex Brothers is another possibility as a closer. Brothers has fanned 13.1/9, but has also walked 4.9/9–too risky for a closer at Coors.
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