Fantasy Baseball Strategy and Advice: Sleepers for 2012

Earlier this week, I broke down all of the baseball offseason transactions, position by position. Today, we’re going to explore the sleepers for 2012 in the same manner.

Catcher – C

Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners

In one of the more unexpected moves of the offseason, the Seattle Mariners decided that they were willing to part with their potential ace of the future in Michael Pineda to receive a young backstop (with a world of potential himself) in return.

Jesus Montero - Photo by BubbaFan at en.wikipedia

The Mariners obviously think Montero is the real deal and a future superstar in the MLB, and they have good reason to believe this.  In parts of five seasons in the minor leagues, Montero had an AVG of .308, and OBP of .366, and a SLG of .501.  Over the course of his minor league career he belted 76 HR and had 318 RBI.  It is rare to find a catcher with this kind of power and run-producing potential. The sky is the limit for this youngster.

Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

Wilson Ramos is probably best known for his frightening story this past offseason when he was abducted for more than 50 hours in Venezuela before being rescued.  However, it is possible that after this season Ramos will be known as one of the better offensive catchers in the majors.

After belting 15 HR to go along with 52 RBI in just 113 games for the Nationals last season, Ramos seems poised to take another step forward in 2012.  His strong season last year was not a surprise for scouts, as he had been considered a top prospect for the past three seasons before finally getting a shot last year.  He has a solid bat for a catcher and will likely be available in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

Other Notable Sleepers: Salvador Perez (KC), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (BOS)

First Base – 1B

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Power, power, and more power.  This is the best way I can describe Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Goldschmidt is a young, promising first baseman that is still relatively unknown to many baseball fans/fantasy owners.  In just three seasons in the minor leagues before being called up to Arizona last season, Goldschmidt put up some prodigious power numbers. He amassed 83 HR and 264 RBI while scoring 237 runs.

What makes him even more intriguing is that he had an AVG of .317, OBP of .407, and a SLG of .620 during that span.  Basically, Goldschmidt has the potential to perennially hit 30+ HR, drive in 100+ runs, and maintain a .300 AVG.  This guy should be a first-tier first baseman in the years to come, and maybe 2012 will be the start of it.

Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels

Anyone remember this guy?  Yes, this is the same Kendrys Morales that was an MVP candidate in 2009 with the Angels.  This is also the same Kendrys Morales that broke his leg while celebrating at home plate after he hit a walk-off homer in 2010.

It has been about a year and a half since Morales has played a game, but that is precisely why he is on this list.  There is a good chance that your fantasy opponents will forget about Morales come draft day.  He hits for power, drives in runs, and maintains a good AVG/OBP when he is healthy.  Also, he will have some guy named Albert Pujols in the lineup with him this season.  This absolutely offers Morales more protection than he has had in the past.

Other Notable Sleepers: Mitch Moreland (TEX), Anthony Rizzo (CHC)

Second Base – 2B

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

Jason Kipnis is the type of player that fantasy owners love.  He can rack up fantasy points in several different categories across the board.  He also plays a position where not many other players can do this.  The Cleveland Indians believe that Kipnis is a star in the making, and with good reason.

He has a great eye at the plate and has a great ability to get on base.  He can hit for power and average, and he has got decent speed as well.  Throw in the fact that he plays the game with an all-out intensity, and you have got yourself an exciting young talent.

Jemile Weeks, Oakland A’s

Speed is the name of the game when it comes to Jemile Weeks.  After being called up to Oakland midseason in 2011, Weeks turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the A’s.  In just 97 games, Weeks was able to swipe 22 bases and hit 26 doubles.

His base-stealing ability should further improve in 2012.  This is a good sign as Weeks has demonstrated a good ability to get on base, as shown by his career .372 OBP in the minor leagues.  Speed is one of the more predictable variables in baseball, which makes Jemile Weeks a safe and solid sleeper on draft day.

Other Notable Sleepers: Jose Altuve (HOU)

Third Base – 3B

David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals

Despite David Freese’s incredible postseason for the Cardinals last season, I still believe Freese will go under the radar in many fantasy leagues.  He has yet to play more than 100 games in a major league season, and he was a pretty unknown commodity before his run in the playoffs last year.

What he showed during the playoffs last year is a glimpse of what he is capable of doing.  After spending parts of six seasons in the minors, Freese was finally given a chance in St. Louis, and he did not disappoint.  In 97 games he hit a solid .297 with 10 HR and 55 RBI.  He has shown potential in the minor leagues to hit for power and average, and has the potential to be a doubles machine as well.  If he is available in the later rounds of your draft, he is definitely worth a shot.

Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays

If I wanted to be lazy, I could just write “see Jason Kipnis” for Brett Lawrie and move on, because basically everything I said for Kipnis holds true for Lawrie as well.  Brett Lawrie has real “five-tool” potential, which is great news for fantasy owners.

He got his first taste of the big leagues last year with the Blue Jays, and he showed everyone what he is capable of doing.  In 150 AB, Lawrie posted an AVG of .293, an OBP of .373, and a SLG of .580.  He also hit 9 HR and had 7 SB in the process.  Lawrie has the potential to be the player every fantasy owner dreams of having.

Other Notable Sleepers: Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE), Brent Morel (CWS), Mike Moustakas (KC)

Shortstop – SS

Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals

Speedster Alcides Escobar is poised for a breakout season in 2012, after an impressive showing with the Royals in 2011.  Escobar stole 26 bases in just his second full season last year, while showing improvement in almost every other offensive category.

Remember that Escobar was considered a “can’t miss” prospect not too long ago, as he was ranked as the 19th best prospect before the 2009 season and the 12th best prospect before the 2010 season.  He has the potential to hit for average and steal 30+ bases per season.  Look for him to take another step forward in 2012.

Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers

We will stick with speed as theme for our shortstop sleepers here with Dee Gordon.  Gordon is one of the best young base-stealers in the game.  In just 56 games during his rookie season, Gordon managed to steal 24 bases.  If he were to continue steal bases at that rate for an entire 162-game season, he would end up with just less than 70 SB for the year.

Gordon will not be giving you much at all from the power department and is primarily a singles hitter.  That being said, he can hit for average and steal bases like few others in the league right now.

Other Notable Sleepers: Cliff Pennington (OAK)

Outfield – OF

Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians

The Indians have high hopes for Brantley and they have good reason to.  Despite missing a fairly large chunk of 2011 due to injury, Brantley made some strides at the plate last year and will be looking to build upon that success in 2012.  Brantley’s stolen base total should go up next year as well, as he has a good track record of stealing bases in the minor leagues.  The Indians are optimistic that he will develop a little more power as well.  Brantley could be a sleeper to help your team out in multiple categories.

Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers

Brennan Boesch has been one of the streakier hitters in the league in each of the past two seasons.  However, he really started to put things together consistently during the first half of the season before an injury ultimately ended his season early in the second half.

If he is still left in the later rounds of your fantasy draft, he is worth the risk.  There is a good chance that he will minimize his cold streaks better in 2012.  When he was healthy before the All-Star break last year, Boesch had an AVG of .306 and a SLG of .490.

Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays

Barring a catastrophe of a season or some sort of injury, there is absolutely no chance Jennings will make this list by next year.  I say that because this young man is going to emerge as a star in the next couple of years.  He is a legitimate five-tool player that has already shown that he is capable to producing at the big league level.  Like all young players he is likely to experience some growing pains at some point during the season, but in the end his talent will likely come out on top.

Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres

Before the 2011 campaign, many considered Maybin a former top prospect that never came close to the expectations set for him.  However, he rewarded the Padres for believing in him last year with an impressive season that showed what he is capable of doing.  He established himself as an elite basestealer last year by stealing 40 bases.

Maybin clearly knows that his success will come from hitting line drive and ground balls as shown by his 1.93 GB/FB ration in 2011.  However, he also can hit for some power as well, and the Padres are looking for him to build upon the 9 HR he hit last season with them.  We may be looking at another five-tool player sleeper in Maybin.

Other Notable Sleepers: Domonic Brown (PHI), Allen Craig (STL), Chris Heisey (CIN), Ben Revere (MIN)

For starting pitcher and reliever sleepers, click through to the next page.

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