Some players don’t get the love they deserve from the fantasy baseball community. Like Rodney Dangerfield, they just don’t get any respect. Our job is to figure out the players where that lack of respect is justified, and more importantly, what players in fact deserve our respect and attention on draft day, even though they are overlooked (or undervalued) by the majority of fantasy players.
People drafting at Mock Draft Central (MDC) are using that website for a variety of purposes, including trying out new draft strategies, so the results certainly aren’t something to take to the bank. However, Average Draft Position of each player does give a fairly accurate view of where players will be drafted in similar leagues.
I project the following players will perform a lot better than is currently being forecast by the users at MDC. Here is my 2011 All Sleeper Team:
Russell Martin, C, NYY – Martin has been in a downward spiral ever since his breakthrough season of 2007. Was that season an anomaly? Playing in the New York Yankees lineup will help us figure that out and you should enjoy the results. Benefitting from great coverage in the batting order, Martin should see some real pitches to hit and opportunities to build his resume. Fantasy players may be downgrading Martin due to concerns of up and coming prospect Jesus Montero taking over, but he is still raw behind the plate so expect it to be Martin as the primary backstop all season. Martin is a contract year, to boot.
Derrek Lee, 1B, BAL – Lee has something to prove after hitting .260 last year with under 20 homers (still hit 19) for the first time in three seasons. He required surgery on his right thumb in November to repair a torn ligament, likely the cause of last season’s decline. He will get that opportunity in a much improved Baltimore lineup and at the cozy Camden Yards, a good situation for Lee to show he’s not washed up. Don’t count on any steals now he is in his mid-30s, but the average and power should return. Lee’s value is currently deflated in fantasy drafts as he’s been sidelined in Spring Training with wrist tendinitis brought on by aggressively rehabbing his surgically repaired thumb. Lee expects to be ready Opening Day.
Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR – Hill had a breakthrough season in 2009 with career numbers across the board on a massive 682 at-bats. Fantasy owners who invested for similar results in 2010 were sadly disappointed, as Hill struggled most of the year due in part to a hamstring injury. His batting average was as smooth as an alligator’s backside (.205) and his home run total also took a bit of a dip, although he still popped 26 homers (down from 36 in ’09). Look for numbers closer to his 2009 campaign this season. If he’s still sitting on the draft board when your turn comes up in the 10th round, take the plunge.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY – How can the biggest name on the biggest stage be considered a sleeper? Maybe undervalued is a better word here, but A-Rod has failed to meet expectations each of the past three seasons. Admittedly, those were high expectations, but fantasy owners are a fickle bunch and are always looking for upside in their picks. At age 35, A-Rod doesn’t have the upside he once did, and some feel injury and missed time are in the cards for him annually at this point. He’s sliding in drafts to the late first round or even into the middle of the second round. He’s still going to provide very good stats, this year at a discounted price.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, CLE – This guy will never be confused with A-Rod. He’s a very solid hitter, but provides no power. He will contribute in the other four offensive categories though, and that kind of production from a shortstop being drafted in the middle rounds is a bargain that you don’t want to pass up.
Jose Tabata, OF, PIT – Here is a player that can really help with speed at a relatively low price, and doesn’t hurt your average. His power is a little light, and playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates is a knock to anyone’s projected RBI and Run totals, but you could certainly do worse with a draft pick in the early teen rounds. Tabata is on a few sleeper lists, so watch as he could be climbing draft boards.
Shane Victorino, OF, PHI and Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI – These Philadelphia guys are just not as well respected as the guys they hit behind in the Philly batting order. Victorino and Ibanez won’t hit as many homers or drive in as many runs as a healthy Chase Utley or Ryan Howard, but they will provide much better value. Victorino’s stolen bases make him more desirable between the two. You can acquire him in the latter part of the first ten rounds and Ibanez in the middle rounds of your draft.
Jim Thome, DH, MIN – Even though Thome will be platooning in the designated hitter role, he will still do enough damage to warrant a spot on your team. He’s being drafted very late because of the lack of position for the big lefty, but 20+ homers for a guy being picked at the end of the draft is a great deal.
Jake Peavy, RHP, CWS and Erik Bedard, LHP, SEA – These two pitchers lost most of the last two seasons to arms injuries. They combined for just 48 starts over that time and fantasy players have a lot of doubts about their abilities to come back from these injuries to be anything better than mediocre. Both are showing signs that they are back up to speed and should be a strong play in your league. They should be had at the tail end of the draft, making them a low risk pick.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, LAD – After a very difficult 2010 campaign, Broxton looks to regain control of his pitching arsenal and his closer’s job. He was one of the top three closers being drafted in 2010, but has fallen far from that lofty plateau. He’s a buy low candidate waiting to happen.
All of Lee, Hill, Cabrera, Tabata and Broxton will likely go in a similar round in your draft, so weigh the cost-benefit of each relative to how the rest of your team is shaping up. Also, keep in mind that ADP stands for Average Draft Position, meaning it isn’t a guarantee a player is going to last as long as his ADP. It is an average. Sometimes they’ll go earlier, and sometimes they’ll go later. Whether these players, or your own short list, if there is someone you really want on your fantasy team don’t hesitate to invest a little more – rebuffing the sounds of “r-r-r-e-e-each” from your fellow owners in the draft room – to ensure you get them so they are helping your team, not someone else’s.