Fantasy baseball drafts, in particular their final three rounds, are filled with players soaked in upside or ones that were once darlings but have lost a little of their shine.
However, every year one or two of those players will emerge from the ashes of their “talented but…” label. How can we determine who they will be?
We can’t see it with perfect clarity — as discussed in our disclaimer post — but we can single out players that are more likely than others:
Kyle Blanks — There was no doubt Blanks was going to be at the top of the list. I’m most excited about his potential, despite the fact he calls cavernous PetCo home. He did hit six of his 10 homers at home last year and showed some significant power in a few at-bats. His minor league bests (94/24/100/11) is probably out of the question, but an 80/25/90/.275 line isn’t bad for an outfielder. He’ll qualify at both OF and 1B in 2010 and he wasn’t even picked in a recent experts mock draft.
Jonathan Sanchez — If you seek power pitchers, and if you don’t you really should, snag Sanchez. His ERA is going to be in the 4.2s and4.3s, but he’ll also get you a K per inning. There aren’t many pitchers like that — at least ones who are gauranteed 170+ innings — to be had in the final round of your draft.
Alcides Escobar — He’s one of those guys who feels a little too trendy to be a sleeper because everyone’s touting him. However, his minor league record shows a .300 hitting middle infielder who could score 75 runs and steal 35 bases. It’s another case for not picking Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the players you need to avoid in 2010.
Everth Cabrera — Staying with the anti-Ellsbury debate, Cabrera’s fast and should steal 30-to-40 bases this year. The Padres shortstop stole 73 bags in the minors in 2008. He didn’t hit a lick in 2009, but his batting average on balls in play was well below what he’s done throughout his career. Again, we’re talking about a last-round middle-infielder who could get you 70/4/55/35/.270.
Drew Stubbs — Hey, excessive-speed-available-at-the-end-of-the-draft, how are you? Stop me if you’ve heard this one, Stubbs could steal 40 bags in 2010. Stubbs’ BABIP is also speaking to us. It says Cincinnatti’s starting center fielder will be better than the .267 he hit last year.
Garrett Jones — Like Blanks, Jones has more value as an outfielder than as a first baseman. Unfortunately, he’s got less help than Blanks. We could still expect 65/25/80/10/.300, and that’s not bad for a late-round outfielder pick.
Matt Capps — As Nationals closer, we can pencil him in for high-20s, low-30s saves. He should post an ERA around 4.00, too. Avoid the Joe Nathans, pick up a couple Cappses and you’ll be fine.
Wade Davis — I could ramble here, but instead you could go back and look at Jonathan Sanchez’s listing five spots up and understand Davis will give you a better ERA, but probably a few less innings, Ks.
Mike Napoli — We can’t close out this list without mentioning at least one catcher. There are flashy young prospects like Buster Posey out there, but you’d be better off with Napoli until next year. The Angels catcher doesn’t play every day, but is a lock for 20 homers and could hit 25 if he stays healthy again in 2010. That’s a big if because he was injured the previous two seasons, but with where you’ll get him you can take chances.
How did I come to these conclusions? Well, just like I did in the busts post yesterday, I’m going to tell you the methodology.
Three-year averages, minor league statistics, advanced statistics and some gut were used in the making of this list. There were a few guys I tagged for listification, but I couldn’t put them in the list proper.
Here are a few of the more interesting cases:
Desmond Jennings — He stole 52 bags in the minors in 2009, but doesn’t have a starting job in the majors. Could you take a flier on him in your final round? Yes. Should you in a dynasty league? Absolutely. But in your random redraft league, we need to take a wait and see. If he tears it up in the spring and gets a starting job, he could get 76/5/55/35/.285.
Brian Matusz — The Orioles touted pitching prospect was a K per inning pitcher in the minors with very low decimals. However, his debut was significantly less impressive. He could get you 160 Ks in 150 innings and a 4.00 ERA.
David Freese — He’s going to be the starting third baseman in St. Louis, but he’s not as impressive as you might remember him. If he slashes 77/15/80/.300 you should be very happy.
Randy Wells — Another player who we remember well from 2009. He should have a low ERA again, but he’s not a power pitcher (104 Ks in 160 innings in 2009).
Neftali Feliz — His stuff is filthy, but until he’s got full-time closer or starter duties, he shouldn’t be on a list like this. Now if he moves into a role between now and your draft, you would really like to have his K per innings skills on your team.
Colby Rasmus — If he hits a 70/20/60/10/.270 like I think he will, he’s not very exciting. Rasmus does have power upside, but he hasn’t been able to show it yet.
Will any of these players live up to their billing? Who do you think has the best chance to be a super sleeper in 2010?