After a brief hiatus, it is time to take a look at the next part of our fantasy preview series and focus on some potential sleepers for the upcoming season. Every year fantasy owners are on the lookout for players that have the element of surprise and often times those players are found in the late rounds of your draft. This year there is no shortage of players from each league that have the potential to surprise and reward fantasy owners for drafting them. Here is a look at some sleeper candidates in the American League for 2010.
- Brandon Wood (3B) Los Angeles Angels – The former first round pick of the Angels in 2003, is finally ready to receive regular playing time in the majors as the Angels are counting on Wood to be their everyday third basemen in 2010. Since hitting 43 HR in the minors in 2005 and being awarded the MiLB.com’s Offensive Player of the Year Award that same season, Wood has been one of the top prospects in not only the Angels system, but in all of baseball. Despite proving he can hit in the minor leagues (39 HR per 162 Triple-A games), Wood has failed to translate those numbers in his 224 MLB at-bats over the past three seasons. However, Wood is still only 25 years old and has yet to receive regular at-bats at the big league level. Now with Chone Figgins departure to Seattle, Wood has the chance to man the hot corner for the Angels for many years. The Angels patience in Wood is similar to their patience with 1B Kendry Morales, who broke out last season after receiving his first chance at everyday playing time. Keeper league fantasy owners should especially keep an eye on Wood as he could be a steal in the late rounds with his great HR potential.
CHONE Projection: .246 AVG, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 58 Runs, .762 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .248 AVG, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 69 Runs, .764 OPS
- Brian Matusz (LHP) Baltimore Orioles – The No. 4 overall pick of the 2008 draft has gone into the 2010 season as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. Matusz already made it to the big leagues in 2009 as he struggled in his first 3 starts before settling in his last 5 starts to finish with a 5-2 record along with a respectable 4.63 ERA in 44.2 IP. Matusz has drawn comparisons to former AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and fellow lefty Cole Hamels and is expected to break Orioles camp as a member of their starting rotation. Matusz sports a fastball that reaches 94 MPH and has both a slider and curveball with great movement. While the projections for this season for the 23 year old lefty aren’t too kind, Matusz has already got a taste of the big leagues and has the element of surprise as he is expected to be the future ace of the Orioles staff. If nothing else, Matusz deserves a look as a late round flier in mixed leagues.
CHONE Projection: 5-6, 4.59 ERA, 100 IP, 80 K (7.20 K/9), 1.41 WHIP
MLB.com Projection: 8-12, 4.48 ERA, 151 IP, 138 K (8.23 K/9), 1.45 WHIP
- Clay Buchholz (RHP) Boston Red Sox – After making a name for himself in Boston after throwing a no-hitter in 2007, Buchholz has struggled to catch on as a consistent pitcher in the major leagues. In his minor league career, Buchholz has sported 2.42 career ERA and has top-of-the-rotation stuff. Buchholz has found his name in trade rumors the past few seasons as the Red Sox have been unable to find a spot for him in their rotation and realize the value he represents to other teams. Buchholz is expected to finally get his chance to stick in the Red Sox rotation this season and impressed last September by going 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 6 starts. The time is now for Buchholz in Boston and he will be a popular sleeper candidate for fantasy owners this season. Look for him to post double-digit wins with the Red Sox defense behind him and also provide a solid ERA.
Bill James Projection: 10-8, 3.91 ERA, 161 IP, 155 K (8.66 K/9), 1.32 WHIP
MLB.com Projection: 10-9, 3.96 ERA, 165 IP, 156 K (8.51 K/9), 1.29 WHIP
- Austin Jackson (OF) Detroit Tigers – The key player coming back to the Tigers in the off season trade of Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, finds himself tentatively penciled in as the starting center fielder in Detroit this season. The 23 year-old CF comes to Detroit as a highly-touted prospect and has ironically drawn comparisons to the man he was traded for in Granderson. While his power hasn’t quite developed yet, Jackson has hit for a solid AVG and has shown an ability to steal some bases as he has averaged 28 SB in 4 seasons in the minors. With the acquisition of Johnny Damon, Jackson will no longer be expected to bat leadoff in the Tigers lineup and should be much more comfortable batting lower in the lineup, most likely in the 9 hole. While fantasy owners shoudn’t expect a power boost from Jackson this season, he could be a sleeper option for runs and SB. Keeper league owners especially should keep an eye on Jackson’s progress this spring.
Bill James Projection: .294 AVG, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 40 Runs, 14 SB, .767 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .271 AVG, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 55 Runs, 15 SB, .741 OPS
- Francisco Liriano (LHP) Minnesota Twins – Liriano burst onto the scene in 2006 with a 12-3 record along with a 2.16 ERA. After the 2006 season, Liriano was considered one of the bright young pitching stars in the league and was thought to be a bona-fide ace in the American League for years to come. However, Liriano developed arm problems that eventually led to Tommy John surgery in the off season of 2006. Since then Liriano hasn’t been the same pitcher and is still looking to find the success he had in his rookie season. Last season, in particular, was especially unkind to Liriano as he battled control issues and finished with an awful 5.80 ERA. This off season, Liriano went to the Dominican Winter League and was impressive in 7 starts posting a 3-1 record to go along with 0.49 ERA and 47:5 K/BB ratio. This spring, the Twins have been encouraged with Liriano’s progress and his first spring start was a success as he tossed 2 scoreless frames and had good velocity on his pitches. Liriano is in competition for the 5th spot in Twins rotation and should win the job with a successful spring. While Liriano most likely will never be the pitcher he was in his rookie season, he still has plenty of upside and will be another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Fantasy owners could find a sleeper in Liriano this season as he has the ability to produce high strikeout totals and if healthy can produce double digit wins behind a strong Twins offense.
Bill James Projection: 8-6, 3.67 ERA, 125 IP, 128 K (9.22 K/9), 1.30 WHIP
MLB.com Projection: 8-7, 3.80 ERA, 117 IP, 110 K (8.46 K/9), 1.33 WHIP
- Rajai Davis (OF) Oakland Athletics – Rajai Davis was a solid AL-only option for SB last season, but he didn’t receive enough playing time to be a quality mixed league option for fantasy owners. However, Davis received regular playing time in the second half of last season and hit .325 with 30 SB and 46 runs. Davis second half stats make him a viable sleeper in mixed leagues this year as he should find regular playing time in Oakland this season, despite playing in a crowded outfield. He should provide good run totals and has the ability to steal 50+ bases with a full season of at-bats. Davis is definately an intriguing late round pickup for fantasy owners craving for steals.
Bill James Projection: .284 AVG, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 74 Runs, 50 SB, .718 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .280 AVG, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 79 Runs, 46 SB, .708 OPS
- David Price (LHP) Tampa Bay Rays – The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft excited fantasy owners going into 2009 as he was impressive in the Rays 2008 postseason run to the World Series. However, Price struggled last year with his command and didn’t show progress until August and September. Despite displaying inconsistency common from young pitchers, Price hasn’t shown anything to dispute the fact that he will fail to live up to his potential. Price possesses dominating stuff and is thinking big for this season as he desires to be the ace of the Rays impressive young staff. Look for Price to improve on his command and become a more consistent pitcher this season. While he might not be considered a true sleeper due to his draft status and potential, fantasy owners could get Price at a very reasonable price this year as some fantasy owners will be skeptical of Price progress this season.
Bill James Projection: 10-10, 4.30 ERA, 180 IP, 157 K (7.85 K/9), 1.36 WHIP
MLB.com Projection: 11-9, 4.18 ERA, 184 IP, 153 K (7.48 K/9), 1.33 WHIP
- Julio Borbon (OF) Texas Rangers – Borbon is a popular sleeper pick in the AL this year as he, like Rajai Davis, should be a great source for runs and SB this season. After batting .310 in the minors last season, Borbon built off that success by hitting .312 in 157 AB with the big league club. However, Borbon’s greatest attribute is his speed and 19 SB during his brief tenure with the Rangers last season proves he has the ability to be a big threat on the basepaths. Borbon is penciled in as both the starting CF and leadoff hitter for the Rangers and should provide a .300 AVG, 40+ steals, and plenty of runs in a stacked Rangers lineup. Borbon probably won’t last as long as some of the names on this list as he has received plenty of attention from fantasy experts this off season excited by his potential.
Bill James Projection: .308 AVG, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 85 Runs, 42 SB, .762 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .293 AVG, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 84 Runs, 38 SB, .755 OPS
Up Next: NL Sleepers