The Market: Fantasy MLB Sleepers and Insomniacs
We are three weeks into the MLB season and your fantasy drafts have come and gone. You and I both know you probably swung for the fences a few too many times, leaving you to build your hotel empire on Baltic Ave (Carlos Zambrano). Now comes the hard part; cleaning up the mess. Yet I’ve let you down of late, and not provided you with adequate fantasy tools, leaving you with Matthew Berry and Eric Karabell, which is essentially like going to school naked. How in God’s name have I not written a fantasy sleepers column yet?
Easy, I have been too focused on division previews and Opening Day. Well, leave you hanging out in the breeze will I NO LONGER. (Even though I still have one more division to break down before I’m in the clear.)
It’s finally time to talk fantasy sleepers and duds. Who you want and who you want to stay far away from? It’s time to take a trip down to The Market. Let’s go shopping. I’ll make the list, you bring the money.
For this trip, I’m going to focus on keeping us eligible for the 10 items or less, line. Even if no sane person in the year 2010 actually uses anything but self check-out, when available. My sweet huckleberry! What a thrilling option that self check-out line is. You don’t have to talk to anyone, it usually moves way faster than normal lines and YOU DON’T HAVE TO TALK TO ANYONE. It’s like having a personal shopper, but that personal shopper is YOU.
This particular trip is all about value. Not the best. Not the worst. Just the best and worst values. So in other words, sleepers and insomniacs. You know what sleepers are, clearly, you’re not an ape after all. Are you? Insomniacs are those players who you SHOULD be sleeping on, but just can’t seem to stay away from. Be it history, name value, hype, WHATEVER; you just can’t move on.
I’m using Yahoo! as the reference point for ranks, as Yahoo! is all that is man. If you use any other site, you aren’t really living. Take a ride on the wild side, use Yahoo!
(I swear I’m not working for them or secretly selling advertisement space in my column. It’s just a great site for fantasy. That is all.)
Before we go on our spending spree, I need to help you sell off some of that over-valued junk, you might be currently storing on your roster. Here are ten Insomniacs, in the preseason Yahoo! Top-120, you should want no part of. Why 120 as our magic number? Because that is precisely how many players would be kept, pre-draft, in a normal 12-team, ten keepers per team, league. But don’t worry, this isn’t all about keepers. Some of these players you should stay away from in single season leagues, some in keeper leagues and most, in both.
(Take some of Tiger Woods’ ambient and go to sleep on these suckers.)
(Yahoo! pre-season rank in parenthesis.)
10.) Jose Reyes, SS (42)
I will be the first to admit that Reyes has the potential to produce well beyond his ranking. Which is why he slots at the ten-spot on this list. That said, New York’s decision to move Reyes from leadoff to the three-hole, definitely hurts his fantasy production. He just won’t have the opportunity to run as much as he normally would. The vogue guru likely will not see a significant increase in power, but the pressure to drive in more runs could very will tempt him into swinging more in pitcher’s counts, leading to a predictable decline in his batting average.
Not good for you, the fantasy owner.
The big problem with Reyes – outside of his lineup move – is actually two-fold:
A.) The main thing that historically separated him from other speedy shortstops (say, Elvis Andrus for example) was his power. It’s a legitimate question as to whether or not he will have it this year. Do you feel like risking it?
B.) Health. Obviously. Throughout his career, Reyes has struggled with injuries, specifically, his legs.
For those reasons, at this point in time, I’d rather stay away from Reyes. But if you should choose to gamble, it’s not far-fetched to think he might blow-up. And I’m not talking a hamstring.
9.) Jimmy Rollins, SS (28)
Rollins is 31 years old, on the DL with a strained right calf and has seen his batting average plummet each of the past two years. His OPS has been below .800 each of those seasons as well.
His calling card, like Jose Reyes, has always been a power/speed combo, but in ten years, Rollins has hit over 20 home runs only three times. Yeah one of those times was last year, but as a 31-year-old would you bet on it happening again? He is also running less and with the leg injury now, stealing frequently doesn’t look too promising, as the Phillies will want to keep him as healthy as possible for a playoff run.
8.) Chris Coghlan, OF (101)
There is virtually no reason to buy into Coghlan. He hit .321 in 128 games last year, but it’s not happening again. He isn’t that good. He hit nine homers. Like the sound of that? Maybe James Loney does, but you shouldn’t.
Oh but he stole eight bases! Like that is even passable for an outfielder. Anyway, he also got caught stealing FIVE TIMES. Not a good ratio.
Seriously, stay the bleep away from Coghlan. His name doesn’t just sound like a disease, he is one. Don’t get infected.
7.) Denard Span, OF (78)
Denard Span is a decent utility option for your roster, but that’s about it. Decent bat, okay speed, absolutely no power.
Tell me again why Yahoo! ranked him 78th to start the season…
You don’t have an answer do you?
6.) Alfonso Soriano, OF (114)
If Soriano wasn’t ranked right near the end of the cut-off point for Insomniacs, he would easily be the No. 1 player to stay away from. But don’t be fooled, you want no part of Sori.
Once upon a time, he was good. But that was oh, so long ago.
I fully expect him to platoon in Chicago this year. He just isn’t good enough not to.
5.) Ricky Nolasco, SP (91)
Look, no one is arguing that Nolasco doesn’t have decent “stuff.” It’s more that he doesn’t throw strikes. Since 2006 the right-hander has had only one season with an ERA less than 4.82 or a WHIP lower than 1.25.
Not interested, thank you.
4.) Brian Roberts, 2B (44)
Let’s see a 32-year-old second baseman, whose primary asset is speed, AND he has a bad back?
No, no, no, no, NOOOOOOOOOO!
3.) Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B (38)
After the year Mark Reynolds had last season, you’re shocked to see him on this list aren’t you? Well, you shouldn’t be.
Reynolds doesn’t care about his K total. It’s well documented. Good for him. BAD for you. He has cracked 200-plus each of the past two seasons, reaching 223 last year. As a reference point, Albert Pujols had only 68 whiffs. And most expanded leagues count Ks as a negative stat.
Pablo Sandoval, also a free swinger, tallied only 83 strikeouts in 2009. In just over half a season’s worth of at-bats, Vlad Guerrero, likely the most notorious swing-at-anything hitter of his time, struck out only 56 times.
Being a free swinger is one thing. Swinging and missing, over a third of the time, is another altogether.
Mark hit .260 last year and only .239 the year before. The 40-pus home run potential is nice, but is it worth getting dismantled in Ks and average? Not for me.
2.) Josh Beckett, SP (88)
Just because the Red Sox screwed the pooch by investing heavily into Beckett (four years and $68-million to be exact), doesn’t mean you should be fooled too. He’s a 30-year-old pitcher, who in nine years has logged over 14,000 innings. Since arriving in Boston in 2006, Beckett has had only one really good season (’07) and foul stinkers lingering like fart-bombs (with the exception of his strikeout total) each of the past two.
There are too many high-upside/safer options on the mound, to risk your season on Josh Beckett.
Consider yourself warned.
(If I had a pirate flag I’d wave it. Then I’d shoot the cannon. Pirates are pretty chill, you have to admit.)
1.) Javier Vasquez, SP (80)
Haven’t we been down this road before? It feels oh so eerily familiar… aaaahhh, that’s right; let’s go back in time to the year 2004. Simpler times. Times when Red Sox Nation wasn’t quite as insufferable, as they hadn’t yet come back from 0-3 on the Yankees, on their way to shedding all those pesky ghostly spirits, haunting them with THE CURSE. Life was so much more enjoyable when the Red Sox stunk.
Speaking of which, for so much of my baseball loving life, hating the Yankees more than criminals, has been all that I have known. I don’t think I am the only one in this boat, but the Sox have really impeded upon the idea that nothing in this world is as evil as rooting for the Yanks. Life just doesn’t make as much sense anymore.
Anyway, stepping my off from my pedestal and getting back to Javier Vasquez; why has it been such a forgone conclusion that he will succeed in New York THIS go-around? In 2004 he finished the season 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA in 34 starts. In fact, in eleven seasons, Vasquez has had only three which could even be considered decent: 2001 (16-11 with a 3.42 ERA) and 2003 (13-12 with a 3.24 ERA) with the Montreal Expos and 2009 (15-10 with a 2.87 ERA) with the Braves. He has stunk in each of his other eight seasons.
Vasquez’s career numbers: 142-141-W/L, 4.21-ERA and a 1.25-WHIP.
I know his win total COULD reach great peaks with the Yankees, but then again, Pete Rose COULD be reinstated by baseball someday. I wouldn’t bet on either.
Now, onto the sleepers. Since I used the top-120 ranked players for the Insomniacs, we will steer clear of that list for sleepers. Everyone else is in play though. These are the ten players ranked higher than 120 in Yahoo!’s preseason ranks, that you should be shopping for, above everyone else.
Most Wanted Sleepers
(Ranked No. 121 or higher in the preseason by Yahoo!)
Before we dive into the role players you should want the most, know that I’m skipping the totally obvious guys. Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg are no-brainers, ranked 1,368 (yes I’m serious) and 198, respectively. They shouldn’t be ranked near as low as they are. No one in their right mind is sleeping on them. There are however rookies, not owned in as many leagues, and seemingly not quite as widely valued now, as they will eventually be. Guys still on the farm. They are eligible for the list.
10.) Alcides Escobar, SS (333)
Escobar isn’t starting out on the right foot, which probably explains why the young shortstop is currently owned by only 23 percent of Yahoo! league owners. Still, he has hit .300 at every minor league level and has plus-speed, having showcased it in 2009 by swiping 42 bases.
Due to his early season slump, this is the perfect time to snatch up Escobar.
9.) Carlos Gonzalez, OF (127)
Apparently Yahoo! users have already grown wise to Carlos Gonzalez, as he is owned in 82 percent of leagues. If you haven’t already, hop on-board the Carlos train. It should be a fun ride.
Long since considered a top prospect in the Arizona and Oakland systems, Gonzalez was the main returning piece, in the trade that sent Matt Holliday to the A’s in the preseason last year. Given regular playing time for half of the year, the outfielder hit 13 home runs and stole 16 bases in only 89 games.
Carlos Gonzalez is one of the prime candidates to become 2010’s version of Jayson Werth.
The other is…
8.) Garrett Jones, 1B/OF (210)
Jones is another player fantasy owners have started getting wise to, as 75 percent of Yahoo! league members own him. Of course, two jacks on opening day ensured that he would receive his fair share of publicity.
You probably won’t get many stolen bases from this outfielder, even though in 82 games, he did swipe 10 last season, but his power is likely for real. Jones hit 21 homers while posting an impressive OPS of .938 in limited action in 2009.
7.) Franklin Gutierrez, OF (241)
I am going to make it a point to cover Seattle’s most exciting youngster, by profiling him in a Mariners Corner blog soon. Currently owned by 56 percent of Yahoo! league owners, he hasn’t quite caught fire yet. But something tells me that by hitting in the three-hole, behind Ichiro and Chone Figgins, his RBI total is about to reach out and grab those who don’t yet believe, by the collar, smacking them in the face with his batting gloves.
6.) Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B (292)
Mark DeRosa is sooo 2009. Want a super utility player? Martin Prado of the Braves is your guy. He is owned 78% of Yahoo! leagues, so good luck plucking him from the free-agent pool, but you still might be able to trade for him, at a reasonable cost.
5.) Casey McGehee, 2B/3B (470)
The jury still seems to be out on McGehee. A great many haven’t been sold on his surprising 2009 performance. Owned by 68 percent of leagues, McGehee hit .301, with 16 home runs and 66 RBI in 116 games last year.
Now might be the time to start believing, as he has four jacks in 12 games thus far. And the best part is, McGehee is eligible at third and second.
4.) C.J. Wilson, SP (381)
It’s not too often that your ears perk up for a mediocre closer-turned-starter. But C.J. Wilson may be a little different. He seemed to turn a corner last year, chopping his ERA in half (2.81), from 2008 (6.02). Wilson also managed to strikeout 84 batters in 73.2 innings.
The righty is owned in only 35 percent of all Yahoo! leagues, so odds are, he’s available in yours. Go get him and thank me later.
3.) Brett Gardner, OF (841)
Another player seemingly lost in the Yahoo! crowd, Gardner is owned by only 19 percent of owners. Are you KIDDING ME? Those of you who are afraid that the speedster will split time in left with Marcus Thames or Randy Winn, CHILL OUT. New York loves the kid and is going to turn him loose on the base paths.
He’s going to steal 55 bases and that is a conservative prognostication. Considering Gardner already has swiped seven bags anyway.
I’ve said it dozens of times; steals are like saves, easy to find. Never pay for them. Gardner proves my point perfectly. He’s there for the taking, GO GET HIM.
2.) Brian Matusz, SP (329)
If you saw Clayton Kershaw available as a free agent in your league, how long would you wait before dropping your worst arm to snatch him up? Would you even hesitate at all? I highly doubt it.
So why then is Brian Matusz still available in exactly HALF of Yahoo! leagues?
Wait… I know this answer to this one.
It’s because he has been hidden in Baltimore. Sleep on him if you must, but it’s your loss if you do. If he becomes available in any leagues I play in, he will be mine.
1.) Michael Stanton, OF (1,369)
Unlike guys prospects like Pedro Alvarez (3B for the Pirates) or Desmond Jennings (OF for the Rays) there is no doubt that Stanton will be called up soon after he stays in the minors for eleven days, which is the requirement to push back his arbitration another full season.
And the monster STILL nearly broke camp with the cheap-o Marlins.
On the 20-80 scouting scale, Stanton registers as an 80 for pure power. Unbelievable.
It is nothing short of sad that he is owned in only one freaking percent of all leagues.
Do I even have to say it?
GO. GET. MIKE. STANTON.
If you play in a keeper league you should be down-right ashamed if he is still a free agent. This kid is definitely worth taking a flier on.
Agree with my sleepers or Insomniacs? Disagree? Sound off in the comments or send scathing e-mails. I will update this list later in the year, until then, keep your eyes peeled for the sleepers listed above.