Posted by: Nate | April 9, 2008

Fantasy “Sleepers” and Early Season Remarks

My apologies for the lack of posts recently – I’ve been away from the house and the computer for the last 5 days gearing up for Red Sox opening day (read: getting tickets) and so I couldn’t make any updates. That being said, I’ll be getting back on some semblance of a schedule this week so thanks for being patient.

With the baseball season freshly started, I wanted to talk a little bit about Fantasy Baseball for a minute. Specifically, numerous players who I am heavily invested in their success and failures for this season in a majority of my 5 fantasy leagues. Most of these players are owned in a majority of leagues, so I’m not promoting a ton of sleepers here, just guys that I feel that I got at good value in my drafts and whom you may be able to pry away from other owners for less then what they (should) be worth come season’s end.

I’ll start with 3 pitchers whom I have a strong investment in: James Shields, John Maine and Jon Lester.

James Shields had a breakout season in 2007 and was a great source of K’s, as well as posting strong ERA and WHIP. He had a strong 7.7 K/9 rate and a low 1.5 BB/9 rate and with a much-improved defense up the middle this season for Tampa, he should benefit from fewer base runners reaching. For some reason, many fantasy owners seemed to predict a regression of sorts for Shields and he slipped a bit. He has been strong so far this season through two starts, but you may be able to sell high on a player like Rich Harden or Ben Sheets if you don’t want to deal with the injury risk and get Shields as part of your return, as he should continue to produce all season long.

John Maine was somewhat of a forgotten man in the Mets rotation after the Johan signing and the talk about Pedro being healthy again. As we know now, Maine is certainly not going to overshadow or compete with Johan statistically and Pedro is hurt (again) but the Pedro injury shouldn’t have been the only reason people recognize Maine. He won 15 games last year, was drafted behind Shields in every single one of my leagues despite having a K/9 of 8.48 and having a scoreless spring training this year. The soon to be 27 year old is coming into his own as a pitcher and as long as he can keep the walks in check (3.5/9 last year, which is a mild concern) he looks to be another great value pitcher. After a shaky start against Atlanta this weekend, he may be someone you could get at a slight discount who’ll give you 13-16 wins and a sub 4.00 ERA, along with a healthy dose of K’s.

Jon Lester is the one of the three who has the longest to go before he is a great fantasy player. In his brief big league career he has struggles with his command, sporting an astronomical 4.6 BB/9 and only a 7.0 K/9 rate, and that led to a bloated WHIP and inflated ERA. With a good defense behind him as he has had in the past, and his continued maturation as a pitcher (he is 24) this could be the year Lester puts it together and realizes the potential that had scouts ranking him as a better big league prospect then stud closer Jonathan Papelbon. If he can pound the zone and avoid nibbling, he’ll keep his pitch count down, cut down his walks and be more effective overall. He’ll get wins because he plays for Boston and their strong offense, but he could be a nice surprise in the peripherals as well. After a so-so start so far, watch his performance tonight and possibly look to put out a lowball offer for him.

A couple of offensive players that I feel I got great value on are Michael Bourn, Rick Ankiel, Yunel Escobar and Nate McLouth.

Michael Bourn has been tearing up the bases so far this year with 6 steals already heading into the 9th game of the season and has the green light from manager Cecil Cooper to steal at any time. This coupled with his minor league OBP of .377 translates into a guy who will be getting on base, stealing and then crossing the plate with the big bats he has behind him in Houston. He has almost no power to speak of, so his HR and RBI totals will be limited, but he has the tools to hit .280, which is respectable. Currently he is only hitting .212, so you could pry him away from another unsuspecting owner and pick up a great source of steals and runs on the cheap. He also could be available on the waiver wire if people in your league are a little slow in the uptake.

Rick Ankiel, last years feel good story, is another possible bargain to be found in your league, either via the trade or possibly waivers.  He hit 11 HR’s in only 47 games last year for St. Louis and can be a great source of power for cheap. Many owners stayed away from him because of the HGH rumors, his high strikeout rate (23.8% last year – numbers his minor league stats support) or the crowded Cardinal OF as of draft day. In the early going he is showing now signs of slowing down, already having 3 jacks to his name and strong .300 BA. He is still a free-swinger, but he’ll hit better than Jack Cust and probably hit more HR’s too, so he has good value as a fantasy player. Look to capitalize on any remaining skepticism while you still can.

Yunel Escobar, the guy Atlanta was so confident in the traded away All-Star Edgar Renteria to make room for, is another great value with multi-positional eligibility (2B, 3B, SS). Last season he hit .326 in only about a half season of work, scoring 50+ runs and chipping in with 5HR and 5 SB’s. While he won’t be threatening 20 HR’s this year, he should be a great batting average boost, and in that potent Atlanta lineup should score plenty of runs and have a lot of RBI chances. Given his multi-position qualifications and the general weakness of the middle infield positions after the top 5 or so, Escobar is a great option on the cheap.

Nate McLouth is another option that should be available on the waiver wire in some leagues, despite Yahoo’s best efforts to promote his skill set. Most people didn’t draft him because he was on the Pirates and battling for the starting CF job with Nyjer Morgan, and others had never even heard of him. After the All-Star break last year, he closed in torrid pace, hitting .300 with 10 HR and 16 SB. Now playing everyday he is a strong candidate to hit 25 HR and steal 25 bases, and will probably hit around .285 in addition. Now would be a great time to move on him before his “hot start” turns into a great season as he currently holds a .441 BA, 9 RBI and 2 SB.

Some quick notes on the regular season so far, until my next post regarding Red Sox opening day.

The Royals and Orioles are off to fast starts. I expect the Orioles to crumble once they start playing the tough AL East opponents they have more often and their weak rotation and lack of experience rears it’s ugly head.

The Royals look good, and while I predicted a last place finish for them this year and am still sticking by that now, I don’t foresee them going down in flames within the next couple of weeks either. Of course, I don’t see them sweeping the Tigers again either. Regardless, things look good for KC and Minnesota best watch out.

Speaking of the Tigers, their pitching weaknesses are being even more exposed by their complete lack of offense. While it’s a little early to raise the white flag, it’s clear the bullpen needs help if they are going to be called upon in the 5th and 6th innings all year and the offense really needs to get in rhythm. Injuries aren’t helping, but by May 1 expect them to be firing on all cylinders and making us all forget about this horrid start.



  1. […] Goatboy wrote an interesting post today on Fantasy âSleepersâ and Early Season RemarksHere’s a quick excerptMy apologies for the lack of posts recently – I’ve been away from the house and the computer for the last 5 days gearing up for Red Sox opening day (read: getting tickets) and so I couldn’t make any updates. … […]

  2. Jon Lester has been dropped by 4794 teams in Yahoo! leagues
    -yahoo fantasy baseball home

    How do you feel about so many drops in fantasy? Do you think fantasy captains are just really finicky? Or do you stand by your man?

  3. He’s been dropped by even more people at this point, and depending on the league those owners are in, it may be warranted.

    For example, in our league I dropped him simply because the league is shallow enough that there are better pitchers available on waivers that will give me more consistent production. If Lester sorts it out and strings together a couple of good starts, he’ll always have a home with me.

    In two of my deeper leagues, I am holding onto him since there simply isn’t anyone available to replace him should I drop him, and he isn’t exactly driving up his trade value with starts like the last one.

    Basically, the deeper your league, the more value Lester has right now based simply on the fact that there won’t be any good replacements and he is on a good team.

  4. […] I mentioned earlier this season that I was really invested in Lester this year and thought he was finally going to turn the proverbial corner and harness his abilities and limit his walks. So far he has been better, but still with room for improvement, but this type of outing really solidifies in my mind that he has the tools to be able to compete at a high level and be effective as a mid-rotation type of guy. I was never in favor of the Santana deal, not because of the prospects aspect of it but more so the money concerns, but this last start really made me appreciate the Sox brass a little more for sticking to their guns and not making a deal. Here’s hoping for more continued success from our draft classes, starting tonight with Masterson’s spot start. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)UFSLeague: MLB – PlayoffsShipping Out to Boston – Go Red SoxPlay Ball! […]

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