SleepersMarch 20, 2006

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Sleeper Watch

By Eddie Siegel

Sleepers come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are rookies finding a starting job, others are players who’ve switched to beneficial parks or lineups. Perhaps “sleeper” may not be the correct term for this player. He was an established star, but injuries and reduced media attention have left many eyes averted from his name. He’ll be drafted in almost every league, but deep enough for where grabbing him will not cost you a lot.

Nomar Garciaparra. Nomah? Married-to-Mia-Hamm Nomar? Yeah, that one. The former pride of the Red Sox and member of the Holy Trinity of Shortstops will be underrated by many people on draft day, and might be available on your waiver wire in smaller leagues.

He comes with a few bonuses. One is that he has 3B and SS eligibility, which could increase to 3B/SS/1B/OF by mid-season, rivaling such utility players as Anaheim’s Chone Figgins and Colorado’s Luis Gonzalez. Another is that many drafters fail to realize that despite the injuries, this career .320 hitter is only 32 and batted nearly .300 in the past two seasons. Chicago’s wind and grass deflated his hits total to some degree, and that number should increase a little bit in Dodger Stadium.

His move to Los Angeles will do him some good. His home run numbers have been low, but a healthy Nomar should realistically hit 20 HR in a full season, and while highly unlikely, 30 isn’t out of the question. While Dodger Stadium is a pitcher’s park, it doesn’t penalize hitters on HR too much (it’s about average in that regard). Throughout his career, Nomar was about even in terms of home/road HR splits. With the Cubs, the numbers were also about even, so his home park won’t really hurt him too much.

If Grady Little decides to bat Nomar second in the lineup, watch his run totals escalate from the 28 he has last year to the 90-100 range. Being backed up by Jeff Kent, JD Drew, and to some degree Jose Cruz Jr. will all be to his benefit. This is a much more balanced lineup than the Cubs’ DerekLeeFest ’05.

However, if Little opts for Kenny Lofton in the two spot and puts Nomar fifth or sixth, expect his RBI totals to go up for the same reasons. He won’t be stealing many bases – his injuries have hampered him there – and his doubles may drop for those of you who go beyond 5×5, but he should still run the bases well.

Finally, Nomar has one last benefit. There are about 15 third basemen and about 10-12 shortstops who may well be drafted before him. You would be getting someone who could pull a .300 average, 20 HR, 100 RBI, 75 R season, around the time you’d normally draft a hitter of Raul Ibanez and Ryan Freel caliber, guys who won’t benefit you in very many categories.

Pick up Mr. Garciaparra in the 10th or 11th with a big smile on your face, and watch him explode this year and post numbers close to the Nomar of old.

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