SleepersJuly 25, 2006

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Sleeper Watch

By Ken Kesterson

With the Indians falling well below expectations this season, it is inevitable that GM Mark Shapiro will look into grooming his team for 2007. One player who does not fit into those plans is third baseman Aaron Boone. However, one who does, is current AAA Buffalo Bison third baseman, Andy Marte.

Marte has always been considered an elite prospect. For the past three seasons he’s been in the Top 14 of the highly respected Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects. However, during a brief call-up last season with Atlanta he struggled, with just eight hits and zero HR in 57 AB, to the tune of a .140 AVG, .211 OBP, and .227 SLG line. He was then traded twice this off-season, first to Boston. Why such a highly regarded organization like Atlanta would trade such a promising young player lead to rampant speculation about Marte’s health, specifically his shoulder and elbow. There were rumors that he would need Tommy John surgery and could miss the entire 2006 season. The rumors were fueled even more when he was traded again to Cleveland. Ignored was the fact that Atlanta had a hole at shortstop, and Boston is paying most of Edgar Renteria’s contract in that trade. Furthermore, Boston themselves had a huge hole in centerfield when Johnny Damon took off for the Yankees this past winter.

Marte struggled to begin the 2006 season, raising further questions about his health. Through May he was hitting .251/.320/.350 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with only two HR. In the month of June he turned things around and showed everyone why he was considered an elite prospect. He hit .304/.354/.674 with 10 HR. He continues to hit well as July comes to an end, and various Cleveland papers have reported the Indians are scouting, and strongly considering calling Marte up to be their everyday third baseman for the remainder of the season. I think it’s safe to say that he is healthy at this point.

If his performance during his call-up in 2005, combined with his slow beginning to 2006 have soured you on him, it’s time to reconsider. If someone in your league owns Marte, now is the time to acquire him. Marte makes a good gamble in deep leagues or standard AL only leagues. He is also a must add in keeper leagues of all sizes, if still available. There may be a rough patch or two in there, but for someone that is still only 22 years old, he has future superstar written all over him.

Ken Kesterson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ken and all the other authors in the Cafe's forums.
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