SleepersMay 8, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Jamaal Gilbert

The shortstop position is much deeper than some may have anticipated, with the likes of J.J. Hardy, Khalil Greene, and Alex Gonzalez joining the traditional powers to form a large selection of options. Another emerging choice at the position is Cleveland Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is causing a stir in mixed leagues with an excellent past two weeks.

A monumental bust in 2006, Peralta hit .255 with just 13 homers in 569 at bats while knocking in 68 runs, disappointing even the most staunch cynic. Puzzling was the fact that he didn’t even have an injury to hide behind – he was just that bad. This, after blitzing the major leagues with 24 bombs and 78 RBI with just 504 at bats in 2005.

Excuses ranged from pressing at the plate to poor defense having an adverse effect on his performance at the dish, but we might do just as well to call it a “sophomore slump.” Either way, things are looking better for the third-year middle infielder as his power stroke and selectivity at the plate continue to develop.

Peralta seems rejuvenated over the past 14 days as his average has jumped 54 points and he has launched five of his seven longballs during that span. Even more encouraging is the fact that his K/BB ratio is down from 2.71 last year to 1.87 this season. If he can keep the strikeouts to a minimum, Peralta can become the player we thought he would be last year.

In addition, Peralta is currently slotted seventh in the lineup, and would move up with continued success – a development that would provide some nice protection for him and build confidence.

There are few reasons to believe Peralta can’t continue to get it done, as he has shown us this potential before. Go ahead and pick him up and enjoy his current hot streak, which will seem intrepid now, but will look like a genius move in a month when he’s still producing.

Jamaal Gilbert is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jamaal in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jamastaballa.
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