SleepersApril 13, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Matthew Robertson

Everyone knows that the 22-year-old B.J. Upton can hit and run. The former first round pick was viewed as the shortstop-of-the-future in Tampa Bay and a potential perennial MLB All-Star. His minor league numbers mirrored those expectations and he appeared well on his way to living up to them, but his future was sidelined when his inconsistent fielding and errant arm soon made him a liability on the field. After being shipwrecked in the minor because of his defense, he was then switched to third base in hopes of stifling his defensive woes, but those hopes were dashed as the throw from third base to first base proved to be too much. With the acquisition of Akinori Iwamura from Japan, Upton’s prospects were in limbo for 2007. It was said that Upton would act as a super-utility player entering Spring Training and even see time in the outfield. Would B.J. be able to find enough at-bats during the regular season to give him value? The answer is yes. Upton had a scorching spring as he unseated the struggling, and ultimately demoted, Jorge Cantu at second base.

With Upton as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting second baseman, fantasy owners should run to their league and add this rejuvenated super-prospect. Upton enters the fantasy season eligible at only third base but he will soon gain second base eligibility, which immediately makes him a top ten talent at second base with his combo of power, average, and speed. He is slated to begin the season batting eighth or ninth in the lineup, but expect him to rise in the order as he improves and becomes more accustomed to starting full-time. Currently, Ben Zobrist is batting second in the Tampa Bay lineup, but expect the uber-talented Upton to lay claim to that spot or even bat leadoff as he gains confidence in his new position. If he can play acceptable defense at second base in 2007, Upton is capable of providing double-digit homeruns, 30+ steals, a good average, and a large amount of runs (if he ascends up the batting order). The Devil Ray’s offense looks daunting for years to come, and the emergence of Upton will play a critical role in their future, and of course, in the future of fantasy lineups.

Matthew Robertson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Matthew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Havok1517.
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