If you are drafting for the center field position this year, there are many options to choose from. You can get the All-Star performers that help you in all categories (like Vernon Wells, Carlos Beltran, or Grady Sizemore), you can draft a speed demon (like Dave Roberts, Juan Pierre, or Willy Taveras), or even find yourself a Gold Glover (like the trio of Jim Edmonds, Mike Cameron, or Andruw Jones). Center field is very diverse this year, as you can find power, stolen base, or average help at the position from a variety of players.
I am going to talk about two guys that could be huge sleepers in your leagues this year. Of course the easy sleeper to pick out is Rocco Baldelli. He will go extremely late in Yahoo leagues this year due to his O-Rank, but I am going to give you two players that are worth grabbing in your Cafe leagues. These guys probably are not high on many people’s lists, but they will be worth watching and grabbing in leagues of fourteen or more teams.
Corey Patterson – Orioles
A lot of fantasy players gave up on Patterson completely after his absolutely terrible 2005 season. But lo and behold, he came back last year with a new team and showed he could still hit a baseball. He had 45 stolen bases last year, and, if he can get his OBP up a bit more, he could steal 50 bags this year. He will be hitting at the bottom of the Oriole lineup, but also in front of Roberts, Tejada, and Markakis, so the runs scored should be there. Plus, he will give you some decent pop, unlike some of the other top base stealers.
Curtis Granderson – Tigers
Granderson ended last year with a line of 90 runs, 19 HRs, 68 RBIs, 8 SBs, and a .260 BA. He will again be hitting at the top of the Tiger order, but this year, Gary Sheffield will be in the three spot to help drive him in. Like many young players have in the past, Granderson struggled quite a bit during the dog days of August and September. Granderson was hitting .280 before August came around last year and the last two months dropped his average down to .260. If he can cut down on his strikeouts this year, he will be a great late-round source for runs scored and a bit of power as well.
Now on to my two guys to stay away from this year. Gary Matthews Jr. is the one player coming off a huge year that most Cafe regulars know to stay away from, but these next two guys are probably going to be owned in every twelve-team Yahoo league this year. However, they are players that I will not be selecting in the rounds that they will likely go in.
Ichiro Suzuki – Mariners
Ichiro will be a great source of runs scored and steals, and he will also help your overall team batting average a bit as well. He will, however, give you negative value in home runs and RBIs, but that is not the main reason I am weary of drafting him in the third or fourth round. My biggest worry with Ichiro is that his average is unknown every year. When you draft Ichiro in the third round, you basically need him to hit .350 to earn his value. But if he hits .320 or below, like he has 4 of the last 5 years, his value does not lie in the third or fourth round, but closer to sixth round status. If Ichiro goes in the third or fourth round of your draft, smile, take Aramis Ramirez or Paul Konerko, and then later on in the draft pick up a guy that can get you 40 steals or so.
Vernon Wells – Blue Jays
Why would anyone not want a 28-year-old that posted a line of 90 runs, 32 HRs, 106 RBIs, 17 SBs, and a .303 BA just last year? Well if that line was pretty much a given like it would be with most second rounders, then sure, it would be worth taking Mr. Wells in the second. But just in the last few years, Wells batting average has fluctuated from .269 to .317 and his steals from 4 to 17. There is just too much disparity in those numbers for me to jump on Wells in the second round, when instead you can grab a Jeter, Sizemore, or Tejada instead.
There you have it – two players to look for late in your draft, and two more to avoid. Good luck to you all, and check back for more Two Up, Two Downs.
Brad Grady is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brad in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of raiders_umpire.
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