SleepersMarch 1, 2008

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Sleeper Watch

By Kazuya Kurokawa

Remember Hank Blalock? In 2002, he was rated as the third best prospect by Baseball America, only behind Josh Beckett and Mark Prior. Although his rookie season wasn’t impressive, his sophomore season was astonishing, as he hit .300 with 29 home runs as a 22-year-old. The following season, he was able to repeat his phenomenal performance as he hit career high 32 home runs and drove in 110 runs. From these two All-Star seasons, Blalock established himself as a true power hitter to many fantasy baseball players.

However, the next two seasons turned into major disappointments, as Blalock struggled to hit for a good average, and eventually struggled to hit for power as well. Disappointments continued into the 2007 season as he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which required rib surgery and cost him the majority of the season.

So why is this guy a sleeper? Let’s take a step back and look at his 2006 season. 2006 was by far his worst season, as Blalock struggled in every aspect of hitting. Why was he so bad during this season? If you remember, Blalock had major shoulder issues during this season which hindered his hitting abilities. If you look as his first half numbers and second half numbers, you can see that he clearly was bothered by the shoulder as his numbers just plummeted during the latter part of the season. This is especially evident in the month of September, when his shoulder was so bad that he couldn’t even play third base.

Now fast forward to 2007. With a healthy shoulder, Blalock was much better, as he posted a line of .293/.358/.543. Granted, it’s a very small sample size (58 games), but Blalock proved that he still had the ability to hit like he did in the past. It was especially encouraging to see him hit 5 home runs in 19 games in September, after he came back from rib surgery.

Still not interested? Well, you haven’t heard the best part about Blalock. The greatest thing about Blalock is how low he’s going in many drafts. At Yahoo, his average draft round as of now is in the eighteenth round! Guys like Melvin Mora, Joe Crede, and even Nomar Garciaparra are going before him. In fact, in one of my leagues, I was able to land him with my last pick, which was in the twenty-first round!

If you have a draft coming up, keep an eye on Hank Blalock. He will cost you absolutely nothing, but he could potentially provide you with monster power numbers.

Kazuya Kurokawa is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Kazuya in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Another Blown Save.
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