SleepersApril 20, 2009


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Sleeper Watch

By Sean Patin

It can be easy to overlook some of the more rewarding late-round and waiver options at 2B. Considering it is already a shallow position, once you get through Utley and Pedroia, and past Roberts and Uggla, the drop off can be significant. For instance, MLB.com’s 2009 Fantasy Preview had the Yankees’ Robinson Cano as the #8 ranked 2B in all of baseball. Despite consistently high expectations for Cano, he managed just 14 HRs and 2 SBs throughout the 2008 season. The #9 and #10 ranked 2B (Seattle’s Jose Lopez and Atlanta’s Kelly Johnson) didn’t even combine for a 30/20 season – something you may only get at the position by selecting studs like Brandon Phillips or Ian Kinsler.

So where do you turn once you realized you missed out on all the recognized 2B talent? Oddly enough, there is a deep sleeper in the Minnesota Twins organization: 24-year-old Alexi Casilla, who could outperform a number of universally-owned options at 2B. The Minnesota prospect has accumulated 574 major league ABs over the past two years after a respectable minor league career. He enters his first full season as a starter with a new batting stance designed by Minnesota hitting coach Joe Vara to improve the switch hitter’s left-handed hitting. It’s reasonable to expect improvement across the board in 2009, but let’s take a look at his line over the past two seasons:

574 AB, .261 AVG, 73 Rs, 7 HRs, 59 RBIs, 18 SBs.

Had all of those ABs been accumulated in the 2008 season, Casilla would have arguably been considered a more valuable 2B option than the above mentioned Cano (597 at-bats, .271, 70 Rs, 14 HRs, 72 RBIs, 2 SBs). Despite the success early in his career, Casilla still finds himself ranked nearly 10 spots below Cano at 2B heading into this season. Sure, Cano deserves to be ranked ahead of Casilla for several reasons, and his current early season numbers have the Bronx bursting with pride, but ten whole spots above Casilla?

One attribute that stands out when comparing Casilla and Cano is the speed. In such a valuable and sometimes frustrating category, Casilla seems to have the natural ability to pick up SBs. In 2007, he stole 35 bags over the course of 140 Triple-A and MLB games. Through Casilla’s 574 Major League plate appearances, he’s managed 18 SBs. Not stellar, but much better than Cano, who had 2 SBs in all of 2008 and has just 13 SBs throughout his entire five-year career.

It’s reasonable to expect a solid 15-20 SBs out of Casilla in 2009 and it’s not a stretch for him to reach 30 when all is said and done. Additionally, the youngster has found himself batting in the #2 spot to start the year, between an impressive Denard Span and the always consistent Justin Morneau. If he can prove his worth and hold onto his batting position, Casilla should provide plenty of runs and a respectable amount of RBIs as well.

Sleeping on Casilla in 2009 is a mistake. There’s no reason he cannot put himself among the top 12 fantasy 2B or better in 2009 as the Twins everyday 2B. In 12-team mixed leagues, he should find himself on a roster – and you should grab him before he gets hot.

Patin(ted) Projection: .270 AVG, 85 Rs, 5 HRs, 60 RBIs, 25 SBs.

 
Sean Patin is currently an undergraduate Economics major from Estherville, Iowa. Since 2004, Sean has won five of his nine leagues, while finishing second place in another two of these.
 
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