When looking for a sleeper, many fantasy owners will look primarily at the early draft choices who have established themselves in the minors by playing well for a season or two. Among the players that fit the description this year are Matt Wieters and Jay Bruce. The problem is that at least half of the owners in your league also think that Wieters and Bruce are sleepers, and usually their sleeper status is eliminated by the time you draft.
Instead of picking up the hot rookie of the month, I see a pattern in finding players that will produce similar numbers without costing you a high draft pick. Remember the hot prospects from last year like Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, Homer Bailey, et al? Better yet, how about the top prospects from two years ago: Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, and Matt Garza? If you look at the players that were ranked as top prospects in early 2007, you will notice that most of the players that have hit their strides in the big leagues were 23 years old in 2007, which is pretty old in comparison to the rest of the guys on the list.
I see players that were top prospects two years ago, but have fallen down on prospect ranking lists as a great potential value. This holds especially true for players that were too young to make the jump to the majors immediately.
One example is Brandon Wood, who was a calendar year behind the 23 year olds in 2007, but was ranked near the top of most prospect lists. Wood is said to have tremendous power potential, especially for a shortstop, a position that he probably qualifies in your league at, playing 28 games there last season for the Angels. I see Wood as a capable break out candidate and having a rookie of the year type season, going .280-80-25-85-7, pretty solid numbers for a shortstop that will likely go undrafted.
Wood also comes with some considerable risk. After his callup to the Angels, he struggled to hit effectively, although he did show some pop. Wood also was released from his Dominican Winter League team for lack of performance. Given his career to this point, he has potential to provide very little to your team, but I believe this is part of what defines him as a sleeper.
Wood will not likely be drafted in most leagues, so at best I would invest a last-round flier pick in him as a backup shortstop. I would also keep a close eye on him during spring training to see whether he shows signs of breaking out. If he looks during the spring like he can be a contributor in fantasy, I would save a bench spot for him as he has enormous top end potential. Brandon Wood is certainly a fantasy baseball sleeper worth watching in the spring of 2009.
Ryan Dunn is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. He resides in South Bend, Indiana with his wife and two children, where he works in sales for a beverage distributor, and part time for the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest League. Ryan posts in the cafe forums as RDD15.
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