Finding sleepers is probably the most important piece to being successful all season — from the draft to the championship — in fantasy baseball. The problem with trying to find sleepers in AL-only or NL-only leagues is how deep you have to dig to find diamonds in the rough. Because of the player knowledge required to draft a successful AL- or NL-only league team, there’s often no one left of value to draft as a sleeper.
With the youth movement currently underway in Major League Baseball, however, prospects are starting to garner more late-round draft consideration in league-specific fantasy baseball formats – even if they don’t make the team out of spring training. Check out my five picks below for deep fantasy baseball sleepers who are going to break out in your leagues and how you should handle them in your AL-only or NL-only draft.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies: In 26 Major League at bats last season, Fowler wasn’t impressive, hitting for a .154 average with no home runs and only three runs scored. Fowler is a 23-year old top prospect and will make the team out of camp. He has batted .317 this spring and the Rox have been batting him leadoff.
In an NL-only league, keeping an eye on high potential players who play a majority of their games in Coors Field is a must. Fowler doesn’t have power in his arsenal yet, but that should come with age. MLB.com has rated him the number two hitting prospect for fantasy baseball this year, and he can still be drafted late in deep NL-only leagues. Take a flier if you have a roster spot.
Tommy Hanson, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Hanson won’t be with the Braves when they break for Opening Day, but he is on their short list to bring up the second a pitcher injury is presented. The team’s top pitching prospect, Hanson went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA during the spring.
Hanson is definitely worth a late round NL-only draft pick. Owners who grab him should stash him on their bench until he is called up, similar to what mixed league owners are doing right now with Matt Wieters and David Price.
Travis Ishikawa, 1B, San Francisco Giants: This spring, the 25-year old Ishikawa has shown improvement at the plate in the one major area he was lacking – power. In 95 MLB at-bats last season, he batted .274 with three home runs, 12 runs scored, 15 RBI and one steal.
This spring, Ishikawa has hit seven home runs and notched 15 RBIs. As a budding talent and the Giants’ starting first baseman, Ishikawa is a must draft late in NL-only leagues.
David Purcey, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Things didn’t go very well for this lefty during his Major League stint in 2008 -– 3-6, 5.54 ERA, 58 strikeouts in 65 innings. However, Purcey turns 27 on April 22 and is poised for a breakout season.
Case in point: this spring, Purcey has only allowed four earned runs in 23.3 innings. He walks a few too many batters, but that is always the difference between the top pitchers and guys you can draft late. Until he can reduce his walks, he’s not a mixed league draft pick. That said, Purcey makes a great late sleeper in AL-only leagues.
Clayton Richard, LHP, Chicago White Sox: With the White Sox’s knack for developing quality young pitching, you have to like the prospectus for Clayton Richard. Results were mixed during his MLB stint last season (2-5, 6.04 ERA, 29 Ks, 47.7 innings), but he also started last year’s Futures Game and was in line to join Team USA for the Olympics before the Pale Hose called him up.
His latest spring outing was rough, giving up seven earned runs in the first inning on March 27, but he is still in line to be at the back-end of the White Sox rotation in 2009. While not a mixed league draft pick right now, Richard’s potential is definitely worthy of a late round AL-only draft pick.
Jonathan Bentz is a former AP wire contributor who now covers the world of fantasy baseball at Fantasy Baseball Dugout. Check out FBD for analysis all season on sleepers, closers, and finding the best two-start pitchers. Fantasy Baseball Dugout is also home to Baseball's Hottest Wives.
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