SleepersFebruary 20, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Ryan Dunn

May and June, 2008. Those two months might just allow you to grab a player that should be an average-to-above average fantasy outfielder this year and has the potential to become the best fantasy outfielder in the game within a few years, Arizona rightfielder Justin Upton.

Let’s say those two months didn’t happen last season. This would be Justin Upton’s stat line for 2008: .305 average, 40 runs, 11 homers, and 28 RBI in only 203 at-bats. Project those numbers out to 500 at-bats and that is a .305 average, 91 runs, 33 homers, and 70 RBI. It’s all out of a guy who is only 20 years old, an age when many college sophomores think about getting drafted in a year’s time and beginning the climb through the minor leagues.

However, it’s difficult to completely forget about those two months of the season, and you shouldn’t when draft day rolls around. Upton is not a second OF in mixed leagues yet, but he is a solid option as a third OF in a 12-team mixed league. Most of the owners in your league are going to look at Upton and see a guy that put up very disappointing numbers in his first full season. When I look at Upton, I couple his incredibly young age (he was the youngest player on an opening day roster last year) with his solid numbers (outside of one massive two-month slump). When you add in his super-prospect status (which many owners have forgotten), you have a guy that has little risk of underperforming his draft position and could potentially vastly outperform it.

In the latest Mock Draft Central expert’s draft, in which our own Ray Flores drafted with experts from Newsday, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and other fantasy baseball outlets, Upton went in the 13th round. This was after Milton Bradley and Johnny Damon, two outfielders I believe have much more potential to fail to meet expectations than they do at exceeding them.

Like most good sleepers, you do not want to draft Justin Upton in the early rounds. In a redraft, 12-team mixed league, you can start thinking about him around the 11th round. In keeper leagues, he’s one to target as early as the 8th or 9th rounds under the right circumstances.

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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