SleepersMarch 14, 2009


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Sleeper Watch

By Sean Acey

When preparing for this year’s fantasy baseball draft, one thing you should notice is the shallowness of second base. For visual proof of this point take a look at its tier rankings. Get my drift? If you aren’t lucky enough to grab top-tier quality, one name to keep in mind when scrambling for your second baseman is Kazuo Matsui.

In 2008, his first year with the Houston Astros, Matsui dealt with another injury-riddled season as he made three trips to the disabled list. Anal fissures, a strained hamstring, and a sore back limited him to just 96 games. When he did play, he was able to provide some value as he chipped in for 58 runs, 20 stolen bases, and a .293 batting average in 375 at-bats. The majority of those at-bats came from atop the lineup, either batting second or leading off.

This spring, manager Cecil Cooper has named Matsui his leadoff man, saying he needs him to set the tone and jump start the team. Providing a spark on the bases has never been a problem for Matsui, as he’s swiped 52 bags over the last two seasons (a 200-game span). Not only does he have the speed but he’s smart in using it, evidenced by his career 85.4% success rate (82 SBs in 96 attempts). While Matsui’s career .331 OBP is sub-par for a leadoff man, it is much better than the woeful .288 posted last year by Michael Bourn, who is clearly not ready to hit atop the order. At the top of the order, Matsui’s run totals are sure to benefit from hitting in front of a power-packed group that has a core of Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence.

Like most sleepers, Matsui does come with his concerns, and the main concern with him is his health. Over his five-year MLB career, Matsui’s affinity for injury has resulted in seven trips to the disabled list and an average of 94 games played per season. He has been hampered by back, knee, and hamstring issues, all which do not bode well for speedsters. Without his speed, Matsui is not worth a roster spot, as he does not come with much power.

The latest MDP report has Matsui as the 235th player taken overall and the 16th player taken eligible at second base. In a standard 12-team draft, this corresponds with a late-19th round selection. Matsui definitely has the skills to outproduce where he is being drafted. With his speed and smarts on the bases, he can steal 25+ bags, atop a solid lineup he can score 80+ runs, and with his solid approach at the plate he can bat .290. If power is what you need though, it is recommended to look elsewhere. At a thin position, I would not mind drafting Matsui as my starting second baseman, and in a deeper league he’d be a great fit at an IF or MI slot.

 
Sean Acey is an avid Phillies fan who is still basking in the glory of the 2008 World Champions. You can catch up with Sean in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of smoovethug.
 
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