SleepersJuly 6, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By R.J. White

In most leagues, Kelly Johnson was picked up in the mid-to-late rounds as one of the last starters at 2B or one of the strong options at MI in your league. After posting a .214/.286/.359 through over 200 ABs in what should have been his breakout 27-year-old year, Johnson has been benched in favor of 25-year-old Martin Prado. With the way Prado has been playing, this is one lineup change that could stick.

While Prado hasn’t displayed any power potential in his young career, he still has several things going for him that should make him a very useful fantasy player. He makes excellent contact with the ball, producing over a 90% contact rate in his major league career. So while he won’t swing for the fences and try to muscle up and hit homers, he’s shown a great ability to put the ball in play when the ball is in the zone. When pitchers try and pitch around Prado, he’s done a great job of taking walks. In fact, this year he’s walked more than he’s struck out, and looking at his plate patience and good batting eye throughout his career, this could definitely be a consistently repeatable characteristic of Prado’s game.

Another big reason to buy into Prado is Bobby Cox’s faith in the young man. Cox has hit Prado second in the lineup regularly, and that usually translates to hitting between Nate McLouth and Chipper Jones. You can’t underestimate the type of pitches Prado is going to see in that spot, hitting in front of one of the best consistently-great hitters of the last 15 years.

Check out Prado’s June split: He received 68 ABs (a number that’s trending upward after his promotion) and hit two HRs with six RBIs and eight runs. He also walked five times while striking out six times. But what really stands out is his slash line, which checked in at a great .359/.406/.516. He’s carried that into July, starting the month off with a scorching-hot 11-for-21 streak, scoring seven runs while not striking out at all.

In a league where I was looking to replace the cold bat of Marcus Thames, I added Prado with the expectation that he can maintain a high batting average while scoring a good deal of runs and RBIs. After the All-Star Break, I’d expect to see Prado amass about 40 runs, 30 RBI, 5-8 HRs and 2-5 SBs, while posting an average over .300 in about 250 ABs. When you also consider his positional versatility (he qualifies at 1B, 2B, and 3B in my league), he should make a great addition to fantasy teams for the remainder of the year.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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