SleepersJanuary 8, 2012

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Sleeper Watch

By R.J. White

Last week, I revealed five quality sleepers at catcher for the 2012 season. It’s time to do the same for the first base position. The top of the 1B ranks are locked in, and owners in leagues that don’t have a Corner Infielder position probably don’t have much use for this article. However, I’ll still do my best to find some high upside corner infielders below.

Ike Davis, NYM. The young first baseman was off to a hot start in 2011 before a broken ankle signaled the end of his season. In just 36 games, Davis managed to hit .302 while adding seven long balls. While a .300 average may be a mirage, I wouldn’t discount a big power season for Davis if he enters the season at 100 percent health. The Mets have moved the fences in at CitiField, which will make things easier for Davis’ power numbers. If reports out of spring training look positive, grab Davis as a low-end 1B or a high-end CI and expect a .280 average and 25-plus home run power.

Lucas Duda, NYM. Sticking with the Mets, Duda is slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder this season, after splitting 2011 between first base and the outfield. Posting a .302/.414/.597 line at Triple-A Buffalo with 10 HRs in 129 at-bats, Duda continued his hot hitting in New York, with a .292 average and another 10 HRs in 301 at-bats. With the fences coming in, he should make a run at 25 HRs if he sticks as the starter (and the Mets have given no indication they’ll be spending money on free agents this season). Davis should hit for a higher average and a tad more power, but Duda works as a great consolation prize for your CI slot.

Adam Dunn, CHW. The key to finding value in fantasy drafts is to scoop up players at their lowest possible price, and frankly, Dunn’s stock is as low as it can go after last year’s jaw-dropping .159/.292/.277 line. Players just don’t lose .300 points of OPS overnight like Dunn did. We should expect some regression back to the mean, and while I wouldn’t pencil him in for 38-40 HRs like in years past, a return to that level certainly wouldn’t be shocking. Up until 2011, he was at that level consistently. He’s being paid far too much money to bury on the bench, so trust that the White Sox will keep him out there no matter what. With his draft and auction price in the toilet, he’s worth the end game gamble that he can regain his power stroke.

Mat Gamel, MIL. Gamel has spent the last few years transitioning from big-name prospect to trash-heap has-been. Failing to distinguish himself in his brief opportunities at the big-league level, Gamel has had to work on his craft at Triple-A the last few years. In 2011, he seemingly took a step forward while posting a .310/.372/.540 line and hitting 28 HRs in 493 at-bats. The Brewers have said they’re not going to break the bank to retain Prince Fielder, and if they remain true to their word, we could see Gamel installed as the regular 1B in Milwaukee this season, or possibly as just the lefty part of a platoon. Abandoning the rigors of playing third base could give Gamel the confidence he needs to start mashing. Grab him in deeper leagues and see if he can turn his once-large promise into reality this season.

Bryan LaHair, CHC. Theo Epstein brought an old favorite with him to Chicago when he swung a trade for prospect Anthony Rizzo, but indications are that the 22-year-old is going to start his season in Triple-A. That’ll give LaHair, a Bull Durham-type that’s been hanging around Triple-A for a while, a chance to show his stuff in Chicago and hopefully (for the Cubs) build up some trade value. LaHair has been in Triple-A since 2006, but he took his game to a new level last season, hitting .331 with 38 HRs and earning himself a brief call-up to Chicago. His lefty power should play well in the friendly confines of Wrigley. Pick him up at the end of your draft and see if he carves himself out a regular role through April and May.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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