We’re continuing our weekly look at 2012 fantasy baseball sleepers with the second base position in this article. I dug pretty deep in picking our first sets of sleepers, with the earliest pick in our current Cafe Mock coming off the board in the 10th round. This one features a couple earlier picks, but they’re a couple guys I feel could crack the top five at the position.
Howie Kendrick, LAA. Despite being an extreme groundball hitter, Kendrick mashed 18 HRs in 537 at-bats last year while maintaining a good average (.285) and his 14-SB total from the previous year. While the power could regress a bit, there’s one major, major reason to love Kendrick’s stock this year: three-time MVP Jose Alberto Pujols. Last season, Bobby Abreu hit in the three slot in 97 games, contributing a .258/.366/.381 line that scared absolutely no one. With Pujols’s presence behind him, Kendrick will see plenty of great pitches, and his average should see a hefty increase. He could be a Dustin Pedroia-lite this season, hitting .300 with 15-20 HRs and 10-15 SBs.
Michael Cuddyer, COL. Check your eligibility requirements, because there’s a great chance you can slot a guy that hit .284 with 20 HRs and 11 SBs — and is moving to Colorado! — in at the position. When the Twins moved to Target Field in 2010, Cuddyer saw his power numbers plunge (not to blame it all on the park; he didn’t hit well on the road either), but he regained some of it back last season by hitting 10 HRs in both the first and second halves of the season. The move to Coors should boost his offensive numbers, and if he can make any gains in HRs, he starts getting close to Robinson Cano-type totals. Not bad for an outfield afterthought.
Daniel Murphy, NYM. A week ago, we pointed to the Mets for some great 1B sleepers, thanks in part to the decision to bring the outfield fences in. It’s expected to help left-handed hitters, so let’s not forget about Murphy. Before succumbing to a season-ending MCL injury, Murphy hit .320 in 391 at-bats with six HRs and five SBs. Sure, he was a bit lucky, but you’re fooling yourself if you think he’ll fall far below .300 this year. If he stays healthy in 2012, he could have a breakthrough age-27 season.
Kelly Johnson, TOR. Coming off a .284-26-13 season in 2010, Johnson disappointed most owners this past season when his average dipped to .222. However, he still racked up 21 HRs and 16 SBs. Will the average bounce back? He hit .270 in his brief time with the Blue Jays, adding three HRs and three SBs in his 115 at-bats in the American League. Even at .250, he’s providing better numbers than a guy like Danny Espinosa at a much better value.
Alexi Casilla, MIN. Deep in the draft, you should be looking for players that can at least give you a lift in one category or another, and Casilla’s speed means he qualifies as a nice MI option. He had just 15 SBs last year, but that came in just 323 at-bats due to a hamstring injury. His high contact rate also gives him some batting average upside, so don’t count him out for a .280-plus, 25-SB season.
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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