A sleeper is harder to define in fantasy baseball. Back in the day (now I’m sounding like my grandfather), finding a true sleeper seemed like a rare thing, but in the information age, everything is known to virtually every owner in your league. So at this point, the best we can do is use the term “sleeper” to define a player whose expected fantasy value far exceeds his current draft value. With that in mind, here are five catchers I would call sleepers in 2012.
Jesus Montero, NYY. Once the usual suspects are off the board, the guy I’m targeting in all leagues to be my catcher is Montero. One of the best hitting prospects in baseball, he’s expected to be the primary DH for the Yankees this year. A rare blend of power and contact, Montero gives you 25-HR upside to go along with a helpful average in the .280s or higher. And you know he’ll have plenty of runs and RBIs in the Yankee lineup. Even if he doesn’t qualify at the position immediately (he DHed 14 times while catching only three games), he’ll gain catcher eligibility in no time, as I expect him to appear behind the plate at least once a week.
Ryan Doumit, MIN. The former Pirate landed in the perfect spot this offseason, signing a one-year, $3 million pact with the Twins in November. What makes it so great? For one, the Twins need all the offense they can get, and Doumit posted a solid .303/.353/.477 line last season in 218 at-bats. The Twins have also had injury issues with franchise players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and Doumit is capable of filling in at either catcher or first base should the need arise. If everyone’s healthy, Doumit can stick at DH or play the outfield. Not being consigned to the catcher’s mask on a regular basis should help keep Doumit healthy, and he could provide a .300 average with double digit HRs, similar to Yadier Molina’s breakout 2011 season.
Devin Mesoraco, CIN. The Reds decided not to retain Ramon Hernandez this off-season, which made sense, since they owned two of the better catching prospects in all of baseball. They shipped one to the Padres in the Mat Latos deal (Yasmani Grandal), and the other is Mesoraco, who is expected to fill Hernandez’s role in the offense this year. The youngster hit .289 with 15 HRs in 499 Triple-A plate appearances last season, and he has similar upside in the majors on a per-PA basis. However, the presence of the solid Ryan Hanigan will curb his playing time early, which means a full breakout may not be in the cards till 2013. However, he’s the perfect target as a second catcher in all leagues, a young offensive force that could provide huge dividends on draft day.
Tyler Flowers, CHW. A.J. Pierzynski has just one year left on his deal, which means the White Sox should use this season to see what they have in Flowers. The fact that Flowers has struck out in over 30 percent of his at-bats in the majors could be doom-and-gloom, but what it really does is mask how good he is at taking walks and hitting the ball out of the park. Considering Flowers turns just 26 this month and that he owns under 200 MLB plate appearances, I’d say he has the time and ability to bring the Ks down to his minor league levels and evolve into a top offensive catcher. The White Sox have made it no secret that they’d like to move as much payroll as possible, so it’s conceivable Pierzynski could be changing addresses at any point in the next seven months. If that happens, Flowers becomes one of the better sleepers around.
A.J. Ellis, LAD. The Dodgers don’t have a whole lot of upside at the catcher position, so it would make sense to let 30-year-old Ellis see what he can do with the everyday gig. He’s always shown a great batting eye, posting outstanding walk rates in the minors and good enough walk rates in the majors to have a career OBP that’s 98 points better than his .262 average. He doesn’t provide any power — the four HRs he hit in 2011 between the majors and minors were his first long balls since 2008 — but as a No. 2 catcher in your league, he should provide a great batting average to go with good run and RBI totals if he sticks as the starter. If your league counts OBP or walks, Ellis is a must-own.
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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