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2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Picks
There is nothing sweeter in fantasy baseball than drafting a player in round 16 and then watching him have a break out season. This article lists ten 2012 National League fantasy baseball sleeper picks that will be under the radar bargains on draft day but have the potential for the unexpected break out year. These players are either veterans in new situations, post-hype youngsters, or mid-career players with their first legitimate opportunity to win a starting job. They are under the radar and should be available late in most 2012 NL only drafts. These deep sleepers can also plug holes in your fantasy roster toward the end of the draft, so keep this list handy on draft day. The list is in no particular order. For more suggestions check out my other articles on 2012 fantasy baseball. The links are listed below. (Last updated: April 19, 2012)
1) Alex Presley, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates - The 26 year old Presley played well when he was called up last season to cover left field during Jose Tabata's DL stint. In his limited time he hit lead-off for the Pirates, put up a good average (.298), stole some bases (13), and showed a spark at the top of the Pirates order that was intriguing. If he has a starting job coming out of spring training, he could be an under-the-radar steal in the later rounds. Alex ended up the spring at 19 for 62 (.306) with 4 steals and 8 RBI. After the first week of the season it appears Presley is the starting left fielder.
2) Ian Stewart, 3B, Chicago Cubs - 2011 was a mess for Ian, as he never really found his batting groove out of spring training. He quickly ended up in Jim Tracy's dog house and was demoted to the minors for a good portion of the season. I remember one publication that predicted he would hit 40 homers in 2011. Sadly, I bought into the hype and was burned badly when he finished the season batting only .156 with no homers and only 6 RBI. However, with a new team and a fresh start, Ian has one more shot at becoming a full-time major league player. Most people will avoid him like Ebola, so he should drop into the late rounds. He did hit 25 homers in 2009 and 18 in 2010 and he is still only 26 years old, so he still has the potential to make a comeback. In his new situation I think he can put up 20 homers and 80 RBI's this year. Stewart appears to be the starting third baseman but after a solid start has bat has gone cold.
3) Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds - The Reds desperately need a solid lead-off hitter and it looks like Zack is going to get the chance to fill this void in 2012. He hit .324 in limited time last season before an elbow injury derailed his year. All signs indicate he should be ready to go this spring. He has shown both power and speed in the minors (he hit 17 homers with 30 steals in his 2010 AAA season) so if you miss out on a top-tier shortstop early in the draft, consider picking him in the later rounds. Cozart has been batting second in the lineup and has been hitting well so far this season.
4) Jed Lowrie, SS-3B, Houston Astros - Jed is coming over to the Astros from the Red Sox. He will be under less pressure in Houston and his tendency to hit fly balls makes him well suited for Minute Maid Park. He has the potential to hit 20 homers and his multi-position SS-3B eligibility is an added bonus. The only concern is his ability to stay healthy as he has struggled with injuries the past few years. Jed also makes it on my list of ten best NL shortstops. In his first regular season game off the DL he batted second and went 2 for 3 with a stolen base.
5) Tyler Clippard, RP, Washington Nationals - The Nationals should be better this year with the return of phenom Stephen Strasburg and the addition of Gio Gonzalez to the starting rotation. Tyler is only the set-up man, but he is a sneaky source of strikeouts, he has had over 100 in each of the past two seasons. He will also help your WHIP (he posted a 0.84 figure in 2011). My only concern with him is his heavy workload. Hopefully, his arm can withstand another season of 100 innings out of the bullpen before falling off. So far during the regular season Tyler has been rock solid as usual through 4 innings of relief.
6) Brandon Belt, 1B-OF, San Francisco Giants - Last season was supposed to be Brandon's break out campaign, but his bat never really got going, he ended up on the DL with a wrist injury, lost playing time, and wound up hitting only .225 with 9 homers. Not the coming out party he had in mind! He is the perfect description of a post-hype sleeper. However, 2012 is a new season and he is slated to be the starting left fielder. At 6'5" and 220 pounds, he could be a solid late-round home run source if he gets off to a good start. Belt started at first base on opening day, but it appears he may be struggling for playing time with so many other players in the mix. Bruce Bochy doesn't appear to be committed to him.
7) Jordan Schafer, OF, Houston Astros - The Astros will be bad this year, but hidden in the mess is an intriguing top of the batting order: Schafer, Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, and Carlos Lee. Schafer isn't afraid to run as shown by his 22 steals between Atlanta and Houston last season in only 330 plate appearances. He plays a great CF so he has a shot at winning the starting job on his defense alone. As of March 18th Jordan is hitting .391 with 2 steals this spring and manager Brad Mills has been singing his praises. If he wins the job he could easily rack up 30+ steals. If you find you need help in this category during the draft, he could be a nice pick after round 15. Schafer was batting lead off on opening day and homered the next day.
8) John Mayberry, 1B-OF - John was a solid, unheralded contributor to the Phillies 2011 campaign when he hit .273 with 15 homers and 8 steals coming off the bench. He is due for a boost in playing time in 2012 with Raul Ibanez gone and Ryan Howard likely not coming back until mid-June. He could start the season hitting 5th in the potent Phillies lineup and could be the sleeper pick of this draft if he if falls to the later rounds. Mayberry has struggled to start the season and appears to be losing playing time to Juan Pierre.
9) Mat Gamel, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers - I understand that first base is his to lose going into spring training. Somebody has to take over for Prince and Mat has the first shot at it. He hit .310 with 28 homers in the minors last season, so the potential is there for him to put up some decent numbers if he can stay in the lineup all season. Mat is not exactly young at 26 years old so this season may be his last chance to make it as a starter. The latest out of camp is the Brewers are committed to starting him even if he has a poor camp. Through 50 at bats this spring Mat has 4 home runs and 9 RBI so all looks good so far.
5 Deep NL Sleeper Picks
1. Yonder Alonso, 1B, San Diego
2. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati
3. Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona
4. Tony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago
5. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta
10) Daniel Murphy, 1B-2B-3B, New York Mets - Murphy's multi-position eligibility at first, second, and third base alone makes him an intriguing sleeper pick. This kind of flexibility is great to have when the inevitable injury bug hits your fantasy team. Daniel is a .292 career hitter, but he really came on in 2011 hitting .320 with 6 homers and 49 RBI in 423 plate appearances. He even threw in 5 steals for good measure. His season was cut short when he got spiked on a slide by an opposing player on August 7th. However, he should be ready to go this spring. By all accounts he is a butcher in the field, but it appears the Mets are going to stick with him at second base. He's not going to hit many home runs, but the shorter Citi Field fences can only help in this category and I expect he will reach double digits in the category.
That is the list. Keep these under the radar NL sleepers in mind on your draft day. They should be available in the later rounds of most NL only fantasy baseball drafts and can help fill holes in your roster. Good luck on draft day!