Adam Ronis previews the 2013 season with some offensive sleepers fantasy owners should keep an eye on heading into their drafts.
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Peter Bourjos (Angels, OF): Once a sought-after sleeper, Bourjos is hardly getting any attention in 2013. Bourjos had just 168 at-bats in 2012 and didn’t put up good numbers, however, he showed some potential in 2011 batting .271 with 72 runs, 12 home runs, 43 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. He was racking up the steals in the minors so count on the steals with an everyday job in centerfield. Batting ninth doesn’t help him get at-bats, but he will have Mike Trout hitting behind him.
Lorenzo Cain (Royals, OF): Players coming off disappointing or injury-filled seasons can often be overlooked. Cain has yet to show much in the majors. There have been signs in the minors he can contribute in several categories. After being traded from the Brewers to the Royals, Cain spent most of 2011 in the minors for the Royals. Last year, Cain was set to start but a groin injury and torn hip flexor limited Cain to 61 games and 222 at-bats. Cain batted .266 with 27 runs, seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Cain needs to improve his approach at the plate, but there’s potential for double-digit home runs and more than 20 stolen bases.
Matt Carpenter (Cardinals, 1B/3B/OF): Carpenter is not slated to start going into spring training. There is a chance that Carpenter wins the job at second base since the Cardinals don’t have great options at the position. Carpenter has good power and some speed. In 296 at-bats in 2012, he batted .294 with 44 runs, six home runs and 44 RBIs with an .828 OPS. He played only five games at second base in 2012 and the position eligibility he already has makes him valuable in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only leagues. If he wins the starting second base job, his value jumps.
Chris Carter (Astros, 1B): The trade to Houston helps the Fantasy value of Carter. He moves from a ballpark in Oakland that is not conducive to power to a great park for power-hitting right-handers. In Oakland, Carter was likely going to platoon at first base. While his role in Houston is unclear since he could play first base or outfield, the likelihood is a rebuilding team like the Astros will give Carter a lot of at-bats. There are flaws with Carter since he strikes out a lot. There’s only a small sample of 260 at-bats with Oakland in 2012, but Carter struck out 83 times, though, he did draw 39 walks. Carter batted .239 with 38 runs, 16 home runs and 39 RBIs. There is immense power here that comes with a low batting average. If you need cheap power late, Carter is a consideration.
Tyler Colvin (Rockies, 1B/OF): If you were paying attention last season, you might have picked Colvin up off the waiver wire and were satisfied with the acquisition. Colvin played in 136 games and batted .290 with 62 runs, 18 home runs, 72 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 420 at-bats with a .858 OPS. The average is likely to come down considering he had a .364 BABIP, struck out 26 percent of the time and walked just 4.6 percent. Still, he has power and can get double-digit steals. Colvin doesn’t have a starting position at the moment, but he could see a lot of time at first base with an aging Todd Helton, who turns 40 in August and played just 69 games in 2012.
Ike Davis (Mets, 1B): It was an abysmal start for Davis, who admitted Valley Fever caused him to be fatigued in 2012, and that’s a major understatement. After June 8, Davis was batting .158 with a .507 OPS. There were rumors the Mets might send him to the minor leagues. Teams were not throwing him any fastballs and he looked completely lost as the strikeouts piled up. Davis was much better the rest of the way, batting .265 with 27 home runs with 69 RBIs. Overall, Davis batted .227, and that is actually an accomplishment considering his start, with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs. Davis strikes out a lot, but he also draws walks and Davis has the ability to hit .260. If Davis can improve on his .217 career average and .643 OPS against left-handers, he could take another step forward. There’s potential for 40 home runs for Davis.
Stephen Drew (Red Sox, SS): Drew will be forgotten by many after two injury-plagued seasons. Drew broke his ankle in July 2011 and didn’t appear completely healthy last season with the Diamondbacks and A’s. He is healthy heading into his age 30 season on a one-year contract with Boston. Looking at one month to end the season can always be overblown, but for Drew it’s important since it might have been because he was finally healthy. Drew batted .275 with 12 runs, five home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .451 slugging percentage in September. There will be a plethora of shortstops that go ahead of Drew. In a mixed league, Drew can be drafted very late as a middle infielder. At that point, the risk is minimal and there could be big dividends.
Adam Eaton (Diamondbacks, OF): The trade of Justin Upton opens up a full-time job for Eaton, who is likely to bat leadoff. We got a small glimpse of Eaton last season when he played 22 games with the Diamondbacks. In 85 at-bats, Eaton batted .259 with 19 runs, two home runs, five RBIs and two stolen bases. It’s too small of a sample to judge him. What we do know he gets on base, so leagues that count on-base percentage should give him a boost. Eaton struck out 14.6 percent of the time and walked 13.6 percent of the time. He’s very quick and will pile up the stolen bases. He won’t hit for much power, but should score a lot of runs with Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero, Martin Prado and Paul Goldschmidt hitting behind him.
Logan Forsythe (Padres, 2B): His role is unclear right now. He could open the season as the starting second baseman if the Padres decide to have prospect Jedd Gyorko open the season in the minors. Gyorko is also a good sleeper if he starts the season with the Padres. The Padres have also had Forsythe take some fly balls in the outfield to increase his versatility. He’s a natural third baseman and can also play shortstop. In 91 games, Forsythe batted .273 with 45 runs, six home runs, 28 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 315 at-bats. He has some power and the fences being shortened and moved in at Petco Park will help. There’s potential for double-digit homers and stolen bases.
Todd Frazier (Reds, 1B/3B): Frazier had a very solid season in his first full year in the majors despite batting .176 with one home run and five RBIs in his final 22 games. In 422 at-bats, he batted .273 with 55 runs, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs, three stolen bases and .829 OPS. The power wasn’t a product of the favorable hitters’ park in Cincinnati either, with 10 home runs at home and nine on the road. The reason you draft Frazier is for the power at third base.
Jed Lowrie (A’s, SS): There are certain players that get injured consistently and Lowrie fits that category. He was well on his way to a career year in 2012, with 14 home runs in the first three months before an ankle injury limited him to 87 at-bats the rest of the way and he struggled with just 17 hits. Lowrie hasn’t played more than 97 games in any season in the majors and the 387 plate appearances he had last season was his career high. This will cause Lowrie to be extremely cheap in drafts. He will be drafted as a middle infielder in most mixed leagues and has the ability to finish Top 10 at a thin position. He hasn’t displayed any ability to be healthy, but there have been glimpses of good production. Lowrie had 16 home runs and 42 RBIs in 97 games in 2012. In 2010, he batted .287 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs with a .907 OPS in 171 at-bats. Lowrie has a career fly ball rate of 50.3 percent. If he could play a full season, he could hit 25 home runs. Although getting the at-bats appears slim, the cost to find out won’t hinder you. Lowrie projects to play several positions for the A’s, and the move from Houston to Oakland does hurt because of the difference in ballparks.
Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers, C): Lucroy was having a breakout season in 2012, before he broke his hand and missed two months. Lucroy improved his contact rate and showed more power. In 316 at-bats he batted .320 with 46 runs, 12 home runs, 58 RBIs and .881 OPS. The average will certainly decline considering Lucroy had a .338 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), but he has the ability to hit in the .280s. There were signs of progression in 2011 when he batted .265 with 45 runs, 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 430 at-bats. Lucroy makes an excellent No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues and could post Top 10 numbers at the position in 2013.
Leonys Martin (Rangers, OF): Martin has been ranked as one of the Rangers’ top prospects, but their other young talents get more attention. The Rangers didn’t add a free agent in the outfield to replace Josh Hamilton and there’s a good chance Martin can seize the center-field job. He batted .359 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 231 at-bats in Triple-A last season. If Martin can hit lefties, he can potentially play every day and produce in several categories.
Starling Marte (Pirates, OF): There is no question about the talent of Marte. The 24-year-old homered on the first pitch he saw in the majors last season. His approach at the plate needs a lot of work, as he struck out 50 times and walked just eight times in 167 at-bats in 2012. He batted .257 with 18 runs, five home runs, 17 RBIs and stole 12 bases in 17 attempts. Since he will play full-time and likely hit lead off, he’s a good bet for 20-25 stolen bases and potentially more if he can get on base. There’s some power upside as well, especially if he can hit the ball in the air more.
Justin Maxwell (Astros, OF): The strikeout rate is very high so don’t expect a very good average. Maxwell struck out 32.4 percent of the time in 315 at-bats in 2012. Maxwell is slated to play every day and there is power and speed potential. Maxwell is 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. He batted .229 with 46 runs, 18 home runs, 53 RBIs and nine stolen bases last season.
Kendrys Morales (Mariners, 1B): While the change in ballparks going from Anaheim to Seattle will not help Morales, the trade helps his Fantasy value since he will play regularly, and that wasn’t guaranteed with the Angels. Anaheim wasn’t a hitter-friendly park either, and the fences will be moved in at Safeco Field, so it’s not a huge hit to Morales. He only played 51 games in 2010, and missed the entire 2011 season before getting sporadic at-bats last season. As the season went on, Morales played better and batted .273 with 61 runs, 22 home runs, and 73 RBIs in 484 at-bats. If he could get back to the plate approach he had in his big 2009 season and hit more fly balls, Morales will produce profit.
Chris Parmelee (Twins, 1B/OF): He will begin the season as the starting right-fielder. He hit well at Triple-A last year, batting .338 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs in 64 games. Parmelee wasn’t as good with the Twins in 192 at-bats with an average of .229, five home runs and 20 RBIs. He has shown good power in the minors.
Trevor Plouffe (Twins, 3B): Plouffe has good power and showed it in 2012, when he received consistent playing time. He batted .235 with 56 runs, 24 home runs and 55 RBIs 422 at-bats. Plouffe made more contact as the season went along and the average could go up. A good target if you’re looking for cheap power.
Josh Rutledge (Rockies, SS): Rutledge went from Double-A to the majors in 2012 and impressed. In 277 at-bats, he batted .274 with 37 runs, eight home runs, 37 RBIs and seven stolen bases in seven attempts. Rutledge played shortstop with Troy Tulowitzki injured last season and he will move over to second base and have dual eligibility at the middle infield spots. A 54/9 K/BB ratio shows his plate approach needs work, but he can get double-digits in homers and steals.
Jean Segura (Brewers, SS): Segura, the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade, will start at shortstop and he has a lot of speed. He stole 139 bases in 399 minor leagues games and made great contact in the minors with a .313 career average. In 151 at-bats with the Brewers, he batted .258 with 19 runs, zero home runs, 14 RBIs and stole seven bases in eight attempts. Speed at the middle infield spot is why you want him.
Wilson Ramos (Nationals, C): Many will forget about Ramos, especially since he likely won’t be the starter initially. The Nationals want to ease Ramos back after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. Ramos had just 83 at-bats and batted .265 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Ramos has good power for a catcher and showed it in 2011. He batted .267 with 48 runs, 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 389 at-bats. Draft him as a No. 2 catcher at a cheap price.