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Players to Target
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 3/20/2007 11:24:00 AM
View more posts by this author

 

The terms sleeper and bust have officially become irrelevant. They held water back when I scored fantasy football by hand using the USAToday box scores, but with the advent of the computer, a true “sleeper” probably doesn’t exist anymore. It’s still the best way to describe what most truly mean by the term, which is identifying the players that are being undervalued. Without further ado, here are my players to target:

Cole Hamels – Hamels’ ADP currently sits at 115.5, among the likes of Joe Crede (111.3), Adam LaRoche (114.3) and Chien-ming Wang (115.6). Absolutely ridiculous. Sure, Hamels comes with injury risk (a theme with the pitchers I’m targeting this year), but none of his previous ailments have ever been of the arm variety. His stuff, however, has never been questioned; featuring one of the very best changeups in the game, Hamels posted a tiny 2.60 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over the final two months last season. He also sported a 76/19 K/BB ratio over 69 1/3 innings during that span. If he throws 220 innings, he’ll enter next year as a top-10 and possibly top-5 fantasy starter.

Jonathan Papelbon – They say a pitcher’s ERA typically increases by about 30 percent when switched from the bullpen to the starting rotation. So even if Papelbon falls in the average range, we’re looking at an ERA at 1.20 this year. OK, maybe last season’s 0.92 mark isn’t realistic in its ability to hold up, but you get the point. Papelbon is healthy and excelling this spring and has been somewhat forgotten now removed from the closer’s role and with flashy Dice-K now in Beantown. Papelbon’s ADP is 143.6 right now, nestled in between Adrian Gonzalez and Eric Byrnes. Matsuzaka’s is almost 50 spots earlier (94.1), and there’s at least a decent chance he outpitches the import. While his strikeout rate should decline now in the rotation, Papelbon makes a fine mid-round target this year.

John Patterson – After forearm surgery in July, Patterson could have attempted to return in September but instead elected to give himself a full offseason of rest, bettering the chances of him entering this season at full strength. While he remains an injury concern, Patterson is such an asset in strikeouts and WHIP, he cannot be forgotten about. Pitching for the Nationals means wins won’t be plentiful, but calling RFK Stadium home increases his upside. An ADP of 228.1 is simply far too low.

Alex Rios - Rios is hardly an unknown commodity, but at this point, his potential is greater than most give him credit for. The news of Lyle Overbay occupying the second spot in the lineup isn’t great for Rios, but maybe he’ll do more running hitting lower in the order. He’s always had the skill set and was finally living up to that potential last year before a staff infection essentially ruined his season. Before succumbing to the injury, Rios had a .968 OPS in 72 games. If you prorate his stats from then on, his line would look like this: .330, 34 homers, 119 RBI, 104 runs and 20 steals. Those type of counting stats over a full season are probably a tad overly optimistic, but you get the idea. Treat him like a top-20 outfielder.

Nick Markakis - Markakis had a very up-and-down first season; he clubbed just two homers over his first 202 at-bats but then hit .366 over a three month stretch. During August, he hit 10 long balls and finished with a 1.140 OPS, only to struggle throughout the final month of the season. This year, he’s set to bat third in a solid Orioles lineup, and even if he doesn’t immediately become the star he will one day, a .290-25-100-100 line should arrive as soon as this season.

Kelly Johnson - This sleeper is of the catatonic variety, as Johnson’s ADP doesn’t even show up in the top-400, meaning he’s going undrafted in a whole lot of leagues. A Chipper Jones clone in the batter’s box, Johnson has both the skills and the opportunity to be a valuable fantasy commodity this year. Mostly forgotten after missing all of last year following elbow surgery, Johnson is a former first round draft pick with tremendous plate discipline. He also possesses 25-homer power. He hasn’t been officially named it yet, but Johnson should act as the Braves’ starting second basemen this year and even has a chance at occupying the leadoff spot in their lineup. Becoming MI eligible will only increase his value, and with his on-base skills, he’s a threat to score 100 runs. There likely isn’t a better player currently sitting on your waiver wire.


Comments....

I'm on board with Kelly Johnson. I think Rios and Markakis are pricey in a lot of groups, maybe not as much in the non-industry leagues (Rios has a lukewarm projection in some areas, where his 2006 injury is held against him more than it should be). I have no faith in Patterson holding up - anyone who has an arm and a glove in DC, I'd show up at the park, you might be pitching come the weekend.
Posted by spianow at 3/21/2007 6:11:00 AM
 
Nice article, but I'm pretty sure Rios had a staph (short for staphylococcus) infection, not a "staff" infection. I could make all sorts of jokes about what a "staff" infection might be, but I'll refrain. :-)
Posted by lvtdude at 3/21/2007 1:12:00 PM
 
Ha Ha. Yes, I'm pretty sure you're right and I'm wrong. But he's going to be making pitching Staffs ill all season long this year!
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 3/21/2007 4:07:00 PM
 

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