With all the great information out there these days (including the new Rotowire Draft Kit), the terms "sleeper" and "bust" to me have or should have gone by the wayside by now. You'll still see such lingo in publications, but if you're a Rotowire subscriber, chances are, publications that proclaim Troy Tulowitzki as a potential "sleeper" and Mike Lowell as a possible "bust", are of little value to you. It's pretty safe to say given Tulo's injury-riddled and disappointing sophomore campaign, that he'll rebound fine while Lowell's hip issues remain troublesome. Finally, is there anyone that doesn't think Rangers 3B Chris Davis is in for a nice first full season?
Jeff Clement – The Mariners are going to give Clement the playing time this year, if only to finally see what they have. He struggled last year, but in Clement's last 82 at-bats, perhaps something started to click (.317 AVG). Mix in minor knee surgery and he should be full healthy come spring.
Carlos Pena – More attractive options and a .261 AVG relegate Pena to the third tier of first basemen, but he should remain productive into 2009. Pena homered 21 times in his last 83 games and with Pat Burrell and a full season of Evan Longoria, Pena should have no problem approaching 120 RBI. Focus on scarce positions early and grab this stud in the sixth or seventh round.
Robinson Cano – Overvalued last year, opposite side of the ledger this year. Cano has been the recipient of the never-always-reliable "he's working with a personal trainer and is in the best shape of his life" rumors this offseason. What's also worth noting is the addition of Mark Teixeira to the Yankees' lineup and more importantly, Cano's BABIP losing over 40 points last year compared to his pre-2008 mark. Cano still walked just 4|PERCENT| of the time, though he did cut his strikeout rate in '08. Look for a rebound into the .290-20-85 range.
Adrian Beltre – Beltre's season was cut short by thumb and shoulder surgeries, both of which may have impacted his overall numbers. That said, Beltre still finished with 25 homers while increasing his walk rate from 6|PERCENT| to 8|PERCENT|. While I don't buy this in all cases, many of us will recall the chants of "MVP, MVP…" the last time Beltre was in a walk year. We'll see if he rises to the occasion again, as he's looking at free agency after this season. Hard to believe he doesn't turn 30 until April. The bad news? Seattle's major offseason additions on offense, while losing Raul Ibanez, include trading for Franklin Gutierrez and signing Russell Branyan.
Emmanuel Burriss – Edgar Renteria locks Burriss out of the starting shortstop job through at least 2010, but he should be considered the favorite at second over Kevin Frandsen and Eugenio Velez. Burriss isn't going to hit for a lick of power, but with his contact ability (24:23 K:BB) and speed, he could hit .280-.290 this year and given 400 at-bats, 30+ steals seem likely.
B.J. Upton – Fantasy owners know his name, and despite the possibility he'll miss a little time early in the year recovering from a shoulder injury, Upton looks like a good bet this year. Believe in the skills, and when you look at his 2008 numbers and try and project for 2009, focus not on the nine regular season homers, but on the seven postseason blasts (.652 SLG). He's primed for 20/40.
Geovany Soto – First off, I consider Soto an elite catcher, but he's probably going to go higher than he should. The power will still be there, but a .337 BABIP and so-so 77|PERCENT| contact rate leave room for the .285 AVG to drop into the low-to-mid .270s. Factor in NL pitchers possibly treating him a little different this year and there's some room for regression.
Ryan Howard – Sorry, but 45 homers or not, there's no way I'm taking a potential .240 hitter in the first or second round. Why not grab 85|PERCENT| of Howard several round later in the form of the unemployed Adam Dunn?
Dustin Pedroia – Says the guy who won him in the Rotowire mock auction for the magazine. Pedroia might be drafted ahead of Ian Kinsler, which seems insane given Kinsler has more power and will steal more bases. Boston uniform + MVP = overvalued.
Mark Reynolds – I had trouble coming up with a third baseman to slot here, but Reynolds and his 181 strikeouts gets the call. No matter the power, I just can't invest a pick in a guy who has the potential to hit .230. Arizona is talking about moving Reynolds to second base, which would improve his fantasy value considerably, but for now, I'm looking elsewhere.
Mike Aviles – It was a nice story seeing Aviles hit .325 as a 27 year-old rookie, but I just don't see how that year won't be his peak. Aviles has never drawn many walks and a .349 BABIP leaves plenty of room for the bottom to fall out on his AVG. Being in a mediocre lineup won't help his counting stats either.
Nelson Cruz – Like Nate McLouth in 2008, Cruz is going to be a hot name at draft time this year. He's slated to be a full-time starter on Opening Day for the first time in his career, he'll play in a great hitter's park, and the players around him are no slouches. At age 28, perhaps he's a late-bloomer, but keep in mind his major league OPSs in 2006 and 2007 - .645 and .671 (total AB: 437). Draft for the upside, but don't get in a bidding war.
Pitchers next time out...