Despite what some may think, fantasy baseball drafts are not won in the first round, when guys like Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Braun are taken. Ask the guy at your office, who won his league last year, how he was able to pull it off; “Asdrubal Cabrera, that’s how!” Did you sense a little pride in their voice? That’s because there’s no greater feeling in fantasy sports than finding a player who’s undervalued on draft day, but delivers like a superstar during the season,just like Cabrera did last year. A late round pick, Cabrera played like anything but that as he hit 25 home runs (18 hr. in the previous four seasons combined), alongside 92 rbi’s. It’s not the studs on your team that will win you your 2012 fantasy baseball league, it’s the Asdrubal Cabrera’s you find, the diamonds in the rough….the sleepers.
Picking out which players to target as fantasy baseball sleepers is sometimes hard to do. Do you go with the young guy who raked in the few major league games he played in last season? What about the player who has shown glimpses of greatness but hasn’t been able to put it together for a full season? Maybe it’s the guy with a new ballclub that just might be the perfect fit? The point is, there are tons of variables to consider when deciding who to watch out for as sleepers in your fantasy baseball league. Here’s a look at 5 potential draft day bargains that could be the ticket to winning your league this year;
1. Justin Morneau,(1B) Twins
We start in Minnesota, where a concussion-plagued 2011 season had Twins fans wondering if Morneau would ever suit up for them again. With the symptoms of his injury a thing of the past, Morneau is playing every day and his power is on its way back (3 hr, 11 rbi since March 23). The batting average isn’t quite there yet, but it’s improving. His timing at the plate is coming back, and all signs point to Morneau once again being the feared hitter we all remember. For a player going after the middle rounds, there may not be a better buy out there. Your AL Comeback POY award winner, you heard it here first.
Prediction; .275 avg, 79 r, 26 hr, 88 rbi
2. Erick Aybar, (SS) Angels
A leadoff hitter with solid speed (30 sb last season), Aybar will benefit greatly from the addition of Albert Pujols, and a healthy Kendrys Morales to the Angels lineup. As the leading candidate to bat atop the Angels order this season, Aybar will have a chance to post career highs in runs scored with a wealth of talent batting behind him He is coming off a season where he hit as many home runs (10) as he did in the previous two seasons combined, so there’s a chance of another sneaky double digit home run total here as well. The batting average won’t hurt you, and he has potential to post star quality numbers in at least two categories (sb, r). Let somebody else in your league take one of the big 3 shortstops, wait on Aybar and don’t be surprised if he plays a major part in your championship run this season.
Prediction; .280 avg, 90 r, 9 hr, 52 rbi, 26 sb
3. Ryan Doumit, (C) Twins
The Twins still have that guy named Mauer behind the plate, but Doumit will be asked to spell him from time to time to keep Mauer fresh. Manager Ron Gardenhire has also been playing Doumit at both DH and in the outfield, and it looks like he could be their opening day right fielder. Doumit has been a bright spot for the Twins in spring training, batting .314 through Thursday, while also leading the team in walks (9). For a team that finished 25th in runs scored last season, Gardenhire won’t hesitate to play a guy who knows how to get on base. I expect Doumit to get 350-425 AB’s this season, with potential for 2 position eligibility, and to be a solid four category contributor as well. If he does fit in nicely in right field, this is a guy you could slot in as your catcher, who could easily produce top-10 numbers at the position. Take a flier on this deep sleeper and you will be pleased the results.
Prediction; .270 avg, 55 r, 17 hr, 64 rbi, 2 sb
4. Trevor Cahill, (SP) Diamondbacks
I know what you’re thinking, this guy was brutal after the all-star break last year. However, in the first half of the 2011 season we got a glimpse of Cahill at his best, and I for one am ready to buy into that potential for the upcoming season. Yes, his ratios weren’t great (4.16 era, 1.43 whip) but part of that could be blamed on a defense that had the 2nd most errors in the majors last season. That will be a different story in Arizona where the Diamondbacks had the 6th fewest errors in the majors in 2011. Run support was not something Cahill was accustomed to receiving in Oakland, but he shouldn’t have a problem now playing for a team that was 9th in runs scored last year. Despite the lack of help, he surprisingly hasn’t had a problem getting wins over the last three seasons (40 since 2009). Now he’s finally got a potent offense to help him out so this could be a breakout year for Cahill. Grab him after the top 40 pitchers are off the board, but expect top 30 production with upside.
Prediction; 15 w, 127 k, 3.55 era, 1.25 whip
5. Brandon League, (RP) Mariners
League benefits from the most important thing a closer can have … job security. With no threat to lose the closer job, he remains one of the more risk-free relievers in the draft. Coming off his best year as a closer, League tallied 37 saves, a 1.08 whip, and a career high 4.5 k/bb ratio. His stellar year earned him a bid to the 2011 All Star Game in Arizona. Going in the later rounds, after the top 12 closers are gone, League is a steal and definitely a guy you want on your team this year. He’s not flashy and he may not have the big name but make no mistake, this guy has the potential to be a top 5 closer this year. Upside here of 40+ saves.
Prediction; 3 w, 33 sv, 2.22 era, 1.12 whip
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