We are continuing the 6-part series on sleepers with Part 4: Infield Deep Sleepers. A player’s sleeper tag is based on his Average Draft Position in Mock Draft Central (MDC) and in National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) satellite leagues thus far (out of 32 drafts). The NFBC ADP gives you a more accurate view of where these players are likely to go in real drafts, although the MDC ADP is more commonly referred to. You can find the NFBC ADP data under the “Drafts” – “Average Position” tab on the main page here. The difference between “sleepers” and “deep sleepers” is that the sleepers are guys who I project to be definite starters in even 12-team leagues, whereas the deep sleepers are more likely to be starters in 15-team leagues, or at least that’s all you should count on them for. I can see a lot of them outproducing that value, but you can’t count on it.
INFIELD DEEP SLEEPERS
1B/3B Chris Davis – BAL
Davis has crushed in the minor leagues every opportunity that he gets, but has not been able to sustain success in the majors… yet. This might be the year, because for the first time he has a legitimate claim to full-time ABs with Baltimore. They are committed to him starting at 1B for them. It’s not that the Rangers didn’t give him a fair shake, but he was always looking over his shoulder as they had other options behind him if he didn’t perform. Let’s not forget, Davis hit 38 HR between 2008-2009 in under 700 ABs in the majors too… granted, he did hit .238 in 2009. Keep in mind, also, that he’s still just 26 years old (even though it feels like he’s been around forever). With his high strikeout rate and low walk rate, it’s pretty much a given that Davis won’t likely hit better than .270 (I’d put him around .250). The Orioles are professing a patient plate approach, waiting for their pitch and swinging for the fences – which suits Davis just fine. Going from Arlington to Camden won’t affect Davis too much as their park factors for HR are about the same, though Arlington is more conducive to base hits so again, don’t expect much in the AVG department from him. He’s likely to hit in the lower part of the lineup, though that could change with Markakis and Roberts expected to be out to start the season, but his R/RBI numbers will depend on whether he eventually settles towards the middle of the lineup or not. Regardless, expecting 25 HR and a .250 AVG is well within reason. So, if you need power in the late rounds (#272 in MDC and #336 in NFBC) give Davis a look. Dual eligibility, especially including 3B, doesn’t hurt either.
1B/OF Mike Carp – SEA
Carp hit 21 HR with a .347 AVG in AAA in the 1st half last year, then went on to hit 12 HR with a .276 AVG in the majors in the 2nd half. That .276 AVG came with a high BABIP (.343) and an even higher strikeout rate (26%), while also only walking around 6% of the time so expect it to be closer to .260 in a full season in 2012. Carp is fully capable of hitting 25 HR, but in SafeCo I’d expect closer to 20 HR. He’ll hit somewhere between 4th-6th in the lineup so he should have solid RBI numbers and a decent amount of runs as well. He’s a late round source of power with dual eligibility – you could do much worse at pick #260 in MDC or pick #284 in NFBC drafts. The reason Carp is listed as a deep sleeper (instead of regular sleeper) is because he’s not on the same level as the 1B and OF in the sleepers articles, there’s better 1B and OF options around where he goes… he doesn’t have 40 HR potential like Adam Dunn and doesn’t hit for good AVG like Lucas Duda for example, he’s just power and some RBI.
1B/OF Juan Rivera – LAD
It doesn’t look like Rivera will ever repeat that .287 AVG 25 HR line from 2009 as he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone more and therefore striking out more. He also hasn’t had regular ABs since then either. The Dodgers giving him $4.5 million for 1 year tells me that he will at least be starting every game against righties in LF (while Sands starts vs. lefties). Here’s why he could be a sleeper though – he could also start at 1B against lefties while Sands starts in LF and Loney rides the pine. See, like Sands, Rivera also hits lefties better than righties. It makes no sense to sit him against lefties, but Sands crushes lefties, so he would have to find somewhere else to get his ABs – 1B. Loney crushes righties, but really struggles against lefties, so it makes sense to start Rivera, who can play 1B too, against lefties and bench Loney. Thus, Rivera will likely get full-time ABs between LF and 1B hitting 5th in the Dodgers’ lineup. He already has the dual position eligibility so that’s a plus as well. He might only give you 15 HR with a .260 AVG, but should give you good R/RBI production as well… and the reason he’s a sleeper is that you can pick him up around pick #400 in both formats – so while other people are grabbing prospects and bench players at the end of the draft, you can take a guy who should provide some power and counting stats playing every day.
2B Johnny Giavotella – KC
Giavotella didn’t wow anyone with his .247 AVG with 2 HR and 5 SB in 178 ABs last season, but based on his 85% contact rate and minor league track record he should improve on those numbers in 2012. He doesn’t possess an abundance of speed or power, but he does provide a little of both – think 8 HR and 13 SB – to go along with a .280ish AVG. He’s also expected to hit 2nd in the Royals’ lineup, so 80-90 Runs should be in the cards as well. Overall, I think he’d be a great MI to target late, because you can certainly wait awhile for him – he’s going 312th in MDC and 327th in NFBC drafts.
2B/3B Mike Aviles – BOS
Mike Aviles is the new starting SS for the Boston Red Sox. Did you know that? It doesn’t seem like many people do. Playing every day in that lineup alone gives a player value, even if he is expected to hit 9th. An 85% contact rate lends credence to the fact that he’s hit over .300 in 2 semi-full seasons, so expecting him to hit .285 or so in Boston is reasonable. Add in the fact that he’s a great pull hitter and Boston has that Green Monster thing in LF – I can sure see Aviles hitting a lot of doubles off that in 2012. Aviles is capable of double digit HR as well as SB – in fact he stole 28 bases in about 700 ABs over the previous 2 seasons. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to hit HRs in Fenway than it is in Kaufman Stadium. So Aviles can hit some HR, steal some bases, and hit for AVG in a high-octane offense… what’s not to like? Combine those qualities with the fact that he has yet to reach 425 ABs in a single season and you have a super sleeper here if he gets full-time ABs. Punto will probably get the occasional start, but the real threat to Aviles’ playing time will be how quickly Jose Iglesias, their SS of the future, progresses. I say if Aviles hits, he probably doesn’t have to worry. Upside: 12 HR/25 SB/.310… Expect: 10 HR/17 SB/.285 (given full-time ABs). Oh yeah, did I mention he also has dual eligibility at 2B and 3B (and therefore CI and MI)? What’s that? He’s starting the year as the regular SS? Oh, I guess he’ll have triple position eligibility after starting 10 games then (including SS AND 3B). And how early do you have to take him? How does pick #294 in MDC or #383 in NFBC sound? Yeah, I like it too… he could end up making Daniel Murphy and his triple positional eligibility look like a rip off. Keep in mind, though, that his ADP is likely to rise once more people catch on to the fact that he’s Boston’s starting SS… a lot of the earlier NFBC drafts were when Scutaro was still the starter in Boston so Aviles didn’t have a lot of value then.
2B/SS Alexi Casilla – MIN
Casilla is another guy who just can’t seem to have sustained success in the majors. A big part of that is the fact that he keeps getting injured… he has yet to top 385 ABs in a season thus far. His 88% contact rate and great speed make him a good sleeper pick IF he can stay healthy. His upside is a .285 AVG with 35 SB, but expect closer to a .270 AVG with 20 SB. He’s likely to hit at the bottom of a weak lineup, so don’t count on much in the way of R/RBI… still the combination of a solid AVG with 20 SB and dual eligibility at 2B and SS makes him a solid deep sleeper for where you can get him – pick #334 in NFBC satellite drafts. He’s actually a rip-off for where he goes in MDC drafts – pick #230 (ahead of Jose Altuve and Kelly Johnson somehow).
2B/SS Tyler Greene – STL
Greene is a deep DEEP sleeper… he’s likely to go unnoticed and undrafted in most drafts… which might make him my favorite deep sleeper because if he does break out, it’s going to be one of those that most people never even considered. Greene is the current favorite to start at 2B for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. In fact, GM John Mozeliak called Greene an “unbelievable talent.” Looking at his MLB history so far, it’s difficult to see why he’d possibly be considered an “unbelievable talent.” He’s had 3 straight 100 AB stints in which he failed to hit over .222, though he did steal 11 bases last season in only 104 ABs. What makes him so intriguing is the fact that he has shown 15 HR/30 SB ability in the minors. While he also walks 11% of the time (good), the problem for him is his low contact rate (75%) coupled with his high strikeout rate (26%) – suggesting he’ll probably never hit better than .260 (likely closer to .240). Greene is a guy you can probably take with one of your last picks in a 15-team league… in other words you can get him REAL LATE. How many starting dual eligibility players with his power/speed upside are you going to find anywhere near that late? He’s going 443rd in MDC and 519th in NFBC drafts.
SS Tyler Pastornicky – ATL
The 22 year-old top prospect for the Braves comes with little fanfare. It seemed the Braves did not want to go into 2012 with him as their starting SS, but indeed that is what they will do. Pastornicky has tons of speed. To give you an idea of what kind of speed we’re talking about, he stole 57 bases in 2009… he only stole 27 bases last season though. Still, he’s fully capable of 20+ steals in his rookie season… unfortunately that might be all he’s good for. He’ll likely eventually hit for double digit HRs, but for now, I’d expect closer to 7 HR and a .250-.260 AVG. Hitting 8th in the lineup with the pitcher behind him won’t make him any more attractive, but a starting SS with speed upside around pick #377 in NFBC drafts is nothing to sneer at. The fact that he’s going around pick #265 in MDC is a little ridiculous though.
3B Mat Gamel – MIL
Mat Gamel is the ultimate post-hype prospect. Like Chris Davis, it seems like he’s been around forever but he’s still only 26 years-old. Unlike Chris Davis, Gamel hasn’t gotten anything close to a real shot at starting in the majors… mostly because his defense at 3B was so bad. He did flop in a 128 AB stint in 2009, but hasn’t received another shot since. All he did last season was hit .310 with 28 HRs in AAA. We haven’t yet seen enough of him to figure out if he has what it takes to be successful in the MLB, but we’re going to find out this season as he’s taking over starting 1B duties in the wake (or tidal wave?) of Prince leaving. He has legitimate 25 HR pop and could also hit for an AVG north of .280 if he keeps his strikeout rate low and walk rate high… but I’d expect something in the neighborhood of .265-.270 instead. He’s likely to hit near the bottom of the Brewers’ lineup, so don’t expect great R/RBI stats unless he gets moved up, but with Gamel, you’re drafting him because of his upside, not his expected production. The fact that he’ll have dual eligibility (3B/1B) 10 games into the season doesn’t hurt either. He’s going around pick #253 in MDC and #333 in NFBC drafts.
3B Brent Morel – CWS
Finally, the last of the White Sox sleepers… I feel like I’ve covered every player they have in my sleeper posts so far. His .245 AVG last season was uninspiring, but with an 84% contact rate and .262 BABIP I’m willing to bet that improves significantly in 2012. Morel doesn’t have big upside, but he should be able to hit .270 (with upside) 12-15 HR and 8 SB. He had a huge September last season where he hit 8 HR with a .309 xBA (expected AVG), but that was due to an unsustainable 30% HR/FB rate. He’ll also likely be hitting toward the bottom of the order so don’t count on a lot of help from him in R/RBI. Still, he shouldn’t hurt you in anything, and he has a little upside to be a profitable player at a very weak 3B position. At pick #368 in NFBC drafts, I’ll take it. He probably isn’t worth a pick at #265 in MDC drafts though.
3B Jimmy Paredes – HOU
Speaking of players who get forgotten – this guy might be the poster boy. Paredes was a prospect who was called-up last season without much fanfare (it is Houston though) after skipping AAA. He definitely held his own in his first trial in the majors – hitting .286 with 2 HR and 5 SB in just 168 ABs. Speed is definitely his calling card. He stole 34 bases last season, and stole 50 in 2010! However, his AVG looks primed to take a huge hit as he had a very weak contact rate of just 71% last season with a 26% strikeout rate and just a 5% walk rate – in addition to an extremely lucky BABIP of .383. Now, his speed will likely keep his BABIP well above .300, but nowhere near .383 (.341 was his highest BABIP in the minors). Power-wise he should be able to hit about 10 HR. So I would expect a line of about .255 10 HR 25 SB (Zips is projecting 35 SB!) assuming he plays full-time as the starter at 3B. Not too shabby for a guy you can get well after pick #400 (#435 in MDC and #444 in NFBC).