Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?
— by Mark Ross, published on Feb. 28, 2012
Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.
Note: Infield includes all players who have C, 1B, 2B, SS and/or 3B eligibility. Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.
2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Sleepers:
Michael Cuddyer, COL, 1B/2B/OF (No. 120 overall)
His versatility alone increases his value, especially if you play him at second. Cuddyer’s numbers (.284, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB) weren’t horrible last year and should be even better this year, his first with Colorado. Besides the home park advantage (switching from Target Field to Coors Field), the Rockies line up packs more offensive punch than the Twins. Colorado finished tied for seventh in the majors in runs last season, while Minnesota was 25th.
Ike Davis, NYM, 1B (No. 137 overall)
For Davis, it’s all about health and if he’s fully recovered from the ankle injury that limited him to just 36 games last year. He was off to a great start in 2011, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs, which translates into a .302-31-112 line when prorated to a full (162 games) season. The Mets moving the fences in at Citi Field certainly won’t hurt either.
Danny Espinosa, WAS, 2B (UR)
The batting average (.236) is a bit of a problem; but Espinosa still posted a near 20-20 campaign (21 HR, 17 SB) in his first full season in the majors. If he’s able to improve his contact rate (166 strikeouts), he could be in for a big 2012.
J.J. Hardy, BAL, SS (No. 141 overall)
Only two shortstops hit 30 home runs last season – Troy Tulowitzki and Hardy. When healthy, Hardy has hit for power, hitting a combined 50 home runs from 2007-08, and his overall numbers from 2011 (.269, 76 R, 27 2B, 80 RBI) are pretty solid. Shortstops that hit for power are few and far between, especially ones that figure to be available in the later rounds.
Adam LaRoche, WAS, 1B (UR)
His first season in Washington was a disaster (.172, 3 HR, 15 RBI in 43 games) that can be largely attributed to an injured shoulder. From 2006-2010, LaRoche’s seasonal average looked like this: .272, 26 HR, 89 RBI. You could do worse on a late-round filer, no?
Kendrys Morales, LAA 1B/OF (UR)
If healthy, and that’s a rather large “if,” Morales could put up huge numbers in an Angels lineup that now includes Albert Pujols. In 2009, Morales broke out in a big way with a .306-34-108 season and was on pace for similar numbers in 2010 (.290-11-39 in 51 games) before breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run. He hasn’t played in a game since May 29, 2010, but if he’s able to prove he’s ready during spring training, he could pick up where he left off almost two years ago.
2012 Fantasy Baseball Infield Busts:
Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE, SS (No. 66 overall)
Before last season Cabrera had hit a grand total of 18 home runs in four major league seasons. In 2011, he had nearly that many (14) before the All-Star break and finished the season with 25. He also struck out 119 times and cooled off quite a bit (.244, 10 2B, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 5 SB) after an incredible first half (.293, 22 2B, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 12 SB). Cabrera still offers production at shortstop, which is somewhat shallow, but I would be wary of drafting him based on a repeat of last season.
Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 3B (No. 61 overall)
Even though injuries plagued Rodriguez throughout last season, you can’t ignore his numbers either. A-Rod hit .276 with just 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games, his lowest run-producing totals since 1995. He was 19 that season and will turn 37 this July. It’s been an incredible run, but I think his days as a consummate fantasy producer are past him. His current consensus ranking puts him around the 6th round, but I won’t be the one taking him there.
Michael Morse, WAS, 1B/OF (No. 79 overall)
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Morse clubbed 31 home runs, drove in 95 and hit .303 in his first full season. So by calling him a “bust,” I’m not saying he’s going to pull an Adam Dunn this season and bottom out, but I am concerned that he won’t put up similar across-the-board numbers. You can’t ignore his low OBP (.360) and ugly walk-to-strikeout ratio (36:126). The power, which is something you want from your first baseman, will probably still be there, but don’t be surprised if the average dips and he profiles more along the lines of a Mark Reynolds (No. 113) when looking at the complete package.
Mike Napoli, TEX, C/1B (No. 38 overall)
Napoli hit four more home runs and drove in seven more last season compared to 2010, and he accomplished this in 27 less games and 84 fewer at bats. He also increased his batting average by 82 points (.238 to .320) and his OPS went from .784 to 1.046. Even with 2011’s incredible season included, Napoli is just a .264 career hitter, so don’t be surprised to see the average dip this season. He’s also not a full-time player (113 GP in 2011) and is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered during last year’s World Series. So despite his catcher-eligibility and appealing power potential, I think there are too many question marks to draft him in Round 4, which is where his current consensus ranking places him.
Chase Utley, PHI, 2B (No. 83 overall)
Injuries have had a lot to do with it, but you can’t help but notice the decline over the past three seasons in Utley’s numbers. Home runs have dropped from 31 in 2009 to 16 in 2010 to just 11 last season. His batting average has gone from .282 in ’09 to .259 last year and both runs and RBIs have decreased by more than 50 percent over the past three seasons. There are guys like Dustin Ackley, Jason Kipnis and Neil Walker, to name a few, that offer more upside than a 33-year-old Utley does at this point in his career.
Kevin Youkilis, BOS, 1B/3B (No. 72)
The last time Youkilis played in at least 145 games was 2008, which also was the last season he drove in more than 100 runs (115). In 2008-09 Youkilis averaged 28 home runs per season. He hit a total of 36 the past two seasons combined. A career .289 hitter, Youkilis should still hit for average, but probably shouldn’t be drafted as the run producer he was just three seasons ago.
Other Fantasy Baseball Content:
2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers