by Will Overton
Every year in fantasy baseball there are those select few prospects out there that we all get super excited about and overpay for because they’re can’t miss prospects. And many times those can’t miss prospects end up missing for the first couple of seasons and eventually people stop overpaying for them and they start getting drafted later and later every year. And then once that draft stock has really plummeted for a couple of years the guy finally breaks out and someone in your league drafted/picked up a steal.
Prospects aren’t as easy to predict the success of as we sometimes want to think. The transition from the minor leagues to the big leagues is not always an easy one, some guys never can adjust and some guys just need a little bit of time. Just because a guy doesn’t pan out his first year or two doesn’t mean he never will, there is still a reason that all the so-called experts were high on the guy, and they may just need a little extra time to show it.
Alex Gordon was the perfect example of this last season. Gordon broke into the big leagues in 2007 and the expectations for him were through the roof. For two years he put up decent numbers, but nothing close to his hype. The next two years he completely flamed out altogether with injuries and inconsistency. Finally last season when no one was paying him any attention on draft day he broke out in a big way, and we all saw what the scouts had been raving about four years earlier.
Sometimes the best sleepers aren’t the unproven prospects that people are high on, but rather they’re the guys who were part of that group 2 – 3 years ago and still haven’t broken out. There are several candidates to be this season’s Alex Gordon type of breakout player, but I have four guys specifically that I want to bring up as some of my favorite post-hype sleeper candidates.
Pedro Alvarez – 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: I was one of many who fell prey to the Pedro Alvarez hype train last season. I remember buying him at my auction for what I thought was a steal of a price and than watching him completely bomb out to the point where I could no longer have him even sit on my bench in a keeper league. In his rookie season Alvarez showed some promise by going deep 16 times in 347 at-bats. The .256 average wasn’t a concern cause he was never expected to hit for a great average. However in his second season when he was supposed to be breaking out Alvarez managed just 4 HR’s in 235 at-bats with a .191 average and 80 K’s.
Most people won’t be touching Alvarez with a ten foot pole after last season, but I can’t help but be intrigued. In 2009 he hit 27 HR’s in the minors, in 2010 he hit 29 between the minors and majors. The power is real and it is amazing. The problem is the guy has to make contact. You shouldn’t expect more than a .250 average from Alvarez, but the Pirates are going to keep giving him chances, just like the Royals did with Gordon and eventually Alvarez is going to become a 30 – 40 HR per year guy, and you want him on your team when he does it.
Scott Sizemore – 2B/3B, Oakland A’s: He hasn’t had quite the same level of hype as some of the other guys listed here or Alex Gordon. But going into 2010 he was a lot of people’s rookie of the year prediction and a lot of people’s sleeper second baseman. Things didn’t work out so well and after being given a second chance in 2011 the Detroit Tigers gave up on Sizemore who was clearly too good for Triple –A where he was hitting over .400, but unable to adjust to big league pitching. Sizemore was traded to Oakland where he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but he did start showing signs of his promise. In 92 games with the A’s Sizemore had 11 HR’s and 4 SB’s while hitting .249. He also had double-digit runs and RBI’s in the last three months of the season. Sizemore’s .321 BABIP last season shows that he has the potential for a much better average if he can just start making contact more consistently. Sizemore has legitimate 20 – 25 HR and 10 – 15 SB potential which is quite appealing for a guy who still has 2B and 3B eligibility. Sizemore is one of my favorite sleepers for deep leagues and AL only formats.
Matt LaPorta – 1B, Cleveland Indians: The Indians scouts must have seen something special in Matt LaPorta because they traded C.C. Sabathia for a package centered around this guy back in 2008. Time may be running out for LaPorta in Cleveland though after two years of mediocrity. This is a guy who was traded for because he has real 30 Homerun kind of power potential. And while he strikes out more than you’d like, his K rates don’t really compare with many all or nothing sluggers. Yet it just hasn’t translated on the field of play where LaPorta has just 23 HR’s combined between the last two seasons which are James Loney kind of power numbers without the average.
LaPorta will be 27 when the season starts and I have to think he might be getting his last chance to make a statement in Cleveland. I wouldn’t reach for him outside of deep leagues, but I still believe he has the ability to hit 30 HR’s and drive in 100 RBI someday, and hopefully some of that comes out this season. I wouldn’t put money on it, but it wouldn’t shock me to see LaPorta hit .260 with 25 HR’s and 80 RBI this season. It’s worth the gamble in deep leagues.
Brian Matusz – SP, Baltimore Orioles: Here is my lone pitching contribution to this list. Yet of all four guys listed here Matusz might have had the most hype of all the last two seasons. Matusz was expected to become one of the top 25 pitchers in the game right from the get go despite pitching for the lowly Orioles and despite pitching against the stacked AL East offenses. Matusz did show promise in 2010 winning 10 games with a 4.30 ERA and 143 K’s in 175.2 IP. The wheels fell off in 2011 though as injuries and just plain awful pitching led to Matusz having a 1 – 9 record with a 10.69 ERA. Matusz was bad enough to make everyone forget about all the potential he was touted as having. Fortunately I don’t think the Orioles have forgotten about that potential and I do believe Matusz will get another shot this season.
Matusz will be just 25 years old when the season starts so it’s not like his best days are behind him, rather they still lie ahead. 2011 was a season to forget, but let’s not be so shortsighted as to forget about the way Matusz dominated the minor leagues before being called up in 2009 and let’s not forget that Matusz posted a 2.17 ERA over his last 11 starts in 2010 with a 7 – 1 record and 52 K’s in 62 IP. For where you will be able to get Matusz in your drafts I absolutely love this value.
Who do you all see as being this year’s big post-hype sleepers? Are you still buying into these four guys have after a few years of mediocrity or much worse? Give us your thoughts on the topic and as always feel free to disagree.