by Will Overton
You don’t win single league format fantasy leagues unless you can pinpoint a couple of late picks that can help you to that championship. In a standard mixed 10 team league one can get by with surface knowledge and a handful of big name players. But in NL and AL only leagues you only get a couple big name players on your team and you have to do real work to build the rest of your squad.
If you’re new to the single league format than you may have some extra homework to do before your NL only draft, but I am here to help. If you’re used to playing in mixed leagues like most are than some of these guys have never been on your radar before. But you’d do well to get to know these guys and do some homework of your own for some more guys like this.
Here are four of my favorite NL only league sleepers:
Jimmy Paredes – 3B, Houston Astros: This guy isn’t without his flaws, such as a way to high K rate and a way to low walk rate, but I still can’t help but take him in almost every NL only mock draft I have done. I have gone in depth in the past on here about how weak third base is in the national league once you get outside the top four.
Some choose to respond to this by overpaying for a guy like David Freese or Emilio Bonifacio, but if I miss out on one of the top four guys I’d just as soon wait and let someone else overspend on them and take someone with upside like Paredes.
The majority of Paredes value comes from his speed. One popular site out there touts that you shouldn’t spend too much for a guy who is only going to steal 15 – 20 bases. I think that might be a bit low for an estimate. Two years ago in the Yankees farm system he stole 50 bases, last year he had 29 at double-A before being called up and stealing another five. I think Paredes should take 20for sure and could hit 30 if he keeps his job. And don’t completely dismiss the power, he doesn’t have a ton, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach double figures there this season. There is a lot of hidden value on the Astros this season, Paredes is one of my favorites though.
Marco Scutaro – 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies: As of right now he is only SS eligible in most leagues, but he should gain 2B eligibility shortly into the season because that’s where he’ll be playing. Last season Scutaro found himself hurt often and sharing playing time when he was healthy. This year he is the number one second baseman by himself and he’ll be hitting in one of the first two spots in the Rockies lineup, right in front of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
Some may forget Scutaro scored 192 runs combined in 2009 and 2010 and has hit .275 or better each of the last three seasons. He doesn’t have a ton of pop, but in Colorado he should be able to get back into the double figures and approach 100 runs once again. If people are sleeping on Scutaro cause he’s 36 take it to your advantage and snatch him up, he won’t be the sexy pick of the draft, but he might be one of the smartest
Jerry Sands – OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: If the other people I your league are writing Sands off based on last year play that to your advantage. The Dodgers gave him a chance last season, but at 23 he struggled to make the adjustments, but he seemed to be getting the hang of things late in the season as he hit .342 in 73 September at-bats.
There will be people in your league who will focus on how he flopped in his early season callup after so much hype and they’ll forget about the reason he was so hyped to begin with. Between three different minor league levels in 2010 he had 38 HR’s and 20 SB’s. The steals fell off a bit at triple-A last season, but this kid has legitimate power. The Dodgers have an opening in the outfield and despite his slow spring they’re going to give him a chance to win the job. With outfield being weak this is the perfect high upside pick to make late in your draft.
Travis Wood – SP, Chicago Cubs: Another case of a poor 2011 season making people forget about a pretty strong 2010 season. Wood threw himself onto fantasy radars in 2010 by striking out 86 batters in 102.2 innings and finishing his time in the big leagues with a respectable 3.51 ERA and downright impressive 1.08 WHIP. Last season didn’t go as well as the walks were up, the K’s were down and the ERA finished at 4.84.
That said, Wood finds himself in a new home and a chance to show that 2010 wasn’t a fluke as he should get a shot at the rotation right from the beginning in Chicago. Wood isn’t an elite strikeout guy, but he has shown the ability in the minors and flashes in the majors of being a good one, and I think somewhere between 7 – 8 K/9 is within his reach. And while Wood struggled with walks a bit last season, that was the highest BB/9 he has shown since 2008. He might not get a lot of wins with the lowly Cubs offense supporting him, but as one of your final picks in an NL only draft, the upside that we have seen makes him worth taking a chance on.
Who are your NL only sleepers? Do you like these guys or are you staying away? As always I want to hear your opinions on the topic.