2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Position-By-Position

Duda Math. Lucas is Legit.
Photo Credit: slgckgc

The word “sleeper” means different things to different people. Some think a sleeper is a very cheap fantasy player that could provide great value. Others think it is simply a player who is undervalued. Still others think it’s those crusty things your eyes get when you first wake up. Regardless of your definition, the Sons of Roto crew has compiled a list a sleepers for your consumption. Open wide suckas.

More after the jump:

Matt Wieters
Again, the once highly touted prospect is going to be a popular sleeper pick in 2012. This year, however, is when reaching for Wieters will truly pay huge dividends. Last year, we saw an expected power surge, but his somewhat low BABIP of .276 resulted in a mediocre .262 AVG. What’s interesting is that Wieters actually showed improvement in his batted ball percentages. He hit more fly balls and line drives, while pounding fewer grounders than in 2010. This suggests that he suffered from some poor luck in 2011. Wieters is still young, so expect continued progression in 2012. Think a line of .290/25/75/85. Those numbers will play nicely at the always thin catcher position. –Justin Occhionero

Geovany Soto
He blew up in 2008, but the buzz has died down as injuries have sapped his power and he hit a paltry .228 last year. Soto is still young and I think he has the potential to seriously outperform his ADP this season. –Sweet Potato Fries

Salvador Perez
After flying through the minor leagues in 2011 and having a successful 39 game audition at the end of the regular season, Perez has secured his role as Kansas City’s long-term solution at catcher. In just 39 games last season, Perez had a .331 batting average, three homers, 21 RBIs, and 20 runs scored. Sure he’s missing a chunk of time early in the season, but you could do a lot worse at the catcher position (especially in two-C leagues). Draft and stash him. –Jesse Potes

Nick Hundley
Though he is sharing time with John Baker to start the season, Hundley has intriguing potential. He has good pop (career .207 ISO at Petco), makes consistently hard contact, and finished 2011 on fire (.367 BA and six HRs in final 37 games). Most mixed-league owners won’t need to consider him, but those of you in deep leagues or two-catcher formats should take the plunge. –Starbonell

Ike Davis
Ike was bitten by the injury bug last year, which ultimately makes him a sexy value pick in 2012. Keep in mind, Davis was actually having quite the impressive sophomore season before succumbing to injury. He improved on his batted ball percentages, K%, and showed some good plate discipline evident in his improved contact and O-Swing percentages. What’s most important though, is that Davis, albeit in a small sample size, posted an impressive .240 ISO and .543 slugging percentage. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season, and he would have hit 28 home runs. I expect that due to his injury last season, many will shy away from him in 2012. Ike Turner may have beat up Tina, but Ike Davis will smack baseballs in 2012. A 30 HR season is on the horizon. –JO

Ike Davis
As a Mets fan I am slightly biased, but Ike Davis showed glimpses of greatness before suffering a season-ending injury. The ankle looks healthy and we like Ike. This guy has serious 30 home run potential. –SPF

Lucas Duda
I know this might be technically cheating because Duda started 37 games at first base and 38 games in right field, but his first base eligibility makes this legit. While everyone else in your draft is getting chubbed up about another sleeper for the Mets (Ike Davis), you can get similar production in later rounds by drafting Lucas Duda. In 100 games last season, Duda batted .292 with ten homers, 50 RBIs, 38 runs scored and did not look overmatched by major league pitching like he did during the 2010 season. I would project Duda to bat something like .275 with 20 homeruns, 80 RBIs, and 70 runs scored. That is not bad at all for a late round first baseman. –JP

Lucas Duda
I second Jesse’s Duda nomination. And I actually think 30 HRs are well within reach of the powerful Mets slugger. Duda Math rocked .265 ISO in 2010 and .295 mark in 2011 in the minors. With the fences moving in at Citi Field, his power should play well in New York. He’ll even hit in the middle of the lineup since the Mets have a dearth of impact bats, which is good news for his RBI potential. –Big Poppa Pockets

Jason Kipnis
In 2011, my boy Jason quietly had an impressive stint in the majors, and it doesn’t appear many noticed. Dustin Ackley received much more hype. That’s good for him, and I’m sure he’ll turn out to be an excellent baseball player, but it’s Kipnis who will be the much better value in 2012. Last year, Kipnis showed us glimpses of the type of player he can be. Adding in his AAA numbers, Kipnis posted a .278/19/89/73/17 line last year. Now, although most of his 2011 was spent in the minors, Kipnis had similar success at both levels, and even improved on his ISO (.204 to .235). Although still young, Kipnis is a legit 20/20 threat. Unless you are reaching for the top dogs at the position, it’s wise to wait on a breakout player. Kipnis, skilled yet free from much hype, is said player. Draft, sit back, and relax. –JO

Aaron Hill
He went from a power hitter to a speed guy out of nowhere last year, but was still a bum. His bomb total has dropped three years in a row and he struggled mightily in his first season with Arizona. However, he also stole a career high 21 bags last season and this could be the year he settles in and puts it all together. –SPF

Jemile Weeks
Jemile might not be as exciting as his brother Rickie Weeks, but he does possess a lot of talent that can translate into solid fantasy numbers. Weeks is a high BA/SB type of player that can provide some excellent fantasy value in a full season as starter. Weeks stole 22 bases in just 97 games last year and will be looking to put the game in motion and get something going for an A’s team that is projected to have a poor offense. This leads me to believe that we are looking at around a .300 batting average and 30-35 stolen bases given a full, healthy season from Jemile. –JP

Jose Altuve
Because of his age (22), Altuve is at risk of being overmatched in his first full season in the bigs. That said, the price is right for a player with his skill set. As a 21-year-old rookie in 2011, dude looked right at home by striking out a meager 12.4 percent of the time while hitting a respectable .276. He has 20-plus SB potential and even showed good pop last year in the minors (.202 ISO between A and AA). People are becoming more hip to Altuve as we draw closer to the season, but homeboy still has the most upside of any of the two-baggers available after the top 15 are off the board. –Daddy Starbucks

Sean Rodriguez
S-Rod ran into some tough times last year. He struggled hitting the ball, resulting in a pitiful .223 AVG. He lost playing time as a result, and this obliterated his fantasy production. Most will not forgive him for this, which will affect his draft stock in the process. This bodes well for his sleeper status in 2012. Despite the poor season, signs point to greener pastures. Rodriguez actually showed better plate patience in 2011, striking out less and walking more than he did in 2010. Furthermore, despite the .223 AVG, Rodriguez actually improved on his Contact%. He also posted a .268 BABIP, suggesting that bad luck paid him a visit in 2011. As such, you can expect an increase in his BA. What makes him intriguing, however, is that Rodriguez still hasn’t tapped into the power potential he showed in the minor leagues. He did hit more fly balls in 2011, which may indicate that a power surge is imminent. Rodriguez will likely come very cheap in 2012 drafts, so if you choose to wait on shortstops, you might as well select a high ceiling, 20/20 threat. –JO

Yunel Escobar
Escobar has always been super-talented, but he simply didn’t give a shit while in Atlanta. He showed glimpses of what he can be in his first season with Toronto last year, and I think a .300 BA with 15 home runs and solid run and RBI production is definitely in the cards. –SPF

Ruben Tejada
Another young player for the Mets makes my list of sleepers. Tejada will be the everyday shortstop following the departure of Jose Reyes. Tejada is a young player that elevated his game in just his second season for the Mets. Tejada batted .284 with 36 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and five stolen bases in 96 games in 2011, but batted over .300 after the All-Star break. I am projecting Tejada to build on his breakout second half and post a line of .290 with a couple homers, 50 RBIs, 60 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. –JP

Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio certainly has his fans, so you can’t expect him to come dirt cheap. Still, for a player with SS eligibility and 40-steal wheels, he’s a great buy in the 14th or 15th round. Shit, I’d reach for him in the 10th round if I’m needing a SS. A lot of people view Bonifacio as a fringe MLB starter, but he has improved his walk rate over the past couple of years while also making consistently hard contact (24.0 LD% in 2011). Look, SS is a weak ass position, so when you can get your hands on a player with Bonifacio’s potential, you jump on it. –Dudley Do Work

Mike Moustakas
Truthfully, I want to put Brett Lawrie here. He is a monster and has the potential to be a top three third baseman. The problem with Lawrie, though, is that he is well known and fantasy owners will reach early for him, thus eliminating most of his value. So, my top sleeper in 2012 is another young, highly touted player: Mike Moustakas. The moose made his MLB appearance last year and immediately turned heads… in a bad way. He was average in June, abysmal in July, and not much better in August. Touted as a power threat, Mosutakas only hit one home run in his first three months in the majors. This all changed in September and October though, as Moustakas hammered five home runs with a .227 ISO and a spectacular .352 AVG. Although I don’t expect miracles in 2012, I do expect Moustakas to continue on his hot finish. Expect a line of .280/25/90/95/5. Draft him at a bargain and win your league. It’s that simple. –JO

David Freese
Freese should be targeted by the true gamblers. He is terribly injury prone but boasts a career .298 average and, as evidenced in the playoffs last year, has legit power potential. If D-Freese can remain healthy, he will be an absolute steal. –SPF

Kyle Seager
Seager was always an afterthought in the Seattle’s minor league system because he entered with Dustin Ackley. While everyone was touting Ackley as the next great hitter in Seattle (and rightfully so), everyone thought of Seager as more of an average hitter that profiled more as a utility infielder than an everyday starter at third. However, last season Seager was able to open eyes and change the minds of some critics. After starting the season in AA, Seager was promoted to AAA after just 66 games. All Seager did in AAA was hit .387 with three homers, 17 RBIs, and 24 runs scored in just 24 games of action. When finally getting the call-up to Seattle, Seager struggled at first but settled in nicely to bat for a .275 average over the final two months of the season. I am expecting Seager to bat about .280, with 10-15 homers, 55-65 RBIs, and 70 runs scored. –JP

Chone Figgins
The fantasy community has had “Chone ‘Nuff” of this guy, but he makes for a great, cheap gamble. With Ichiro Suzuki moving to third in the lineup, Figgins is slated to be the leadoff hitter in Seattle after spending his Mariners career to date hitting second. That’s huge news for Figgins’ value, as he has historically done his best work as a leadoff hitter. Yes, 2011 was atrocious for Figgins, but he should be better in 2012. He actually sported a career-best 89.9 Contact% last year and when you couple that with his .215 BABIP, his .188 BA looks like a fluke. You have to figure he still has 20-30 SB potential, so if he can just get his game going again, he could turn quite a profit on his ADP. –Stats All Folks

Alex Rios
Words cannot describe how awful Rios was in 2011. I’ll give it a go though. He was so awful that his .223 AVG made Mark Reynolds grimace. So naturally, because he was so disgusting in 2011, he’s going to be drafted by me as often as possible. Call me crazy, but the stats point to a bounce back campaign. Despite the poor average, Rios actually improved on all of his batted percentages and posted career bests in his Contact% and K%. So in essence, Rios actually hit the ball better in 2011. So why the bad average? Well, like in most cases, the bad average could be explained by his career-low .237 BABIP. So what does this all mean? In short, Rios’ poor average was a fluke, and I fully expect him to hit in the .275-.280 range. He will likely enter 2012 drafts highly undervalued, so do what’s right and fight the good fight with Rios by your side. –JO

Colby Rasmus
Rasmus has the pedigree and should take a step forward this year. I love the Toronto lineup and Colby will certainly benefit from the supporting firepower. –SPF

Mike Carp
The Big Fish busted onto the scene for the Mariners over the final 64 games of 2011. After absolutely raking in AAA, the Mariners had no choice but to call him up and let him play every day after the team had already fallen out of contention. Carp took advantage of his opportunity for everyday playing time by batting .286 with 12 homers, 46 RBIs, and 27 runs scored. The M’s were a team that was STARVING for some offensive production and power, and Carp provided it. Another interesting statistic is that Carp’s average home run distance was 413 feet, which is longer than power hitters Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, and Jose Bautista. No one will say that Carp is a better power hitter than any of those guys, but his HRs were definitely not cheap. He earned every one of them by murdering the ball. Carp will see a ton of at-bats for the rebuilding Mariners. There is no reason to think that Carp can’t hit about .280 with 20-25 homers, 80 RBIs, and 70 runs scored. –JP

Jason Bay
He’s been an absolute bust with the Mets to date, but Jason Bay should enjoy his best season with New York in 2012. The fences are being moved in at Citi Field and the pure pull hitter should benefit. His skill set hasn’t exactly deteriorated during his time in NY as his walk rate is still high and he can still steal double-digit bases. Remember, this is a player with a career .219 ISO. Yes, moving to expansive Citi Field was supposed to hurt his power a little, but not to the point where he’s rocking a .128 ISO last year and a .143 mark in 2010. He is simply better than that. The beautiful thing is, you can probably get him in the last round or two of fantasy drafts and can most likely buy him for a buck in auctions. –Star Fox

Stephen Strasburg
I know, this seems like an easy one. Everyone knows about Strasburg, everyone thinks he will be great, many will draft him early and often. Having said that, Strasburg is coming off a lost season due to Tommy John Surgery, so early drafters have somewhat stayed away from drafting him as a legitimate SP1. This will prove to be a huge mistake. In his few starts last year, Strasburg showed us the same skill set he had before the injury. In fact, Strasburg actually posted an incredible 1.50 ERA, 2.46 SIERA, and 2.43 xFIP. I’ll say it again: the guy’s a monster and we haven’t even seen the best of him yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes 2012 as the number one ranked starter, but you won’t have to pay that price to get him. He’s the reason why many people will win their league. –JO

Trevor Cahill
He was dealt to Arizona in the offseason and is a classic bounce back guy who had a sub-three ERA in 2010. –SPF

Erik Bedard
Bedard will be drafted very late in most drafts because of his injury history, but if he is able to put together a fully healthy year, you will be getting an absolute steal. Since 2004, Bedard has never had an ERA over 4.00. Going to a place where there isn’t much pressure on him to succeed, Bedard should settle in nicely because he is not a huge fan of the media. If he can stay healthy, you are looking at a guy that could win 10-15 games, strike out a lot of batters, and give you a strong ERA and WHIP. Health is the key, but Bedard has significant upside. –JP

Francisco Liriano
Nope, my love for the Cisco Kid has not dissipated. Even with an atrocious performance in 2011, Liriano still generated a lot of swings-and-misses and forced plenty of weak contact. The chief problem last year was the control, as he walked way too many dudes. He showed he can corral the walks in 2010 (2.72 BB/9), so any improvement in that area could allow his fantasy numbers to soar. Best of all, he’s coming crazy cheap in all drafts/auctions. For a dude with SP1 talent, that’s awesome. –Kid Clutch

Kenley Jansen
One acronym best describes Jansen’s 2011 campaign: WTF. Jansen had an astonishing 16.1 K/9 in 2011. Again, WTF. Though he will not enter the 2012 season as the Dodgers’ closer, Javy Guerra will need to be on point to keep Jansen off his ass. If Jansen does end up closing, he could easily become one of the league’s dominant ninth inning men. Because he’s not a closer (yet), Jansen will come at a bargain. –JO

Jason Motte and Rafael Betancourt
Motte has been expected to take over the closing job for years and Betancourt stepped up in a big way last year when Huston Street fell apart. –SPF

Rafael Betancourt
With Huston Street gone by way of trade, Betancourt will step in to the closer role and do very well for the Rockies in 2012. After the All-Star break, he posted an insane 39:1 K/BB. In a closer, you want someone who will be able to strike out hitters without walking anyone, and Betancourt obviously has those traits. I project a 2.80 ERA with 30-35 saves, 75 strikeouts, and a WHIP around 1.00. –JP

Matt Thornton
A highly popular RP last year on draft day, Thornton lost a lot of his luster after a sub-par 2011 highlighted by an atrocious run as Chicago’s closer early in the season. He enters the 2012 season as the clear frontrunner for ninth-inning duties, and even manager Robin Ventura declared him the favorite. Thornton throws in the mid-90s and, most importantly, is a lefty. The White Sox probably want to pump up his value to maximize their return in a potential mid-season trade. Left-handed bullpen arms are always in demand, so when you have one that is also capable of closing games, you know they can fetch a nice haul from a desperate, competitive club. Sure there is some risk that Thornton will be moved to a set-up role if traded, but the price is still cheap enough on draft day for me to feel comfortable rolling with him. –Fidel Cash-Flow



About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.