By Eriq Gardner //
We’re all familiar with the concept of “sleepers,” players who represent draft day bargains because for whatever reason — a lack of track record, inconsistency, or injury concerns — aren’t going as high in drafts as their potential value.
Let’s be greedy for a second.
Is it possible to find great players who are both cheap AND represent little risk?
Using the Bloomberg Sports Front Office Tool, I took this year’s list of sleepers (players whose B-Rank outpaces their average draft position) and filtered the group for “Durability” and “Consistency.” What follows are the Top 10 Safest Draft Bargains for the upcoming season:
- Josh Johnson
- Dan Haren
- Brandon Phillips
- Billy Butler
- Carlos Marmol
- Nick Markakis
- Joel Hanrahan
- Sergio Romo
- Rafael Soriano
- Daniel Bard
Josh Johnson has a little bit of a reputation for being injury-prone, having a Tommy John surgery a few years back, and missing the last month of last season with shoulder inflammation, but he’s also pitched nearly 400 innings these past two seasons as one of the elite hurlers in the game.
Dan Haren had a rough first half last season, and is known for some streakiness, but he always ends the season in good shape overall, with three consecutive seasons of at least 200 strikeouts, and an ERA in the 3s. He’s moving to the AL this year, but moves to a better pitcher’s ballpark.
Brandon Phillips is never a sexy option. He’s never finished as the top second baseman in baseball, and probably won’t ever. He’s just as consistent as they come in delivering positively in five categories every year.
Billy Butler and Nick Markakis probably represent disappointments to many competitors expecting better power numbers. Last season, each of these players languished in the power department, though it should be noted, they weren’t alone
. Nevertheless, both hit in prime positions in the lineup, make good contact with the ball, and hold the promise of a very good average with nice runs and RBIs. The stock drop for the lack of demonstrated power may be a bit of an overreaction.
Carlos Marmol and Joel Hanrahan are two solid closers less favored than the supposedly elite ones in the league, yet both bring something tasty to the table in 2011. For Marmol, it’s his huge strikeout rate. Last season, Marmol had 138 strikeouts, which bested quite a few starters in baseball in nearly a third a starter’s workload. For Hanrahan, he’s probably overlooked because he closes for the Pirates, but he’s another reliever who hit the 100 K mark in 2010 while demonstrating good command and a bright future.
Sergio Romo, Rafael Soriano, and Daniel Bard are probably overlooked because they are middle relievers at the moment, and most competitors would rather take a bad closer than a great reliever who doesn’t get saves. The data says this is bad judgement. Each of these three relievers post ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rates that definitely hold strong value in each of these categories. The prospect of getting saves given a turn of good fortune is just a bonus for these three.