BY ROB SHAW
When it comes to sleepers fantasy managers are often looking for late round picks that could contribute throughout the season. A more valuable sleeper is the talent who is already drafted in the middle rounds, but has the ability to reach superstar potential. Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer happens to fit that mold of sleeper.
The 22-year-old talent was the third overall pick of the 2008 draft. Last year he earned his first taste of Big League action and he found immediate success. The Miami native did it all. He blasted 19 home runs, swiped 11 bases, and offered a .293 average.
While Hosmer may be the Royals top young talent, he is not alone. After several years of struggles, the Royals finally have the making of a top-notch lineup with veterans such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon joined by Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, amongst others.
This season Hosmer should take another step forward and fantasy managers considering drafting Mark Texeira in the first or second rounds are better off scooping Hosmer in the fourth or fifth rounds. He is more well-rounded than Texeira and could end up offering similar power production as well. Hosmer is one of the top sleepers in baseball even if you have to draft him in the middle rounds.
The Reds already have one megastar in the form of Joey Votto, but there may be another in the lineup. Jay Bruce actually had more buzz around him when he made his debut than Votto. The 12th pick of the 2005 draft, Bruce has been in the Big Leagues since he was 21-years old. While there have been some growing pains over the last few seasons, he has improved, and at 25-years old he should be closer to his prime this season.
Bruce has always possessed power. He already has 100 career home runs before he even turned 25. Last season was his first reaching the 30-home run plateau, as he slammed 32 round-trippers. More impressive for his sabermetric fans, Bruce offered great patience at the plate with 71 walks, which made up for his .256 batting clip.
One of the streakiest hitters in the game, Bruce blasted 12 home runs with a .342 average in May, but then hit less than .240 in three of the next four months. Fantasy managers are hoping that another year under his belt will lead to some maturity and consistency at the plate. Bruce is one of the rare talents who can slam 40 home runs with a .280-plus average. However, that’s just talk of potential, and when drafting you need to take more into account.
He’s already in his mid-20s, but Paul Goldschmidt could end up being a fantasy star as soon as this season. An eighth round pick out of Texas State, Goldschmidt has been a pleasant surprise in the Diamondbacks farm system.
Goldschmidt’s power is legit, as he has slammed 73 round-trippers over the last two seasons. He also has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks the last few seasons. In his Big League debut, Goldschmidt slammed eight home runs in 48 games. He also swiped four bases, which is a pleasant surprise for a slugger.
While sluggers often take some time to develop in the Big Leagues, Goldschmidt is expected to produce as soon as this season. BloombergSports.com Front Office projects 30 home runs this season, which could land the Diamondbacks right back in the thick of the hunt for the Division Title.
Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports @MicheleSteele
Daniel Murphy, Utility, Mets
I am not sure what the Mets will do once Ike Davis returns to the lineup be it this year or next. Daniel Murphy is simply a hired bat who can offer some serious offense. The problem is on the defensive side, as Murphy is at his best at third base, which happens to be the home for Mr. David Wright.
Murphy has his average up to .315 this season, with line drive power: 6 HR, 21 doubles and 2 triples. Murphy has hit .385 this month after hitting .330 in June.
Murphy is just 26 years old and bats left-handed, so this is a nice problem to have for the Mets.
Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
The second overall pick of the 2005 draft, Gordon has long been considered a bust due to the slow start to his career, but this season he has finally met expectations.
The 27-year old boasts 11 home runs with 24 doubles and 8 swipes. His average is up to .296 after batting just .215 last season. His plate discipline has been so impressive that the team opted to have him leadoff before pushing him down in the order to take advantage of his power.
Gordon is now considered a potential trade target for teams in need of offense.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Royals
You would think Jeff Francoeur is 40 years old since he’s played for three teams over the last year. Though he has not been able to sustain the hot start to the season (after batting .316 in April, Francoeur hit just .233 and .235 the next two months), he has found a way to contribute to a fantasy roster. He’s doing this on the basepaths, as he has already swiped 15 bases, nearly double his previous high.
The .266 average still leaves something to be desired, but his 13 home runs and 58 RBI may be enough to force yet another trade.
Michael Morse, OF, Nationals
At 29 years old, Morse is a late bloomer, but he is also one of the better hitters in baseball right now with an even .300 average and 15 home runs. Morse has already matched his previous career-high in home runs, set last season. His OBP is a healthy .348 and while walks are hard to come by, Morse makes up for it with a .523 slugging percentage.
Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals
This 26-year old left-handed hitter was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Miami. However, Jay never quite earned top prospect status, and this year he has surprised people as a solid platoon option.
Jay is hurt by a lack of patience at the plate and limited power, but you can’t argue with the .310 average, which comes a season after hitting .300. In total, Jay boasts a .304 career average with 11 home runs in 516 at bats.
Jay has made a case to get regular at bats, considering he hits both lefties and righties for at least a .300 average throughout his career. However, with Lance Berkman leading the league in homers, Jay’s playing time will continue to be limited for the remainder of the season.
by Eno Sarris
Think back to 2006. That quaint comedy Beerfest was taking the country by storm while we were all saying prayers for Barbaro’s quick recovery. Faint memories of a movie called Little Miss Sunshine waft through the house like the scent of apple cobbler. Ah, those were the days.
Those were also the last days that featured Alex Gordon as The Future of the Royals Franchise. He was tearing up the minor leagues at the time, a number-two pick overall making good on his promise with a stellar .325/.427/.588 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in Double-A. Fans of the powde -blue were practically salivating at the thought of the new George Brett rescuing the franchise. Gordon was the epitome of the hyped prospect and was being penciled in for the 2007 Rookie of the Year hardware before the season began.
Unfortunately this story was not going to be without some speed bumps. Gordon produced an underwhelming .247/.314/.411 major league stat line in 2007. Though he played a decent third base and was actually an above-average player when appraised as a whole, the hype balloon was popped. If his second season’s line, .260/.351/.432, was also not very inspiring, and last season his year was cut short by an injury, why is there hope for Gordon to have a good year this season? He’s currently hurt – could his stock fall any lower? Take a look at the graphical representation of his 2009 compared to other major league batters in the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Kit. Yuck.
a player on the hopes of a rags-to-riches journey is always enticing for a fantasy player
looking for value. Consider that Gordon actually showed some signs of
life between his first two years, and you’ll find that his 189-plate appearance season in 2009 is not enough to write those gains
off. If you instead focus on his first two years, here’s a short list
of underlying statistics that Gordon improved in his sneaky-good
sophomore season: walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power, line drive
percentage, fly ball percentage, home runs per fly ball, reach rate,
and contact percentage.
That’s a lot of improvement. In other
words, Gordon walked more, struck out less, reached at fewer balls outside the strike zone, and hit the
ball higher, further and harder. Isn’t that the kind of improvement you want from your best prospect? There’s reason for a bit of concern after last season, and Gordon’s health needs to be watched. Still, there’s reason for hope too.
Looking at his minor league
numbers and you might still expect super-stardom from Gordon, but there is
a slight asterisk that must come into play. As an accomplished college
star, Gordon hit Double-A at 22 years old (the average age of his league that year was 24).
Age matters when considering a player’s statistics in the minor leagues
– if a teenager is holding his own against top talent (like Elvis Andrus, who was 19 in the same league in 2008, or Jason Heyward
hitting the majors at 19), he gets extra credit. If a guy in his
mid-20s comes in and destroys younger pitching, his stats lose a
tiny bit of luster. Have some fun and check Kevin Maas‘ minor league statistics and the picture becomes clearer.
any case, the positives here still outweigh the negatives, as nebulous
as Gordon’s future may seem. Gordon has a good bit of power, a little
bit of speed, plays an important position, and has an improving
approach at the plate. The ending of this movie has not yet been
written, and it may just yet be the story of a Post-Hype Sleeper that
For more information on Alex Gordon and other cheap third-sackers this year, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kit for yourself.