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.
By R.J. Anderson //
Over the last three seasons Prince Fielder has hit 130 home runs; or a home run for every 16.1 plate appearances. This season, though, Fielder has hit 15 homers in 340 trips to the plate; a jack per 22.7 plate appearances. Not only that, but Fielder’s .206 ISO would represent the lowest figure of his career since becoming a full-time player. ISO generally stabilizes after 350 plate appearances; with the season nearly halfway over, is it time to start getting concerned about Fielder’s lacking power?
The first thing most analysts will look for when examining a power loss is the percentage of home runs per fly balls hit. Fielder’s HR/FB% is currently a tick more than 17%. This is lower than expected when compared to his career figure of 20.1%. Even when one breaks Fielder’s rates down on a seasonal basis, it shows that this is a low rate of homers per balls in the air:
Fielder is hitting the same number of flyballs as his career rate and also the same number of groundballs. His batting average on balls in play is relatively steady too, meaning he’s not being robbed on screaming liners in the gap, or at least it doesn’t seem like it. Fielder’s just not having as many balls clear the wall as usual.
Given his big build and specific skill set, some would point to this as the beginning of the end for Fielder’s elite status. That seems overly pessimistic. Fielder is only 26 years old and while his belt is roughly the size of an asteroid belt, that doesn’t mean he’d suddenly lose power.
The popular comparison here would be Mo Vaughn. A barrel-chested, lefty-swinging first baseman with a belly and power who reached the majors at a later point in his career than Fielder, Vaughn enjoyed similar success. He hit at least 25 home runs in every season he recorded 450 or more plate appearances. It was in 2003 that injuries swamped Vaughn’s usefulness and he eventually retired, inconveniently early into his free agent contract with the Mets. But at the age of 26, Vaughn actually posted the best season of his career (to that point) with a slash line of .310/.408/.576. The big man could still hit, and did so into his early 30s.
Cecil Fielder is another popular comparison because, well, come on. Other than bloodlines, the pair don’t share too much in common. Besides, the elder Fielder also recorded the best season of his career as a 26-year-old, blasting 51 bombs for the Detroit Tigers. That suggests an early decline isn’t hereditary, nor is it a given based on his size. As this chart provided from FanGraphs shows, Prince is just having an unusual drop that the other two didn’t experience:
In the end, you should probably just keep Fielder on your roster, barring some unexpectedly massive trade offer. Expect some bounceback, because frankly there’s no reason not to.