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.
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Rookies On the Way:
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
A second round pick out of Arizona State, this 24-year old is bound for a late call-up by the contending Indians. A .300 hitter in the Minor Leagues, Kipnis has deployed a nice combination of power and speed at Triple-A this season. Considering second base is currently being help by Orlando Cabrera, who is batting just .244, it seems like promoting Kipnis would actually be an upgrade at the Major League level.
Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers
Just 20-years old, Turner was the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft and his ability to throw strikes may be enough to earn a call-up to the Big League level. The Tigers are not afraid to bring a young hurler to the Majors, after all, they did with the 20-year old Rick Porcello just three years ago. Turner is able to miss bats more effectively than Porcello, so in other words he has greater potential.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks seem afraid to let their young players contribute. Heck it took long enough for Brandon Allen to earn the call up to the Majors this season despite blasting 25 home runs last season at Triple-A. The problem here is that Allen, who hit 18 home runs with a .306 average at Triple-A before recently earning a promotion. Then there’s Paul Goldschmidt, a former 8th round pick with 80 home runs through three Minor League seasons. It might make sense to trade one of these two boppers, but with a .424 OBP and a .616 slugging, it looks like Goldschmidt is the one they want to keep.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays
The Rays have come to realize that they called upon Desmond Jennings to contribute a bit too early last season. They also are doing a great job of alleviating the pressure of replacing Carl Crawford from Jennings this season by keeping him in the Minors for an extended period. However, do not be confused, Jennings is very much a long-term solution for the Rays. After a mediocre start to the season, Jennings has come on as of late with 12 home runs, 17 steals, and now a .280 average. He still fans a bit too often, but Jennings has all five tools and will make his return to the Big Leagues in the coming weeks.
Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins
The 22nd pick of the 2009 draft, Gibson is a 6’6 right-hander with front of the rotation potential. He hasn’t had the best season so far at Triple-A, as his record is just 3-8 with a 4.68 ERA. However, the number to pay attention to is the 22 walks in 90.1 innings. While his stuff is solid, as suggested by his average of a strikeout per inning, what’s more impressive is his ability to control his entire arsenal of pitches. Improved game-calling by Major League catchers should help Gibson out, but based on his stuff and control, he could be a surprise contributor in the pennant race.