Tagged: Sleepers

Infielders to Target: Mike Aviles, Bryan LaHair


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

The Red Sox willingness to trade away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie was certainly bold, but really the bigger story was the franchise’s confidence in former Royals middle infielder Mike Aviles.

A career .288 hitter, Aviles has been a fine contributor in the Majors when healthy.  The New York native making himself at home in Boston doesn’t have much power, but in a solid lineup he can pile up many runs.  He is also a sneaky stolen base threat.  Think of Aviles in the same mold as Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, except for a much lower cost and with shortstop eligibility.

Aviles and the Red Sox played at the hitter-friendly US Cellular in Chicago this weekend.  Though he finished hitless in his final seven at bats, the 31-year-old veteran makes for a great start in the next series against Oakland.  The series will be played in Fenway Park where he already boasts two home runs and a .333 average this season.

The Cubs slugger Bryan LaHair reminds me a bit of Michael Morse, a late bloomer with plenty of power who finally broke out last season with the Nationals.  LaHair, is a 29-year-old slugger who entered the season with just five home runs to his credit.  He spent the last six seasons at Triple-A and last season blasted 38 round-trippers with a .331 average.

So far LaHair is batting .382 with the majority of those hits good for extra bases.  While those numbers will regress quite a bit, that does not mean that he can’t still end up as one of the greatest surprises of the season.  LaHair can blast 25 home runs with 90 RBI.

In many ways, he is an upgrade over Carlos Pena for the Cubbies at first base.  He may not be the defensive gem that Pena is, but with an average .150 better than what Pena has offered the last few seasons, the Chicago fan base is not complaining.  Neither should fantasy managers.

For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com for access to Front Office 2012!

MLB Sluggers on the Rise: Eric Hosmer, Jay Bruce, and Paul Goldschmidt



Twitter: @RobShawSports


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.

A Look at the Young and Old On the Rise



Follow us on Twitter: @BloombergSports @RobShawSports @MicheleSteele


Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, Mariners

The Mariners have surprised us in recent weeks with an offense we did not know could exist in Safeco.  While we’ve discussed Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp, another fine hitter to emerge this season is Kyle Seager.  A third round pick in the 2009 draft out of North Carolina, Seager boasts a .313 average after a hitting binge that included 15 hits over six games.  In 24 games at Triple-A Seager hit .387 with a .585 slugging percentage.  So success at the dish is nothing new for the 23-year-old prospect. 


John Mayberry, OF, Phillies

While everyone drafted Dominic Brown in their fantasy drafts this season, it’s instead the 2005 first round pick John Mayberry who is enjoying the better season in the Phillies outfield.  The 27-year-old slugger has blasted 12 home runs with 41 RBI through 77 games.  Best of all, Mayberry is not a one-trick pony, as he has swiped six bases already this season.  Mayberry has blasted 18 home runs in 266 career at bats in the Big Leagues and while he can still improve his plate discipline and lift the average some, Mayberry has earned his way to your fantasy roster. 


Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves

The Braves legend will not go away.  Chipper Jones has been written off a number of times this season because of his usually array of injuries, but right now he is putting together a nice little hot streak with plenty of power.  The batting average is up to .281 on the season with 13 home runs and 58 RBI.  Since the All-Star break, Jones is batting .387 with five home runs.  51 home runs shy of 500 for his career, the 39-year-old Jones has already stated that he intends to come back for another season. 


Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Since the All-Star break, Derek Jeter has hit .355 with 26 runs in 37 games.  While that’s nice and all, what’s more remarkable to me is that on the season his average has soared all the way up to .299.  So is Jeter back to being Jeter?  Yes and no.  The average is good and the 13 steals isn’t bad, but the limited power he once had is all but gone.  During his hot streak, Jeter has just 10 extra bases including one home run.  While he’s not a power guy, it seems that a lot of his hits are coming on grounders with eyes.  Regardless, Jeter has played a large part of keeping the Yankees afloat with A-Rod.  He also took away a lot of the pressure for next season, as fans will not be clamoring for a position switch.

Top Dual Threat (Power & Speed) Sleepers

By Tommy Rancel //

Players who offer power and speed are given premium price tags on both the real and fantasy levels. Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford will go within the top 50 picks of most leagues. If you are unable to land one of these primetime players, don’t worry. There are dual threats to be found even as we pass the 100th selection in most standard drafts.

Using Bloomberg Sports’ projection system, here are the top-5 power and speed sleepers with an average draft position of 100 or greater.

Drew Stubbs
Andres Torres
Ian Desmond
Franklin Gutierrez
Ben Zobrist

In his first full-season at the big league level, Drew Stubbs became one of the game’s true power and speed threats. He was one of just three major leaguers with at least 20 home runs and 30 steals. The other two players -Hanley Ramirez and Alex Rios– are being selected well before Stubbs. His batting average is rather pedestrian and he racked up a ton of strikeouts, but the potential for another 20/30 season is a steal in the double-digit rounds.

Andres Torres experienced a breakout season at the age of 32. In addition to playing a career-high 139 games, the outfielder posted good marks in both home runs (16) and steals (26). As the projected leadoff hitter for the defending world champions, Torres could provide similar results at the cost of a late-round tender.

On the other side of the age spectrum, Ian Desmond emerged as a rookie fantasy option at shortstop last season. After posting double-digits in both home runs and steals last season, Bloomberg Sports’ projects 15 home runs and 20 steals for the Nationals’ shortstop. Over the past three years, only five shortstops have hit those marks in the same season (Ramirez, Tulowitzki, Jeter, Rollins, Reyes).

Rounding out the list is a pair of players who regressed a bit in 2010. After finishing in the top-10 of MVP voting in 2009, Ben Zobrist hit just .238 with 10 home runs last year. The good news is Zobrist still got on-base regularly and stole 24 bases. Bloomberg Sports predicts Zobrist’s power will rebound to the 18-20 home run area with the potential for an equal number of steals if not more. The Rays are thinking about hitting the versatile player in the leadoff spot meaning the potential for runs scored also increases.

After his breakout season of 2009, the Mariners signed Franklin Gutierrez to a four-year extension. He rewarded the team with a near 40-point drop in batting average and an on-base percentage barely over .300. That said, he did hit 12 home runs and stole a career-high 25 bases in 2010. This year he is projected to put up similar numbers. That is far from OF1 production, but with an ADP in the 230’s, Gutierrez is worth the late-round pick.

Finding players that can give you value in multiple categories is the mark of a good fantasy baseball manager. Finding these players in the mid-to-late rounds is even better.


Top 10 Safest Draft Bargains

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:
  1. Josh Johnson
  2. Dan Haren
  3. Brandon Phillips
  4. Billy Butler
  5. Carlos Marmol
  6. Nick Markakis
  7. Joel Hanrahan
  8. Sergio Romo
  9. Rafael Soriano
  10. 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.

Figuring Out Booms And Busts In 2011

By Eriq Gardner //

There’s tremendous profit to be made in betting on players who have just come off of miserable years and staying away from those who have just enjoyed fantastic seasons. 
Let’s show by example.
Heading into last season, some players had momentum from the 2009 season while others were being dismissed as showing warts. Let’s call the first class of players “Group A” and the second class of players “Group B.”
To assemble a team of Group A All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players at each position had the largest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ’09 year of this three-year sample. This team consisted of Joe Mauer, Billy Butler, Aaron Hill, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria, Michael Cuddyer, Andre Ethier, Marlon Byrd, and Mark Reynolds.
And to assemble a team of Group B All-Stars, we looked at which relatively healthy players had the smallest percentage of their 2007-2009 HR total in the ”09 year of the three year sample. This team consisted of Russell Martin, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta, David Wright, Shane Victorino, Alfonso Soriano, BJ Upton, and Alex Rodriguez.
Heading into the 2010 season, almost everyone would have bet on Group A to dominate Group B in HRs that year. Together, Group A slugged 261 HRs in 2009 whereas Group B only slugged 134. 
Guess what? By the end of 2010, Group B had more home runs than Group A. Take a look…
Certainly not every player experienced what’s known in the trade as “regression to the mean.” But as a whole, Group A’s power numbers dropped 40 percent while Group B’s power numbers rose by 37 percent.
Most people know that players coming off of great seasons tend to be overvalued into the next season, but does everyone really give this phenomenon its proper due? Young players who do great are said to be on the rise. Older players who do poorly are said to be on the decline. But often, the production shifts we see from one year to the next are largely statistical noise. It might be more important to take a larger three year sample when considering who to roster in fantasy leagues.
With that said, let’s take a look at potential Group A All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is most heavily weighted to last season. Something to be aware about before investing to heavily in players like Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Vernon Wells, and Corey Hart.
And here’s a look at potential Group B All-Stars heading into the 2011 season. These are players whose 2008-2010 HR total is least heavily weighted to last season. Some players whose HR production could regress towards the positive side include Yunel Escobar, Johnny Damon, Jose Lopez, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Nick Markakis, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, and Derrek Lee. All of these players are going for less in drafts heading into this season than a year ago.

Sleeper Alert: Kris Medlen

By R.J. Anderson //

During any given season numerous players will emerge and submerge above and below the relevancy sea. So many, that it’s hard to keep up unless special circumstances surround the player: an unlikely MVP- or Cy Young-caliber season; pitching a no-hitter or hitting for the cycle; making some fantastic highlight-stealing catch, or hitting the longest home run in the history of baseball. The point is, sometimes guys just get lost in the shuffle and even those who can help your fantasy team out are ignored for the sake of sanity.

With that in mind, meet Kris Medlen. The Braves’ 24-year-old right-hander should be owned in all formats. Yet, Medlen is only owned in 14.1% of ESPN fantasy leagues. He’s owned in more than 50% of CBS fantasy leagues, but started only 29% of the time. This is downright insanity.

Despite having the body type of a reliever (he stands well below 6 feet) and relying primarily on two pitch types (his fastball and change-up combine for more than 90% usage), Medlen has made 11 starts since May 8 and performed admirably, to the tune of 68.2 innings pitched, 6.2 strikeouts per nine, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 3.41 ERA. Compare those stats to his relief numbers (18.2 IP, 8.2 SO/9, 1.02 WHIP, and 2.41 ERA) and Medlen hasn’t lost a step in the transformation. Here’s a more complete view from Baseball-Reference:


It’s not that Medlen is beating up on weak opponents either. He held the Mets to six baserunners and two runs through six-plus innings in mid-May. He went to the Dodgers’ home park and beat them with seven-plus innings of two-run ball. He limited the Twins to five baserunners in eight innings. The Tigers managed just one run against him in nearly seven innings. There’s a reason Medlen is 6-1 and a reason why the Braves haven’t lost a game he started since the final week of May.

He’s good, they’re good, and you’re good too if you can grab him off the free agency heap right now.

For more on Kris Medlen check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools. 

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Tale of the Tape: John Ely & Randy Wells

By Eriq Gardner

Sometimes prospects come up to the majors without much hype and astonish us all.
This year’s candidate has to be John Ely of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who through eight starts in the majors, sits upon a 3.00 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. 
Ely was involved in the deal that sent Juan Pierre to Chicago, and had pretty good numbers in the minors, but was dismissed because of a lack of “stuff.” His fastball only reaches the upper 80s. But he’s been able to effectively change speeds and locate his pitches to great effect.
Can he keep it up?
Another pitcher comes to mind. Last year, Randy Wells was a largely unheralded prospect who came up to the majors and dominated in his first six starts. Nobody believed in Wells, even after he struck out 31 batters to only 8 walks in those six games. (Ely’s ratio after six games was an eerily similar, and excellent, 32:6.) 
This year, on the surface, Wells isn’t doing so great with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. However, the numbers are largely the result of two bad games recently. Otherwise, he’s been quietly solid and may even be a nice buy-low candidate. Wells has struck out 50 batters and walked only 14. His xFIP (a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA, while stripping out park effects, defense, luck and other factors beyond a pitcher’s control) is very good at just 3.60. Like Ely, Wells doesn’t have dominating stuff, but he keeps the ball on the ground and sports excellent control.
We might expect batters to catch up to Ely at some point, and there may have been some indication of this in Sunday’s game versus the Atlanta Braves, but he can continue to be effective as a contributor at the back-end of a fantasy rotation. 
His upside is similar to Randy Wells — and there’s value in these types of back-end fantasy rotation arms. Finding guys like Ely and Wells on the cheap who can post respectable numbers saves the big investments for commodities harder to attain through draft, trade, and waiver wire pickup.
Is comparing Ely to Wells a fair one? You be the judge.

For more on pitching sleepers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Casey Blake: Boring but Effective Fantasy Option

By R.J. Anderson

Casey Blake will enter this season as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting third baseman for the second consecutive season. Blake, 36, qualifies as a solid if unspectacular player. Last season he hit .280, popped 18 homers, drove in 79 runs a season, scored 84 runs and stole all of three bases. He’s an above-average hitter, no doubt, but is he worth a roster spot in a 12-team mixed league?

Such a question would be so much easier if the Dodgers used Blake like the Cleveland Indians did for years. Last season, Blake appeared in 134 games at third and two at first and left. The year before he appeared in enough games to become eligible at third base and first base, and in the past he’s been eligible at three positions at once. But if a Manny Ramirez suspension wasn’t enough to get Blake out in the pasture, then the addition of Jamey Carroll and Garret Anderson almost certainly won’t lure Blake to another position.

That means Blake’s numbers matter only relative to other third basemen in the league. Bloomberg ranks him as the 13th-best third baseman, and one going well below his B-Rank slot of 152. Instead, Blake is being drafted, on average, at 282nd. That’s a gap of more than 100 slots, indicating that Blake is being undervalued. He’s projected to nearly match last year’s numbers, with 19 homers, a .276 average, and 79 RBI.

That makes Blake a more attractive option than other hot corner bearers like Jorge Cantu, Mark DeRosa, Alex Gordon (destined to start the season on the disabled list), Scott Rolen, and Miguel Tejada.

Is Blake worth a roster spot? He’s not a sexy option, but yes, he’s worth drafting in 12-team mixed leagues. Target him in the late rounds, and take advantage of the huge gap between his likely value and his perceived value.

For more
information on other good third base options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit

Will Alex Rios Rebound in 2010?

By Tommy Rancel

For the first five years of his career, Alex Rios was a productive hitter. From 2004 to 2008, he averaged .288/.338/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG). But after a slow start in 2009, he was placed on waivers by Toronto, then given away to the White Sox for no compensation other than the amputation of his bloated contract. Overall in 2009, he hit just .247/.296/.395. His batting average was just .199 after moving to Chicago.

Despite the dip in those slash numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG), Rios still hit 17 home runs and stole 24 bases, providing continued value for fantasy owners.


Obviously, the most alarming loss for Rios came in batting average. In 2006-2008, his batting average was .297. His 2009 average of .247 represents a 50-point drop. For a speedy player who was only 28 years old, this was odd.

Sure enough, when we look at his batted ball data from last season — notably batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and his percentage of line drives hit (LD%) — we see some outlier numbers.

Thanks to his speed and ability to hit line drives (more on that in a minute), Rios has a slightly elevated career BABIP of .319. The league average is around .300. Last season, his BABIP dropped to .273.

Digging a little deeper, Rios has maintained a career LD% of 19.8%. In 2009, that number dropped to 16.4%.

Going even deeper into the numbers, Rios saw a tremendous drop in LD% against right-handed pitching (RHP). In his career, Rios owns a LD% against RHP of 19.8%; in 2009, that number sank to 14.7%. This is significant because Rios faced a right-hander 72% of the time last year.

Some studies, like the one here, suggest career BABIP is the best predictor of a player’s BABIP going forward. If this is the case for Rios, expect a healthy regression in batting average, and on-base percentage, towards career marks near .280 and .330.

After hitting 24 home runs in 2007, many expected Rios to become a 30/30 player; however, he is not that type of hitter. A big chunk of the balls he hits into play are line drives or groundballs (42.8% career groundball rate). This leaves little room for fly balls (37.4% career fly ball rate). Because of this, he’s averaged 19 home runs over the past three years; Bloomberg Sports projects a modest 18 homers in 2010, despite the homer-friendly climate of U.S. Cellular Field.

Meanwhile, Rios set a career-high in steals with 32 in 2008, followed by 24 more last season. Over the past three years, his success on stolen base attempts is a strong 81% (56/69). Bloomberg Sports projects 26 steals for Rios in 2010.

Although he had a down season in 2009, Rios narrowly slides into the top 100 players ranked by Bloomberg Sports; his B-Rank is exactly 100. His average draft position (ADP) is just 146.

Assuming a mid-round draft slot in an averaged size (12-14 team) mixed league, you could start your outfield with a combination like Ryan Braun, Bobby Abreu, and Rios. This trio would give you a well-rounded, durable outfield, despite using just one premium draft selection. All three players have averaged at least 620 plate appearances in the past three seasons, and provide a blend of average, (decent) power, and speed.


If we tweak the 30/30 projections on Rios down to 20/20, and add in the potential for batting average regression, we are looking at a productive third or fourth outfielder in many mixed leagues. Target him with other bounceback candidates in the middle of your draft.

For more on sleepers like Alex Rios, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.