While we’re all about the far superior one-day fantasy baseball leagues here at FanDuel, we know that many of you still participate in (archaic) season-long leagues. In this feature Insider article, we’re bringing you some of the top fantasy baseball sleepers for the 2013 MLB season. Read on to discover a handful of players who will probably be drafted later than they should in most fantasy baseball leagues.
So without further ado, here are our top 2013 fantasy baseball sleeper picks.
In the aftermath of the R.A. Dickey trade, the Mets will look to Matt Harvey to pave the way for the future. Harvey posted very impressive numbers after being called up from the minors last year. In ten starts, Harvey posted a 2.73 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 IP. The strikeouts were no fluke, as his fastball ranges from an average of 92-97 MPH. And it moves too. Young pitchers like Harvey are always a risk, but all signs point to the fact that he’ll grow up to be an ace someday. In case it happens next year, Harvey’s well worth a late-round flier.
Dan Straily (OAK)
Though his fastball is nothing like Matt Harvey’s, Dan Straily’s fastball averages 90-94 MPH. Not impressed? This is the same guy who led the minor leagues in strikeouts before being called up in late August, with 175 Ks in 138.1 innings. In his 7 major league starts last season, Straily put up respectable numbers on a team that won 94 games in 2012. Though his position in the rotation isn’t set in stone, old and injury-prone Bartolo Colon starts the season out suspended, giving Straily a chance to cement his place as the 5th pitcher in the A’s rotation. This is a guy you can take with one of your last picks in fantasy baseball drafts, and he has the potential to be a solid and reliable pitcher for you in 2013.
Bruce Rondon (DET)
The Tigers have parted ways with Jose Valverde, clearing the way for rookie Bruce Rondon to step into the closing role for Detroit. This 22-year-old Venezuelan is already becoming a legend thanks to tales of his jaw-dropping fastball, which averages 100 MPH and goes as high as 104! In his 2012 minor league campaign, he had a 1.53 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 53.0 innings pitched. This is a team that just made it to the World Series; that they’d trust this young kid to be their closer speaks volumes. The fact that Rondon has never thrown a pitch in the majors is clearly a risk, but he’s said to be poised and fearless on the mound. There aren’t many teams you’d rather have a closer on than the Tigers, making Rondon a closer with very high upside in 2013. Don’t be afraid to reach a bit when closers start coming off the board.
Vinnie Pestano (CLE)
Vinnie Pestano has been rock solid as a reliever for the Indians. In his 142 career appearances (dating back to September 2010), the sidearm pitcher has posted a 2.50 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. While he’s been used as a middle reliever to date, his 168 Ks in 137.0 IP prove that he clearly has the stuff of a closer. Pestano’s 36 holds last season were second-best in the majors, so he’ll be on the radar as a top middle reliever – but there’s a good chance he could snag the closing job in 2013. Chris Perez has clashed with the front office in Cleveland and many believe they’ll finally cut him loose with a trade in 2013. Pestano is clearly next in line as closer, making him a high-upside reliever in 2012 and an essential handcuff for anyone who drafts Perez.
Travis D’Arnaud (NYM)
There’s a reason that Mets fans were okay with the R.A Dickey trade; they got Travis D’Arnaud in return. Known to be one of the best offensive catching prospects in baseball, D’Arnaud backed up the hype last year in the minors, hitting .333 with 16 HR 52 RBIs in 303 AB. The Mets are far from thrilled about the prospects of starting John Buck at catcher (he hit .192 with the Marlins last year), giving D’Arnaud every opportunity to claim the starting job for New York with a solid Spring Training campaign. Monitor the news leading up to the season, and draft D’Arnaud as a catcher with upside if it looks like he’ll get the job.
Alex Avila (DET)
Avila was ranked highly as a catcher entering the 2012 season. Many GMs expected him to build on the great stats he put up in 2011. Unfortunately, the 2011 AL starting All-Star catcher was one of last year’s bigger busts. Knee issues plagued his season and limited him to just 116 games. The decline in production from 2011 (.285/19/82) to 2012 (.243/9/48) was huge. Many GMs will inevitably stay away from Avila after such a dismal year, but he’s confident about the recovery he’s made during the offseason and says he’s feeling great. Avila will go much later in drafts this year than he did in 2012. He was a top-5 catcher in many drafts last season, and he’s barely making the top-20 in catcher rankings lists this year. How’s that for potential value?
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Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
There’s huge upside with this stud 23-year-old prospect who only needs to learn how to hit lefties a little better. He’s for real and can provide 20+ homers with nice counting stats. Last year’s numbers provide direct evidence here, as he hit 15 HRs with 48 RBI in just 337 AB. The .285 batting average wasn’t too shabby either. Rizzo really just needs to show more patience at the plate in order to take that superstar leap, especially against lefties (he hit .208 vs. lefties last season compared to .318 against righties).
Michael Cuddyer (COL)
You normally think of younger guys when fantasy baseball sleepers come to mind, but here’s one who’s been around the league for quite some time. The 33-year-old Cuddyer primarily plays right field, but he’ll most likely be eligible to play 1B (if not right out of the gate, soon enough, since he spelled the aging Helton regularly last year). He’s a great hitter and his existing power will only be accentuated in Coors Field. He’ll go late in drafts, but Cuddyer is a guy who can give you top-10 1B production in 2013, as long as he stays healthy.
Josh Rutledge (COL)
He’s currently slated to start at 2nd with Troy Tulowitzki expected to be back and healthy for Spring Training. He may be just eligible a SS in some leagues, and may need to start at 2nd for a few games before he’s allowed to be used there. But either way, Rutledge looks like an excellent MI option this MLB season, with the potential to give you between 15/15 and 20/20 with nice run production hitting in front of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Kyle Seager (SEA)
Kyle Seager should be eligible at both 2B and 3B, giving him nice flexibility that adds value. Seager also has the potential to give you 20+ HR and 15+ SB. He should continue to hit well, as his gap-hitting qualities will make him thrive at Safeco. Considering the abyss and shallow pool of 2B in fantasy baseball 2013, you’ll likely either have to draft Robinson Cano, settle for an injury-prone Ian Kinsler or Brandon Phillips, take a flier on a potential one-year wonder in Jose Altuve, or get value later on in the draft with someone like Kyle Seager. He’s nice little option at 2B that is very underrated.
Andrelton Simmons (ATL)
The Braves are getting better, with a new and improved OF featuring the Upton brothers and a growing Jason Heyward. Simmons has a great eye at the plate, having struck out just 21 times in 178 plate appearances. He has a solid .289 average to show for it that could improve in 2013. The 23-year-old Simmons should produce nicely this season and could see a good spike in his counting numbers.
Alcides Escobar (KC)
Escobar possesses blazing speed (he stole 35 bases last season) and his hitting has gotten better over the years. He’s added some power over the course of his four year career, but not in the way you’d expect: he’s been hitting the gaps and utilizing his speed to get more doubles and triples, which is a positive for anyone in leagues that count OPS. He’ll score plenty of runs for the Royals if Yost has him hitting in the 2-hole (where he actually thrived last year). Escobar will stay on draft boards for a while, so take advantage of the opportunity to land a solid SS in the late rounds if he’s still there.
Josh Rutledge (COL)
See above (2B)
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Manny Machado (BAL)
The 20-year-old phenom has actually been groomed to play SS, but until JJ Hardy’s 3-year contract expires (or he gets traded), Macho will play 3rd for the O’s. Don’t expect him be amazing right out of the gate. Machado should probably be stashed on benches until he produces regularly (there’s a possibility that he may struggle in his 1st full year in the majors), but the upside is real and the 3rd overall pick of the 2010 draft may blossom sooner rather than later.
Mike Moustakas (KC)
He’s not really a super sleeper, but most GMs should be able to get Moustakas later in drafts, which will probably be a mistake for those who bypass him. The power is real, and a slow second half of the season (5 HR post All-Star vs. 15 HR before the break) is typical of rookies and should give you the opportunity to land him later in drafts. Expect more endurance and stability down the stretch, with a boost in power and the counting numbers as well in a pretty strong KC lineup.
Adam Eaton (ARI)
3/24/13 update: Eaton sustained an elbow sprain during the preseason and will miss at least six weeks with the injury. Draft accordingly.
In one month in the majors, Eaton showed the fantasy baseball world that he has some wheels. If his 2 SB in September aren’t enough to convince you, check out his minor league stats – 44 SB in 2012 before being called up. His 2012 .375 minor league batting average was quite impressive too, and apparently no fluke (.318 in 2011 and .385 in 2010). Eaton is currently slated to start at CF for the Diamondbacks, and long as he stays healthy he should be a nice source of steals. Someone like Eaton can offer up some nice value much later in drafts.
Carlos Gomez (MIL)
He’s not exactly a super sleeper since his numbers (19 HR and 37 SB) were impressive last season, but Gomez will most definitely be drafted later than he should be. He offers that elusive blend of power and speed, and the 2012 former top prospect could finally be putting all of this together. Check out these post All-Star break numbers: 14 HR, 26 SB, and 46 runs in 252 AB. Almost looks like Carl Crawford in his prime.
Tyler Colvin (COL)
Why he doesn’t get more playing time remains a mystery, but an OF with Michael Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler, and Cargo is bound to create some logjams there. If Todd Helton gets hurt, Colvin usually plays RF with Cuddyer moving to 1st, which is the ideal roster move that the nostalgic Rox have been unwilling to make. But if he does get regular playing time, watch out. The dude has pop (18 HR in 420 AB last season), and the thin Denver air at Coors only helps.
Lorenzo Cain (KC)
This top Royals prospect showed flashes of brilliance, but he must remain healthy to make a fantasy impact. If he does, he should give a great blend of power and speed with excellent run production. In 222 AB last season, he put up a solid 7 HR, 31 RBI, and 10 SB. He’s a talented hitter, but he may need another year to make a bigger impact. He’ll go pretty late in drafts and he’s worth a flier.
A successful fantasy baseball draft is all about snagging as much value as you can at each pick. Make note of these guys and seize the opportunity to land them if you’re able to. Keep a close eye on them all during Spring Training, though. With the potential for slow starts, injuries, and other managerial decisions, you’ll always want to be up to speed with the latest news before your draft.
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