Fantasy Baseball Guys To Watch — And Guys To Avoid, Part II

billybutler7-27-07If you missed it, I’ve already touched on a few guys who are worth investing the extra dollar in or earlier draft pick on when you’re putting your fantasy baseball squad together in 2009, and I’ve told you who I think will be regressing and disappointing fantasy owners nationwide.  Today, I’m looking at sleepers you should be able to snare late in your draft, and who I think will have the ability to help you towards a title — and well as pointing out those duds who are more likely to leave you screaming at your computer by the end of the summer rather than helping you to celebrate a championship.

Now the term “sleeper” doesn’t really apply to players the way it used to;  with the advent of the Internet, everyone knows pretty much every player out there, and the guys who come out of nowhere are almost non-existent.  The last huge surprise who really shocked the fantasy world that I remember was Albert Pujols back in 2001.  While there are no players the caliber of the St. Louis slugger on my list, these are a few players who should be undervalued or possibly overlooked when draft day arrives.

Fantasy Sleepers

— Jeremy Hermida — Florida — OF

hermida2111618_giants_v_marlinsJust a couple of seasons ago, Hermida was supposed to be one of the next great things:  a five-tool guy with a great batting eye who was going to emerge into stardom.  The problem was, Hermida couldn’t seem to back up his tools with actual results, and he also couldn’t stay healthy.  His career highs going into this season are pretty pedestrian: 18 HR, 63 RBI, and a .296 average (all in 2007).

But he’s only 25 years old, and there’s plenty of time for him to put it all together and make a splash in the majors.  From many accounts, he’s been the most impressive looking player in Marlins camp this spring.  I don’t think he’s going to run like he did in the minors, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with a .280-22-85 line in 2009, and he’s a candidate to move to the #2 hole in the lineup at some point, which would put him in a prime hitting location (in front of Hanley and Uggla).  And you should get him relatively cheap in auction drafts, or late in regular drafts.

— Billy Butler — Kansas City — DH/U

Like Hermida, another post-hype guy that many fantasy owners have already begun writing off prematurely.  Butler put up impressive numbers during his brief time in the minors, but his production at the major league level has left some people calling him a disappointment.  My reply to those people is that Butler is only 23 years old, and his numbers in Kansas City aren’t nearly as bad as his detractors make them out to be.  While he hasn’t shown the power his fantasy owners might have expected, he’s shown a pretty good eye at the plate, keeping his strikeout numbers in check (only 57 K’s in 443 at bats last year).  The power is going to come — and I think it’ll come this year.  He’s not being picked in shallow leagues and he’s an end-game guy in deeper leagues — I think he’ll be a steal for anyone getting him late, and a keeper for those who play in those type of leagues.

—  Eric Byrnes — Arizona — OF

Marlins Diamondbacks BaseballIn 2007, Byrnes was a fantasy star, hitting 21 HR and stealing 50 bases.  This year, he’s been close to an afterthought in every draft I’ve done — due to a disastrous 2008 season that saw him injured for most of the season and without a starting job coming into 2009.  But if you’ve been watching results from spring training, you’ll note that Byrnes appears to be healthy this year, and if he is, the potential is definitely there for him to contribute to any fantasy team.  The main obstacle for Byrnes is playing time;  however, if someone struggles (I’m looking at you, Justin Upton) or gets hurt (I’m looking at you, Chad Tracy), then the scrappy Byrnes could find himself again putting up five category numbers for his lucky owners.

— Rick Porcello/ Ryan Perry — Detroit — SP/RP

The caution here is that rookies are notoriously unreliable as fantasy options, and rookie pitchers are doubly so.  With that caveat out of the way, I’m excited about the prospects of seeing both of the Tigers’ first round picks from the last two years with the big club and what they might do.  Porcello has earned a rotation spot with an outstanding spring, and he brings front-line starter stuff to Detroit — while there’s likely to be struggles ahead, he definitely has the stuff to succeed.  The best news for reliever Perry is that currently the Tigers options at closer are shaky at best;  Fernando Rodney will enter the season with the job, and Brandon Lyon is seemingly the next in line, but neither inspires me with much confidence.  The other man to watch in the pen would be Joel Zumaya — if he could ever get healthy, that is.  I wouldn’t expect a lot from either of these two, but if you can snag one or the other with a reserve pick in a deep league, either or both could turn into a fantasy jackpot by the end of the year.

Fantasy Duds

— Rich Harden — Chiacgo (NL) –SP

57208311JJ_D036513017One of the easiest ways to lose your fantasy league is to overpay for guys who are huge injury risks — and there is no bigger injury risk in fantasy baseball than Harden.  It’s really easy to get blinded by the stellar 2.07 ERA and 181 K’s in 148 IP last season and see a fantasy ace.  The problem is that those 148 IP are the second-highest of Harden’s career.  The Cubs starter has more problems staying healthy than Amy Winehouse has staying sober, but that still doesn’t mean you’ll get Harden without spending a decent chunk of change at your auction, or an early round selection in your draft.  And when he’s on the DL by the end of May, you’ll be wishing you’d done anything but make him a part of your team.

— John Lackey/Ervin Santana/ Joey Devine –AL West — SP/RP

This trio is on the list due to their various injury concerns.  Like Harden, they all are at risk for missing significant parts of the 2009 season, and spending precious dollars or draft selections on injury risks is a sure-fire way to find yourself banging your head against something hard before the season is over.  Lackey is the least risky of the three — though that may end up like saying that, out of Britney, Lindsey, and Paris, Britney is the least skanky.  Lackey’s out for a least a couple of weeks, and unless you can get him at a significant discount, I’d stay away.  Santana is supposed to be back on the mound by the end of May, but elbow injuries are always worrisome, and I wouldn’t be stunned to see his season end in surgery.  And speaking of elbow surgery, Devine — the closer for the A’s coming into the year — is headed to see Dr. James Andrews to have his elbow looked at, which is akin to asking for the priest to deliver last rites.  This won’t end well.

— Michael Bourn — Houston — OF

bournThe adage is “You can’t steal 1st base”.  In Bourn’s case, not only does that apply, but we might have to add to it by saying “You can’t steal 1st base when you’re sitting on the bench — or in the minors”.  Bourn got his first chance to start regularly in 2008, and he did next to nothing with the opportunity, posting an abysmal .288 OBP.  Bourn had already started to lose playing time last year to Darrin Erstad and Reggie Abercrombie, and the leash on him may not be long if he struggles out of the gate.  I’ve seen Bourn advertised as a source of cheap speed in a lot of places, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s completely out of a job by the All-Star Break.

— Gary Sheffield — ???? — DH/OF/1B

I already touched on Sheffield somewhat two days ago, and nothing has changed in my mind since then.  Sheffield looks washed up to me, and I think his days of being anything more than a replacement level hitter are long gone.  There are options in almost every fantasy league who are better for your team than Sheffield at this point, so don’t buy into the “name”.  If you haven’t drafted yet, don’t get tempted by the idea of getting him cheap — just stay away and find someone else with equal upside and a lesser name to invest in instead.

So that’s it for my brief look at some of my fantasy picks for 2009 — I’ll be weighing in over the course of the season on other fantasy baseball stuff, whether it’s my own team in my main league or fantasy notes in general.  In the meantime, check back on Opening Day on Monday when I hope to blog live the events of the afternoon as I surf around the majors thanks to the Extra Innings Package.  I also plan on having a bunch of my fellow leaguemates over during the afternoon, so it should be an interesting day to say the least — there’s nothing better than watching in person a fellow owner melt down after a bad start to their season, is there?  I guess we’ll find out — and hope it’s not me doing the melting.

I’ll cross my fingers and hope I’ll be back tomorrow with the pictures from my HCBB Draft Day 2009.  Without spoiling too much for those who weren’t there, let’s just say there was a lot of “clowning” around.  If you weren’t there, trust me when I say you’ll want to see what I mean by that.

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One Response to “Fantasy Baseball Guys To Watch — And Guys To Avoid, Part II”

  1. […] I thought I would look back at some of my predictions and advice going into the season to see how I fared.  As it turns out, there were some I was right on the […]

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