No matter what the case, they always have the potential for greatness. This is why we call them "sleepers".
Today, we have five hitters who could be waiting for their names to be called on Fantasy Baseball Draft Day. Maybe you could be the one to take a shot and win big.
Nolan Reimold (LF) (BAL)
Is it just me, or do the O's have a new outfield sleeper every year? A couple of seasons ago, it was the Greek right fielder Nick Markakis. Last year, youngster Adam Jones stole the show. Now, it appears that it is left fielder Nolan Reimold's time to shine.
Reimold, who hit for a .279 average in '09 with 15 HRs, 45 RBI, 49 R and eight SBs, won the Orioles' starting outfield job after dominating the farm system, and he was sure not to let go of the opportunity. Even while playing with an injured Achilles tendon, Reimold was able to be amongst the league leaders in home runs for a rookie, and he is expected to continue on with that power surge as he begins 2010 on a healthier note.
The young left fielder should go unnoticed in most fantasy drafts, as he should be a late-round pick in most fantasy formats. Last season, he obviously went undrafted; however, that shouldn't be the case this time around. The kid brings cheap power to any fantasy squad, and there is no doubt he should be grabbed with one of your later picks. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Julio Borbon (CF) (TEX)
Speaking of outfielders, we're going to stay on the youthful path as we glance at Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon. First off, let's take a look at a deal that will greatly affect Borbon's playing time. Former Texas outfielder Marlon Byrd has finally moved on, now starting in the shadows of the ivy at Wrigley Field for the Cubs. With this move being made, Borbon has the opportunity of a lifetime.
We got a taste of what the youngster is capable of in '09, as he hit .312 with four HRs, 20 RBI, 30 Rs and 19 SBs. I want you to take one last look at that stat line, though. Do you notice anything that could rack up the fantasy points? Are those 19 steals setting off any alarms? If not, then they should. Borbon does not bring a boatload of "pop" to the batter's box; however, his slap-hitting style allows him to reach base often. From there, it's a parade of fantasy points.
Add in the fact that he hit .312 with the bases empty, and there's no one stopping him from stealing his way around the diamond.
The only thing that slightly scares me about this kid's potential is his .125 average against southpaws, yet this is not something you should fret too much about come Draft Day. Odds are that Borbon will be relatively invisible to many fantasy owners, leaving him for you to grab. If you need an outfield spot late in the draft, or if you're in a H2H league and like the steals appeal, grab this sleeper.
Kyle Blanks (LF) (SD)
Tired of the outfielders yet? I hope not. Let's face facts: On your fantasy squad this spring, what is the one position that requires more names than the others? That's what I thought. So here I am to add yet another name to your list of sleepers on Draft Day, as Padres left fielder Kyle Blanks will be hoping to grace your lineup come Opening Day.
The power-hitting Blanks, who batted .250 in '09 with 10 HRs, 22 RBI, 24 Rs and a SB, provides the much-needed big bat in San Diego outside of Adrian Gonzalez. Blanks is expected to be the starting left fielder coming out of spring training, and this bodes well for any potential fantasy owners. His solid power numbers should fit in well on any roster in need of homers in a H2H format, and the potential for RBI is greatly increased with names like Chase Headley, Gonzalez, Will Venable, and Tony K. Gwynn in the lineup.
Add in the fact that 15 of his 22 RBI were with runners in scoring position, and you have the makes of a solid sleeper.
Like the other two names above, Blanks should go unnoticed in your draft. He definitely has sleeper potential, so my suggestion is to wait until the final two rounds before taking a shot on him. Grab him, stick him on your bench, and then wait for his power numbers to begin to escalate. After that, all I have is one word: Enjoy!
Edwin Encarnacion (3B) (TOR)
Finally, a position that doesn't end with the word "fielder." It's about time we hit someone manning a base, and what better way to start than with Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion?
Years ago, Encarnacion was an up-and-coming Reds corner infielder; however, now he finds himself struggling from a career standpoint and on a rebuilding team in the toughest division in baseball, the AL East. With the Jays undergoing a rebuilding project, though, comes Encarnacion's time to shine. He hit .225 last season with 13 HRs, 39 RBI, 35 Rs and two SBs.
Going into spring training, he is currently recovering from surgery to repair a bone spur in his left wrist. Although this injury scares me regarding my next point, the simple fact of the matter is that Encarnacion has potential. What kind of potential, you may ask? Power potential. He popped 15, 16 and 26 homers in '06-'08 respectively, yet an injury-riddled '09 prevented any further growth in the long ball category. It's time to get that train back on its tracks.
If, and I mean if, this wrist injury does not hurt his development, then we are looking at one of the bigger infield sleepers of the season. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not saying he's going to win the AL MVP. All I'm saying is that he is a guy that you should pay extra special attention to on Draft Day. Try to grab Encarnacion as your second third baseman, somewhere near the latter part of the draft. By season's end, he could very well find his way into your starting lineup...and thrive.
David Freese (3B) (STL)
It is finally time to conclude this preseason sleepers list, and Cardinals third baseman David Freese grabs our final spot. Sure, he may be last here, but he is certainly not least. Freese, who hit .323 last season with one HR, seven RBI, and three Rs in 31 ABs, is expected to assume the starting third base role in St. Louis with no one else expecting to man the position.
This is no disappointment, though, for Cards fans. Freese brings the "pop" one would come to expect from any corner infielder, and with his youth comes durability. The only thing holding him back at the moment are his off-the-field issues, stemming from a drunk driving arrest in December of last year. Other than that, we're looking at a potential stud at the major league level.
Freese should offer cheap power to any fantasy owner willing to take a chance on him come Draft Day. If I were to make a prediction, I would say that grabbing him anywhere of the final three rounds of the draft seems logical, as his name should be sitting around on the board for the majority of the event. Freese is one of those "low-risk, high-reward" types. To put it simply, take a shot at him and see what happens.
By Lawrence Barreca, Baseball director at Fantasy Baseball Maniaxs