Deep Sleepers: Finding value in single leagues
Earlier this week, the staff posted its list of sleepers for various league formats.
But it's time to go even deeper.
Here are various players that I am keeping an eye on that could have what I call "sneaky" value. They are not being given a ton of attention right now, but are just the kind of players that I am interested in for picking in the endgame, or stashing on your reserve lists to see how well they pan out.
The word "sleeper" is always a relative definition. One league's reserve list player goes for $6 in another league because two owners are interested enough to start a bidding war, but these are players that are being given little notice fairly consistently.
You may recognize some of these names from my spring training updates. This is not an exhaustive list, but some quick notes on some key names with potential playing time to keep an eye on.
Brad Wilkerson, OF/1B, Mariners: Wilkerson started battling shoulder problems three seasons ago, and hasn't quite been the same since. Call it Shawn Green syndrome. However, reports are that he is the healthiest he has been in a long while and he has a starting job in right field. His home park is also conducive to lefty power. A cheap investment could return a .250 average and 20 homers.
Rick VandenHurk, SP, Marlins: VandenHurk will open the season as Florida's No. 2 starter and there is some potential here. The Marlins needed an emergency starter early last season, so the 21-year-old was called up so they wouldn't have to summon any of the prospects they liked better. (Florida did the same thing with Logan Kensing in 2004.) Guess what? VandenHurk turned heads despite struggling. He was lit up with a 6.83 ERA and 1.739 WHIP in 81 innings, but he also struck out 82 batters. His raw stuff is good enough to make batters look silly at times, but he lacks consistency with control and command. As someone to stash away in NL leagues, you could do a lot worse.
Ross Gload, 1B, Royals: The Billy Butler experiment at first has ended, and at the very worst Gload will be on the better side of a platoon split with Ryan Shealy. He's a career .294 hitter in 360 major league games and could get at least 400 at-bats.
Brandon Morrow, RP, Mariners: He should eventually wind up as the primary setup man for J.J. Putz once he gets back up to speed from some spring shoulder soreness, and is also an option to start if injuries strike the Mariners rotation, both roads to increased value. He walked a ton of batters last season, but struck out more than a batter per inning and kept the ball in the park. If he can throw more strikes, he could be dominant.
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins: Nolasco will open the season as Florida's fifth starter, as he comes off of a year with persistent elbow trouble. He was a promising young pitcher before the injury woes, he's healthy again, and his velocity has returned. He's definitely worth keeping an eye on in NL leagues.
Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds: No, I wouldn't have given up Josh Hamilton for him, but if Volquez continues to pound the strike zone like he has this spring, he could be a quality pitcher in the Reds rotation. Throwing consistent, quality strikes was the big thing holding him back in Texas, and there are some signs indicating he might be taking the next step up.
Hong-Chih Kuo, P, Dodgers: Tuck him away in NL leagues to see if he eventually gets some rotation time. It could happen with the Dodgers, or with another team if they try to pass him through waivers. He can still bring it after four elbow surgeries.
Mike Pelfrey, SP, Mets: He's likely to spend a good amount of time as the fifth starter, and though he's very inconsistent, he's shown flashes of getting a handle on his breaking ball. He has the raw arm, but not the polished repertoire, and lacks aggressiveness at times. Still, there is some potential here.
Jason Bergmann, SP, Nationals: He doesn't have plus stuff, but throws strikes and mixes four pitches well enough to make him a potential reserve play in deep mixed leagues and a solid endgamer in NL play. He's slightly better than most people think.
Joey Gathright, OF, Royals: Gathright should squeeze out enough at-bats as the fourth outfielder to steal enough bases to be useful as a source of cheap speed in AL leagues.
Brandon Backe, SP, Astros: I've never been a big Backe, er, backer, but he's showed enough in his late-season return last year from Tommy John surgery, and in his performances this spring, that he at least needs to be on the radar screen in NL leagues.
Matt Chico, SP, Nationals: If his new leg kick is for real, and the slightly improved velocity and deception it appears to have created combine with more consistent control, Chico could be a mild sleeper in NL leagues.
Ryan Freel, UT, Reds: Considering Freel will likely get at-bats all over the field in his super-sub role, or could be traded to a team where he'll play a larger role, he's a good source of cheap speed in NL leagues.
John Danks, SP, White Sox: The young southpaw was brought up to the big leagues before he was ready, but is hitting the strike zone with all of his pitches and getting grounders by the truckload this spring. $4 or less in AL leagues and I'm there. If it doesn't pan out, it wasn't a big investment.
Leo Nunez, SP, Royals: He'll work in middle relief for now, but he's finally developed some secondary stuff to go with his live fastball, and should see some rotation time this season. He could do well if given the opportunity.
Eugenio Velez, 2B/3B/OF, Giants: Velez's buzz is building because of his good spring and all the injuries that have decimated the Giants infield; potentially leading to a good amount of playing time. Oh, and because he can run. Fast. Real fast.
Justin Germano, SP, Padres: He doesn't throw hard, he doesn't miss bats, he doesn't do this, he doesn't do that. Instead of what he doesn't do, focus on what he does do: Get enough outs to make him a serviceable fifth starter for the Padres, and a potentially useful player for your NL fantasy team. He's picked up a new changeup this spring that could be help him stick.
Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies: Just because he didn't pan out the way many thought he would last season doesn't mean he can't hit. He's had a very good spring with the bat, and is a sleeper offensive catcher if he gets some more playing time.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.