In this day and age there is pretty much no such thing as a sleeper. With an astronomical amount of fantasy baseball content being published every day from sources both new and old, even the most casual of fantasy baseball GMs need only to take a few minutes to browse the internet before finding the late-round players that everyone is touting as “sleepers”. We’ll do the same as February gives way to March, the official month of fantasy baseball draft season. But before we do that, let’s try to find some potential value in players that will most likely go undrafted in standard mixed leagues. These players are usually aging veterans with declining numbers, but sometimes a promising circumstance makes all the difference. While the probability is low that any of these players will have a huge bounce-back season, there might just be enough left in their tanks to make them mixed league worthy and at the low-low price of a early season free agent addition.
Chone Figgins – Recent reports indicate that the Mariners are looking at Chone Figgins as an everyday player, whether it be at third base or a mix-and-match scenario. Multiple position eligibility is always a plus, but Figgins will have to show some signs of life at the plate to actually hold an everyday gig. He hit a miserable .188/.241/.243 with only 11 stolen bases in 81 games last season, but he did so while battling through and ultimately missing a bunch of time with a hip injury. Obviously, any injury to the lower body for a player whose value comes mostly in stolen bases is a death-blow. Figgins is 34, which isn’t exactly encouraging, but just a season before last he stole 42 bases.
The M’s are willing to give their $36M investment every chance to stay in the lineup, perhaps even in the leadoff spot. If Figgins can avoid the injury bug, he could prove to be quite a bargain for fantasy GMs.
Brandon Lyon – Let me just be clear: I am not a Brandon Lyon fan. Not at all. That being said, a save is a save is a save is a save. Lyon is still working back from a shoulder injury, but his multi-million dollar contract and the fact that the Astros’ bullpen lacks much big league track record means that he’ll likely be closer-by-default once he’s healthy (he is throwing restriction free so far this spring). While there is no way that I would endorse investing anything more than a last round pick on Lyon, he has the potential to provide a counting stat, saves, so there is inherently at least some value there. Who knows, maybe he gets lucky and runs into a decent ERA and WHIP. He’s certainly done that before.
Raul Ibanez – Ibanez is 39 years old and will turn 40 in early June. Clearly, his upside is limited and his decline is evident. Last season, his pitch recognition fell completely off the charts, as he saw a drastic drop in walk rate and cautionary rise in chase rate. His ground ball to fly ball ratio has also trended in the wrong direction for two straight seasons, as he has hit more balls on the ground than in the air, lowering his home run potential. However, even in his decline, Ibanez still popped 20 home runs last season with a respectable .174 ISO. If the rumors are true, Ibanez is on the verge of becoming the Yankees’ new DH, which gets his aging body off the field as well as gives him a short porch to aim for in right.
It’s hard to think Ibanez will have a huge season at his age, but it’s definitely not out of the question that he could simply try and pepper baseballs over the right field porch in Yankee Stadium and provide fantasy owners with 25-plus homers in 2012.
Juan Uribe – In 2010, Uribe cranked out 24 home runs, more than half of which came in the cavernous space of AT&T Park in San Francisco. Uribe parleyed his power game and plus defensive skills into a multi-year deal with the Dodgers that winter. That contract got off to a terrible start last season, as Uribe played in only 77 games while hitting .204/.264/.293 with four home runs. Much as was the case with the aforementioned Chone Figgins, Uribe spent the majority of the season battling injuries, specifically a severely painful sports hernia that cost him the bulk of the season.
Uribe has promised management that he would be in shape and ready to go in 2012. If that’s the case, there is no reason to doubt that a return in power numbers is quite possible, if not inevitable. In most formats, he’ll be eligible at third and second, which gives him plenty of potential value even if he has little upside in AVG.