'09 Draft Prep: Potentially overlooked sophomores
Are you tired of being burned by investing too heavily in rookie hype, only to see them spend the majority of the year toiling in the minors or on your bench? Our Eric Mack spotlights some potentially overlooked second-year players going into '09.
Hopefully you haven't given up on our series on sleepers and breakouts, frustrated with our failure to outline the right 27-year-olds, third-year starting pitchers, injury-risk sleepers or rookies/prospects.
Because this next one could knock your Sox off: The phenomenon of the overlooked sophomore.
The Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia , 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, might not have been completely overlooked in Fantasy drafts last year, but he was most certainly undervalued. All he did was win the AL MVP in his second season. Over in the NL, how about the Cy Young campaign of one Tim Lincecum ? Not overlooked, but certainly undervalued. Did you see him dominating so quickly? Well, the AL MVP and NL Cy Young were both sophomores.
But we knew those guys were good. A perfect example of the overlooked is Edinson Volquez . He wasn't even the key piece of his own phenom story, the Reds' Dominican Dandies. That was 2008 spring surprise Johnny Cueto .
But how overlooked was Volquez as a sophomore last year?
He appeared in the NL Rookie of the Year vote, despite not even being eligible! That smack is so absurdly fresh, it is borderline unbelievable. But, this is no joke.
The joke was on the voters -- writers (of which this guy is not invited to cast a ballot). Three ballots had Volquez cast with second-place votes.
|2008 AL All-Rookie Team|
Dummies. They are almost as moronic as the many e-mailers we got last year when we kept "forgetting" about Volquez in my NL ROY watch in the weekly Prospect Reports. Had those voters only been paying attention to our Friday Fantasy Baseball editorial centerpiece (back again of course in '09) ...
Volquez (17-6 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 206 strikeouts in 196 innings) finished fourth in the NL ROY balloting ... as a sophomore. Talk about not getting your due respect.
Cueto was the Dominican Dandy everyone wanted last spring because drafters love players with high ceilings. Sure, that makes complete sense. Even more so, they love players who have never failed. Cueto was that. Volquez, not so much.
But I tend to be known as a contrarian. If you say jump, this guy might choose to sit down. It is all about flipping the script to avoid being sucked in by public perception and excessive hype.
We can actually like players who have failed and are forgotten. It helps us acquire talent on Draft Day that might otherwise never be available to us. Geovany Soto , Jay Bruce and Alexei Ramirez are all great talents and very productive rookies in Fantasy, but they stand little chance of being on this writer's team(s) this spring. They are so highly valued, they are at risk of not performing to their Draft Day cost.
|2008 NL All-Rookie Team|
Let's take a look back at the Cueto-Volquez phenomenon as an example last April. We point you to a blog entry that I posted April 3 of last year after Cueto's spectacular major league league debut of 10 strikeouts. Click here to read the blog entry.
This is the most poignant line of the entire 2008 Fantasy Baseball analysis/content on CBSSports.com: "If you missed out on Cueto, there is a consolation prize: Edinson Volquez , the Reds' No. 5 starter. Pick up Volquez now if you have room -- especially if you missed the boat on Cueto."
We said that before Volquez made a start in his spectacular breakthrough campaign. When everyone was looking left, it was time to veer the opposite -- which serendipitously was the right way.
It proved to be a key to numerous Fantasy championships a year ago. Volquez, inactive in over four-fifths of CBSSports.com's leagues in Week 1, wound up finishing in the top 20 overall in winning percentage on our website. Only 17 players had a higher winning percentage on Head-to-Head Fantasy teams on our website.
How in the world did so many people miss the boat? Well, look back at this particular comment on the prophetic April 3, 2008 blog:
"Agreed on Cueto," poster "scoofer" commented less than three hours after the blog was published. "I'm so glad I picked him in all of my leagues. But personally, I think I'll ship him soon. Because I doubt he'll repeat performances like that again, and while his stock is high, that is the best bait."
Good work, young Padawan leaner. But, you are not a Jedi yet ...
"I've seen Volquez," our scoffer, err "scoofer," continued, "and he isn't as dominant as Cueto. If he has a nice matchup, I'd want him, but not on a regular basis."
Tsk, tsk, tsk. If he had only gone and picked up Volquez instead of writing that fateful final sentence ...
Now that we might have adequately made our point about not overlooking the once-hyped, perhaps now-trashed, sophomores, we present our Top 10 overlooked sophomores for 2009. The who, what, when, where, why and how. They get a second chance to make a new first impression this go around.
1. Johnny Cueto , SP, Reds
Of course we just had to lead with this guy. The Fantasy Baseball world is looking right at Volquez, et al. We are steering back left toward Cueto -- flipping the script as we are most comfortable doing.
|Overlooked NL Soph team|
Why is he overlooked? ... Cueto was vastly a disappointment to Fantasy owners, because -- like so many young pitchers -- he provided erratic results. He would dominate one start and get beat up the next.
Look at his final two starts of the season, when numerous Head-to-Head championships were being held, along with the crucial final days of Rotisserie leagues: Cueto picked up a victory Sept. 20 of Week 25, going six strong with just two earned and his ninth victory of the season. Then, your rookie sleeper earned a spot in your Week 26 lineup, only to lay an egg: 2 2/3 innings, seven hits, five earned and three weeks -- his 14th loss.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Many talented pitchers tend to fly under the radar on Draft Day and Cueto is surprisingly going cheap. He fetched a mere $1 winning bid in our 12-team mixed Rotisserie auction (Volquez went for $10). It took just $7 to win the bid in our 12-team NL-only auction, some $13 less than Volquez. In a recent 12-team mixed-league snake-draft, Cueto went No. 222 overall at pick 19-6. That was 11 rounds later than Volquez (90th at 8-6).
How talented is he? ... It doesn't take a mathematician to note how good Cueto can be from time to time. There were starts last season where Cueto looked like potentially the most dominant pitcher in baseball. Some day, he very well could be.
What could we see? ... We should expect more consistency. It happens with your second go-around and pitchers can really soar in Year 3, like we often suggest. But the very hype that made Cueto the favorite over the previously beat-up Volquez is what makes us say Cueto can be even better than Volquez was in Year 2 ... and that was a dominant Fantasy ace that can win you a championship.
, 1B, Giants
The appearance of this name on the list has more to do with his potential to earn catcher eligibility in the month of April. The Giants will slot Sandoval in the middle of their order, playing either third, first or getting spot starts behind Bengie Molina at the catcher position.
Why is he overlooked? ... It isn't a question of whether Sandoval can get at-bats. It is a matter of where he qualifies for Fantasy lineups. On Draft Day and going into the season, Sandoval is merely 1B-only and that really downgrades him. That is arguably the most top-heavy position in Fantasy and while his offensive potential is intriguing, it plays a whole lot better at catcher or even third base.
How talented is he? ... Sandoval can mash and he is currently slated to be one of the few sophomores in baseball that will be counted on by his team to hit in the middle of the lineup. We project a .280 average, 15 homers, 75 RBI and 70 runs, but he might even more capable than that in his first full season in the majors.
What could we see? ... A Ryan Doumit -like breakthrough. There are only a handful of catchers in baseball who have better projections than those we lay on Sandoval at this point. Sandoval is Doumit-good with that bat.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 193 overall, 19-1. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $11.
3. Brandon Wood , SS/3B, L.A. Angels of Anaheim
This is one of the potential behemoth sleepers in all of Fantasy Baseball. Since when does a shortstop coming off a Triple-A campaign of: .296-31-84-82-6 get overlooked? Almost never.
|Overlooked AL Soph team|
Why is he overlooked? ... In 183 at-bats -- around one-third of a season -- Wood has gone just .183-6-16-14-4. Multiple by three and .183-18-48-42-12 doesn't look at the impressive, save for the homer count at the thin shortstop position.
How talented is he? ... Wood hits bombs! He once went .321-43-115-109-7 in high Class A (2005), making his mark as one of the best prospects in baseball at the time. It came in his third season as a pro. It should be noted he is entering what will be his third Angels season on the back of his baseball card.
What could we see? ... You like fellow sophomore Chris Davis ? Wood is potentially that potent. We project .251-17-55-46-7, but those numbers are numbed by the fact Wood doesn't yet have an everyday job. The Angels are a team that relies heavily on pitching and defense. Wood isn't quite the defender the speedy slap hitters Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis are, so he is perhaps third in the race for the shortstop job going into spring training. Unseating lineup catalyst Chone Figgins at third is a tough call, too. Wood will make the team, though, and we expect he will slug his way into Fantasy prominence this year.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. AL-only auction: $14 (I overpaid, putting the money where the mouth/keyboard is).
4. Ian Stewart , 3B, Rockies
One of the game's burgeoning superstars didn't follow through on his transition to second base, which would have made him the next Chase Utley , but Utley numbers would play nicely anywhere in Fantasy Baseball.
Why is he overlooked? ... Stewart is currently a player without a position. He won't push third baseman Garrett Atkins or first baseman Todd Helton to the bench ... yet ... and he isn't quite up to speed defensively to replace the departed Matt Holliday in left field. It is real hard to spend a draft pick or auction dollars on a part-time player -- no matter how well he can swing the bat.
How talented is he? ... We aren't messing around when we say Stewart can swing the bat like Utley. It is also not a statement you want to throw around lightly. Utley could go down as one of the best slugging second baseman in baseball history. While Stewart's days of playing second are over, he will wind up being a top five Fantasy third baseman annually.
What could we see? ... The 23-year-old Stewart went .259-10-41-33-1 in 266 at-bats as a rookie. Our boy Utley was 27 when he went a comparable .266-13-57-36-4 in 267 at-bats as a rookie. Stewart's first "full" season just might be productive enough to match Utley's first full season of .291-28-105-93-16. That is some potential here, although Stewart is potentially making his splash four years younger and in an arguably better hitter's park in Coors Field.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: $1. NL-only auction: $8.
5. Clayton Kershaw , SP, Dodgers
If you ask Baseball America analysts which left-hander has the highest ceiling long term, they will tell you Mr. Kershaw. That trumps the prospects of one David Price and highest-paid pitcher in baseball history CC Sabathia . That is some company to be better than.
Why is he overlooked? ... Kershaw won't turn 21 until the middle of spring training, so he is years away from approaching his physical prime. Also, like the Cueto case, there were times Kershaw looked like he needed some seasoning in Triple-A, perhaps even Double-A -- which was where he was sent back to last year for a spell.
How talented is he? ... Better than Price and Sabathia? Wow. Maybe not this year, because he won't likely surpass the 200-inning threshold required of a Fantasy ace, but Kershaw's talent -- and breaking ball -- is other-worldly.
What could we see? ... You like what you saw out of Lincecum last year? BA might not have the guts to suggest Kershaw is better than that stud long term, but the gap is smaller than you might think. The Dodgers are a contender with a nice pitcher's park and a lineup that can get Kersh plenty of run support and wins potential. This guy would not be entirely shocked if he produced a surprise NL Cy Young campaign on the heels of Linc. After all, their rookie numbers aren't all that far apart -- and a few years young in Kershaw's case.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 200, 17-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: $3. NL-only auction: $11 (I put the money where the mouth/keyboard is).
6. Andy LaRoche , 3B, Pirates
When you come up in the class of third base prospects Ryan Braun , Evan Longoria , Alex Gordon , Wood and Stewart, you have the tendency to be lost in the shuffle if you don't immediately star. LaRoche, dealt for Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez in one trade, has had massive expectations his entire career.
Why is he overlooked? ... Of that quintet of 3B prospects so highly ranked and clumped together, only Wood and LaRoche have the most stigma of having been busts in the major leagues. Andy, the younger and more-talented but far less-accomplished brother of fellow Pirate Adam (and son of former pitcher Dave), has gone just .184-6-28-33-4 in 315 career at-bats. He is also coming off an injury-plagued season and is playing for the off-the-radar Pirates.
How talented is he? ... LaRoche hasn't had that monster season Wood put together, although he did combine for 30 homers, 94 RBI, 95 runs and eight steals between high Class A and Double-A in 2005. That is the same year Wood rose to prominence. Andy is a better prospect than his brother Adam ever was and his career bests are: .285-32-90-89-1.
What could we see? ... We modestly project .250-15-60-59-3 for LaRoche, but he could easily be as productive as the disappointing Gordon has been. Still just 25, LaRoche could produce the numbers we project of Gordon (.263-20-75-75-10) and he will be available many, many rounds later.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Unselected. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $2.
7. Chase Headley , OF, Padres
Yet another third base prospect, this one has converted to left field now. He is also another one in the category of a good, young player on an awful non-contending team with little in the way of a supporting cast.
Why is he overlooked? ... Headley isn't a real eye-opener in any one Fantasy category, especially since he plays half of his games in one of the worst hitter's parks in baseball. He is also a low-end option in one of the deepest positions in Fantasy, which makes him a great fallback in the latter rounds when you fill out your outfield on Draft Day.
How talented is he? ... Headley is overlooked as a prospect in general, but in 1,410 career at-bats in the minors, he has a career .301 average, .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. If we were to draw up the holy grail of hitting standards in those categories, those are it. Headley hits them right on the button.
What could we see? ... Headley put in a good half season with the Padres, going .269-9-38-34-4. Extrapolating those numbers for a full season, .269-18-76-68-8 looks like a real nice bargain for where Headley will go on Draft Day. We cautiously project .273-15-64-64-5, but it wouldn't be that much of a surprise to see him develop into a poor man's Xavier Nady at .280-20-80-80-10 as early as this season.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 258, 28-6. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $7.
8. Jeff Clement , C, Mariners
If you break Alex Rodriguez home run records -- sans steroids, presumably -- you have accomplished something. Clement did. He was once the national record-holder for career homers. (Reds starting pitcher Micah Owings is the current record-holder).
Why is he overlooked? ... Clement is coming off offseason knee surgery and isn't even going to be the Mariners' primary catcher this season. Kenji Johjima is the man right now, especially since he has a long-term contract, Clement is rehabbing the knee and Clement has yet to be impressive in the majors (.237-7-26-21-0).
How talented is he? ... Clement can mash and he is a catcher, so those two factors alone can make him a Fantasy star. After going .275-20-80-76 in 455 Triple-A at-bats in 2007 and .335-14-43-40 in 173 Triple-A at-bats in 2008, Clement is one of the game's burgeoning offensive forces at the catcher position.
What could we see? ... Many, many people are going to overpay to get future No. 1 Fantasy catcher Matt Wieters this spring, but Clement will at least be in the majors at the start of the season -- assuming his knee is healthy. If Ken Griffey can make the transition and play left field regularly, Clement can part-time at catcher behind Johjima and be the Mariners' primary DH. A catcher who is a DH, yeah, sign us up. Uncertain of his health and role are the only real reasons we project him so low at .274-12-43-40-0.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 248, 21-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. AL-only auction: $7.
9. Glen Perkins , SP, Twins
Perkins is one of those pitching prospects who began his career in the Pitch-22: Good enough to start, but too valuable for relief. He found himself in the Twins rotation last year and was good enough to help hold off the return to the majors of Francisco Liriano .
Why is he overlooked? ... Perkins is a No. 5 starter on an upstart, small-market surprise club. In fact, he might not even be assured of a rotation spot at this point.
How talented is he? ... Save for the elite talent of Liriano, Perkins was perhaps the next most well-regarded prospect before he was shuffled to the bullpen and hidden under the Fantasy radar. In his first season as a starting pitcher, Perkins went 12-4 in 26 starts (151 innings).
What could we see? ... Perkins' first-year starter numbers give him a great chance to better our modest projections of a 12-10 record with a 4.10 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 180 innings. He could sneak up for 15 victories on a team that is much better than anyone gives them credit for being.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: No. 248, 21-8. Mixed Rotisserie auction: Unselected. NL-only auction: $7.
10. Brad Ziegler / Joey Devine , RPs, Athletics
|1||Mark Reynolds , 3B|
|2||Justin Upton , OF|
|3||Adam Jones , OF|
|4||Carlos Gomez , OF|
|5||Felix Pie , OF|
|6||Alex Gordon , 3B|
|7||Delmon Young , OF|
|8||Daisuke Matsuzaka , SP|
|9||Josh Fields , 3B|
|10||Kevin Kouzmanoff , 3B|
Do you know which one will be the A's closer this season? We figure Ziegler will get the first shot, but Devine has better stuff and frankly better numbers to take the job very early in the season, if not out of spring training. Also, pitching prospect Henry Rodriguez throws 100 mph and could be a factor before the end of the season.
Why are they overlooked? ... Frankly, it doesn't look like they are individually at this point, but the likelihood is if one is highly sought in your league, the other might not be. That makes one of them "overlooked" perhaps.
How talented are they? ... Ziegler set a rookie record with 39 scoreless innings to begin his major league career, while Devine was drafted in Round 1 as a college closer who could close in the majors immediately. That was years ago with the Braves. Ziegler gets by with a funky, deceptive delivery. Devine blows people away and can be unhittable, posting an unmatched 0.60 ERA and 0.84 WHIP as a rookie last year.
What could we see? ... Ziegler has sleeper potential if your league is seduced by the talent and potential of Devine. While Devine could be a top five closer in Fantasy if he holds the job wire to wire and pitches like he did a year ago. In terms of talent, you have to prefer Devine, but the fact Ziegler could open the year as closer and be overlooked in lieu of Devine intrigues us, too.
When/where is he getting picked? ... Mixed Rotisserie draft: Devine (No. 161, 14-5) and Ziegler (No. 189, 16-9). Mixed Rotisserie auction: Devine $8 and Ziegler $2. AL-only auction: Devine $22 and Ziegler $9.
Editor's note: The following is a team-by-team list of the players who exhausted their rookie eligibility in 2008. There are varying degrees of Fantasy potential here, but if there is a top sophomore talent that is getting undervalued in your league, he has great potential to outperform his draft position. (The 2008 rookies here are listed with the team they finished last season with).
Baltimore Orioles: RP
(service time), C
SS Luis A. Hernandez (service time) and RP
Boston Red Sox: OF Jacoby Ellsbury , RP Justin Masterson , SS Jed Lowrie and SP Clay Buchholz .
New York Yankees: SP Joba Chamberlain , SP Ian Kennedy (service time), RP Edwar Ramirez , 1B Shelley Duncan (service time), RP Jose Veras , RP David Robertson (service time) and RP Dan Giese (service time).
Tampa Bay Rays: 3B Evan Longoria , OF Justin Ruggiano (service time) and C Shawn Riggans .
Toronto Blue Jays: SP David Purcey and RP Jesse Carlson .
Chicago White Sox: 2B
Cleveland Indians: OF Ben Francisco , SP Aaron Laffey and RP Masa Kobayashi .
Detroit Tigers: SP Armando Galarraga , OF Matt Joyce , RP Freddy Dolsi , RP Clay Rapada and OF Clete Thomas .
Kansas City Royals: SS Mike Aviles , SP Luke Hochevar and RP Yasuhiko Yabuta .
Minnesota Twins: SP Glen Perkins , SP Nick Blackburn , OF Denard Span , 3B Brian Buscher , SS Matt Tolbert (service time) and RP Craig Breslow .
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: RP
Oakland Athletics: RP Brad Ziegler , SP Sean Gallagher , SP Greg Smith , OF Ryan Sweeney , 1B Daric Barton , OF Carlos Gonzalez , RP Joey Devine , RP Jerry Blevins , 2B Eric Patterson and Dan Meyer .
Seattle Mariners: C Jeff Clement , OF Wladimir Balentien , 1B Bryan LaHair and RP Cesar Jimenez .
Texas Rangers: 3B Chris Davis , OF David Murphy , SP Matt Harrison , OF Brandon Boggs , 2B German Duran , RP Warner Madrigal , SP Luis Mendoza and RP Josh Rupe .
Atlanta Braves: SP
Florida Marlins: SP Chris Volstad , C John Baker , SP Burke Badenhop , SP Ryan Tucker , 2B Emilio Bonifacio and 2B Robert Andino .
New York Mets: OF Daniel Murphy , OF Nick Evans , SS Argenis Reyes , C Robinson Cancel and RP Carlos Muniz .
Philadelphia Phillies: None.
Washington Nationals: SP John Lannan , SP Collin Balester , OF Kory Casto , RP Steven Shell and 2B Anderson Hernandez .
Chicago Cubs: C
Cincinnati Reds: OF Jay Bruce , 1B Joey Votto , SP Johnny Cueto and SP Homer Bailey .
Houston Astros: C J.R. Towles , RP Wesley Wright and SP Jack Cassel .
Milwaukee Brewers: RP Mitch Stetter .
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Brandon Moss , 3B Andy LaRoche , OF Steve Pearce , SS Brian Bixler , RP Ross Ohlendorf , OF Nyjer Morgan , SP Phil Dumatrait and RP T.J. Beam .
St. Louis Cardinals: RP Chris Perez , OF Brian Barton , OF Joe Mather and RP Kyle McClellan .
Arizona Diamondbacks: SP
(service time) and OF
Colorado Rockies: Ian Stewart , SP Greg Reynolds , SP Franklin Morales , OF Seth Smith (service time) and 2B Jonathan Herrera .
Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw , SP Hiroki Kuroda , 2B Blake DeWitt , RP Cory Wade , SS Chin-lung Hu (service time), OF Delwyn Young (service time), RP Ramon Troncoso (service time) and SS Luis Maza (service time).
San Diego Padres: OF Chase Headley , 2B Edgar Gonzalez , C Nick Hundley , SP Josh Banks , RP Joe Thatcher (service time), C Luke Carlin (service time), 2B Travis Denker (service time) and 1B Justin Huber (service time).
San Francisco Giants: 1B Pablo Sandoval , OF Nate Schierholtz , 2B Eugenio Velez , RP Alex Hinshaw (service time), OF John Bowker , SS Emmanuel Burriss , RP Billy Sadler (service time), RP Pat Misch , RP Sergio Romo (service time), SS Ivan Ochoa (service time) and C Steve Holm (service time).
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Overlooked sophomores in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.
Is Juan Minaya a trustworthy option for the White Sox? Are Mark Melancon and Jeurys Familia...
Lucas Giolito will make his 2017 debut Tuesday, but Scott White says he's not the prospect...
You may have been too quick to write off these five red-hot players, but it's not too late...
With the help of some platoon advantages, Chris Towers runs down 10 sleeper hitters you want...
Chris Towers takes a look at the two-start pitching options for a thin Week 21, and admits...
With injuries piling up among starting pitchers, Chris Towers looks for some starters who can...