2010 Draft Prep: Top 15 overlooked sophomores

You know you can't just pick the best players from 2009 and be a favorite to win your league. You have to think outside the box.

When the wisdom of the crowd says one thing, you have to go opposite. It is Fantasy Baseball's converse of turning into the skid. It seems counterintuitive and yet makes perfect sense all at once.

When everyone is thinking Travis Snider, you have to wait for Adam Lind. If you did that last March, you could still be spending your winnings.

In our continuing effort to finding ways to get you thinking differently from the crowd, we present our annual look at potentially overlooked sophomores. The theory goes: We saw them as rookies and just weren't quite impressed enough. Well, Year 2 around the league tends to be a lot more fruitful.

Last year's class yielded Pablo Sandoval, one of the biggest breakthroughs of 2009. He was overlooked because he wasn't proven over a full season and some questioned whether he could slug with the elite of the very deep first base position -- the strongest position in Fantasy. Kung Fu Panda slugged plenty and is now one of the stars of Fantasy.

Let's try to unearth this year's No. 1 sophomore breakthrough, Kung Fu style. Pay close attention to the ages of these guys below. They are not even close to their prime yet:

1. Kyle Blanks, 23, OF, Padres

2010 overlooked NL sophs
C Omir Santos, Mets
1B Garrett Jones, Pirates
2B Blake DeWitt, Dodgers
3B Mat Gamel, Brewers
SS Everth Cabrera, Padres
OF Kyle Blanks, Padres
OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
OF Drew Stubbs, Reds
UTL Cameron Maybin, Marlins
SP Tommy Hanson, Braves
SP Mat Latos, Padres
SP Bud Norris, Astros
SP Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
SP Sean West, Marlins
RP Juan Gutierrez, D-Backs

Let's stick with the big dudes. Drawing blanks wondering why the Padres were so willing to shop 2009 27-year-old breakthrough superstar Adrian Gonzalez? It is big Blanks himself, all 6-feet-6, 285 pounds of him. He is really too big to play the outfield, especially in spacious Petco Park, but he is too good to keep out of the lineup.

Why is he overlooked? ... In terms of physical stature, Blanks is a really tough guy to miss. If you look to the southwest toward San Diego, you might see the top of his head on the horizon. The problem is two-fold with him, though: Few might know he is slotted as an everyday outfielder at this point. And two, San Diego is devoid of punch and its park is tough on hitters, particularly those of the slugging variety.

How talented is he? ... Despite the difficult home park and the deep position where he qualifies, Blanks is big and strong enough to swing it with anyone. His 10 homers in 148 at-bats last season project to 30-40 homers in a full season. Doubting someone not named Gonzalez can reach that with Petco's deep gaps? Blanks hit six of his 10 homers in 75 at-bats at home. He hit four homers in 73 at-bats on the road. To steal a metaphor from Major League: This behemoth can hit 'em out of Yellowstone.

2. Matt Wieters, 23, C, Orioles

The Orioles' face of the franchise was supposed to be an instant hit last season. Instead, he didn't arrive until June and hit a mediocre .259 before the All-Star break.

Why is he overlooked? ... Well, we preach catchers hit like pitchers, and Wieters didn't live up to the lofty expectations in his major league debut. Wieters will get overlooked due to his position -- overspending on catchers tends to be a bad strategy, no matter the scarcity of the top options there -- and he definitely won't get picked before Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez or Brian McCann.

How talented is he? ... Wieters is the next Mauer, perhaps with even more power potential long term. He has power to all fields, and as a switch-hitter, won't sit much at all. He could do a bit better against lefties -- just .248 last season -- but isn't that always the case for every young prospect in baseball? Wieters posted a .301 average, six homers, 33 RBI, 25 runs, .351 on-base percentage and .415 slugging percentage in the second half. We project him to be a top 10 Fantasy catcher, but he could easily finish in the top 5, if not produce with that elite trio above in his first full season in the majors.

3. David Price, 24, SP, Rays

Revisit our definition of an overlooked sophomore: We just weren't impressed enough. Price is this to a T, or a P. We expected fireworks and barely got a spark. No pitching prospect in baseball came with more rookie fanfare last year ... until Stephen Strasburg became a household name, of course. Price didn't appear in the AL Rookie of the Year race and was outperformed by fellow rookie rotation mate Jeff Niemann.

Why is he overlooked? ... Price went from 2008 postseason hero to 2009 rookie disappointment, beginning the year in the minors and posting a 4.42 ERA while battling wild streaks. Now there are new flavors of the year with regard to up-and-coming aces, namely the aforementioned Strasburg and guys like Clayton Kershaw.

How talented is he? ... Any non-keeper league that has Strasburg getting picked before Price -- regardless of opinion on their talent -- ought to be ashamed of itself. The Price is right now, literally and figuratively. He is good enough to enjoy the Cy Young breakthrough Tim Lincecum had as a sophomore: 18-5, 2.62 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 227 innings. Seriously. Think of that crazy comparison this way: There were teams that passed on Lincecum in the amateur draft. No one got a chance to with Price, after the Rays selected him No. 1 overall the June before his major league debut.

4. Colby Rasmus, 23, OF, Cardinals

Wondering why the Cardinals gave up on Rick Ankiel? It is neither because they were going to focus on re-signing Matt Holliday, nor because they are hoping Ryan Ludwick will revert to his 2008 form. It is because Rasmus is going to be a big-time star in this league.

Why is he overlooked? ... Rasmus had mediocre numbers in Triple-A in 2008, going .251-11-36-56-15 before showing similarly as a rookie last year (.251-16-52-72-3). Neither campaign screams future No. 1-ranked Fantasy outfielder. Even our projections are holding him to a modest level of intrigue for most leagues: .264-22-67-88-8.

How talented is he? ... Rasmus might appear to be E Pluribus Unum in a deep, deep outfield position -- one of the many. That Latin phrase is coined from the back of your pennies, which is all it might take to acquire this talent on Draft Day. He is no ordinary talent, though, and far worth the pittance. He is capable of being a .300-30-100-100-20 outfielder as soon as this year.

5. Travis Snider, 22, OF, Blue Jays

2010 overlooked AL sophs
C Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B Matt LaPorta, Indians
2B Chris Getz, Royals
3B Gordon Beckham, White Sox
SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers
OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
OF Julio Borbon, Rangers
OF Brett Gardner, Yankees
UTL Nolan Reimold, Orioles
SP David Price, Rays
SP Brett Anderson, Athletics
SP Chris Tillman, Orioles
SP Rick Porcello, Tigers
SP Trevor Cahill, Athletics
RP Ryan Perry, Tigers

We foreshawed this one with the Lind example above, because we were adamant that Snider was getting too much love last March and Lind wasn't getting enough, or any for that matter. That is what this breakout-and-sleeper rule of thumb is all about: Valuing, and targeting later, the undervalued -- just like Billy Beane taught us.

Why is he overlooked? ... That Snider bandwagon was chock full O' nuts last year, as in everyone was going gaga and expecting immediate returns from a 21-year-old rookie. Well, it rendered a very disappointing .241 average, just nine homers, 29 RBI, 34 runs and one lonely steal in 241 at-bats. Twenty-one year-old prospects are highly hyped for one major reason: What they will do in a few years, not what they will do right away.

When a bandwagon is so full, everyone starts jumping to get off and it doesn't tend to stop. Even the lonely souls left aboard tend to be left bitter they rode it all the way to the pitiful end. Like Pavlov's dogs, they aren't so anxious to ride that sunken ship the next go around.

How talented is he? ... Well, Snider could be as good as anyone at the outfield position, at least in terms of power. The question is when that will come to fruition. Taking a late Lind-like flier here could reap you some big rewards.

6. Matt LaPorta, 25, OF, Indians

LaPorta has some Lind-like attributes as a Fantasy sleeper turned breakout. He was hyped for years as a future slugger, but really didn't look ready for The Show in his first forray. Thus far it has looked like the Brewers haven't missed much, having included this potential monster as the key piece in the CC Sabathia a few trade deadlines ago.

Why is he overlooked? ... LaPorta remains without a certain position or a certain everyday job with the rebuilding Indians at this point. His .254-7-21-29-2 numbers in 181 at-bats last season suggest he is a marginal starter on a rebuilding club right now, much less a potential Fantasy gem.

How talented is he? ... We cannot remind you enough about the Lind example. Remember how few believed he would become a big league regular after a few years of bouncing between the minors and the Blue Jays' bench? LaPorta has even more potential long term than Lind. We say his .300-30-100-100 comes at age 27, but even a fraction of that this season will make him a great buy on Draft Day.

7. Julio Borbon, 24, OF, Rangers

Borbon is both an overlooked sophomore and a new starter, two great ways to find gems that can outperform their draft position. The Rangers plan on slotting him as their leadoff man and starting center fielder after letting Marlon Byrd flee via free agency. Byrd wasn't too shabby last year. The Rangers must be pretty confident Borbon can carry his weight as a regular.

Why is he overlooked? ... Few Fantasy owners think slap-hitting basestealers when considering what won them their league. Chicks dig the longball, not the speedy basestealers.

How talented is he? ... Borbon stole 19 bases in 46 games and with just 157 at-bats last season. Projecting that number to a full season is just Rotisserie delight. What will it be? Fifty steals? Sixty? Heck, 80, perhaps? Finding a 40-steal threat for Rotisserie leagues is not easy; unearthing someone who breaks through for 50-plus is mission impossible. Borbon is your man ... that is until everyone else jumps on board. If they do, resort to ...

8. Brett Gardner, 26, OF, Yankees

The Yankees added Curtis Granderson to a power-laden lineup, something that will make the Yankees' new center fielder one of the trendy picks in Fantasy this year. They didn't make that acquisition to keep Gardner on the bench, though. He figures to share starts in left with another offseason acquisition, Randy Winn. Gardner turns 27 in August, so he is not only a potentially overlooked sophomore we haven't seen as a full-timer, but he is also entering that prime age for a breakthrough.

Why is he overlooked? ... Remember that Street skit that had one of those kids doing their own thing? Gardner is that Yankee. Everyone is power and run production. Gardner is spunk, energy and speed. Those guys famously get glossed over, especially on such a star-driven team.

How talented is he? ... Gardner stole 26 bases in 248 at-bats, which amounts to something less than half of a full-season regular. He will still share at-bats -- at least initially -- but he could play and get on base enough to steal 50-plus bases. Our modest projections of 40 might be selling him short.

9. Drew Stubbs, 25, OF, Reds

Stubbs was a highly regarded draftee out of the University of Texas, but it wasn't until 2009 when he finally looked like he was going to be a strong pro. Stubbs hit just three homers in 408 Triple-A at-bats, but he broke through down the stretch with eight homers in 180 at-bats with the Reds. It earned him the starting center fielder's job heading into spring training.

Why is he overlooked? ... Like the talented young outfielders above, Stubbs' Fantasy value is weighed down by the depth of the position. There are just too many proven veteran options to consider him a great pick for your outfield in a standard mixed league. Also, before his surprising power surge after mid-August, Stubbs was looking to be a slap-hitting base-stealer. His size -- 6-feet-4, 205 pounds -- suggests otherwise.

How talented is he? ... Even if Stubbs' homers were a fluke -- we tend to believe it's his coming of age -- he will be a great option in Rotisserie formats because of his steals potential. The speedy center fielder posted a combined 56 steals between Triple-A and the majors. It makes our projections look a bit modest. Stubbs could be a .300-20-70-100-40 talent ready to pop.

10. Elvis Andrus, 21, SS, Rangers

Andrus handled the grind of the major leagues far better than we expected for a 20-year-old. It sets him up for a potentially great career in Texas and as a future Fantasy gem at the notoriously shallow shortstop position.

Why is he overlooked? ... Andrus is still really raw and doesn't boast the power we crave in most Fantasy leagues, hitting six homers in 480 at-bats as a rookie. He ranks outside the top 10 Fantasy shortstops, mostly because we just haven't seen what he is truly capable of yet.

How talented is he? ... At 6-feet, 185 pounds, there is room for him to get a lot stronger and swing the bat with more power. But that isn't even the best news. Andrus will steal even more bases than he did as a rookie, 33. We won't be so bold to call him to be the next Jose B. Reyes or Hanley Ramirez, but the Venezuelan might not wind up that far from that elite level. Initially, he will be a Rotisserie steals hog. Eventually, that power will follow.

2009 AL All-Rookie Team
C Matt Wieters, Orioles
1B Matt LaPorta, Indians
2B Luis Valbuena, Indians
3B Gordon Beckham, White Sox
SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers
OF Nolan Reimold, Orioles
OF Brett Gardner, Yankees
OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
UTL Chris Getz, White Sox (now KC)
SP Rick Porcello, Tigers
SP Brett Anderson, Athletics
SP Jeff Niemann, Rays
SP Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
SP David Price, Rays
RP Andrew Bailey, Athletics

11. Gordon Beckham, 23, 3B, White Sox

Here comes the more-breakout-than-sleeper portion of our program. Beckham figures to be a highly coveted commodity on Draft Day, especially since he will be adding second base eligibility, moving there full time this spring.

Why is he overlooked? ... We are disappointed in the Baseball Writer's Association for missing out on naming Beckham the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year. That honor went to Andrew Bailey, who had a good year and is a nice talent long term, but he will never project to be drafted where Beckham might eventually be. We still haven't seen a full season of Beckham, and if a reliever in Oakland is making more national noise than a former College World Series hero in a major market (even if it is the second team in the second city), then there is a significant hype disconnect at work here.

How talented is he? ... Beckham is a future Fantasy first-rounder. In fact, he could have a big enough first full season in the majors to be that on Draft Day 2011. Seriously. Last year he went .270-14-63-58-7 in 378 at-bats, just over half a season. He started slowly, too, improving as the year wore on and he gained experience. He could be a .300-30-100-100 Fantasy second baseman, which would put him in the Chase Utley zone. Beckham comes with more hype that Utley did as a draftee. He has more raw talent than 2009 breakout second baseman Aaron Hill. Only steals make Ian Kinsler a slightly more intriguing Fantasy option long term at the position.

12. Tommy Hanson, 23, SP, Braves

We debated whether or not to even include this one because he was just so good last year, going 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. But, the fact he didn't win the NL Rookie of the Year award ticked us off so much, we are led to believe Hanson isn't getting his due respect.

2009 NL All-Rookie Team
C Omir Santos, Mets
1B Garrett Jones, Pirates
2B Chris Coghlan, Marlins
3B Casey McGehee, Brewers
SS Everth Cabrera, Padres
OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
OF Dexter Fowler, Rockies
UTL Will Venable, Padres
SP Tommy Hanson, Braves
SP J.A. Happ, Phillies
SP Randy Wells, Cubs
SP Kenshin Kawakami, Braves
SP Sean West, Marlins
RP Juan Gutierrez, D-Backs

Why is he overlooked? ... He really shouldn't be, and frankly might not be come Draft Day, but there are just so many pitchers people will look to before Hanson's name is called on Draft Day, if only because we haven't seen a full season of him yet and don't know if he can go 200-plus innings as a major horse. There could be 20 pitchers picked before him, but ...

How talented is he? ... Hanson showed he is capable of performing like a top 10 Fantasy starting pitcher in his first full season. The only thing we have to do now is wait and see if he can. ... Grr... how did he not beat out Chris Coghlan, again?

13. Brett Anderson, 22, SP, Athletics

Like Hanson, there is a growing group of Fantasy owners jocking Anderson like he is the second coming of someone. It isn't so much that he went (11-11)-4.06-150 in 175 1/3 innings as much as he went (6-4)-3.48-86 in 88 innings in the second half, including a sizzling September finish of (4-0)-2.28-26 in four starts (23 2/3 innings).

Why is he overlooked? ... We are partially at fault, initially ranking him outside the top 50 starting pitchers to target on Draft Day. It is just so tough for us to expect a big winner for Fantasy owners when you are pitching for an A's team that doesn't yet project to produce a lot of run support or deliver victories.

How talented is he? ... There were periods last season where Anderson was as good as anyone, including that stretch run above and his (2-1)-1.87-33 line in July. We cannot project him to be a Top 25 Fantasy ace, but he is certainly capable of finishing in that lofty area in Year 2.

14. Cameron Maybin, 23, OF, Marlins

The Marlins have tried to slot the immensely talented five-tool outfielder in their opening-day lineup for the past few years. The third time should be a charm.

Why is he overlooked? ... There is not much to like if you look at Maybin strictly by the back of his baseball card. With 257 career at-bats, his five homers and 10 steals don't stand out, and his strikeout-to-walk rate is attrocious. Again, a deep outfield position will keep him from being considered in many mixed leagues on Draft Day.

How talented is he? ... There was a time when Maybin was considered to be the next Ken Griffey. Some wild cold streaks have soured that status, but the tools remain. The opportunity is finally here for him, too. Maybin can sprint with anyone -- even with his unorthodox flailing arms -- and should be an instant impact player in the steals and runs categories. Maybin might not be the 30-30 player he was projected to be, but he is far more capable than the modest .261-9-32-82-15 we project for him. He made great strides with his strikeout-to-walk rate and went .293-3-10-19 (.353-500) in 28 games after his September call-up.

15. Rick Porcello, 21, SP, Tigers

Porcello is even underrated on this very all-underrated sophomore list. Like Beckham, how he was beat out by Bailey for Rookie of the Year, we won't know either.

Why is he overlooked? ... Porcello won 14 games as a 20-year-old but did it with a very unimpressive strikeout-to-walk rate (89-52). We like our Fantasy picks to miss more bats than Porcello did. He also allowed more than a hit per inning, which tends to suggest he was "lucky" to post an ERA under 4.00. Pitchers who pitch to contact generally get pooh-poohed on by number crunchers and Fantasy owners.

How talented is he? ... You should look up Justin Verlander's strikeout total his AL ROY season. Here, we will do it for you: 124. Verlander struck out 269 batters last year. Clearly, strikes can be a learned trait for a pitcher. Porcello has good enough stuff to progressively knock out more batters with experience. With continued health, there is no reason to believe Porcello can't be a Cy Young award winner and a future top-five pick at his position like Verlander.

Editor's note: There are a slew of other favorites, including Orioles Chris Tillman, Nolan Reimold, and the like. The following is a team-by-team list of the players who exhausted their rookie eligibility in 2009, either due to at-bats, innings or service time. 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 names in bold are players we have the most faith in this season.)

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters, C; Chris Tillman, SP; Nolan Reimold, OF; Brad Bergesen, SP; David Hernandez, SP; Koji Uehara, SP; Jason Berken, SP; Michael Aubrey, 1B; Jeff Fiorentino, OF; Lou Montanez, OF; Michel Hernandez, C.
Boston Red Sox: Daniel Bard, RP.
New York Yankees: Brett Gardner, OF; Ramiro Pena, UTL; Alfredo Aceves, RP; Jonathan Albaladejo, RP; Francisco Cervelli, C.
Tampa Bay Rays: David Price, SP; Jeff Niemann, SP.
Toronto Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, SP; Travis Snider, OF; Marc Rzepczynski, SP; Brett Cecil; Scott Richmond, SP.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham, 3B; Jayson Nix, 2B; Brent Lillibridge, UTL.
Cleveland Indians: Matt LaPorta, OF/1B; David Huff, SP; Luis Valbuena, 2B; Trevor Crowe, OF; Chris Gimenez, C; Tony Sipp, RP.
Detroit Tigers: Rick Porcello, SP; Ryan Perry, RP; Phil Coke, RP; Jeff Larish, DH; Eddie Bonine, RP; Robinzon Diaz, C; Fu-Te Ni, RP.
Kansas City Royals: Chris Getz, 2B; Mitch Maier, OF.
Minnesota Twins: Jose Mijares, RP; Brian Duensing, SP; and Anthony Swarzak, SP.

AL West

L.A. Angels of Anaheim: Matt Palmer, RP; Sean O'Sullivan, SP; Kevin Jepsen, RP; Jason Bulger, RP.
Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson, SP; Andrew Bailey, RP; Trevor Cahill, SP; Jake Fox, OF; Gio Gonzalez, SP; Vin Mazzaro, SP; Josh Outman (Tommy John surgery), SP; Cliff Pennington, SS; Landon Powell, C; Adam Rosales, 3B.
Seattle Mariners: Luke French, SP; Doug W. Fister, SP; Shawn Kelley, RP; Michael Saunders, OF; Rob Johnson, C.
Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus, SS; Julio Borbon, OF; Tommy Hunter, SP; Derek Holland, SP; Taylor Teagarden, C; Doug Mathis, RP.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Tommy Hanson, SP; Kenshin Kawakami, SP; Jordan Schafer, OF; Kris Medlen, RP; Diory Hernandez, SS.
Florida Marlins: Chris Coghlan, OF; Cameron Maybin, OF; Sean West, SP; Dan L. Meyer, RP.
New York Mets: Bobby Parnell, RP; Omir Santos, C; Lance Broadway, RP; Ken Takahashi, RP.
Philadelphia Phillies: J.A. Happ, SP; John Mayberry, OF.
Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann (Tommy John surgery), SP; Ross Detwiler, SP; Shairon Martis, SP; Garrett Mock, SP; Craig Stammen, SP; Tyler Clippard, RP; J.D. Martin, SP.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: Randy Wells, SP; Jeff Samardzija, RP; Micah Hoffpauir, 1B; Sam Fuld, OF; David Patton, RP.
Cincinnati Reds: Drew Stubbs, OF; Chris Dickerson, OF; Ryan Hanigan, C; Danny Herrera, RP; Carlos Fisher, RP; Drew Sutton, SS; Paul Janish, SS; Darnell T. McDonald, OF.
Houston Astros: Bud Norris, SP; Felipe Paulino, SP; Albert Arias, RP; Yorman Bazardo, SP; Edwin Maysonet, 2B; Jeff Fulchino, RP.
Milwaukee Brewers: Casey McGehee, 2B/3B; Mat Gamel, 3B; Chris Narveson, RP; George Kottaras, C; Luis Cruz, SS; Chris Smith, RP.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Garrett Jones, 1B; Andrew McCutchen, OF; Jason Jaramillo, C; Jesse Chavez, RP; Steven Jackson, RP; Virgil Vasquez, RP; Donnie Veal, RP; Evan Meek, RP; Chris Jakubauskas, RP.
St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus, OF; Mitchell Boggs, SP; Blake Hawksworth, RP; Josh Kinney, RP; Jason Motte, RP; Brian Barden, 3B; Tyler Greene, SS; Nick Stavinoha, OF; Joe Thurston, 2B.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: Juan Gutierrez, RP; Gerardo Parra, OF; Josh Whitesell, 1B; Clay Zavada, SP; Esmerling Vasquez, RP; Billy Buckner, SP.
Colorado Rockies: Dexter Fowler, OF; Matt Daley, RP.
Los Angeles Dodgers: James McDonald, RP; Ronald Belisario, RP; Brent Leach, RP; Charlie Haeger, RP.
San Diego Padres: Mat Latos, SP; Kyle Blanks, 1B; Will Venable, OF; Everth Cabrera, SS; Clayton Richard, SP; Wade LeBlanc, SD; Josh Geer, SP; Luke Gregerson, SD; Greg Burke, RP; Luis Perdomo, RP; Adam Russell, RP; Drew Macias, OF.
San Francisco Giants: Travis Ishikawa, 1B; Nate Schierholtz, OF; Eli Whiteside, C.

You can e-mail Emack your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com.Be sure to put 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.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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