Fantasy Baseball 2012: Sleeper Picks

Apr 16, 2012


.
By Jordan Hall
.
Anybody remember Gerald Green’s cupcake dunk in the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest? In what was nothing less then an exposé on American ingenuity and overindulgence, young Green went up and blew out a candle on a cupcake located on the rim as he windmill dunked it.
.
I remember watching that dunk and being left in stunned silence. I was so impressed. It was what I love about the dunk contest all wrapped into one dunk; the emphasis on creativity and style points rather then the actual dunk itself.
.
For better or worse, I’m exactly the same way when it comes to my team. I don’t want to just win my league, I want to execute and win while looking like a genius and racking up as many style points as I can. I love being the guy that has Alex Gordon the year he finally breaks out or that dumped Adam Dunn before the fall. Obviously trying to play the wise guy has come back to bite me more then once. It’s like I just can’t stay away.
.
Anyways, I know that I am not the only person out there who wants to rack up the style points and look like a genius. For my people out there, here are some guys I’m hoping will make me look like Einstein come October.
.
We might as well start with the man who turned in the worst statistical year for a pitcher ever, last year. Yep, I’m a Brian Matusz believer. Having spent three months in Florida, I was able to watch Matusz throw in person and I was very impressed. His velocity was back and he just looked healthier. He was once the best pitching prospect in baseball; all that talent didn’t just disappear. The Orioles are better then people think and I really think Matusz is going to be a big part of that.
.
Speaking of big, Carlos Zambrano. Here’s a guy who has enjoyed a long career providing fantasy value. He has lost it a little the last several years but I think you can attribute a lot of that to being bored of Chicago. He’s in a new town with a fiery new manager. Hopefully a new attitude will accompany the change.
.
If you recall, Kyle Drabek was the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay deal a couple years back. Once a top prospect, control problems have halted his career. The stuff has always been there, just not the command. I know I’m asking you to take the word of an amateur scout but I saw three innings of Drabek and saw a whole new man. He wasn’t brining it quite as hard as he has in the past but he was able to move the ball around with ease. I really think that this is the year he starts to deliver on all that potential.
.
Henderson Alvarez is another guy I love. He’s a name that most have never heard but he has an electric arm. He features a fastball with heavy sink and a filthy cutter that acts like a slider, I see a young Brandon Webb in him. I think there’s some strikeout potential too, so definitely keep him on your radar.
.
Luke Hochevar has been my breakout man for years. Last year I called for him to win a Cy Young. While I did not get that, I did get a solid year of improvement. His tremendous spring strikeout to walk ratio this year has me believing one more time. This was a guy that the Royals used their number one overall pick on. A breakout is coming, you just want him on your team when it happens.
.
I may be crazy but I’m buying a breakout year for the Pirates offense. I think Garrett Jones rises from the fantasy dead to be helpful; the power is still there. Pedro Alvarez will never win a batting title. We all thought he would and we were all wrong. While that is not an attainable goal, he certainly has some value and promise. The power is legitimate. He could easily hit 30 bombs and drive in 80 runs. That’s not all bad to me. I’m a believer that in the 2 spot of the Pirate offense, Jose Tabata is going to score a ton of runs. He’s already proven himself capable of getting on base and stealing one here and there as well. Lastly, they have a minor league first basemen named Matt Hague whom I love. I watched him in person and was completely blown away. He squares the ball up every time. He’s raked at all levels of the farm so I don’t see why he would fail if given the chance for the big club. He’s got tremendous power, he just needs a chance to spin. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be the person who wins their league led by a bunch of Pirates? Yep, that’s what I thought.
.
Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Justin Smoak. The jewel of the Cliff Lee trade, the young first basemen dealt with a pair of injuries and the death of his father. With those demons at least most of the way behind him, I expect the breakout season many were calling for last year. I don’t lose faith in guys when they have a down year due to injury and neither should you. Playing baseball at 100% is very hard to do. Playing it at far less then your best is borderline impossible. Smoak still has all the tools that made him a highly regarded prospect. Don’t sleep on him.
.
Let’s be honest, the Giants don’t have a clue about what they want to do with Brandon Belt. The things is, though, it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s in the lineup. The guy has raked in the minors and in spring training. The pedigree is there that he just needs everyday at bats. Everyone has given up on him after they hyped him last year. He’s still the same player, he just had some unfortunate circumstances go on around him. While I don’t think he has a massive upside, he can certainly be a usable first basemen and make you look smart in the process.
.
Last is good old Jed Lowrie. Though he’s dealing with a minor injury to start the year I’m sold on a Houston breakout for him. He was always the talk of Bean Town, the long awaited replacement to Nomar. Well that obviously didn’t happen but under so much scrutiny, how could it have? He’s now in Houston, out of the limelight, and ready to show what he’s all about. There are few usable Astros and I think he’s going to be one of them.
.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lefthandsmoke23

. .

No Responses so far | Have Your Say!

Leave a Comment


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties