September 22, 2021

2011 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Top Ten Sleepers (Part I)

January 24, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Different editors/writers have differing definitions of the term, “sleeper”. The concept has been watered down in the current fantasy baseball lexicon, probably because there are writers who can’t be bothered to do the analysis required to uncover real “sleepers”. In my opinion, rookies have no place on a sleeper list. They aren’t sleepers. They are prospects who are hoping to have a major league career. Thus, there aren’t any rookies on my list. [If you feel you HAVE to have a rookie on your sleeper list, start with Craig Kimbrel and/or Jordan Walden]

I also don’t consider guys like Drew Stubbs (CIN, OF) to be a sleeper. He had nearly 600 plate appearances, hit 22 HR and registered 30 SB last year. On what planet is a 20/20 guy a “sleeper”? Yet, I have read several lists on which he has been labeled a sleeper for 2011. IMHO, if you are playing fantasy baseball and you don’t know about what he has done, give up fantasy baseball… try fantasy legislators. Stubbs is not a sleeper! Ditto Brandon Morrow (TOR, RHP), who led all of the major leagues with a 13.01 K/9 in 2010, yet somehow still shows up on numerous sleeper lists heading into 2011.

I believe the guys on my list fit the classic definition of a “sleeper”. They are big leaguers who have not put up the kind of numbers that were expected of them. In most instances, their names are familiar to you, but you might look beyond them either because of poor performance, a lack of opportunity, or injury. For those reasons, they are guys who might otherwise fly under the radar at your 2011 auction / draft… thus, they are a “sleeper”. Don’t get caught napping on them in March.

Here are my Top Ten fantasy baseball sleepers for 2011, presented in five installments over the next five days starting today (one batter and one pitcher in each installment):

Julio Borbon, TEX: His 2009 performance (.312, 19 SB in 157) gave rise to some inflated expectations, but like many young ballplayers before him he was unable to live up to the hype in his sophomore season. While he managed to post pretty decent numbers in 2010 (.276, 15 SB in 438 AB), he was not the dominating SB threat that ’09 suggested he might be… thus, I think he will fly under the radar in 2011. Be patient.

His stolen base totals will be hampered because he isn’t a patient hitter. He posted a BB-rate of 8.4% in 2009, but that dropped to 4.1% last year (the major league average was 8.7% over those two years). His minor league walk-rate was just under 6%, so his 2009 rate was an outlier and likely won’t be repeated (at least not with any consistency). So Borbon will have to hit his way on to create opportunities to accumulate SBs. He should be able to do that with some consistency, as he has shown an elite contact rate (88%) in his brief major league career. He hit .276 last year, owing mostly to a deflated BABIP (.313). It says here you can expect a league-average BA and 30+ steals from him in 2011, and in the years to come.

Chris Capuano, NYM: The left-hander returned to the major leagues last season after two years of inactivity brought on by an elbow injury, Tommy John surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. He returned to action on June 3rd with a start in Florida, and then made another start and 15 relief appearances before finally joining the rotation for good on August 28th. He went 2-2, 2.91, in six September starts, going at least five innings in five of those games and allowing no more than three runs in any of them.

Capuano posted the best ERA of his career (3.95) while making four starts in Miller Park, a stadium that played at the major league norm for runs scored while surrendering the sixth-highest home run rate of any major league park. This year, he will move to Citi Field, a ballpark that surrendered runs at a rate that was 11% lower than the major league norm and home runs at a rate that was 28% lower (the fourth-lowest HR-rate among all major league parks). [Miller Park’s LH/RH swing factor is 118/103… Citi Field’s factor is 90/94]

NL-only owners should watch him in spring training. If he does well, think long and hard about grabbing him at the end of your auction / draft.

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