Let’s look at some fantasy sleepers in the National League.
Mike Minor, LHP—Atlanta Braves
He got a lot of grief for what was perceived to be a “play me or trade me” demand that he start the season in the big leagues in the Braves’ starting rotation.
It wasn’t that kind of demand at all, but that’s how it was taken.
Putting that aside, with Tim Hudson recovering from back surgery Minor is going to have to start the season in the big leagues. He’ll want to get off to a good start to stake his claim in the rotation and validate his assertion that he belongs.
He racks up the strikeouts, hits hits/innings pitched ratio is great and he doesn’t allow a lot of home runs or walks.
John Mayberry Jr., OF/1B—Philadelphia Phillies
Mayberry has never gotten the chance to play regularly from the start of the season onward, but will in 2012.
With Ryan Howard’s return date increasingly uncertain after the procedure to clean up the infection in his surgical wound, there’s even more reason to pick up Mayberry. The Phillies’ situation in left field is in flux and he’ll also play some first base.
He has 25-30 homer potential.
Chase Utley, 2B—Philadelphia Phillies
Looking at his basic stats, it appears as if he’s on the decline due to age and injury.
Utley has hit in notoriously bad luck in the past two seasons. His BAbip was .288 in 2010, .269 in 2011. He stole 14 bases without getting caught after returning from his knee injury. His power numbers were right in line with what he normally produces.
Utley’s going to have a big comeback year.
Chris Coghlan, INF/OF—Miami Marlins
He may have worn out his welcome with the newly star-studded Marlins, as injuries and bickering with the front office have diminished the former NL Rookie of the Year to a forgotten man.
The Marlins don’t have a prototypical centerfielder on the roster (they’re intent on going with Emilio Bonifacio), Coghlan can play the position defensively and his bat can rebound. He’ll get one last shot with the Marlins; otherwise he’s trade bait and is worth the risk in the hopes of a return to what he once was.
Frank Francisco, RHP—New York Mets
He’s not a great closer, but he strikes out over a batter an inning. If you need someone to get you some saves and don’t want to pay for them, he’s going to be cheap.
These are the Mets and fantasy mirrors reality.
Or reality mirrors fantasy.
Or both reflect a nightmare. Or circumstances.
Or all of the above.
Jonathan Lucroy, C—Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy has a career minor league OPS of .838 and an OBP of .379. He’s hit 20 homers in a season in the minors and hit 12 in the big leagues last season.
He’ll be cheap and there’s major room for improvement.
Alex Presley, OF—Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates’ outfield situation flanking Andrew McCutchen isn’t set. Presley can run and had an .804 OPS in 231 plate appearances in the big leagues last season.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP—Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are going to trade Carlos Marmol at some point and someone—either Samardzija or Kerry Wood—will have to take over as closer. It makes no sense to use Wood at this stage of his career.
Samardzija overcame his control issues for the most part and struck out 87 in 88 innings last season.
Bud Norris, RHP—Houston Astros
Norris isn’t going to win many games for the Astros, but he strikes out close to a batter per inning and has had excellent hits/innings pitched ratios at every level.
David Hernandez, RHP—Arizona Diamondbacks
I don’t trust J.J. Putz to stay healthy and Hernandez saved 11 games in Putz’s absence last season.
Hernandez struck out 77 in 69 innings and allowed 49 hits.
Cory Luebke, LHP—San Diego Padres
Luebke struck out 154 in 139 innings last season and allowed 105 hits.
He began 2011 in the bullpen, but moved to the starting rotation in the second half. He’ll be a full-time starter in 2012.
Jerry Sands, OF—Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers circumstances in left and right field aren’t settled. Juan Rivera is slated to start in left and Andre Ethier is a free agent at the end of the season and is a good bet to be traded.
Sands has posted huge power numbers in the minors—stats—and has the speed to steal 15-20 bases.