This time of year everyone is talking about sleepers and the next possible breakout candidate; I’m guilty of this myself but have no remorse of doing so. While sleepers are fun, most people are well aware of these guys come draft time so those late round picks now become guys you have to reach for in order to have them on your roster. That kind of defeats the purpose of naming someone as a sleeper, but in the internet age it’s become par for the course.
Today I’m going to present you with a few players that probably won’t even be drafted. There’s a chance that these guys may not even be fantasy relevant this year, but they are names you should keep an eye on just in case they receive an opportunity and lightning does strike.
Kyle Blanks (1B/OF Padres)
Blanks was once a highly touted prospect for the Padres organization. He was a .300 hitter in the minors, could draw walks at a decent clip, had high but not obscene strikeout rate and enough power to hit 25+ home runs on a regular basis. Most of us had high hopes for him after his debut in 2009, but fate had other plans. Tommy John surgery and a torn labrum took away over 2 of the past 4 years and his playing time has been marginal during the little time he’s had in the majors. Right now Blanks is stuck in a catch 22, he hasn’t earned the trust of Bud Black and yet he can’t gain that trust without sufficient playing time to prove what he can do. He did produce when Yonder Alonso went down last year, but that was short-lived and Blanks was quickly relegated back to part-time duty.
Right now Alonso is the front-runner for first base with Tommy Medica breathing down his neck. Alonso hasn’t done much to inspire us and Medica is unproven above A ball (but did well in his brief minor league career plus college). Also Carlos Quentin is frail and bound to go down at some point opening up another avenue of hope for Blanks. If he gets a shot a full-time at bats, he is definitely worth a look so keep an eye on first base along with left and right field. If an opening becomes available (a possibility with Cameron Maybin going down for 2-3 months), Blanks could make a decent pick up for leagues that use a CI slot or as a fourth outfielder.
Tommy Medica (1B Padres)
If Kyle ends up shooting Blanks and Alonso doesn’t pick things up, Medica could swoop in there and take the job. As Peter mentioned earlier this week while discussing spring training stats, Medica has done well in March. The Padres would like him to spend a little more time in the minors, but he’s making their decision harder with each swing of the bat. Like I said above, Alonso isn’t doing much to not make the Padres want to keep him at first, and Black doesn’t trust Kyle Blank’s defense to give him the hot corner. Medica isn’t listed on the top 100 prospects by MLB; this makes him a sneaky grab should he break camp with the big club. If he does get sent back down, it won’t be long before he gets a call as long as he continues to hit. He does strikeout a little too much for my taste (19.8%), but Medica can draw walks at a decent clip (10.8%), hits for average (.295) and can play defense (only 8 errors in 300 games). There is also the power as he hit 49 home runs in 1058 at bats. Why Medica is so ignored by the mainstream media and fantasy world I’ll never know, but their loss could be your gain if you find yourself in the need for a CI player. Keep watching this spring because if he breaks camp with a job, snatch him up. If he flops, it will only cost you a waiver pick up.
Dean Anna (SS/2B Yankees)
The Yankees may have the outfield covered, but the infield is held together with bungees and duct tape. Shortstop Derek Jeter is coming off an injury riddled season and turns 40 in June. Kelly Johnson brings his .230 average and horrific glove to town and will cover third base. Finally Brian Roberts, who hasn’t had over 265 at bats or played more than 59 games in a season since 2009 will play second. Brendan Ryan was brought back as an insurance policy for second and short, but he’s there more for his glove as his bat makes even Kelly Johnson look good. Edwardo Nunez can play short and third base, but his glove and bat are nothing to write home about. Not exactly encouraging if you’re a Yankees fan.
Enter Dean Anna; acquired from the Padres in November, he can play shortstop, second base and even played some third in A ball. The 27-year-old got a late start in baseball, being drafted by the Padres at age the age of 23 in 2008. During his time in the minors he compiled a .286 batting average, .386 OBP and a BB/K ratio close to 1.0. Anna doesn’t have much power and probably won’t hit more than 10 home runs; he’s more of a doubles guy. He also doesn’t possess much speed, but just like home runs he could get you 10 over the course of a full season. If you look at the overall package, he resembles a cheaper version of Brad Miller who has found his way onto many sleeper lists this year.
Odds are Anna will start the year in AAA, but it’s only a matter of time before Roberts goes down (or someone else in the infield implodes). With the lack of quality options on the major league roster, Anna seems like the obvious choice to be called up. He’s not someone you will want for your starting second baseman (or shortstop), but for leagues that use a MI slot, AL only and deeper leagues, he someone who should be on your radar. Monitor the situation in NY closely as Anna could make a sneaky pick for the second half (or sooner).
Delmon Young (OF/DH Baltimore)
For all of you prospect hounds who are enamored with chasing the next big thing, Young is the poster child of how bad things can go. He’s had his ups and downs and has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but with the exception of 2010 Young has never put everything together. Could this year be his year? The 28-year-old signed a minor league contract with the Orioles in hopes of making the opening day roster. Currently standing in his way of playing time (besides himself) are oft injured Nolan Remold and Rookie Henry Urrutia (who is dealing with shoulder inflammation). Over the past 3 years in part-time duty Young’s only batted in the .265 range, but he is capable of more than that. He hits lefties better than righties so he could be part of a platoon, but the numbers against right handers isn’t bad enough that he couldn’t handle a full-time role. The speed has all but disappeared, but the power is still alive and well (293.50 average fly ball distance last year). So far this spring he hasn’t hit well but did impressed manager Buck Showalter by coming into camp in great shape. Young may not be the prospect we all thought he was, but he can still be a very useful major leaguer and fantasy player. In 2012 with the Tigers Young hit .267 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs. Those are Nick Swisher numbers and he’s being drafted in approximately 75% of leagues.
Young is not a lock to make the opening day roster, but if he makes the club and works his way into full-time at bats, he could be a steal with the final pick of your draft or possibly a waiver wire pick up early in the season. If you look at him as a fourth outfielder and nothing more, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.