I’m not going to pretend you don’t know what a sleeper is. If you’ve found this page, you’re interested in unearthing fantasy baseball sleepers in the year 2013 (yay SEO!). You know, the sucky guys at the end of your fantasy draft or auction that usually don’t matter, but occasionally can win your league for you when it turns out they actually don’t suck as much as almost everyone else thinks. Without further ado, this year’s sleeper infielders:
1B Brandon Moss, Athletics & 1B Chris Carter, Astros
The February trade that sent Carter (and others) to the Astros in exchange for SS Jed Lowrie (and other) essentially created two intriguing fantasy first basemen where there had previously been a nightmarish platoon. I’d call Moss the better bet to succeed here, in part because the risk of him single-handedly dragging down your batting average is slightly less. Moss is a late-bloomer who smacked 21 HRs in just 296 ABs at the major league level last season. The left-handed Moss will almost certainly give up some ABs to the uninspiring Daric Barton, and possibly even Lowrie, against tough southpaws, but the path to 500-plus ABs is much clearer with Carter out of the picture. With the added benefit of eligibility at both OF and 1B, Moss is an excellent flyer candidate and bench fill-in who could return big dividends in the power categories. Carter is more of a one-dimensional fantasy play (HRs), but the move to Houston means he’ll get first crack at as many ABs as he can handle at either 1B or DH. He strikes out far too often – the fact that whiffing “only” 32% of the time in 2012 was a major improvement over his previous major league rate pretty much says it all – but his power has been described at varying times as “prodigious,” “exceptional,” and “holy crap, imagine what this guy could do in a bandbox like Minute Maid Park if he ever figures things out.” If nothing else, Carter’s rope will be much longer in Houston than it was in Oakland. You can do much worse than taking a flyer on a guy many once viewed as a potential star who now will have every opportunity to produce in a hitter-friendly environment.
2B Logan Forsythe, Padres
Second base might be the weakest position in fantasy baseball. After the top six or seven players, it’s basically a crapshoot. Which is my way of saying you should probably make sure you grab one of those top options, rather than waiting until deep in your draft and being forced to settle for… well, for someone like Logan Forsythe. I’m just going to be honest here; the things I don’t like about Forsythe (almost everything) far outweigh the things I do. But if you’re in a bind after missing out on the aforementioned elite at the position, you can do worse than Forsythe, who hit 6 taters and swiped 8 bags in 315 ABs for the Padres last year. There’s some risk that hot shot prospect Jed Gyorko could steal Forsythe’s job at 2B at some point in 2013, but the team has already said they want to get Forsythe ABs at both SS and OF as well. As a potentially multi-eligible player capable of delivering double digits in both HRs and SBs, there’s some upside here. And by “some,” I mean not very much (unless you play in an NL-only league, in which case Forsythe’s appeal multiplies by a factor of about three or four), but 2B stinks this year so give me a break.
SS/2B Josh Rutledge, Rockies
Rutledge was recalled from Double-A when Troy Tulowitzki went down last year, and he scorched major league pitching by hitting nearly .350 with seven homers and five steals in his first two months of action. His pace slowed significantly as the year wore on, and as is the case with just about every young player these days, he strikes out too much (123 times in 633 ABs between the minors and majors last season) to be a five-cat contributor. He’s expected to slide over to 2B now that Tulo is healthy (for now), which gives him even more appeal. Nevertheless, Rutledge appears very capable of delivering a 15 HR, 15 SB season, which is more than you can say for just about everyone outside of the top 5(ish) at the SS position this year.
SS Jean Segura, Brewers
The prize of the deal that sent Zack Greinke packing was Segura, a talented SS who was generally viewed as the Angels’ second-best prospect (light years behind Mike Trout) at this time a year ago. Segura did not look overmatched in 148 ABs with the Brewers late last year, and he’s got speed to burn (44 SBs across several levels last year). Shortstops who can hit .280ish with 30 steals don’t grow on trees, so keep an eye on Segura as your backup SS or middle infielder in the final third of your draft.
3B/1B Todd Frazier, Reds
Frazier meandered through the first half of last year as a part-timer, then erupted when thrust into full-time duty at 1B thanks to Joey Votto’s injury. His .273 BA is at risk due to an unsustainable .320 BABIP, but Frazier’s power is legit; he’s clubbed 25 HR in 586 major league ABs. Heck, he even stole 17 bases at Triple-A in 2011, so a handful of SBs isn’t out of the question either. Expected to take over full time at 3B for the Reds this year, Frazier is a candidate to threaten 30 HRs if everything falls right for him. Playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league doesn’t hurt.
3B Trevor Plouffe, Twins
Plouffe had a strange season in 2013. He finally got a chance to play every day when he was moved from SS to 3B in May, then he tore the cover off the ball (11 HR, 1.126 OPS in June) for a month before a thumb injury essentially de-railed the remainder of his season. Plouffe will never be an asset in the field, which makes his playing time anything but a certainty, but the Twins have indicated a willingness to let him learn on the job and will stick him in there as the everyday 3B to start the season. He’s not patient enough to be an asset in the batting average department, but a crazy-bad 2012 BABIP (.244) suggests at least part of the reason he hit just .235 was due to bad luck. I’ve seen enough to consider him a very good bet for at least 20 HRs, and there’s room for more growth from there if he can find a way to cut down on the strikeouts.