On the cusp of a winter full of summer weather and spring training about to come to an end, the 2012 MLB season is slowly coming upon us. Finally, baseball fans can go to the ballparks to watch their favorite teams square off for nine innings full of excitement for the next six months.
It’s also one of the best times of the year for fantasy baseball fanatics. As your drafts are underway as we speak, or if you just finished and need some help, take a quick look here at five players who you should watch out for to have a sneaky stellar season, or as the average person would say, “sleeper.”
For this article, I’m going to take a look at five starting pitchers who could really give you some high value for a low price.
1. Phil Hughes, New York Yankees- Hughes can become either a starter or a reliever. Last year, Hughes was dealing with several injuries, including lack of strength in his pitching arm. It blinds us from the potential Hughes has. In 2009, as a starting pitcher, he went 18-8 with a 4.19 earned run average (ERA), 1.25 WHIP, and 146 strikeouts over 176.1 innings pitched. May I add he was selected to the American League All-Star team that year as well.
Currently in spring training, he’s 0-1 with a 2.83 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and eight strikeouts over 13.1 innings pitched. The best part about Hughes is that wherever the Yankees put him, he has excelled in that position. If he becomes a starter while retaining his 2009 form, he can be a fourth starter in many leagues. As a reliever, he can come in and post good strikeout numbers as well as a low ERA with some good WHIP.
He shouldn’t have been drafted, so I recommend if you have one more spot on your team to fill up, take Hughes. A low-risk, high-reward move with a lot of upside.
2. Johan Santana, New York Mets- Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Santana used to be a regular in the top 10 pitchers to come off the board in every draft. After missing 2011 with an injury, Santana has gone unknown in most fantasy leagues.
Have we forgotten what this man has done when healthy? Sure, he doesn’t have a 95 mph fastball, but he can still throw his infamous circle change that’s made professional hitters look like golfers at the plate.
So far in spring training, Santana has posted a 3.38 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Let’s not forget that Santana isn’t going to be even close to the ace he was with the Minnesota Twins, but can be a solid sixth starter to fill your stat sheets. If he can prove he can stay healthy, Santana could be one of the biggest sleepers this season.
3. Carlos Zambrano, Miami Marlins- Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders to rejuvenate the career of a ballplayer (minus Milton Bradley, but I digress). Zambrano couldn’t control his temper or his pitches, which resulted him being traded to the Marlins, only to team up with another known hot head in Ozzie Guillen.
This marriage of the odd couple might be what Zambrano needs to start all over. He’s reportedly been working out and losing a good amount of weight. A healthy Zambrano with a clear mind could reach the ace days when he was with the Chicago Cubs in the early 2000s.
His spring training numbers prove his progression. Zambrano ranks third out of all pitchers with 16 strikeouts. The other two behind him have pitched more than double the amount of innings Zambrano has.
Zambrano is a definite strikeout pitcher, but as he improves his game, could become an all-around guy. His value may be a third starter at best, but he’s someone to look out for this season.
4. Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins- Staying with the Marlins, we run into another former ace with a lot of questions. Johnson missed significant time last year with injuries and has had Tommy John surgery before, which is why he’s on this list. His ceiling is high, but so is the risk of him getting hurt again.
Johnson says to be 100 percent this spring training. With the history of injuries Johnson holds account to, I’d say he’s a eighth rounder. If you’re able to get him that low, draft another pitcher in case Johnson goes down again.
5. Cory Luebke, San Diego Padres- Luebke is another project of what PetCo Park does to your pitching numbers; enhances them. Pitching half of his games in San Diego, Luebke went 6-10 with an impressive K/9 ratio of 9.92 and a 2.84 BB/9 in 2011. This caught the eyes of many, and it’s sure known he won’t go un-drafted this year.
If he’s available in the late rounds, get him. He won’t get you the wins, but he can sure stuff up every other category. Luebke can be a third starter at best since he lacks wins.