Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sleepers: (Or Why We're Going About It All Wrong)

If it's February and it's a fantasy/Rotisserie baseball website that you're reading, then it must be time to start talking about sleepers. 

But this is all wrong.

We shouldn't be looking for sleepers. We should be looking for opportunities to maximize the amount of value/statistics we can cram on our roster.

This isn't merely semantics. Too many fantasy sites lazily apply the term sleeper to "a player that is likely to improve this year." Yes, it's important to be able to identify this, but if everyone in your league has the same general impression, then you can kiss your sleeper goodbye.

You're not looking for sleepers. You're looking for value. And value opportunities come not by chasing the herd but rather by going in a completely different direction.

In no particular order, these are the types of hitters who have the potential to maximize value (I'll discuss pitchers in my next post):

Playing Time: This is where many deep leagues are won and lost. No one in his right mind thought Melky Cabrera was going to earn $31 last year. But it was almost certain that he would play all season long barring a batting average catastrophe and would conservatively earn $10 or so. His average salary was $4. The Tigers told us that Alex Avila was going to catch and that Victor Martinez was mostly going to DH, but Avila only went for an average salary of $4. You don't want to chase guys like Avila or Melky to $10...even though that would have worked out for you in 2011. But at a low enough price, these guys are obvious buys.

Bench Guys With Speed: If you paid big bucks for Juan Pierre last year, you were probably none too happy when Ben Revere came up from the minors and stole 34 bases. Chris Getz isn't a good Major League player, but his 21 stolen bases made him an $11 earner in 2011. There are even more of these guys floating around in the National League. Jason Bourgeois, Tony Campana, Jordan Schafer...all made an impact for little or no investment. They don't all work out (Jarrod Dyson anyone?) but if you can hit on the right one you can make a pretty big impact on your SB race for just $1-2.

Rookies That "Shouldn't" Be Up This Year: This applies to non-keeper leagues only; in keeper leagues the best prospects are typically long gone. But if players like Eric Hosmer or Dustin Ackley are left in your end game at $1-2, you have a better chance at a big profit with Hosmer than you do with someone who is likely to be a back up only. Even in a one-league league, you can find back-ups floating around in the free agent pool all year long.

Veterans That Are "Finished": Lance Berkman and Todd Helton were both buying opportunities last year. Once again, some leagues practically ignore players like this or push them to the point where even if they only reach their worse case scenarios they are still going to earn par. You don't want to overpay for a player who is a shadow of his former self, but if the price is right this is a great place to turn a profit.

Five Category Superstars: What? These guys clearly aren't sleepers.

Right...but this is where you can turn a significant profit if one of these guys breaks out. Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, and Matt Kemp all turned a double-digit profit in 2011...despite the fact that they cost $29, $21, and $34. Everyone knows who these guys are, but where pure power hitters tend to be too expensive, speed guys tend to be somewhat undervalued. There is an opportunity to get par value or better from a player who can contribute across the board...and you might hit the jackpot if that player has a banner year.

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