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by Lou Poulas of Fantasy Insider Online

The key to any draft – whether it is auction style, scratch, or keeper – is to find value where your competitors don’t see it. Each year owners scour the web and other print publications for information on sleepers, injuries, and any type of data they can get their hands on to help weed through the hundreds of available players to discover who’ll breakout in the coming year.

This is at best a painstaking exercise at the worst a fruitless one. Each publication has their own ideas and frankly they don’t always do a great job of backing up their beliefs. Sometimes they even contradict each other.

An alternative way to look for value is through gauging your competitor’s belief in certain players, and anticipate where they will fall in the draft. A common bias in all leagues is to put too much emphasis in how a player faired in the previous season, instead of looking at a player’s career path as a whole. Statistics fluctuate annually (sometimes through luck, other times due to legitimate reasons such as injuries) and for established players most of it is just noise. A player may simply have a good or bad luck year.

A quick way to get at this data is to compare the Fantasy Rank of the previous year to their projected rank to the upcoming season. Large differences often signify where an owner may over or undervalue a player, and knowing this allows better planning for your draft. I’ve identified some batters who are likely to be valued incorrectly.

Overvalued – These players are likely to be drafted earlier than they should be. They still may be good players, even great, but don’t plan your draft strategy on obtaining their services.

Aaron Rowand – At 29 years of age, Rowand had his career year in 2007, setting career highs in R, 2B, HR, RBI, and OBP. A great rule of thumb is to never pay a premium for players coming off a career year as they are almost always going to disappoint. Rowand is no different. If you need more reasons to avoid him, remember he’s leaving his bandbox of a park (Citizens Bank) for San Francisco which is average at best. Plus, and more importantly, he’ll be surrounded by one of the worst everyday lineups in baseball.

Magglio Ordonez – I like Ordonez, he’ll certainly be a good player this year, but too much of his value in 2007 was in due high batting average (.363). He is a career .312 hitter with a previous high of .320 and in 2008 projects to a line of .308, 85 R, 20 HR, 94 RBI which is more in line with a top-20 Outfielder than the Top-3 version he was in 2007.

Mike Lowell – I admit I dislike Lowell and usually avoid him at all costs. This didn’t work out so well for me last year, but it will work out fine for me in ’08:

2007: .324 AVG, 79 R, 21 HR, 120 RBI, 3 SB, 8th Ranked 3B
2008: .283 AVG, 68 R, 15 HR, 77 RBI, 3 SB, 18th Ranked 3B


Other Mentions

For each player below, the difference between his 2007 Rank and 2008 Projected Rank is displayed. All Rankings are “within the position” as opposed to overall.

-20: Ichiro Suzuki, OF (17, 37)
-20: Randy Winn, OF (40, 60)
-19: Eric Byrnes, OF (2, 21)
-11: Shane Victorino, OF (29, 40)
-10: Placido Polanco, 2B (9, 19)
-10: Casey Blake, 3B (12, 22)
-6: JJ Hardy, SS (9, 15)
-5: Khalil Green, SS (6, 11)

Undervalued – the heart of every winning season is finding the draft day steal.

Nick Swisher – The new Chicago White Sox center fielder had a down year in 2007, batting just .265 while achieving close the bear minimum of counting stats required for a fantasy outfielder – 78 R, 84 RBI, 22 HR. With no speed, Swisher ranked the 38th best in the OF in 2007.

2008 looks to be a bit different. Why? Swisher is better than what he showed last year and is moving from an extreme pitchers park to an above average hitters park. His projected stats are improved almost across the board t0 91 R, 94 RBI, 30 HR. His batting average still figures to be low (.264) but this projection makes him a top 20 outfielder.

Alfonso Soriano – Many, including myself, had Soriano ranked 1st coming into last season and he never did live up to expectations, even when on the field. He missed almost a month of playing time, but even projected over 160 games his 2007 stats don’t electrify – 39 HR, 114 R, 83 RBI, 23 SB. Very good of course, but not worthy of a 1st overall pick.

Fast forward to 2008. Owners still have sour tastes in their mouths having spent $40+ on him last year, and are likely ready to stay away this draft day. His projections are still great though – 35 HR, 97 RBI, 91 R, 22 SB. Watch him fall a bit and grab him early in the second round.

Miguel Tejada – We can all agree Tejada is no longer the elite shortstop that he was a few years ago. Coming off an injury plagued and disappointing 2007, Tejada finds himself with a new team and ready to start anew. He is 32 years old and not likely to completely self destruct. For fantasy owners, the better news is that his counting stats were held down last year due to his missed playing time. He hit 18 HR, with 72 R and 81 RBI making him a lower tier option at shortstop.

His projections are solid – .297 AVG, 76 R, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 4 SB and perhaps more importantly his competition will not be as good. Khalil Greene, Orlando Cabrera, JJ Hardy, Julio Lugo, Jhonny Peralta, and Edgar Renteria were all ranked higher than him last year but project to be ranked worse than him this year. Let your fellow owners draft this crew before Tejada, and a few rounds later get the same value for less cost.

Other Mentions
For each player below, the difference between his 2007 Rank and 2008 Projected Rank is displayed. All Rankings are “within the position” as opposed to overall.

+19: Andruw Jones, OF (31, 12)
+16: Vernon Wells, OF (42, 26)
+9: Rafael Furcal, SS (15, 6)

+7: Troy Glaus, 3B (22, 15)

+5: Miguel Tejada, SS (14, 9)

+5: Tad Iguchi, 2B (19, 14)

+5: Aramis Ramirez, 3B (10, 5)

+5: Josh Fields, 3B (16, 11)

+4: Alex Gordon, 3B (17, 14)

Final Note: Earlier I said, “A common bias in all leagues is to put too much emphasis in how a player faired in the previous season, instead of looking at a player’s career path as a whole.” This only works for established players and you should of course pay specific attention to players at the very beginning or very end of their careers.

  1. rudygamble says:
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    nice article, lou.

    what fantasy rankings are you referring to in the article?

  2. Baseball Lab says:
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    I guess I could have explained that part better – or, at all rather. I created my own player rating system which was used for the final 2007 rankings. The 2008 projections are based off a weighted average of ZIPS, Chone, Bill James, and PECOTA published projections this pre-season. These projections were then plugged into the player rater.

  3. $ Mad Money Renato $ says:
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    i like the web site great info !

    maybe we can both swap links to our fantasy sites???

    http://rotofantasysports.blogspot.com/

    Let me know what u think ??

  4. Who We Are says:
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    I only put links of sites I look at, but I’ll keep checking out your site for updates and might list yours in the future.

  5. livinglegend3486 says:
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    Seriously? How can Rowand be a sleeper when he already had the best year of his career one season ago. Last year he was a huge sleeper. This year his stats can go nowhere but down playing for the worst offense in the entire league with no protection around him. His homeruns will stay the same at best, but his runs scored and RBIs will take a dramatic dive. Magglio can also not be named a sleeper because of his success last season. Theres nothing to sleep on here. He is going in the 3rd round of most mock drafts. This is the same round where you can get younger more secure outfielders like Curtis Granderson or Nick Markakis who are not injury prone and will surpase old man Magglio. Sleepers are players that you can get late and with great value. For real sleepers try Kevin Kouzmanoff who will bat 3rd for the Padres in front of Adrian Gonzalez. Or try Michael Bourn, Nate McLouth, or Yunel Escobar who will all be leadoff hitters for their clubs and should have a nice balance of power and speed. For pitchers, look no further than Yovanni Gallardo or Ubaldo Jimenez who are both in their sophmore season and will have plenty of run support, a high strike out rate, and below average ERA’s. That is the definition of a sleeper.

  6. Baseball Lab says:
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    Living Legend

    I think we have a case of misunderstanding here. The players you mentioned were in the section titled:

    Overvalued – These players are likely to be drafted earlier than they should be. They still may be good players, even great, but don’t plan your draft strategy on obtaining their services.

    So I agree with you – Rowand, Ordonez, etc are most definitely not sleepers, and in fact, are anti -sleepers.

    Sounds like perhaps the title was a bit confusing, or you skipped down to the player names without reading the text. Apologies if it is the former.

    Also – this is most definitely not a “sleeper” article. Sleeper implies a player that nobody expects to have value, but you project them to have plenty of value. Rather, this article is mean to point out inconsistencies of mainstream owners and some players you can take advantage of because of it.

  7. Pingback: Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for Every Position

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