A tradition that many of my NY friends, which I rather like is a yearly boys' night out, where we go "shopping" for our significant others one evening in mid/late December. The tradition has evolved from a group of guys at a department store, before going to a bar - to a group of guys who just meet at a bar and skip the shopping entirely.
We had a good time this year, although we missed some friends who couldn't make it. One of our friends of the blog, let's call him "Horn", couldn't have been more pleasant to catch up with. Here we were on December 17th, and all Horn wanted to do was talk baseball. We huddled up around the imaginary hot stove at a midtown Irish bar, while I gently nursed a Sierra Nevada and Horn admitted to a hangover & asked for a Pepsi.
Horn is a Yankee fan. That can mean a lot of things. To be more precise, Horn is the kind of Yankee fans who supports the team, expects them to compete for championships, while always feeling nervous about the outcome. He's one of the few people I know who felt drama during the Bronx Bombers dominant, Championship run. I think he's a nervous fan. There's nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, nervous fans are outstanding. What's more fun that watching a game with a fan who's mere sanity is hanging on the outcome of every play? To the point that Horn is a great fan, he loves following major New York sports teams. I even remember seeing him passionately watch the end of an early round New Jersey Devils playoff game, while pacing around a New Orleans hotel room during Jazz Fest circa 2003.
Back to the bar, my Sierra turned into a Blue Moon, both on draft of course. Horn, asked for a water.
Horn has always been a terrifically supportive fan of the ol' blog. When we go too long in between posts, Horn is usually one of the first to notice and ask us what's going on. From what I gather, he loves to hear about sleepers and prospects. It's a nice reminder of what this blog was supposed to be about, at inception. We were looking for a place to read & write about baseball, while maintaining focus on both worlds of reality & rotisserie. Horn asked us for more updates on sleepers, so to this holiday party we will bring up a discussion of sleepers & I'm going to use potential keepers from my rotisserie league as a starting point.
Scoring in this league is pretty standard, except we play with OBP instead of Batting Average. Stats are: OBP/HR/R/RBI/SB and W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP
Going into the offseason, we select ten players from our roster (who were not drafted in the top four rounds) and they are in our "Keeper Consideration Pool". Cool name, I know. A few days before the draft in March, each team picks five players from their KCP as their keepers. Since keepers must be drafted after the 4th or 5th round, I think most of them are either big surprises or sleepers. You can keep a guy for 4 more years, so teams can really stockpile value if they play their cards right.
My team's Keeper Consideration Pool:
Joe Mauer and Tommy Hanson are not sleepers. Mauer is coming off an all-time great MVP season, and Hanson is a bona fide weapon. He'll probably give up more home runs next season, due to an unsustainable Homerun/Flyball rate, but just take a look at the WHIP numbers he's put up since he started 2008, as a 22-year old in High-A.
2008 High-A, WHIP: 0.65
2008 Double-A, WHIP: 1.13
2008 Az Fall League, WHIP: 0.85
2009 Triple-A, WHIP: 0.85
2009 MLB, WHIP: 1.18
Bill James projects Hanson to win 14 games next season, with a 3.30 ERA, and 206 strike outs in 191 innings.
Alexei Ramirez is not a sleeper. I think he was a disappointment last season, especially with his unsightly OBP every year. We'll probably still keep him because of position scarcity and his impressive Power/Speed number (17.94).
We are pretty undecided about who the other two keepers will be. Rasmus, Coghlan, and Andrus feel like safe bets, at least on the real-life field. David Price was supposed to be a super star by now, but we don't need to keep him. His stock is so low that we think we'll be able draft him, or better pitchers, in later rounds.
We spent time last summer on Dexter Fowler. I'm sold on his tools... he really looks fast and strong. I'm not sure if he has an everyday job in the Rockies' outfield.
Cameron Maybin is a sleeper because he has pretty much always struggled at the Major League level. I think he's ready to take off, but he might be one of those guys who's fast & can hit but doesn't hit HR's or steal enough bases to be a fantasy thoroughbred. Think of a speedier, streakier, David DeJesus.
The real sleeper on my list is Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Rays. He has yet to make his major league debut, but there is no doubt that he's really, really fast. They're calling him the next Carl Crawford, and that will suit us just fine for the next five years. Jennings has shown, unlike Maybin that he really knows how to steal a base. Last season in 100 double-A games, he stole 37 bases in 42 tries, with a .395 OBP. In 32 triple-A games last year, Jennings stole 15 bases in 17 tries, while OBP'ing .419. During his last five stops in the Rays' system, his BABIP's have been .324, .348, .299, .350, and .354. The question is if Jennings can win everyday at bats, while competing with guys like Matt Joyce, Fernando Perez, Gabe Kapler, and Justin Ruggiano. I think he has a chance to shine and win 2010's AL Rookie of the Year.
What defines a sleeper? I'm not sure. This discussion could go in many different directions, but let's try to stay on track. Back at the bar, Horn just left, David showed up late and my Blue Moon turned into a glass of scotch.
Other potential "sleepers" that came to mind during our discussion:
Let's get the sleeper discussion started in the comments. Anyone else that should be top-of-mind for savvy drafters? Should we do a prospect spotlight for any of the names listed above?