This article is going to take a look at five sleeper candidates at the second base position. Snagging a good second baseman can be tricky, so landing a sleeper in the middle rounds can make the difference in a league, especially a competitive one where managers are angling to find players that will greatly outperform their ADP.
I believe these five players offer that possibility:
1) Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
Kendrick actually packs surprising power and hits for average too--18 HRs isn't that bad from a second baseman. He has spoken of winning batting titles, which makes little sense considering how far he is from such a goal, and he doesn't draw many walks (28 in 2010 in 658 ABs) -- so, when he stops hitting the ball, he stops getting on base. He seems to be done with the minor leagues at long last, and is still only 27 years old, but he was only pegged as a 3% breakout index by Baseball Prospectus going into last season and he hit .285, so they were about deadly accurate with the slight improvement expected. Could Kendrick maybe hit .295 or .300? Sure. Could he hit 25 home runs? Probably not, but hitting 18 again is pretty likely, and the 15 to 20 SBs he will throw in may make the difference between winning the category.
2) Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
Cuddyer already had a great year last season and now he is headed to Coors Field...We like that. He didn't hit the ball well in Target Field and his power was equally distributed between both halves of the season last year, so it could be said that Cuddyer was consistent. I'm not sure how high you may have to go to get Cuddyer this year, because surely we are not the only ones that realize these factors. Cuddyer is not really a true sleeper like he used to be at age 32 now, but he hit 32 HRs in 2009 with the Twins, and his fall off may be due in large part to the right knee injury he suffered which nagged him until he finally had it operated upon in October of 2010. His versatility on positions is nice, and I'm eager to see what he does in a Rockies uniform.
3) Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
The outfield fences were brought in at Citi Field and it is expected to benefit lefties the most, so that will be great for the 6-3 210-pound Murphy. He had a 0 percent breakout chance last season, according to Baseball Prospectus, and then he shockingly hit .320 in 391 ABs with 6 HRs and 5 SBs. He's right in his prime now, too, which bodes well. He was blocked from third baseman duties by David Wright and is really just a true utility player who happens to be eligible at 2B. At one point he was projected to be nothing more than a pinch hitter, but he is clearly too good for such fringe responsibilities at this point.
4) Kelly Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
Kelly Johnson tore it up in 2010 when he hit .284 from the plate with a .496 slugging percentage and 26 HRs. He topped three WARP in 2007 and 2008, and he started out hot by going .313 in the month of April with 9 HRs. He has been worth 12 WARP in the last four seasons, though, so how bad can you really say Johnson is? He hit .270 with the Blue Jays and banged 3 HRs in those 115 ABs. If he fails to return to the .280s, just hitting .260 makes him far more valuable than a number of other options that will be available to you when Johnson is going off the boards.
5) Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins
Casilla is a very speculative pick, but he did snag 15 bags in 323 at-bats. He probably would have been significantly better if healthy, but was facing a nagging hamstring injury. He is a contact hitter but has been known to have mental lapses and lack hustle at times. He's speedy, though, and is comparable to Orlando Hudson statistically, but still may not be the long term answer. He's a gamble for the Twins, but a small gamble for fantasy owners since he can be snagged late in drafts, or just added if he begins to get regular time and production increases.
2) 2011 Baseball Prospectus
I've been watching baseball since 1989 when Ken Griffey Junior entered the majors. Seeing him retire felt like watching my childhood die, after drafting him far ahead of his ADP year after year (Yes, I was THAT guy in your league!). Still, I plug on watching the players of today, wondering if anyone will be bold enough to continue comparing Jose Bautista to Junior. Please, spare me.