The idea of a sleeper in today’s fantasy game certainly isn’t what it was years ago. With the proliferation of information on the internet and the rise of next level statistics, it is much more difficult to find a true sleeper in a fantasy league filled with capable owners. That said, there are still guys who will be undervalued and have a strong shot to outperform their draft day cost.
When someone hears “sleeper”, they assume late round diamond in the rough. These days with the information, some sleepers are found earlier yet they will still exceed their cost. Here are five names in the American League who could do that in 2012.
C.J. Wilson (LAA) – He is unlikely to fall out of the top 15 of AL starters taken in a given draft, but he should be in the top 10 and could even crack the top 5 if things break perfectly. After a more than capable debut in the rotation in 2010, Wilson improved dramatically and now leaves Texas where he posted a 3.70 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 217 innings over the last two years. For the record, his road record includes a 2.58 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 211 innings.
Brandon McCarthy (OAK) – Discovering sabermetrics and the art of the groundball has rejuvenated the former top prospect’s career with a breakout 2011 season. He is committed to pairing his newfound groundball lean (47%) with more strikeouts (jumped from 5.4 K/9 to 7.3 K/9 in second half and wants more in 2012) and above all staying healthy for 200+ innings. I originally had him just inside the top 20 in my AL rankings, but have since bumped him up to 13. His average draft position is just inside the 25 for starters.
Felipe Paulino (KC) – Unappealing 4.46 ERA and 1.44 WHIP from 2011 has depressed his price, but there is plenty to like in this profile especially his strikeout potential. His command and control really showed growth save a speed bump in August when he walked 18 in 30 innings. Apart from that, he posted a 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 91 innings as a starter in June, July and September. The 28-year old is ready for a full breakthrough in 2012.
Jeff Niemann (TB) – He is almost completely off the radar for some reason, but he was given the 5th starter job over Wade Davis and his 3.41 ERA, 7.7 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB in 95 innings from July on shows his potential. Throw in a the tremendous BABIP-stifling defense in Tampa Bay and you have a potential gem on your hands at a next-to-nothing cost.
Jake Peavy (CHW) – The risk is evident with Peavy, but so is the reward. His days of strikeout-per-inning or better stuff are likely behind, but 7.7 K/9 is still plenty useful especially when paired 1.9 BB/9 (good for a 4.0 K/BB). Look to his xFIP (3.52) for a real gauge on how well he pitched last year as his 4.92 ERA was subject to small sample variance tied largely to his left-on-base percentage.