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2010 is a new season. Thousands of baseball fans have drafted their teams. Thousands more are preparing for their soon to be held drafts. "Sleepers" are often referred to as overlooked or undervalued players. Rookies with huge upside potential, players ready to have a break out year or players returning from injury all qualify. Much talk has centered around four rookies. I've compiled a list of players who usually fly under the radar in early draft rounds. I rarely recommend searching out sleepers when proven heavy OPS players remain plentiful. However, sleepers can be great mid-round picks depending on league format and current draft status/needs.
Jason Heyward (Atl) - Much talked about this preseason. His stature reminds me of a young Dave Parker. Great upside. Will have plenty of hot/cold streaks but should offer plenty of power potential.
Austin Jackson (Det) - I'm a big fan of Jackson's. Tigers spacious surroundings could prove challenging. He seems level headed and could tear it up on home games with 2B's, 3B's while saving his power stroke for road games. Quickly maturing 5 tool player.
Alcides Escobar (Mil) - Brewers are high on their shortstop of the future. I haven't watched him play a single inning so it's hard to comment. He's a stretch for offensive production in my book but is worth a shot in keeper style leagues.
Kyle Blanks (SD) - Effortless swing and packs a mean punch. Defense needs fine tuning. Offense will be plentiful.
Ian Kennedy (AZ) - He's ready and I'm expecting a big year from Kennedy in Arizona. He's made their rotation after an outstanding spring campaign. Untouchable when he's on.
Tim Hudson (Atl) - Not being drafted high in most leagues. Hudson's back and ready for a big season. K totals might not turn heads but sub 3.00 will. Key cog in Braves rotation.
Chris Young (AZ) - Struggled miserably in '09 and fell off most manager's radar. Not mine. He's matured and will enjoy his best big league season.
Hunter Pence (Hou) - Hardly a sleeper. Pence qualifies as a career year type player. 40+ doubles, 30+ homers.
Colby Rasmus (StL) - Should show steady improvement in sophmore season.
Geovany Soto (Chi) - Cubs backstop had a great rookie year in '08. Suffered thru injury plagued '09. Healthy and ready for '10 could finish in top 5 fantasy point producing catchers.
Grady Sizemore (Cle) - Get ready for a comeback player of the year style season. He might even make a run at MVP honors. Sizemore is tearing it up in pre-season which is a clear indication he's ready to go.
Ian Desmond (Was) - Nationals are high on young future star SS Desmond. So am I. He has all the tools... and won starting nod this spring as everyday SS.
Matt Wieters (Bal) - Everyone in Baltimore loves this guy. He's going to have a crash course in AL East baseball learning to handle a young pitching staff while taking swings against the AL's top rotations. He's an unknown commodity who might produce. He seems to be going way too high over proven talent in most drafts. Buyer beware.
Marlon Byrd (Chi) - I think a monster season is ready to be had by Byrd. Many things in his favor. A great hitters home park. Great hitters division. Not so hot opposing staffs loaded with lefties. Byrd has a mixed clubhouse rep. He'll be great if playing with a cool head. Same was said of Milton Bradley heading into '09. Difference is Byrd's much better player.
Billy Wagner (Atl) - Potential 40 save season and Braves first true closer in recent memory. Health is always an issue. He looks better than ever. Phils have competition.
Will Venable (SD) - Sleeper pick. He's been red hot this spring. Solid minor league stats. Shown consistent improvement at every level including majors. Key cog in Padres attack will produce. 35+ doubles, 20+ homers, .280+ BA all within reach.
Drew Stubbs (Cin) - Reds leadoff hitter might smack 25 - 30 round trippers in cozy Cincinnati. This kid's for real but needs to cut down on wild strikeouts.
My crystal ball tells me only one team fits a true potential sleeper squad. In 5 of 6 divisions it's hard to imagine a weaker squad conquering tough rivals for the title. Then, there's the NL West. Meet the San Diego Padres. Personally, I have them pegged last in NL West. However, there's tremendous upside here for San Diego. They possess a solid batting lineup and excellent bullpen. Success or failure rests on the shoulders of starting pitchers. Garland, Young, Correia, Lantos, Richard. Who? They don't put fear into anyone. Precisely what makes them dangerous. Lineup has 3 rising stars to compliment Andrian Gonzalez' power. Kyle Blanks, Will Venable and Chase Headley. Bench depth is deepest in West. Jerry Hairston, Scott Hairston, Oscar Salazar & Matt Stairs. Padres have had a taste of winning too by way of a current 14 game spring streak. This has to be a confidence builder. Keep an eye on these guys.