2012 Sleepers: Pitchers
Mar 14, 2012 by Dan Wheelock
In the early rounds of your draft you want to try to just avoid disaster. Owners that drafted Josh Johnson or Ubaldo Jimenez last year had their championship chances hurt big time. You’re not going to turn a huge profit, if any, from your first couple of picks but you should target guys with high floors. Leagues aren’t won in the early rounds but they can be lost then.
In the second half of your draft you can afford to take some risks, especially in mixed leagues where there will be a big free agent pool during the year. Here is where you can turn huge profits and help secure a league championship.
Here are some pitchers that can be drafted late (some won’t be drafted in mixed leagues) that should out-play their draft positions.
Mike Minor, SP, ATL – Minor was on my sleeper list last year and he didn’t even break camp with the Braves. Brandon Beachy came out of nowhere and I didn’t think that Atlanta would go with an all right-handed rotation. Swing and a miss. Well, not completely. Minor was a pretty good option down the stretch last year for owners that streamlined pitchers. After getting called up in August, he went 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA and averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Minor hasn’t allowed a run in 3 spring starts (9 innings) and is almost a lock to win a starting gig with the Braves especially with Tim Hudson missing the start of the season. Minor has a pedigree and now the opportunity he needs to contribute for fantasy owners.
Brad Peacock, SP, OAK – Peacock, a 41st-round draft pick in 2006, seemingly came out of nowhere last year to dominate the high minors. In 146 2/3 innings in Double-A and Triple-A, he sported a 2.39 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and a strikeout ratio of 10.9. Those are numbers to get excited about! His success continued for the Nationals as he only gave up one run and 13 base runners in 12 innings. Peacock could be the Brandon Beachy of 2012 but it will be hard for him to have a winning record playing for Oakland. Still, he could easily have a rotation spot right out of spring training and that would make him a name to keep track of.
Doug Fister, SP, DET – After being traded to Detroit, Fister was other-worldy in 10 starts. He went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and an unheard of 11.4 SO/BB ratio. He was having a nice season up to that point as well with the Mariners even though his record did not reflect it. Fister ended the year with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. The 28-year-old is just into his prime and will have some of the best run support of any pitchers in the majors in 2012. Fister doesn’t have a great strikeout rate (6.1 per nine innings in 2011) and his ratios will probably regress a bit, but he should be able to win 15 games pretty easily. He will be a late-round pick that will give you mid-round value.
Addison Reed, RP, CHW – Reed flew through Chicago’s minor league system in 2011, playing at all four levels. He struck out 12.8 batters per nine innings and sported a 1.26 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP in total. Reed’s success continued with the White Sox in September when he struck out 12 hitters in 7.1 innings. With Sergio Santos out of the picture, Reed is expected to battle for the team’s closer role in spring training. Now is the time to get him cheap. His draft stock will surely spike if he gets the closer’s gig. Even if he doesn’t, there’s a good chance the lefty will get it by season’s end.
Bud Norris, SP, HOU –Norris is a nice source of strikeouts and he is still flying under the radar on draft day. Playing for the Astros, he probably won’t have a winning record again this season, which is the main thing keeping his value down. Norris improved his walk rate from 4.5/9 innings in 2010 to 3.5/9 innings in 2011 and it translated into 3.77 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, numbers that won’t kill you in those categories. Norris will be 27 on opening day so he still has room to improve. Grab him late and you won’t be sorry.
Rafael Betancourt, RP, COL – Filling in for an injured Huston Street, Betancourt did great in the closers role for the Rockies late last year. He converted eight of his nine save chances. Betancourt finished the season with a 2.89 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. More impressive is that he only walked eight batters all year and only one after the all-star break. Street is now in San Diego and Betancourt heads into spring training as the Rockies’ closer. He is currently the 24th reliever taken and 200th overall according to Mock Draft Central so you can wait for saves and target Betancourt late.
Drew Pomeranz, SP, COL – Pomeranz was the big piece coming back to Colorado in the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians. The 6’5” lefty features a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, a plus curveball and an improving changeup. This arsenal allowed Pomeranz to strike out 10.6 hitters per nine innings and hold left-handed batters to a .120 average. He also had a tidy 2.57 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP between High-A and Double-A last year. Pomeranz was a September call-up for the Rockies. He did OK, but he had lost some velocity because of a late-season appendectomy. Pomeranz could very well break camp with a rotation spot so keep an eye on this youngster.
Trevor Bauer, SP, ARI – Bauer, 21, has more upside than fellow Arizona farmhand Tyler Skaggs, but is also probably farther away from contributing at the Major League level. He was drafted third overall by the Diamondbacks in this past year’s amateur draft out of UCLA. Since he pitched a college, Bauer obviously won’t need as much time to develop in the minors as kids drafted right out of high school. Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Mike Leake was drafted out of college in 2009 and started 2010 in the majors without any minor league experience so Bauer may not be as far away as you think. Bauer is MLB.com’s ninth-ranked prospect heading into 2012.
Josh Johnson, SP, MIA – In my mind, a sleeper is someone you think will outperform their draft position and Josh Johnson fits the bill. He is currently being drafted as the 27th pitcher and 97th player overall (MDC). Johnson posted a 1.64 ERA and a .98 WHIP while going 3-1 over nine starts for the Marlins before missing the rest of the season due to shoulder inflammation. Johnson has been able to pitch without limitations so far this spring and has a good chance to be a top-10 fantasy pitcher again this season. He is well worth the risk, in my opinion.
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