Championships aren't won in the first few rounds of fantasy baseball drafts. Winning selections come in the middle and late stanzas, when fantasy baseball sleepers and undervalued players pop up.
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
A rib injury and Jonathan Broxton's hold on the job stalled Holland's breakthrough. But when the vet was traded, "Red Light District" (nickname nominee) didn't disappoint. Only in his abbreviated first month did he post an ERA higher than 3.46. He would be even better if he stays a bit more aggressive in the strike zone, but he limits strong contact; his propensity to keep the ball within the diamond is bolstered by his park's suppression of long flies.
Kelvin Herrera remains in the mind of speculators, so extended control woes may cost the incumbent. Still, Holland's stealthily brilliant peripherals and his likely modest price in most mixed rooms could make him one of the cheapest difference-makers in the category. -TH
Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics
Just to be clear, Cook was probably considerably undervalued before news broke that Grant Balfour was going to have surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. Balfour, Oakland's reigning closer, may be healthy by opening day. Those interested in the 25-year-old Cook would prefer nothing but good news about Balfour's recovery.
Broxton set to shake hands often?
Cook was outstanding in his first full big-league season (2.09 ERA, 9.82 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9). It's his impressive post-break run (10.54 K/9 and 1.54 BB/9), which began shortly after he ceded closing duties to Balfour, that foretells a brighter future.
The A's aren't committed to Balfour after this season and may try to trade him by the deadline. Cook looks like the team's fated closer (at least for as long as free agency remains a ways down the road). He may open this campaign in that role, too. If he's dominating, will Bob Melvin remove him? -NM
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
Rumor is, the Tribe is willing to part with Perez for the right price. What is it? Probably more than another franchise is willing to give up. Considering what Chief Wahoo spent this past offseason in an attempt to be competitive, it may very well be looking for important pieces to add to, not subtract from, the 25-man roster.
Of course, if you don't consider Perez important, that's understandable, especially with his shoulder strain that jeopardizes his availability for Opening Day. Recall that Cleveland's bullpen ERA slid to the bottom third in the majors last year in large part because starters didn't last and relievers were taxed, however. Perez gave up 23 earned runs in 2012 - 11 of them in only three appearances. He also posted a 9.21 K/9 and a 2.50 BB/9 (the latter a major improvement).
The Indians have upgraded their depth considerably across the board. Perez is probably not going anywhere, and he may be poised to consolidate 2011 (when he wasn't 100 percent) and 2012, especially if he recovers normally. -NM
Jonathan Broxton, Cincinnati Reds
This disinterest comes partially from the widespread belief that Aroldis Chapman will take back the stopper gig. That's possible, but Cincy looks committed to trying Chapman as a starter. Another chunk of drafters' disdain emanates from his recent poor reputation and his declining annual strikeout rate.
The latter, at its latest measuring point, is superficial; Broxton had a reawakening after joining the Reds. In September, rejuvenated velocity and streamlined use of his cutter (or slider, depending on the recorder) helped him fan 14 in 13 1/3 frames. He's pitching effectively to contact, shown by his bump in grounder percentage. Don't anticipate the 2009 incarnation, but he's close to the mold of a sometimes No. 1 dual-universe closer that'll slip in many rooms. At the right bid or round, Chapman concerns dissipate. -TH
Fantasy baseball sleepers, undervalued: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
Fantasy baseball busts, overvalued: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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