Sleepers of the Week – May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012

This is a new thing that I want to start to add to Deep Leagues, is something that I hope will add a little more up to date action to the site. I plan on posting it every other week, in an attempt to give new developments time to happen, as well as not try to cram everything into one post. By the title, you can see it’s called the “Sleepers of the Week” and I’m going to do my best to cover any trending players that I see that are flying a little under the radar. Players don’t have to be far out and away sleepers. As you’ll see by those listed below, they range from fringe players who have restarted their careers to players that everyone knows, that might just be entirely underrated.
Remember to keep in mind that prospects are very volatile and that they change on a week to week basis. They slump, they heat up, and everything in between. So many times the sleeper prospect lists will be influenced by recent performance and that may not carry over to the rest of the season, so keeping track closely of these guys throughout and using recent trends will help a ton when it comes to seeing how they are growing and developing.

I am going to try to give you three prospect reports every other week, from three different tiers. The first will be the well-known prospect, a sure-fire top 100 prospect who’s putting up fantastic numbers but still not flying up boards as much as they should. These players develop from MLB regulars to stars, and the key is identifying them early enough to jump on them at a good value before the really explode. Secondly, there will be a prospect that is a fringe 100 prospect or lower, down to about a top 200 prospect. This guy will usually be one that will be discussed as a solid prospect or a high upside guy, but who hasn’t put everything together yet. This range for the most part is where you’ll really win your leagues, as many guys who have the tools and put them together come from this range and land in the top 40 prospects. The final tier will be a guy who’s not on anyone’s lists, who’s been putting up fantastic numbers. Guys like this usually don’t turn out to be superstars but they go from Platoon Players or Org Depth players to MLB regulars, which holds a lot of value in itself. Obviously every week I cannot promise that there will be exactly one of each, but I’ll do my best to dig up the best gems for you guys to jump all over!

Tier 1
Player: Oscar Taveras
Position, Team: OF, STL
B/T: L/L
HT/WT: 6’2, 180
Age: 19 (6/19/1992)
Level: AA

You should recognize the name, as Oscar Taveras is a top 50 prospect on nearly all lists. Last season he made a name for himself, hitting .386 in 347 PA in A ball. Taveras knocked out 8 home runs, and hit for a ridiculous 1.029 OPS. Since then, Taveras has been absolutely mashing for the AA Springfield Cardinals above and beyond what anyone expected him to do. Obviously the .386 BA was nearly unsustainable, but he came back this year and already he’s been hitting .328, which is a stunning average for a player who is playing 4 years below the average age of the league. But the average isn’t what has impressed me most. In 144 PA in AA in 2012, as compared to the 347 in A ball, Taveras has slugged even more home runs. Yes, in a much more advanced level and many many less plate appearances, he’s exceeded his home run total.

Here’s a guy that is currently a top 40 prospect on most lists and seems to be expensive, but if you believe in him like I do, he’s going to be a bargain right now. His ceiling is ridiculous, and I have him in my 2013 top 10 overall players, listed at number nine. Give him a full season of AA ball for word to get out, and you might be paying double for him what you will today.

Tier 2
Player: Matt Barnes
Position, Team: RHP, BOS
B/T: R/R
HT/WT: 6’2, 205
Age: 21 (6/17/1990)
Level: A+

Matt Barnes was drafted out of the University of Connecticut with the 19th overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft. Regarded as a “polished” pitcher compared to most, Barnes proved such in the SAL league, A ball. In five quick starts and 26.2 short innings of work, he earned a promotion. That might be a rather small sample to be promoted off of, but when your ERA is 0.34 (FIP of 0.61) and you have a K rate of 14.18/9IP (42 Ks in 26.2 IP), you’ve earned a promotion. If you think he stopped pitching when he got to start in Hi-A ball, you’re quite wrong. He followed up his gaudy numbers with a 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 12 K, 1BB line. For a guy who’s supposed to be “just” the 19th overall pick, he’s pitching like a top 10 draftee.

Barnes is a guy who came into the season around the 85th overall prospect ranking, give or take a dozen spots. The consensus rankings handed him the now-laughable 94th overall prospect spot. When prospect list re-do’s start coming out, Barnes is a good bet to be a top 60 prospect, like I’m nearly certain he would be if I drew up a list today. Get him while the others read the 2011 scouting reports, and you grab a future #2 starter with very good stuff and outstanding numbers.

Tier 3
Player: Evan Gattis
Position, Team: C/OF, ATL
B/T: R/R
HT/WT: 6’4, 230
Age: 25 (8/18/1986)
Level: AA

Please raise your hand if you saw this coming, I need you to pick out my next lottery numbers. Evan Gattis, a man who left baseball for personal reasons when he was a promising youngster, returned with five years of rust in 2010 to show us what we had been missing. That rust didn’t last long. In 2011, Gattis showed his true colors, where in A ball (SAL), Gattis tore apart opposing pitchers to the tune of .322 BA and 22 homers. However he was playing well above his age group (nearly 3 years above the league average), so many wrote it off as the idea of that he just beat them because he was older. What many failed to take into account was experience. Gattis had only had 222 career ABs coming into 2011, where many “older” prospects were ones who could not graduate and were stuck there or they were stuck at lower levels, racking up experience against lesser pitching. Gattis on the other hand had the same experience that pretty much the entire league did, he was just more mature. That may have partially contributed to it, but he confirmed his rebirth of prospect status this season. In 21 Hi-A games this year, he hit .385 with 9 home runs. His ISO was .436, which is off the charts. After quickly getting the promotion about a week ago to the much more competitive AA (which many experts call the biggest jump in the minors), Gattis has responded with 4 home runs in 44 at bats, and a batting average of .318 against the opposition.

Gattis is a truly great story of a man who reconquered his life and took advantage of his opportunities. Many are calling for a Josh Hamilton type player from him, but I don’t see it because Hamilton was the best prospect in baseball by far when he went out, Gattis just a promising youngster. However Gattis still has the opportunity to rack up some big numbers in the majors. He projects as a major league DH who can catch a game or two a week (similar body type to Jesus Montero), and he looks like he could be a potential .280/25/100 threat from that spot. It’s worthwhile to note that he’s been practicing LF in the minors, and catching while Christian Benthancourt has been out, so he’s been working each spot. He should either be on the Waiver Wire in your league or a cheap piece in a deal, but if he remains hot he could be a diamond in the rough. That stat line is one of a very good hitter. Keep an eye on him.

Tier 2

Player: Aaron Sanchez
Position, Team: RHP, TOR
B/T: R/R
HT/WT: 6’4, 190
Age: 21 (6/17/1990)
Level: A

Aaron Sanchez has been busy this spring proving he’s deserving of a top 100 prospect ranking. Many publications left him off in general, and at times he was even considered the “fourth” of the Blue Jays young arms (Syndergaard, Norris, Nicolino, Sanchez). But Sanchez has reasserted himself as the top dog, convincingly throwing 23 innings of 0.78 ERA ball, having a WHIP of less than 1 (8 H, 12 BB), and ringing up 28. That’s a very nice line for a top prospect, let alone one who got lost in the deep Blue Jays system. He’ll pretty much be attached at the hip with Syndergaard and Nicolino development wise as they seem to all be on the same path, but that’s not half bad of a group to be included with.

Aaron Sanchez was vastly underrated in many drafts and prospect lists, and didn’t even receive a single top 100 vote in the Consensus Rankings, but he’s proven me to be a believer. If I made my list today, he’s a lock for my top 100, and probably lands in the mid 70s to mid 80s, albeit higher than the trio that he previously looked up to. Watch out for Sanchez, he’s got nasty stuff and when it’s all set and done he could be a #2 starter on the team or some tasty trade bait. On a side note: 2015 TOR Rotation without trades? Romero-Syndergaard-Norris-Sanchez-Nicolino. You tell me where Drabek, Hutchinson, Cardona, Musgrove, DeScalfani, Wojciechowski, Osuna, Jenkins, Cecil, Alvarez, Morrow and Comer fit. That TOR system is about to churn out some pitching prospects like crazy in the next 3 years. Keep two eyes on this system.

Hopefully you learned something that you didn’t know before you read this, all data is updated through May 13, 2012. These prospects and others that will be covered in the coming editions are likely to show up on many peoples radar screens, so hopefully you can snatch them up while they are still below the surface.

Good luck!