Real-life salary has very little to do with what qualifies a player as a “sleeper” in fantasy baseball.
Take, for example, the case of Josh Beckett. He’s scheduled to be paid $15.75 million this season by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s a two-time World Series champion who’s known by even casual fans of America’s pastime.
But Beckett fits the role of a sleeper this fantasy season.
So does Seattle catcher Jesus Montero, who’s on the opposite end of the salary scale. He’s being paid $500,000 by the Mariners this season – or a little less than 3 percent of what Beckett is making.
Montero more traditionally fits the role of “sleeper” in that he’s largely an unknown to baseball fans – save for those in Seattle and New York, where he was once one of the Yankees’ brightest prospects.
But if you define a sleeper as a player who you think will outperform his expectations, then both Beckett and Montero fit the bill.
In Beckett’s case, he put up a 5.23 earned-run average in 21 starts with the Red Sox last season, then improved that to 2.93 with the Dodgers after being traded. For his career, he’s got a 4.17 ERA in the AL and a 3.42 ERA in the NL. He’s at the tail end of his career, but as a late-round flier, he’s worth it.
Montero should benefit from the fences being moved in at Safeco Field. He hit 15 homers last year, and it’s not unreasonable to think he can increase that number by at least five this season.
Here’s a rundown of some other good value picks.
• Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City: Hosmer had a dynamite rookie year, then fell apart in 2012, hitting just .232 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs in 152 games. Still, he’s just 24 years old, doesn’t strike out a lot and – allow me to go all statistical for a second – had a batting average of .255 on balls in play, a fairly unlucky number. If that number improves, and it should, Hosmer can provide good value.
• Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay: Why, exactly, did Kansas City trade Myers? If any rookie has Bryce Harper potential, Myers looks like the one. He’ll start the season in Triple-A, a level in which he hit .304 with 24 homers and 79 RBIs. It’s not expected to take long for Myers to join the Rays.
• Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego: The 24-year-old supplies power at a position with very little of it. He hit 30 home runs last year at the minor-league level. The Padres were starved for offense last season.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta: Like Beckett, you’d be counting on a bounce-back season from Uggla. And like Gyorko, the big appeal here is power. Uggla has averaged 30 homers a year over his first seven big-league seasons. He’s only a career .253 hitter, and batted .220 in his first year with the Braves, though.
• Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City: The rookie of the year in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit .372 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs in 32 games, Perez battled through injuries for much of 2012. Still, he had 11 homers in 189 at-bats last year, and hit .301. If he can get about 400 plate appearances, he should make for a good No. 2 catcher.
• Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: After spending just half of last season in the minors, Rizzo still finished fifth in the Pacific Coast League in home runs. The left-hander clearly has good pop, and has long been a favorite of Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. The 23-year-old had a tough time in his first major league stint with the Padres in 2011, but his career statistics suggest that was just a blip. He’s a line-drive machine who should produce well in Wrigley Field.
• Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas: Baseball’s No. 1 prospect is blocked in the big leagues by Elvis Andrus at his natural position and Ian Kinsler at second base. But Profar is talented enough to warrant a selection, especially in keeper leagues.
• Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona: How high are the Diamondbacks on Eaton? High enough that they felt comfortable trading away Justin Upton over the winter. That will bring a considerable amount of pressure, but Eaton – who has a career average of .355 in 319 minor-league games – could be dangerous on the basepaths.
• Jason Hammel, SP, Baltimore: Hammel’s average draft position is just 193 in CBS Sports leagues, which seems low for the Orioles’ opening-day starter. Hammel had a 3.43 ERA and 1.24 WHIP last season in 2012.
• Erick Aybar, SS, L.A. Angels: I targeted Aybar in our league here at The News for one reason: If he’s hitting No. 2 in front of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the potential for at least 100 runs is there. He can also help with stolen bases. Aybar had a .324 on-base percentage last season.
• Jon Lester, SP, Boston: A reunion with former pitching coach John Farrell, who is now the Red Sox’s manager, should help Lester put a difficult 2012 season behind him. Reports out of Fort Myers, Fla., where the Sox hold spring training, say that Lester has looked great all spring. His average draft position in Yahoo! Sports leagues is 124th.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota: How the mighty have fallen. I picked up Morneau in the 12th round of our 10-team league at The News. He played last season concussion free, and is only 31 years old. He’s worth a shot in the middle rounds.
• Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta: While the Braves have a veteran on one side of the infield in Uggla, they have a 23-year-old at short. Simmons hit .289 in 166 at-bats last season and is expected to hit leadoff for Atlanta.
Minor leaguers to watch
Buffalo Bisons fans excited about the new affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays should enjoy watching Anthony Gose. The 22-year-old will start the season with the Herd.
“I kind of had a sense where I’d be heading when everything happened, all the trades and signings,” Gose said, according to MLB.com. “It was tough then, but the closer spring got and the more time that had passed, I kind of got over it and I’ve come to terms with that in my own head.”
Gose hit .279 with the Blue Jays in 54 plate appearances this spring.
In Boston, the Red Sox have their center fielder in waiting in Jackie Bradley Jr. Coming into Saturday, he was hitting .433 (26 for 60) with two home runs, 12 RBIs and two stolen bases during spring training. The Red Sox face a roster decision today on whether to keep Bradley or send him to Triple-A Pawtucket. Even if they send him down, it appears he’ll eventually replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield.
Shortstop Javier Baez is considered the Cubs’ top prospect, but he plays the same position as Starlin Castro. Chicago optioned Baez to minor-league camp earlier this month, but he hit .333 with four home runs and nine RBIs in just 15 games in the spring.
Reds center field prospect Billy Hamilton is expected to start the year in Double-A Pensacola. Last year, he set a minor-league record by stealing 155 bases.