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2013 Draft Prep: Nando Di Fino's Sleepers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As I understand it, the concept of Schrodinger's Cat would apply thusly -- this column is out there to be seen by everyone I play with and against. But it's up to my leaguemates to read it. Meaning I can be totally smoked or entirely fine at the same time, not knowing which is the true outcome until I draft (i.e. -- opening my figurative palm) and see if they swipe these players from me.

I know. Deep.

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What you see below are the players I like who, seemingly, nobody else does. I'm not keeping any players close to my chest, or purposely leaving out someone like Leonys Martin because I don't want people I play against to know about my love for him (for the record, he was player No. 13, who didn't make the last round of cuts). There are 12 players below, all at different levels of depth. Collin Cowgill probably won't be sniffing many mixed leagues, but he could have some late value in NL-only formats. Lance Lynn, meanwhile, will be off most draft boards by the 10th round; I contend it should be more like the seventh or eighth.

Use this list however you see fit. Maybe you fold it up and tuck it away for Draft Day. Maybe you pick up a name or two that you hadn't considered. Maybe you're driven to anger, compelled to comment below and ask how I am employed by CBS, and then go on to lose your league. Whatever the case, I hope that it gives you the chance to look the player up and consider him in a light you hadn't before.

Collin Cowgill, OF, Mets (Roto: N/A, H2H: N/A)

First and foremost, Cowgill can hit. He carried a .291 average over five minor league seasons. He hit 12 or more home runs three times, despite surpassing 460 at-bats just once. And he can run, with seasons of 25 and 30 steals in his only two semi-full seasons. This is your typical gamble mixed in with your deep sleeper, topped off with a dash of you can't be serious. But recent Fantasy history is littered with Cowgill-types who, against all odds, grabbed a job and ran off with it -- Chris Davis and Carlos Gomez are just two examples from 2012.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians (Roto: Rd. 26, H2H: N/A)

As of this writing, Chisenhall's ADP is 309, putting him below the likes of John Jaso, Jeff Keppinger and the unsigned Jose Valverde. He's 23rd among third basemen. But Chisenhall has really done little to drive his value down. In 354 major league at-bats, Chisenhall has hit .260 with 12 home runs and three steals. Baseball America rated him as the game's 25th-best prospect in 2011. In the two minor league seasons with 500 or more at-bats, Chisenhall hit 22 and 17 home runs. He has an .800 OPS in five minor-league seasons. He is only 24 years old. Chisenhall lost a lot of 2012 with an unfortunate break to his arm. And he wasn't quite ready for the majors in 2011, losing the starting job to Jack Hannahan in spring training and playing sparingly after a June recall. But he's still young and has enough skill to start as my corner infielder in mixed Roto leagues.

Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 15)

Forget about Lynn's 18 wins last year; Cliff Lee won six with better ratios -- it'll drive you crazy chasing wins. Instead, focus on what Lynn did in a season where his innings took a big jump: 3.78 ERA and over a strikeout per inning. When his arm got tired in August, Lynn went to the bullpen, but was called back to starting duty in mid-September, producing a four-game stretch of beauty, with a 2.19 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. Some may argue that the jump in innings will lead to injury, but that's not an exact science -- besides, Lynn pitched over 310 innings combined in 2009 and 2010 as a starter in the minors; this isn't new territory for him. He's somewhere between a "sleeper" and "breakout" for me, but I put him in "sleeper" because of how shockingly down some people are on him.

A.J. Griffin, SP, Athletics (Roto: Rd. 19, H2H: Rd. 18)

A.J. Griffin somehow got lost in the excitement of this young A's pitching staff. Dan Straily gets the strikeouts, Brett Anderson was the guy everyone waited on coming back from injury, Jarrod Parker is the top prospect who came into his own, and Tommy Milone was the early-season surprise who strung together a surprisingly good season. But Griffin may end up being the best of the bunch -- a Voltron of all the other pitchers -- Anderson's low ratios, Straily's strikeouts, and then ... well, something something from the other two. Griffin (7-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) didn't quite hit that strikeout-per-inning rate he had in the minors and he lost some time in 2012 with an injury, but he maintained a very low WHIP through the minors, including an impressive 3.06 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 64 2/3 innings in the hitter's paradise known as the PCL.

Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers (Roto: Rd. 19, H2H: Rd. 12)

Chicken wings and beer and golf and blah blah blah. Forget about all that. Beckett has a career 1.23 WHIP, an aspect of his game that is sorely underrated. And he's only 32, which is probably younger than most people realize. For as bad as Beckett was with Boston last season (5.23 ERA), he was equally impressive after the trade to the Dodgers (2.93 ERA). Beckett is moving away from the American League and the designated hitter. He's going to a park that is far friendlier to pitchers than Fenway. He's moving to a division that is far less scary --offensively -- than the AL East. Sure, Beckett has some hiccups here and there (5.01 ERA in 2006, 4.03 in 2008, 5.78 in 2010), but those were all Red Sox seasons; in five years with the Marlins, Beckett had a 3.46 ERA, only going above 3.80 in his rookie season. And then there's this nugget: Over 143 1/3 interleague innings with the Red Sox, Beckett has produced a 2.89 ERA and 1.07 WHIP pitching against National League teams. Beer and chicken are red herrings; Beckett is a better pitcher than stupid memes make him out to be.

Tyler Colvin, OF/1B, Rockies (Roto: Rd. 25, H2H: N/A)

Colvin hit .290 with 18 home runs and 27 doubles in 420 at-bats last year. It was the second time in his career with 18 or more home runs, despite those 420 at-bats being a career high. The man who would fight for playing time with Colvin, Todd Helton, nearly retired this offseason after undergoing hip surgery. He hasn't hit 18 home runs since 2005 and has hit .260 or below two of the last three years. Even if Helton takes away some first-base at-bats, Colvin can still rotate into the outfield. Skill isn't the issue with Colvin, a former first-round pick -- it's playing time. And if he can get 500 at-bats, Colvin could see upwards of 25 home runs with an average around .265.

Todd Frazier, 3B/1B, Reds (Roto: Rd. 18, H2H: Rd. 17)

Frazier has several things going for him heading into 2013:

1. An improved lineup. The team snagged Shin-Soo Choo in a trade and should have a full season of Joey Votto

2. The absence of Scott Rolen. Had he returned, it wouldn't be crazy to think that Frazier would lose some at-bats to the veteran.

3. The normalcy of playing just one position. Frazier made 73 appearances at third, 39 at first and seven in the outfield last year. He gets to keep the multi-position eligibility this year while playing mainly at third, something that should let him focus a little more on hitting.

4. A full year to build on promising power, average and speed (Frazier stole 12 or more bases three times from 2008-2011 in the minors) numbers, which should vault him into the upper tiers of third basemen.

David Murphy, OF, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 25, H2H: N/A)

Here's a fun fact: In the last three seasons, David Murphy has hit double-digits in both home runs and steals, while batting .291. And he did this while averaging 427 at-bats. He's now in line for a full season's worth of plate appearances, meaning Murphy could flirt with 20/15 while maintaining a nice average. He'll hit in a better spot in the lineup with Josh Hamilton gone, and -- this may not be worth much, but it's there -- he'll get a few more trips to tiny Minute Maid Park, where Murphy has a .910 OPS in 12 career games. It's unlikely he spikes violently and hits 35 home runs, but he's a tremendous value -- especially in Roto leagues, where Murphy can contribute in all five categories -- considering his absurdly low ADP.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians (Roto: Rd. 20, H2H: Rd. 16)

The hype surrounding Bauer was so insane last year that people were referring to his first start with Arizona as "Trevor Bauer Day." And then he was pushed down a very steep hill, failing to impress over four starts (1-2 with a 6.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP) before being optioned back to the minors in mid-July. And now it seems like everyone has forgotten the innocence and joy of Trevor Bauer Day, just eight months and one blockbuster trade later. Bauer has said he was hurt when he made those starts, and it's tough to think that a pitcher who produced a 2.85 ERA in 14 PCL starts suddenly lost the skill he displayed over two seasons in the minors. Forget about the stupid pre-game warm-ups, his rapping, or the disdain that Miguel Montero has for him. Bauer can pitch, and he can strike batters out, and he probably couldn't have asked for a better manager at this point in his career than Terry Francona. There is skill here, and a ton of strikeout potential. It's just a matter of Bauer making the team and staying healthy, two things that I am guessing will happen, making him a nice late-round mixed league risk.

Tyler Greene, 2B/SS, Astros (Roto: N/A, H2H: N/A)

Greene hit .230 last season, a career best for the 29-year-old. He also set career marks in home runs (11), steals (12), and doubles (15). While this probably doesn't seem overly impressive, it's important to know that he did this all in 305 at-bats. Give Tyler Greene 600 at-bats, and you have a player who can flirt with 20/20 while holding dual eligibility at shortstop and second base. And that's just if you double last year's totals. In actuality, Greene may have enough speed to hit the 30-steal mark, and when he was given regular playing time in Houston after an August deal, he upped his average from .218 to .246, with his OPS climbing from .629 to .739 as well. Greene now has a full season playing in Minute Maid Park, and while he lacks the strong lineup that St. Louis offered, he does get that whole "playing time" thing with the Astros. This preamble may lead one to believe that Greene is a solid pick in AL-only formats; he's not -- Greene will have an impact in mixed leagues, especially with dual eligibility at shallow positions. Er. Nevermind. I still believe in Tyler Greene! But he doesn't have the opportunity right now, obviously. How about a Bonus Sleeper!

Vernon Wells, OF, Yankees (pretty much) (Roto: N/A, H2H: N/A)

It's a popular stance to take: hating on Vernon Wells. And one can make a case for not liking him because of his batting average -- Wells has hit .222 over the last two seasons with the Angels. But Wells has several things going for him that cancel out his recent batting average struggles:

1. Wells still has power. In just 243 at-bats last season, Wells hit 11 home runs. Had he played full-time (and not gotten injured), Wells could have hit 25 -- possibly more, considering that the extra at-bats may have allowed him to get into a better rhythm. In 2010 and 2011, Wells hit 56 total home runs, and his HR/FB rates the last two seasons (12.3 percent in 2011, 12.5 percent in 2012) were actually slightly above his career mark of 12.0 percent.

2. Wells is a career .273 hitter. This recent dip in average is a bit of an aberration for him. At 34, he's not aged to the point where we would expect the average to tail off so dramatically. His BABIP was a very low .214 in 2011 and .226 last year. With a .280 career BABIP, Wells should be due for a correction this season.

3. Wells can still play the outfield. Of the options the Yankees have for left field (Brennan Boesch, Juan Rivera), Wells -- a three-time Gold Glove winner when he played for the Blue Jays -- is the superior defensive option. Things will obviously get a little tricky when Curtis Granderson returns from his injury, but Wells is a stellar early investment, who could play his way into regular at-bats with a hot start.

Wells has hit 25 or more home runs five times in his career. He's moving from a pitcher's park to a neutral one (for right-handed batters), and he can steal upwards of eight bases. The only thing that has dropped is his average. Maybe 2011 was a tough year for him after signing the massive contract with the Angels. Last year was a loss because of injury and the emergence of Mike Trout. But give Vernon Wells 500 at-bats as a Yankee, and you could end up with a .260 average, 25 home runs, eight steals, and 150 total runs and RBI. Granted, this is the optimistic view, and there are plenty of doubts and downsides, but Wells deserves a closer look, along with the chance to shed the stigma of being a washed up outfielder who can't help a team. For a late-round gambit in deeper mixed leagues, and a $3 bid in AL-only formats, he's worth the risk.

Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox (Roto: N/A, H2H: N/A)

Here's a fun fact: Tyler Flowers is going so late in drafts, you have to dig into the AL-only leagues to find a number for him -- 233 in H2H (behind J.A. Happ, Daniel Bard and Jamey Carroll) and 204 in Roto (behind Koji Uehara and Ryan Cook). It's somewhat mystifying as to why Flowers hasn't been embraced by the general Fantasy-playing public. Fine, he has a career .205 average with 12 total home runs in 108 games. But that's with Flowers playing the backup role, being shuttled between Chicago and Charlotte, and not getting into any kind of groove. In 2010, Flowers was the 60th-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. He has a .275 average in six minor league seasons, and hit no fewer than 15 home runs from 2008 to 2011 -- including 15 home runs in 222 at-bats in 2011, playing in the pitcher-friendly International League. Flowers is 27-years-old, has the catching job all to himself, and could flex some nice power numbers in 2013.

Andrew Cashner, RP, Padres (Roto: Rd. 29, H2H: Rd. 20)

With all the attention paid to starting pitchers who have RP eligibility, Cashner and his lacerated hunting hand get left out of the conversation a little too much. On the surface, Cashner's 4.27 ERA and 1.32 WHIP don't look incredibly attractive. But a lot of that damage came from two distinct spots in the season: a hammering at the hands of Miami in an early May relief appearance and a two-game run in September when Cashner came back from a DL stint for a strained lat. Before that lat injury, though, Cashner had three starts and produced a 2.53 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and struck out 16 batters in 10 2/3 innings. Sure, anyone can have a nice three-game ride, but Cashner was being stretched out and was healthy. In six minor league starts, Cashner had a 2.31 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, with 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. And this was in the hitter-friendly PCL. For Head-to-Head league owners in mixed formats, Cashner is a secret weapon -- a pitcher with solid starting numbers, buried in what looks like an ugly 2012 campaign. For Roto owners, he's a sly source of strikeouts, with accompanying low ratios, possibly worth a few dollars in a mixed auction.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

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by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

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"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


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by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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