I'm not talking guys like Dayan Viciedo and Nolan Reimold. I mean SUPER deep, guys who will probably go undrafted in most AL-only leagues since they're not even guaranteed playing time. Then again, Mark Trumbo was one of those guys last year. So here I'm looking at some deep sleeper candidates to see if we can find any diamonds in the rough. Or, bronze, more likely, which is still better than sand.
Trevor Plouffe - Description: Always seen as a bat-first prospect not quite good enough to reach the majors, Plouffe absolutely TORCHED Triple-A in 2011, hitting .313 with 15 Homers... in 192 At-Bats, good for a 1.019 OPS. Granted, it was his fourth time repeating the level and he's 26, but he drastically improved his plate discipline, going from a 27/90 K/BB in 2010 to a 21/39 K/BB in 2011 before his callup. He floundered after a early power surge, but kept his batting average respectable with some of the earlier plate discipline (25/71 K/BB in MLB).
2012 Value: Most will write him off as he's not written as a starter in the Twins plans, but while he's done as a shortstop, he should get a decent amount of playing time at OF and DH. But what gives him value is that in most leagues, he'll be eligible at Shortstop, and his power potential exceeds that of many if not most other AL shortstops. As an extreme late-game pick, he is an intriguing bat for a very weak position... I'd rather have him than Jamey Carroll.
Casper Wells - Wells had been a tweener prospect for a while, always noted for his power/speed potential, and he showed what he was capable of in 2011, with a .237 Avg., 11 Home Runs and 3 SB in 215 AB. Granted, he looked more intriguing in 2010, but that was a small sample size known to be fluky, as he's not a batting average guy. The final numbers weren't great, and lost any chance of a starting role because of it (though the odds were slim anyway).
2012 Value: His final numbers were deflated by a slump caused by vertigo-like symptoms after getting hit with a pitch in the nose. Can you blame him? He says he's 100% over it now though, and may get some ABs between platooning in left and DH, especially when Montero's playing catcher. He could be a poor man's Nolan Reimold... all he needs is the opportunity.
Eduardo Nunez - Nunez was very quietly quite a productive hitter in 2011, coming up from AAA to fill in. In 309 ABs, he hit .265 with 5 Home Runs, and 22 Stolen bases. Of course, most of the opportunities he was given were due to injuries which may not recur... a team like the Yankees doesn't want to be seen fielding a guy like Nunez as a starter, and Jeter and A-Rod are expected to be healthy in 2012... for now. Many experts see him as a utility guy, although one that can stick around for a while... most won't realize he has a listed age of 24, key word "listed".
2012 Value: The interesting thing is that Nunez's 2011 was not a fluke... he actually UNDERPERFORMED. He posted a .287 BABIP, which is unlucky for a speedy guy like him. While he will likely not get a full-time role, he could gather a good amount of ABs due to his versatility, much like Maicer Izturis, but with more speed. He will qualify at 3B at SS in most leagues and 2B in some, which makes him a good end-game for some weak positions for his potential to post 20-30 stolen bases, coupled with a solid batting avg (.275-.290) and 5-10 Home Run power.
Andy Dirks - A guy who really came out of obscurity, The eigth-round pick out of Wichita St. was surprisingly decent in his MLB stint, hitting .251 with 7 Home Runs and 5 SB and an 36/11 K/BB in 219 AB. He's 26, but he never looked overmatched in his debut, which was brought about by injuries. John says he could be a good fourth/firth outfielder, and he looks like he could get buried on the depth chart.
2012 Value: Barring another Tigers signing, which very well may happen, the Tigers look to have some uncertainty around their DH situation, and wouldn't hesitate to plug Dirks in if the opportunity presents itself. He has surprising speed (which also makes his .273 BABIP look unlucky) and the combo of his power and speed could give him value... Bill James predicts he'll hit .271 with 11 Homers and 16 SB in 351 AB in 2012, which I don't think is unreasonable if he gets the opportunity.
Brent Lillibridge - Lillibridge was a defense-first prospect who had floundered for a while, then had a rather crazy age-28 season, hitting .258 with 13 Home Runs and 10 Stolen bases in only 186 AB. He also made some terrific diving catches in the OF that made him a fan favorite on a team of base cloggers. The power really came out of nowhere, as he did nada in multiple seasons with the bat, and the Sox don't buy it either, as he'll be a backup again in 2012... even amidst his surge, he didn't really get a fair chance at PT.
2012 Value - From a numbers standpoint, Lillibridge tops the other guys on this list with ease. But he's also older at 28 years of age, and everyone and their mother is writing his season off as a fluke, which should keep him cheap. There's a small but possible chance he made serious swing changes a la Ben Zobrist (a close early-career comp actually). However, he will not qualify at SS, his old position, or 2B in most leagues, and will be a 1B/OF.
Discuss why you think any of them were flukes or are sleepers for next year, and feel free to add your own.