Ricescapades: A Look Back At My 2012 Sleepers

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In February, I listed my top five fantasy sleepers for 2012. The time has now come to pay the fantasy piper. Here is a look back at my 2012 under-the-radar picks and how well they turned out.

It's report card time. To gear up for Friday and loosen up our Fake Teams readers for the weekend, I decided to have a little fun. Back in February, I wrote an article where I listed five under-the-radar hitters who I expected to blossom into full-fledged fantasy producers. With the regular season almost at an end, I decided to take a look back and grade myself on these selections to see which ones made me look like true genius, and which ones made me look like an all-out tool. With perfect 20/20 hindsight on our side, let's see how I did. Get ready to ridicule.

1. Chris Heisey

The money line: However, the power is real, and it's enhanced by homer-friendly Great American Ballpark. Given regular playing time, he's a dark horse 30-homer guy.

Heisey was a perfectly acceptable platoon outfielder in 2012, but that's hardly what I had envisioned when I slapped his name here back in February. The power was apparently far from "real". After hitting 18 home runs in 308 plate appearances in 2011, I was ready to believe that Heisey was a Craig Wilson for the 2010's, a masher being unfairly benched by his obtuse manager in lieu of inferior players.

In reality, 2011 was probably just a total fluke. Remember that Heisey came up through the system as a basestealer, not a power guy. With Jay Bruce in right and a newly re-animated Ryan Ludwick producing in left field, there just wasn't any reason to play him regularly at a corner. Yes, he'd likely be better than Drew Stubbs, but that hardly helps our fantasy purposes, because everybody is better than Drew Stubbs. Perhaps if Dusty comes to his senses and the Reds take a gamble on Heisey as the center fielder next season he can reclaim his missing power stroke and sorta justify my pick here.

Ricescapades Grade: D+

2. Danny Espinosa

The money line: The power potential will have him shooting up second base rankings in no time, but the strikeouts are killer. If he can control the K's, he should be in the top 10 at his position in no time.

Well, he didn't cut the strikeouts down. Oh my lord, did he not cut the strikeouts down. As a matter of fact, he's leading the National League in whiffs this year and, not surprisingly, his batting average has remained mediocre because of it (though the fact that it's still over .250 is a minor miracle). He's been pretty much the same player that he was in 2011, which isn't encouraging for my Top 10 projection, but hardly a deal-breaker. The song remains the same: if he ever learns to put the bat on the ball better, he'll end up as one of the better second base options. Whether or not that happens is anyone's guess.

Ricescapades Grade: C

3. Jason Kipnis

The money line: Some scouts have him projected as a 20/20 guy in the major leagues, and he'll enter 2012 as the Indians' starting second baseman. He's one of the top sleeper picks of the preseason.

Kipnis has come fairly close to meeting that 20/20 expectation, as he has stolen 30 bases while clubbing 14 home runs. I didn't really expect him to be a star, but if you picked him up at the very end of a redraft league draft, then you got a good deal. I must say, the steal total is a bit of a shocker, since he never stole more than 12 bases in any minor league season. Who knows, he could morph into a low-rent Ian Kinsler right before our eyes.

Ricescapades Grade: B

4. Lucas Duda

The money line: He exhibited good contact skills to go along with a good batting eye and power, and only the best hitters are able to combine those talents.

I completely whiffed on this one. Of all the picks I made, this one probably deserves the most derision. That ability to mix contact with power? Completely vanished. Instead, Duda's strikeout percentage skyrocketed from 16.4% to 26.2%. That made him just another whifftastic slugger who really didn't slug that much, and his batting average dropped into the .240s. Since the Mets were already tired of his poor outfield defense from the word go, Duda got his butt sent back to AAA in July. He did improve upon his already solid walk rate, so if he figures out a way to cut the strikeouts back down, he'll be valuable again. This time, though, it'll have to be somebody else who convinces you that that will actually happen.

Ricescapades Grade: D

*For the record, the fan poll I posted for that original article had Duda getting the most votes for which of the five would have the most fantasy value. So I wasn't the only one who messed up.

5. Jose Altuve

The money line: Fellow managers might accuse you of going for the freak vote by drafting him, but there's a reasonably-sized (heh) reward here since the nothing-to-lose Astros are going to give him every chance to prove the scouting community wrong in 2012

Hey, I got one! Mighty Midget didn't really take advantage of Minute Maid Park's short porch to amass a bunch of cheap home runs, but he has hit for a high average and has stolen a ton of bases. This is likely his upside: a perennial .300 hitter who can steal you 30-40 bags. Those might not be Robinson Cano numbers, but it ain't bad for a position that can tend to be very weak in talent. There's also the added incentive of getting to make a bunch of jokes about fleas, gnats, and other microscopic insects whenever he comes to bat.

Ricescapades Grade: A

As for the Honorable Mentions...

Jesus Guzman

The offseason additions of Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso basically made Guzman the forgotten man in San Diego. In limited playing time, he had the typical good-for-Petco, bad-for-fantasy season that so many Padre players end up with.

Hank Conger.

Ouch. I mean, literally...ouch. Conger had a chance to make the big team and get some at-bats when Chris Ianetta went down with an injury...except that he was sidelined with an injury of his own. He has only amassed 17 big league plate appearances this year. On the bright side, he hit .295/.347/.473 at AAA, and will continue to wait patiently for the Angels to stop hating him.

Daniel Murphy

Murphy did exactly what I expected him to. He hit for a high average and did little else of note, though his fantasy value was upped a little because he was eligible at three infield positions. He loses his third base eligibility next season, however, so his value will dwindle that much more.

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