It’s not often that a player can be regarded as a sleeper pick after missing more than two consecutive seasons in the majors, but that’s exactly what’s going on with Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore.
After missing out on the 2012 and 2013 seasons altogether, Sizemore essentially fell off the MLB map, but the Red Sox decided to give him a chance this spring—it appears the move has paid off.
Initially, it seemed that Sizemore would be completely irrelevant in the fantasy landscape. He was about as long of a shot as long shots can get, and as spring training kicked off, Jackie Bradley Jr. had a clear hold on the center field spot—not so anymore.
The 22-year-old Bradley is batting .173 this spring with a 16-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Sizemore is hitting .303. The latter also helped his case by hitting a monster home run on Tuesday that impressed John Farrell, the man who decides Sizemore’s fate.
"We’ve seen very good timing at the plate," said Farrell, according to the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham. "We’ve seen a repeatable swing, much like he [had] pre-injury. I don’t think we had any set markers or goals. I think he’s going to gain greater consistency the more at-bats he gets."
That’s all well and good, but it won’t matter to fantasy owners unless Sizemore gets a starting role this year. Luckily, that appears to be very likely. According to NESN.com, the Sox won’t carry both Sizemore and Bradley on the roster come Opening Day. In that case, the choice almost becomes too easy. Would you take the .303 hitter who has proven success in the majors (three top-12 MVP finishes), or risk a repeat of last year with Bradley, when the young outfielder struggled with a .189/.280/.337 slash line in 37 games? I'd take Sizemore too.
Bradley seems to have accepted his fate as well.
"I’ve played in Pawtucket before,’’ Bradley told Dan Shaughnessy. "I’ll still be playing baseball. I’ll be glad to be able to be doing that.’’
Even so, getting Sizemore into the lineup is only half the battle. He'll also need to perform once the season starts, and as we've learned the hard way in the past, the regular season is a whole other animal than spring training. Even so, while it's worth advising caution against taking too much stock in Sizemore's strong spring, the outfielder's solid performance is also a good benchmark that he could return to his pre-injury form.
Once a perennial threat to eclipse 20 homers and steals, Sizemore could certainly reach those totals again. He didn't attempt a stolen base this spring, though that was likely more of a precautionary measure. Rest assured, Sizemore should steal some bases at the top of the lineup, even if his knee condition prevents him from doing so at as great a rate as before. He also did hit a long home run in his most recent game, his first of the spring. Whether that will become a trend remains to be seen.
If Sizemore wasn’t drafted in your league, I’d highly recommend giving him a shot. He’ll likely hit at the top of a very good lineup, and if he can regain some of his pre-injury stroke, he’ll be about the cheapest 20-20 threat out there, with an excellent chance of scoring 100 runs as well.