Where can a serious fantasy player look for sleepers? In the first of an indeterminately-lengthed series, I am going to look at specific situations on various teams to see if a reasonable determination of sleeper status can be discerned. The first will be the New York Yankees firstbase situation.
At $21MM, one could assume Jason Giambi would be the natural leader for 1B. Of course, one would be wrong. With a similarly unsettled situation last season, Giambi did not get the twenty appearances at first to quailfy there for 2008 fantasy baseball drafts. Don't expect anything different in 2008.
As a result of Giambi's inability to play 1B this year, the Yankees brought in two former Astros, OF Jason Lane and 3B Morgan Ensberg. Both a right-handed hitters with on-base skills and HR power. In this day and age when those two skills are so valuable, why are they cast-offs? They can no longer do much beyond that. Its' either a HR, a BB or an out with the equation tilted too heavily towards the third result.
The former Astros join rookie Shelly Duncan and incumbent(?) Wilson Betemit in a Battle Royal that the Steve Kings of 80s wrestling could win. Duncan stormed to the Bronx late last season after hitting 25 bombs in AAA. He did not disappoint. He hit 7 more in just 74 Yankees' ABs.
The final candidate is infielder Wilson Betemit who was acquired in Brian Cashman's humanitarian effort to save Scott Proctor's livelihood. Betemit broke out of a career-long "potential" label by hitting 18 HRs in 2006, but struggled with his AVG last season. Despite that, he did hit 14 HRs and drove in 50 runners.
So the question is what is going to happen? The first step towards an answer is to sort the players by which side of the plate they hit from. On this score, all four hit from the right side, but Betemit can hit from the left, too.
This lead me to check out his splits, and lo and behold!, he hit 13 of his 14 HRs last season from the left side of the plate. That certainly looks like the left-side of the platoon, doesn't it?
As for the right side, I'll stick with Shelly Duncan. What happens with Lane and Ensberg?
Jason Lane could fill the 5th OF role, and he'd be a nice fit there. Ensberg can back-up 3B if Betemit is to play a lot across the diamond. Both players could get ABs at DH against tough lefties when Giambi sits.
Amongst the four, Wilson Betemit offers the most as a fantasy sleeper because he currently qualifies at 3B where is is likely to be 100% undrafted in mixed leagues and shallow AL-only ones. However, there is a good chance he becomes a multi-postion eligible player before April closes out. Then he could be a useful hitter depending on how much he validates the theory of baseball players breaking out in their age 27 season.