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Tuesday Fantasy Baseball Links

Today's links talk about some sleepers for 2012 as well as what we can expect from some guys who were, to put it mildly, sleepers in 2012.

  • FanGraphs addresses a guy who they've talked about as a 2012 sleeper already this offseason, Josh Willingham. The reason?

    He began pulling the ball with more power in 2011. If continues this trend into 2012, he may a steal on draft or auction day. An owner just needs to know of the decline in plate discipline.

    Jeff Zimmerman shows Willingham's spray charts from 2011 in the article and more completely addresses the issues surrounding the plate discipline. Remember, Willingham had his breakout season in Oakland. He's a free agent and could potentially get out of Oakland and into a better hitter's park. This bodes well for Willingham breaking out even further next season.

    More after the jump........

    • Did you know that Toronto acquired Luis Valbuena? I sure didn't until I read it this morning on FanGraphs. David Golebiewski talks about what to make of Valbuena which is basically that the Blue Jays think he is a reserve infielder but that is dependent on what becomes of Kelly Johnson. If Valbuena is Toronto's second baseman,

    He could be a decent hitter who can play several positions, but he also lacks upside and is more of a utility player in the Ty Wigginton mold, hurting his pitchers wherever he lines up (-16.5 UZR in the majors).

    • Another 2012 sleeper from Oakland is Scott Sizemore. Third base is a shallow position. Once you get past Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre you're taking a risk. Hence, Roto Hardball's psporer says you should give Sizemore a look.

    The .245 batting average is uninspiring, but there is growth potential based on both his minor league track record (.300 in 1860 at-bats; only one season below .286 and three at .308 or better) and his plate discipline.  His 12.4% walk rate was 11th-best among American League players with 400 or more plate appearances and already improves his value in OBP leagues, but it also likely indicates a strong understanding of the strike zone which can lead an improved approach as he gains more experience. 

    A full season of Sizemore’s 2011 numbers would be valuable enough especially at a thin position, but the fact that he could definitely improve given his age (27) and previously displayed skills only add to his value.  Beyond the first tier I would probably only have Brett Lawrie and Mark Reynolds ahead of Sizemore.  Then Sizemore is in a trio with Mike Moustakas and Edwin Encarnacion.  With Moustakas’s lack of experience and hacktastic ways and Encarnacion’s inability to stay healthy and infuriatingly inconsistent play, I would probably lean Sizemore barring a roster change that would block his path to a starting job. 

    So basically if you don't own a big name 3B and can't get Lawrie or Reynolds, bide your time for Sizemore, he has potential.

    • Today's theme appears to be infield sleepers so let's continue with that. Razzball gives a prediction on Cincinnati's young shortstop Zack Cozart and compares him to another young middle infielder.

      The no walks thing is not a small sample size problem, and while that won’t be a problem for Dusty, it will be a problem for Cozart’s average.  His speed might help him beat out some dribblers, but he’s going to struggle to hit .250.  His speed is there for 15-20 steals and low-teen power.  You know who that reminds me of?  No, not you in high school.  Let it go, man.  It reminds me of Danny Espinosa.  Danny has a bit more power and a bit less speed, but tomato-tomato with a different emphasis.

        • 2011 brought us some unexpected breakouts from youngsters and some returns from more experienced guys who had been down in the dumps. One of the youngsters who broke out last year was Brandon Beachy. Fantasy Baseball 365's Matthew McMillen has a piece up on what Beachy will do in 2012, is he for real or was 2012 an aberration?

        Another year of experience, an assured spot in the rotation, and another helping of whatever the Braves put in their pitching staff water bottles will put Beachy on track for not only another fine year, but one that sees improvement across the board:

        14 W, 3.26 ERA, 200 K, 1.18 WHIP in 175 innings.

        A tad bit optimistic on the Ks for my taste but still, Beachy is for real.

        • Also at Fantasy Baseball 365, Josh Shepardson continues his series on 2011 breakouts and underachievers with a piece on some guys you may have heard of who had strong 2011s after weak or unheard of 2010s.
        • And to finish on today's theme, a piece from FanGraphs on 2011 breakouts from "duds" who shouldn't be too overvalued in 2012 by Mike Podhorzer.
        • And finally, Mike Axisa ranks some First Base keepers at FanGraphs.