Jan 25, 2010

The Search for Narco | 2010 Sleeper Hitters

When diving into the draft pool for fantasy baseball sleepers each year, one can certainly find a lot of names floating around. But, when going deep-sea diving for off-the-chart sleepers, it gets a little trickier. My friend and I coined the term 'narcos' for these deep sleepers and I'll give you a glimpse into my method for finding narco hitters.

My method is not entirely scientific but it does yield fairly successful results. One of the leagues I play in is a point-based head-to-head league and the first thing I do in the offseason is export the results from this league into a spreadsheet (the scoring system is fairly standard). Using these results, I divide the players' total fantasy points by the number of at-bats and sort those results accordingly. Not surprisingly, at the top, you'll find the cream of the crop from the fantasy universe. But, you'll also find some guys who did quite well with the few plate appearances they had.

The next step is to remove all players who had over 350 ABs or under 100 ABs, as well as guys who were simply injured the previous season but fall into the group. Now, we have a group of guys who didn't get a ton of time to prove themselves but proved they are capable of success in that time. Now, the key is to find out which of these guys will get a starting opportunity in the upcoming season. In the past, I've found an interesting group of relatively unheard of names. Here are those past results, only including those who got over 300 ABs the following season:

2007 potential sleepers (2006 ABs):

  • Josh Bard (249)
  • Ryan Church (196)
  • Chris Duncan (280)
  • Ryan Garko (185)
  • James Loney (102)
  • Luke Scott (214)
  • Ryan Theoriot (134)
With the exception of Josh Bard, all of these players finished within the top 200 hitters the following year. That's not the greatest feat in the world but they all gave some value as possible last-round picks, with Ryan Theriot and James Loney providing the most value in 2007. This was, by far, the least successful season for the method.

2008 potential sleepers (2007 ABs):

  • Rick Ankiel (172)
  • Michael Bourn (119)
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (116)
  • Josh Hamilton (298)
  • Fred Lewis (157)
  • James Loney (344)
  • David Murphy (105)
  • Nate McLouth (329)
  • Cody Ross (173)
  • Jayson Werth (255)
Every single one of these players finished within the top 150 hitters in 2008 with six in the top 100 and three in the top 25. Josh Hamilton and Jacoby Ellsbury provided great value from their draft position (10th-12th rounds) and Nate McLouth came from off the radar to give huge returns, the true definition of narco.

2009 potential sleepers (2008 ABs):

  • Russell Branyan (132)
  • Shin-Soo Choo (317)
  • Nelson Cruz (115)
  • Elijah Dukes (276)
  • Mike Fontenot (243)
  • Jerry Hairston (261)
  • Nick Johnson (109)
  • Mike Napoli (227)
  • Denard Span (347)
  • Ryan Spilborghs (233)
  • Ben Zobrist (198)
This was a true hit-or-miss type group. Four of the guys didn't even finish in the top 200 despite getting over 300 ABs in 2009. However, if we filter further and just take the guys who had over 450 ABs, you have four guys remaining and they were all top 50 hitters (Cruz, Zobrist, Choo and Span). So, the greater the opportunity, the greater the returns. That brings us to the present day...

2010 potential sleepers (2009 ABs):

  • Kyle Blanks (148)
  • Julio Borbon (157)
  • Jake Fox (216)
  • Brett Gardner (248)
  • Jonny Gomes (281)
  • Carlos Gonzalez (278)
  • Chris Iannetta (289)
  • Garrett Jones (314)
  • Angel Pagan (343)
  • Ryan Raburn (261)
  • David Ross (128)
  • Randy Ruiz (115)
  • Seth Smith (335)
  • Andres Torres (152)
  • Rickie Weeks (147)
This is our group of names that we'll want to keep an eye and target later in drafts. Obviously, prospect status and hype has already bumped up names like Carlos Gonzalez but other names are more hidden in the fantasy world and could provide great value in 2010. So, we'll keep an eye on which of these guys will be given starting jobs in 2010 and target them as best we can.

Ryan Raburn has already been given a starting job in Detroit and Brett Gardner might have one as well. Could they be the McClouths or Choos of this year? Maybe and maybe not. It's worth a shot once you get to the later rounds. Or, you could just take Coco Crisp or Jed Lowrie instead. Your choice. Though, the beauty of this system is that some of these guys might go undrafted too. In that case, just keep an eye on them early in the season and pick them up immediately at any signs of success.