As you begin your fantasy draft, you likely have a short list of top tier players you want to see on your team helping you to fantasy glory. However, it's important to have a strategy when it comes to the later rounds. These players, in a sense, serve as the foundation for growing your team. Without further adieu, I present to you my top sleepers for the American League. These are players to keep an eye out for when all the top tier studs are gone (based on a 12-team, 5x5 standard roto league). Up next, I'll take a look at the top National League sleepers.
Billy Butler - 1B, Kansas City Royals
At the age of 23, Butler isn't even in the prime of his career. Yet he's already established great discipline at the plate, hitting for contact (.301 AVG last season) and finishing second in the majors with 51 doubles. Some of those doubles will turn into homeruns, and I see him becoming an all-around slugger that will push him into the top tier of fantasy first basemen very soon.
Brandon Wood - 3B, Los Angeles Angels
With the departure of Chone Figgins, Wood finally gets his chance at the hot corner. He's got 30 HR potential, but don't expect it to happen right out of the gate. A more accurate prediction for his rookie campaign would be .270 AVG, 20 HR, 70 RBI.
J.J. Hardy - SS, Minnesota Twins
The Milwaukee Brewers gave up on Hardy, but I haven't. He hit .277 AVG, 26 HR, 89 RBI in '07 and .283 AVG, 24 HR, 74 RBI in '08. The guy's only 27, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say last season was a fluke filled with bad luck. In yet another year when a top tier SS is hard to come by, don't hesitate to grab Hardy for a discount in the mid-to-late rounds.
Julio Borbon - OF, Texas Rangers
This slap-hitting speedster hit .312 AVG with 19 SB in 46 games as a rookie last year. Spread out over an entire season, these are numbers comparable to a guy taken within the first three rounds in most drafts: Jacoby Ellsbury. That being said, don't put too much stock in those numbers as it was his first year, but he's earned himself a starting job in Arlington, and can be grabbed late for those concerned with stolen base numbers.
Jake Fox - 3B, Oakland Athletics
What intrigues me about Fox (other than his unworldly power) is that he can play almost anywhere...albeit badly. He played both corner infield spots, outfield spots, and even caught three games for the Chicago Cubs last season in limited playing time. Now Fox, who hit .409 AVG with 17 homers in just 164 at-bats with Triple-A Iowa last year, finds himself in Oakland where he can hopefully have a chance to play every day.
Kevin Slowey - SP, Minnesota Twins
Slowey was bothered by a wrist injury that required the Twins to shut him down in July. If that's the reason why his WHIP went from an impressive 1.15 in '08 to a less than mediocre 1.41 in '09, then draft him in late rounds and feel confident that the 25 year old will return to form.
Francisco Liriano - SP, Minnesota Twins
Now another year removed from Tommy John surgery, Liriano could be in line to return to the dominance he once had. The 2006 season seems like a long time ago, when he fanned 144 in 121 innings while boasting a 2.16 ERA. After dominating the Dominican Winter League, Liriano appears to be on track for this season. At age 26, Liriano could have his best years ahead.
Wade Davis - SP, Tampa Bay Rays
I love this guy. Many fantasy owners aren't buying in, mainly because he hasn't been given a rotation spot yet, but he will in the end. The 24 year-old righty has a wide array of pitches, including a nasty curve and a mid-90s fastball. He averaged a strikeout per inning last year in six starts, and is certainly worthy of a late-round pick.
Matt Thornton - RP, Chicago White Sox
There was buzz last year that current closer Bobby Jenks was on his way out before the Chi-Sox shut him down for the year. Thornton entered the closer spot and pitched well, striking out 87 in 72 innings. Jenks comes into the 2010 campaign as the closer, but may be on a short leash. If you can afford to reach on a potential closer (or if you drafted Jenks), he's not a bad pick.
Kerry Wood - RP, Cleveland Indians
After a horrendous start last season, Wood pitched a decent 2.96 ERA and 1.32 WHIP after the All-Star break and his health wasn't an issue. With a healthy Grady Sizemore, the emergence of Shin-Soo Choo, and newly acquired Russell Branyan, Wood may actually have more save opportunities.