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Sleepers & Busts: Kenley Jansen, Michael Young

The pseudo science of projecting fantasy production can be a vexing one. Short of happening upon a copy of Grays Sports Almanac, there's just no telling how a player will perform any given year. We must solider on, though, and every spring brings with it the promise of assembling the perfect team. I'm into stories, so I create a narrative in my head of somehow mastering this fool's errand.

It always ends with me being victorious, of course. I'm sitting at my computer in the final days of September, coasting to an easy title and a large pot. Scrolling through my league's wire, I notice it's littered with draft-day castaways -- all once belonging to my leaguemates. Some of the names are of the household variety. Others are the would-be sleepers that didn't pan out, and others still are those forgotten souls who were lost to season-ending injuries. My team, meanwhile, is perfection, an ideal blend of on-the-money early rounders, late-round lottery tickets that I've long since cashed, and healthy-as-horses workmen.

This fantasy (no pun intended) has not yet come to fruition, and it never will, but one must try. In that spirit, here's our first installment in Sleepers & Busts, which might otherwise be thought of as Undervalued & Overvalued.

Sleeper

Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers: Javy Guerra's unexpected ascent to closing duties as a rookie was the primary storyline out of the Dodgers' bullpen last year, but Jansen's eye-popping (and record-setting) strikeout rate had fanboys clamoring at the thought of the monstrous right-hander getting a crack at the ninth inning in 2012.

Let's be clear: It's not yet known whether Guerra or Jansen will close this season. But if Ken-Jan gets the nod, he has the dominant upside of a Craig Kimbrel type, which is to say he's essentially unhittable when he's on top of his game. Albeit in a limited sample of 80 2/3 Major League innings, Jansen already has a career strikeout rate of 15.29 K/9 and a 1.87 SIERA. Those numbers will play!

Kimbrel finished No. 30 overall on ESPN's 2011 Player Rater. I hate to get too far carried away with the Kimbrel comparisons before Jansen's even been anointed the Dodgers' closer, but if you're looking for a guy who could provide that type of value relative to draft position, Jansen could be it. Jansen's average draft position is currently 177, per Mock Draft Central, although he'll likely jump up a few rounds if he breaks camp as the nominal stopper.

There's also the matter of drafting Jansen even if he's not the Dodgers' closer at the conclusion of Spring Training. Obviously, the 24-year-old is a must-draft in holds leagues, but even in formats that don't count that stat he could be a viable draft candidate. First, there's not much in Guerra's profile to suggest he can repeat 2011's success and retain the job: He's neither a strikeout king, nor a control artist, nor a groundball specialist. As well, many owners round out the back of their staffs with elite setup men like Jansen in the hopes that an injury, demotion or transaction will wisk these eighth-inning studs into closerdom -- the heaps of strikeouts and tiny ratios don't hurt in the meanwhile.

Bust

Michael Young, 1B/3B/DH/(maybe)2B, Rangers: Folks have been predicting Young's demise for years, and I'm going to continue that fine tradition here, hoping that I'll be right because the guy can't go on at a high level forever, right? Right?

Some of Young's standard fantasy stats in 2011 suggested he wasn't far from his prime: .338 average, 88 runs, 106 RBIs. On closer examination, though, it won't be easy for the right-handed hitter, now 35, to repeat those figures in 2012, and his 11 homers in 2011 already left a lot to be desired.

Young has always posted high averages because he makes a lot of contact and hits line drives, but his .367 BABIP in 2011 was a career high and nearly 30 points higher than his career average of .338. If his 2012 BABIP is closer to his career average, he should come in with a batting average closer to .300. That's not bad by any means, but without many homers or steals to speak of, he'll need to make up most of his value in RBIs and runs lest he flirt with becoming the Freddy Sanchez Special - i.e. empty average. He shouldn't have much trouble scoring runs or driving them in as part of the Rangers' potent offense, but since those are lineup-dependent stats, there will be some luck involved on that front.

Over at Fangraphs, the average of three projection systems currently pegs Young for 13 homers, 83 runs, 89 RBIs, five steals and a .306 average. Those are solid numbers, especially the runs and RBIs, but I wouldn't take Young at his current ADP, No. 77 overall - or the early-sixth round in a 12-team draft. I rank him No. 10 at both second and third bases, which would push him back a couple rounds to the 100-110 range.

Young also won't be second base-eligible in many leagues, which means he'll be swimming in the deeper end of the pool if you select him to play third base. In an odd twist, he was among the best third basemen last year, but that was largely due to the confluence of Young's extraordinary batting average and the rash of injuries among superior players. I wouldn't bank on it happening again.

The bottom line is, draft Young as a complementary piece, but don't count on him to reproduce last year's value.



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