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Sleepers & Busts: Jhonny Peralta, Johnny Cueto

We soldier on with the latest installment of Sleepers & Busts, looking at a couple of fellas whose names are prounced the same but spelled differently. For the sake of keeping things simple, let's keep the Jonny Gomes references to a minimum. See what I did there?

Jhonny Peralta, Tigers, ADP: 175.5

You may have noticed the state of affairs over at shortstop is not what it once was -- and it was never all too hot to begin with.

After Troy Tulowitzki, things get hairy. Hanley Ramirez is coming off a miserable season. Jose Reyes is coming off a good (but not entirely injury-free) one, which means as soon as you spend a second-round pick on him, his hammy'll pop like the high-E string you overtuned on your first axe.

Then, it's a mixed bag of vets and newbs who'll contribute in some cats but leave you wanting much more in others.

It'll take some guts on your part, but rather than reaching for an overvalued Asdrubal Cabrera, aging Derek Jeter or unproven Dee Gordon, how about nabbing Peralta? His current ADP puts him squarely in the mid-14th, which isn't a bad price to pay for a guy who could easily finish in the top 10 or 12 among fantasy shortstops.

Jhonny Got His Gun clubbed 21 homers and posted a cool .299 average in the Motor City in 2K11, making him a sneaky value for those who drafted him late or plucked him off the waiver wire. The right-handed hitter, 30 in May, enjoyed a rebound campaign after consecutive underwhelming seasons in 2009-10 that saw him slip out of fantasy relevance in all but very deep leagues.

And therein lies the rub: It's been tough to count on Peralta for consistent, year-after-year production throughout his career. The good news, though, is that nothing in his profile suggests last year was necessarily a fluke. He's actually had better power years in terms of ISO, and his .325 BABIP wasn't far off from his career .315 mark. So, this is hardly a case of a player far exceeding previously established career norms.

Peralta doesn't come without risk, but he could be a surplus value at a position that's notably thin. Considering many fantasy owners are overreaching for shortstops, Peralta presents a rare opportunity to buy a decent one at below-market cost.

Johnny Cueto, Reds, ADP: 116.4

There was a glorious but fleeting time when Johnny Cueto appeared to be a fantasy stud in the making. As a rookie in 2008, the right-hander struck out more than eight batters per nine innings, teasing us with the promise of what could be if he were to round out his game in the coming years. While Cueto improved his control in both 20o9 and 2010, it seemingly came at the expense of his strikeout rate.

So, by the time 2011 rolled around, Cueto's name was recognizable but his fantasy contributions were rather underwhelming. Last season, though, Cueto vaulted himself back into relevance on the strength of very sharp ratios: 2.31 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

Just a cursory glance at the peripherals, however, reveals that those ratios -- the ERA, in particular -- are unsustainable. Chiefly, Cueto's strikeout rate dipped for the third consecutive year in 2011, down to 6.00, while his control remained competent at 2.71 BB/9 for the second year in a row. As well, his BABIP was stifled at .249, a notable departure from his previous career average in the .290s. All told, SIERA was no fan of Cueto's in 2011 based on these periphs, churning out a 3.93 figure for what his ERA "should" have been.

Now, it's worth mentioning that Cueto actually became something of a different pitcher last season, inducing a ton of ground balls (53.7%), whereas he'd previously been a moderate flyball pitcher. He seems to have added a two-seam fastball to his repertoire over the past couple years, which he threw often and effectively in 2011, and he may have it to thank for the sudden spike in grounders.

Nonetheless, a new (i.e. strikeout-shy) Cueto is not necessarily a better one for fantasy purposes, so if you find yourself infatuated by his fortuitous 2011 ratios, resist the urge to buy him anywhere near his current going rate -- mid-ninth round! There are a handful of pitchers being drafted long after him who will offer more strikeouts, or a sturdier groundball profile, or both.




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