Team By Team Sleepers 2005

Second Half Sleepers - Cincinnati Reds

The Roto Authority would like to start off with a note about the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation.  Aaron Sele's much-needed demotion in addition to Ryan Franklin's steroid suspension today means a spot is wide open for 19 year-old Felix Hernandez.  We've spoken about him many times before, so go pick him up if he's out there.  We're not alone in our enthusiasm - blogger Zachary Geballe considers the promotion of King Felix to be "the most anticipated debut in team history."  Thursday should be an interesting day at Comerica to say the least.

On to our Cincinnati Reds Second Half Sleepers.  What to make of the team's crowded outfield?  Dan O'Brien refuses to alleviate the logjam with a trade.  Sean Casey is a nice guy and all that, but he needs to go.  The Reds made the mistake of extending Casey's contract through '06, so barring a winter trade Adam Dunn won't be shifting to first anytime soon.

Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. will continue to play every day.  Perhaps the Reds expected the problem to fix itself with a Griffey injury, and we wouldn't bet against that.  Only keep Griffey on your team as a fifth outfielder, and don't pay anything to get him.  He's just too brittle.  Dunn is a franchise player and a star, but his batting average won't impress you in fantasy baseball.  It's not a problem in real life as Dunn gets on base frequently.  In fantasy, you have to decide if the 45 homers are worth the .250 average.

How does a fantasy baseball owner deal with Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena?  He acquires Pena and doesn't let go. Kearns had a resurgent July, but it was only 33 at-bats.  He's injury prone and the .315 average he flashed in 2002 was an aberration. 

Wily Mo Pena sits at .263-13-35, and now is the perfect time to acquire him if you're playing for 2006.  Pena looks like a young Albert Belle at age 23, and he just needs a touch of seasoning and some playing time to realize his potential.  He has keeper written all over him - don't miss the boat.

On the pitching side, only Aaron Harang is worth considering.  Besides the lack of wins, there's nothing not to like about Harang's 2005.  And the wins are certainly no fault of Harang's.  The only cause for concern is an impending injury.  Harang has some elbow issues last year, and this will be his first 175 inning season.  He's a solid guy for the back of your rotation but don't rely on him.

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Team By Team - Chicago Cubs

Brian Giles to the Cardinals rumors swirl about, but at the moment The Roto Authority will uncover some second half sleepers from the Cubs. 

Jeromy Burnitz is exceeding expectations and Sammy Sosa with a .275-17-54 line so far.  Burnitz has another ten homers left in him as a Cub, so pick him up if you need a fill-in outfielder.

Nomar Garciaparra is due back on Friday.  Don't be surprised if you get 10 HR and 30 RBI from Nomar in August and September.  We might see a bit of a Frank Thomas/Chipper Jones syndrome, where the batting average suffers a bit and the homers increase.  Garciaparra is a nice gamble if he's been dropped in your league and you're relying on the likes of Juan Uribe.

Jerome Williams and Rich Hill are a couple of starting pitcher sleepers if you need someone in the back of your rotation.  Both should give you an ERA around 4, but Hill is riskier.  Along with that risk comes a strikeout per inning.  Choose based on your needs.  Also consider that Williams's spot is more secure, and Hill might be traded by the end of the day. 

Right now, Kerry Wood has more value to the Cubs than to your fantasy baseball team.  With the success of Ryan Dempster, Wood looks to be no more than a setup man.  Without saves and with few innings, Wood is not someone you want to trade for.  However, if you're out of the race and can give up a non-keeper (like a Todd Jones) then deal for Wood.  There's a decent chance he closes full-time in 2006 and could be lights out.  Just don't retain Wood or any closer at a high price.  Contrary to popular belief, Kerry Wood still would have plenty of fantasy value as a starter, as outlined in a previous article.

For further reading, Baseball Prospectus's John Erhardt has an excellent take on the Cubs' new-look bullpen after the additions of Wood and Scott Williamson.

Team By Team - Washington Nationals

At the moment The Roto Authority will take a break from the constant trade rumors and identify some decent second half sleepers from the Washington Nationals.  This team has been a huge surprise in 2005, and even as they fall back down to Earth you may be able to pick out a few gems to help your fantasy baseball team.  Check out Capitol Punishment for good Nationals blogging.

Jose Guillen is leading Washington's offense, with a .302-19-58 line so far.  Guillen and Vinny Castilla have been skeptical about RFK Stadium's posted measurements, and with good reason.  Guillen might be looking at a 35-40 HR season in a more neutral ballpark.  Keep an eye on any stadium adjustments made - it's very possible that the team pulls in the fences.  If you act quickly, you might be able to snag Guillen for a career year 2006.

Nick Johnson looked to be having a breakout season, with a .443 OBP so far.  But with a .387 career OBP, Johnson has always been a patient hitter.  However, without steals, and with only moderate power and a long injury history, fantasy baseball owners have to avoid Johnson.  He's simply much more valuable in real baseball than in fantasy baseball.

Ryan Church is having a nice rookie season, but his injury history coupled with his lack of upside makes him a weak candidate for your outfield.  Take a flier on him as your fifth OF, but don't expect the world.  Remember, Church is a 26 year-old rookie.

John Patterson is having a monster year, but only has four wins to show for it.  If you can point to his supposed inability to win and steal him in a trade, do it immediately.  Don't be afraid to give up a Jim Edmonds type or more, as Patterson is a top 5 NL pitcher right now.

Esteban Loaiza isn't a hot commodity in most fantasy baseball leagues, but his 3.54 RFK-aided ERA goes a long way at the bottom of your rotation.  He won't let you down in the K department, either - expect a Doug Davis-like 175 Ks.   

Second Half Sleepers - Philadelphia Phillies

Before we discuss Phillies sleepers, a brief aside on trade rumors involving the Mets.  The Mets have been rumored to be after a myriad of players, but speculation always runs rampant in New York. 

Among the names tossed out include Alfonso Soriano, Jose Mesa, Danys Baez, Jeff Kent, and Adam Dunn.  None of these players would be worth trading both Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Milledge.  Those two are the Mets #1 pitching and position prospects, respectively.  Only for Adam Dunn should the Mets consider trading one of them.

On to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Are there any hidden gems on this squad?

Jimmy Rollins has a bit of a Corey Patterson complex, fancying himself a power hitter and never taking a walk.  Rollins was just rewarded with a huge contract that the Phils will regret within a few years.  In fantasy baseball, however, Rollins is a hot commodity.  He might steal 50 bags one of these years along with 20 HRs.  Jimmy's .277-8-28-23 line this year doesn't impress much to an owner who paid big bucks before the season to acquire Rollins.  Deal for him if you're making a push towards fantasy gold this year.

Pat Burrell's resurgence was unexpected by most, and his patience at the plate implies more of the same.  Burrell is only 28, so take a gamble on the injuries and acquire him for a Dontrelle Willis type. 

Jim Thome is finished, so pick up Ryan Howard if it's not too late.  For a waiver wire pickup, Howard will give you decent production.  He'll hit around .270 and can hit 25-30 HRs in a full season.  Don't overpay for him in next year's auction, though - his numbers may not be above average for a first baseman.

Ugueth Urbina is a somewhat shaky reliever at this point in his career, but be alert in the event of a Billy Wagner deal.  Urbina is the only possible replacement for Wagner as Philly closer.

Robinson Tejeda's 2.90 ERA looks mighty fine right about now, but he's a sell-high candidate if you own him.  His WHIP is 1.39 as he's been walking people like crazy.  His ERA won't stay under 3 or even 4 if it keeps up. 

If Vicente Padilla is dumped in a trade, keep an eye on Ryan Madson.  If Madson is thrown into the rotation he's a nice sleeper.  Plenty of Ks and otherwise solid peripherals.

Speaking of Ks, Brett Myers is for real.  If a fellow owner thinks it's a fluke or doesn't appreciate the strikeouts, pluck Myers from the ingrate.  Myers is primed for an excellent run for several years.

Team By Team Sleepers - New York Mets

The Roto Authority would like to start off this New York Mets entry with a non-Met aside. 

Man, Eric Milton is terrible this year.  We're talking worst-signing-of-the-century bad.  Worse than Christian Guzman even.  It's one thing to want Milton on your team for three years.  That's bad idea number one.  But to want to pay him $8 mil a year?  Next time I negotiate something, I want Eric Milton's agent involved.  That guy could negotiate an Eskimo to sign up for three years of ice cube delivery for $25 million.  Either that or Reds GM Dan O'Brien is dumb.

On to that other New York team, the Mets.  At this point, many expected the Mets to be better than two games over .500.  It may be related to how bad their infield is besides David Wright.  Speaking of Wright, if a fellow owner does not appreciate him for some reason, offer the world to pick him up.  If you are out of the race, try a dump trade like Manny Ramirez for Wright.  Wright is only 22 and he's developing more power and stealing more bags.  Plus, Willie Randolph is hitting him 5th now.  If the Mets ever get a few players in front of him who actually get on base, Wright should be able to drive in 110 or more.

Even The Roto Authority did not expect the excellence of Kris Benson.  Benson has shaken off all distractions and put up some nice numbers, justifying his bloated contract slightly.  Benson is 30 now, doesn't strike a ton of guys out, and gives up a decent number of home runs.  He makes a pretty good sell-high candidate.  He may have a few more good years left, but if you can pick up a young guy with upside go for it.

A Mets pitcher to look for for your 2006 or 2007 fantasy team is Yusmeiro Petit.  Provided Petit isn't traded to Tampa Bay in a moment of idiocy, he will be a solid Major League starter for New York.  He's putting up some nice numbers at AA right now and is very polished.  This year he was rated the fourth best pitching prospect by Baseball Prospectus (interestingly, right behind Scott Kazmir).   

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