2011 NL Fantasy Sleeper Picks

Anyone who has participated in NL Fantasy Baseball drafts should know by now one of the keys to winning your league is to find that one or two Sleeper picks that will outperform their draft position or dollar value by a lot.  Sleeper picks are not an easy thing to find or predict but they are very important.  Sleepers can come in the form of a young player breaking out, a player coming back from an injury, a player coming off a down year, etc.  The following is a list of NL Fantasy Sleepers that I believe will get you the most bang for your buck so to speak.

FREDDIE FREEMAN – ATLANTA BRAVES  1st BASE Sleeper Pick- Freeman is only 21 years old but he has been handed the Braves starting first base job.  He will be available later in drafts as there will be at least 10 1st baseman ranked higher than the young hitter.  Freeman hit .319 with 18HR and 87RBI in AAA last season.  He has a good bat and should continue to produce at a high level.  He makes for a great corner infield option and if he does break out in his first full season could make for a solid first base option.  He is not going to put up numbers like Pujols and Votto but you can get him 7 or 8 rounds later and still get solid production.

NEIL WALKER – PITTSBURGH PIRATES 2nd BASE Sleeper Pick- The former first round pick by the Pirates back in 2004 had struggled to live up to the expectations for years.  Walker was finally given the opportunity on the big league team last year with the departure of Freddy Sanchez.  He showed enough in 110 games for me to believe he will continue to impress offensively.  He batted .296 with 12 home runs in 2010.  No one seems to have Walker on the radar in the early rankings but he is one player you may get really deep in your draft to fill that 2nd base spot or middle infield position and get very solid production.  A .300 average, 15-20 home runs, and 85 + RBI is not out of the question

PEDRO ALVAREZ – PITTSBURGH PIRATES 3rd BASE Sleeper Pick- I am not going too far out on a limb with this one since everyone probably already knows this, but Alvarez plays 3rd (very weak overall position this year) and  has a ton of power.  He was the second overall pick in 2008 by the Pirates and he has been ushered along quickly and reached the majors last season.  If you can look past his mediocre batting average, you will realize his other numbers will be right up there with the upper tier (Wright and Zimmerman) but youshould be able to get him several rounds later.  This won’t be a last round type of pick do to the scarcity of talent at the position, but he should put up over 30 home runs and drive in 100+ RBI on the young and talented Pirates.  If he can raise his average from last year’s .256 to a more respectable level around .280 you could be getting a steal once those top few 3rd baseman are off the board.

STARLIN CASTRO – CHICAGO CUBS SHORTSTOP Sleeper Pick -  The 20-year old shortstop reached the big leagues early last season and showed he can hit big league pitching to a tune of .300.  He is still young and will develop more power as he gets more mature but for now we can look at him to hit over .300 while hitting 10 HRs and stealing double digit bags.  There is nothing but upside with this guy but will he put it all together this year or in the future?  You will not have to reach into the first few rounds to get him as you will with other shortstops (Hanley, Reyes, Tulo, Rollins) and you may just get similar stats 5 rounds later.  He will not hit the home run totals that those guys will but the other stats could be there.  He is very fast and getting on base enough could allow him to reach 25 stolen bases.  For those in KEEPER leagues, Castro is a must have.

DREW STUBBS – CINCINNATI REDS OUTFIELDER Sleeper Pick - What is not to like about this kid?  Even with his struggles early on in 2010 at the plate, Stubbs ended up with the following line:  .255 BA, 22HR, 91 RUNS, 77RBI, 30 SB.  Give him am increase in the batting average category and we are talking about a top 3 NL Fantasy outfielder here.  Everyone knows Carlos Gonzalez, but few seem to even know who Drew Stubbs is for whatever reason.  Grab him if ou can as he is in store for a 30-30 type season and if he hits for a higher average – HELLO fantasy championship!

CARLOS BELTRAN – NEW YORK METS OUTFIELDER Sleeper Pick- I know nobody wants to see this guy as a sleeper pick but you have to consider him.  He has dropped off the fantasy radar due to injuries the past few seasons.  If he is healthy in 2011 and based on where youwill be able to draft him, he has the makings of a legit sleeper candidate.  Not long ago, Beltran was a first round choice in many leagues, now people are afraid to draft him as their number 3 or 4 outfielder in NL Only league.  I am one to think he will get back his stick a little and post 90 runs, 90+ RBI, 20 HRs, and hit .285.  Not bad production at all from such a late and forgotten draft pick.

NATE MCCLOUTH – ATLANTA BRAVES OUTFIELDER Sleeper Pick- No way this guy can be as bad as he was in 2010!  Impossible!  He won’t hit for an average over .260 but he should be able to get close to his 2008 and 2009 form where he reached or got very close to 20-20.  He may be completely off your fantasy board at this point, but to grab in in the very late rounds or for a couple of bucks may turn into a real gem.  An average of .260, 20-25 HRs, 20 Steals is still a real possibility.

CRAIG KIMBREL – ATLANTA BRAVES CLOSER Sleeper Pick- I wanted to put Drew Storen here but I think more people have Storen on their radar since he was drafted so highly by the Nationals to be their closer and was thrust into the role at the end of last year.  Kimbrel needs to beat out Jonny Venters (which it looks like he will).  In a very small sample size last year as a set up guy, Kimbrell was as dominant as you can be.  20 innings, 40 strikeouts, and ERA of 0.44.  These numbers were not out of no where, he posted over 14 K’s/9 innings in the minor leagues.  Now an obvious statement:  If Venters wins the job in spring training, draft Venters as your sleeper pick and not Kimbrel…obviously!

STARTING PITCHER SLEEPER PICKS – Please see my top 10 pitching sleeper article  http://www.nlfantasybaseball.com/2011/10-sleeper-picks-nl-pitchers/

So there you have it!  Hopefully you can grab some of these guys later on in the draft and reap the rewards all the way to the league championship title!

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