Every year, fantasy baseball fanatics leaf through dozens of magazines and scan numerous websites to find “the next big thing.” It’s always satisfying to find fantasy baseball sleepers, and this list of potential first baseman sleepers could help put your team in contention for the league title. If you want to achieve fantasy glory, scan this list of first baseman to find a great 2011 sleeper.
Ike Davis, Mets – Davis burst onto the scene in the Big Apple last year and provided a much needed boost to the anemic offense of the Mets. Despite hitting 19 homers and driving in 73 runs in his rookie campaign, many scouts believe Davis is already close to reaching his ceiling. However, depending on the health of his oft-injured teammates, Davis could once again make some noise if he has some protection in the lineup. He could be a great pick at the end of a draft.
Freddie Freeman, Braves – Remember Jason Heyward? Thought so. Well, Freeman has the same type of potential at the plate. Freeman tore up Triple A pitching last season batting .319 with 18 homers and an .898 OPS, and at the start of this upcoming season, he will be only 21 years old. The possibilities for Freeman are endless and there will be much excitement surrounding the young stud, but as a rookie he will almost certainly hit a few rough patches along the way.
Mitch Moreland, Rangers – This guy has already been through a lot at the age of 25. Moreland was finally given an opportunity to play after the Rangers demoted Chris Davis, traded Justin Smoak, and then demoted…Chris Davis…again. After an impressive 2010 World Series, Moreland is ready step in and be the everyday starter for Texas. Hitting in one of the league’s more hitter-friendly ballparks should bode well for Moreland, who has the potential to be a solid BA-HR combo first baseman. Draft him really late or wait to see how things play out early in the year.
Gaby Sanchez, Marlins – Sanchez was another rookie first baseman who had a solid 2010 campaign. Batting .273 with 19 homers and 85 RBIs is a nice start to a big league career, and Sanchez has the ability to improve a little bit on those numbers. He has the potential to bat .300, which is reassuring, but don’t expect a huge boost in power. Sanchez is a solid overall hitter and could be a nice pick up in later rounds.
Justin Smoak, Mariners – In the 2008 MLB Draft, Smoak was considered a Top 5 talent with tons of potential. Due to his switch-hitting ability, Smoak has drawn comparisons to the powerful Mark Teixeira, and in 2011, it will finally be time to act on his big-time potential. Traded from the Rangers to the Mariners last season, Smoak will start for Seattle on Opening Day. Hitting in spacious Safeco Field might be a tough park for Smoak to deliver immediate power, but his solid plate discipline should certainly help him have a decent year. Look to draft Smoak in deeper leagues if need be.
Kila Ka’aihue, Royals – After being drafted in 2002, Ka’aihue has spent much of the first eight years of his career bouncing around the minors. Well, after absolutely destroying Triple A pitching for much of 2010 (over 1.000 OPS and .463 OBP), the Royals will see if the 27 year old Ka’aihue can deliver at the big league level for a full season in 2011. Ka’aihue could finally provide Kansas City with that middle-of-the-order pop they have been missing for quite some time now. His ability to get on base is also a plus; however, rumors are that Ka’aihue is simply filling up a spot until the Royals next big-time prospect, Eric Hosmer, is ready for the Big Show. Draft at your own risk.
Matt LaPorta, Indians – Since being traded from the Brewers in 2008, LaPorta has been a prize possession for the struggling Indians. Unfortunately, LaPorta has yet to deliver on his tremendous talent. After two straight seasons with some time spent in the minors and nothing left to prove at the Triple A-level, 2011 is an important year for LaPorta to show he belongs in the majors. The Indians could really use his 25-HR potential in their lineup, but they also hope he can improve on his abysmal .221 average from last year. LaPorta could be a serviceable late round pick in deeper leagues.
Carlos Pena, Cubs – He isn’t a sleeper in the true sense of the word, but Pena’s consistently awful batting averages (.227 in 2009, .196 in 2010) are a reason to be scared. However, this guy has some serious pop in his bat and that is definitely a reason to target his services. He has already proven that he can deliver in the power department, and a move to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in 2011 could put Pena back in the 35-homer range. Additionally, it would be almost impossible to think that Pena’s batting average could get any worse, so look for him to improve in that area as well. He could be a huge steal on draft day.
Derrek Lee, Orioles – Due to an ailing thumb injury last year, the ever-consistent Lee saw his numbers decrease quite a bit in 2010. Long one of the more steady choices at first base, Lee will get another chance to prove he still has the skills with a move to Baltimore for the 2011 season. Camden Yards is a great ballpark for hitters, and batting in a lineup with Guerrero, Reynolds, Jones, and Markakis could certainly prove beneficial to Lee’s numbers. He probably won’t return to his old self, but it’s not too crazy to expect a good year from Lee. He could be a great pick if he can stay healthy.
Chris Davis, Rangers– Davis absolutely mashes minor league pitching. On the flip side, he struggles mightily against major league pitching. This unfortunate combination has landed Davis the label of a “Four A Player:” he is too good for the minors, but he might not be able to cut it in the majors. However, the Rangers are not ready to give up on him just yet. He has a ton of potential, and his proven ability to hit homers (21 in 113 games in 2009) is a plus, but he desperately needs to cut down on strikeouts and improve his plate discipline in order to survive. A crowded, lethal Rangers lineup will not help Davis’ chances to be an everyday player in Texas, but he makes this list because rumors of a potential trade could help jumpstart his career. Do not draft him, but stay tuned to see what happens.