(Not so) deep sleepers: Part 3

Today we’re mixing up the format a little. We’re still looking at players who might turn into good $1-5 investments in a 12-team league with deep rosters, but this time from a different perspective. Every year, there are players who digress from mid-market to fantasy dud. We’ll be peeking in on a few of 2010′s duds that fantasy owners might overreact to and allow to become a worthwhile investment.

You can think of these guys as bounce-back candidates, but the real goal here is to see if they slip through the cracks onto the bottom of your roster. Alex Rios is a nice anecdotal example of someone who went for peanuts in 2010 drafts and provided loads of fantasy value.

Let’s be clear. There will be leagues where these guys are drafted for more than $5 or earlier than the late teens for those still indulging in snake drafts. When players have names as recognizable as this trio, odds are high that more than one owner will think they are a sleeper candidate. Keep them in mind but don’t become attached to winning them.

Derrek Lee: The as yet homeless Lee is coming off a dismal, injury-plagued season. His .260/.347/.428 triple slash is unplayable at first base in a wide variety of fantasy formats, especially when that line is supported by 19 home runs, 80 runs, 80 RBI, and one stolen base.

Lee reportedly spent the majority of 2010 banged up. It is speculated that he healed somewhat following his trade to Atlanta. His post-trade .287/.384/.465 line potentially corroborates that view. If that’s what a healthy Lee can be expected to produce and if you’re willing to gamble on Lee’s health, a less than $5 investment isn’t a bad idea. This is especially true if you need a stout-batted player for your utility slot or simply missed out on all the good first basemen.

Oliver projects a .266/.349/.442 batting line with 20 home runs in 2011. Obviously, the home run total could be affected by his home stadium. Oliver doesn’t “know” that Lee was supposedly hurt in 2010, which could be unfairly suppressing the projection. Then again, it’s probably fair to assume that more injuries await Lee in the coming year.

Grady Sizemore: Over the past two seasons, Sizemore has been the bane of fantasy owners everywhere. Invest with extreme caution. Knee injuries have grounded Sizemore’s career and should make him a $1-only candidate in all but the deepest leagues. He continues to rehab from micro-fracture surgery performed last season and if all goes well he may be available for Opening Day. The surgery likely means a permanent end to the 20-30 steal potential he used to carry into draft day. Project stolen bases at your own risk—10 seems to be a reasonable estimate.

Oliver thinks he’s a fair candidate to bounce back with the stick, projecting a playable .260/.347/.445 triple slash along with 16 home runs. Having lost a good portion of his speed, he will need to focus more on making solid contact at the plate to provide value. Further, his supporting cast in Cleveland is unlikely to do him any favors in terms of runs and RBI production. Sizemore is best considered in leagues with a center field slot or as the sixth outfielder in a five-outfielder league.

Jason Bay: After feasting on the Green Monster by bopping 36 home runs and clubbing 29 doubles, Bay’s failed transition to CitiField has dumped him into fantasy obscurity. Playing time in 2011 is by no means certain, but Bay will be given the chance to earn his contract. In 2010, Bay managed a meager .259/.347/.402 line with only six home runs and eight stolen bases before ending the season with a lingering concussion. For $1-5, we’re hoping Bay can bounce back and no other owners have the same thought.

Despite 2010′s clunker, Oliver still projects usefulness out of Bay with a .263/.356/.469 batting line, 22 home runs and eight stolen bases. That’s probably useful off the bench in most leagues. Due to the dismal shroud of doom casting a pall over CitiField and the entire Mets organization, Bay is likely to fall late in drafts and for very little. He could turn out to be very helpful spot starter in the outfield.

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Next: The virtual 1960s New York Mets (Part 2:  1962-63) »

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