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January 24, 2007

Prospectus Today

Post-Hype Sleepers, 2007

by Joe Sheehan

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A couple of years ago, I coined the term "post-hype sleepers" to describe players who were entering the season after they'd failed miserably amidst a tremendous amount of preseason buildup. I still think this category is the best place to look for fantasy bargains in the upcoming season, as there will be owners in your league who refuse to be burned twice, and others who will simply have forgotten about them. Here are some of the guys I'm looking at for 2007 (AL Tout Wars participants, stop reading here):

Felix Hernandez, Mariners: You might think this is an odd choice, given his strong PECOTA projection. I think Hernandez was so hyped last season that his performance is perceived as worse than it actually was. He was basically a league-average starter with pretty good peripherals (24 Stuff score, far above average). After some early-season issues with hit rate and home-run rate, both of those figures came down to expected ranges, and with them, his ERA. I see no reason why the projections from a season ago can't be Hernandez's baseline for '07. He's the only pitcher other than Johan Santana I can see deserving the AL Cy Young Award.

Jeremy Hermida, Marlins: Hermida's rookie season was ruined by hip and ankle injuries. He was limited to 307 ABs and never established any kind of in-season rhythm. The core skills-plate discipline and doubles power-are still in place, although his strikeout rate may keep his batting average down. He's a Brian Giles-caliber hitter, and should bounce back for a .380 OBP and 40 doubles this year. Of all the Marlins' young players, I'd still take him to have the best career.

Anthony Reyes, Cardinals: This may seem like a generous definition of "sleeper," given that Reyes was a World Series hero for the Cards and may be their #2 starter. Don't forget, though, that Reyes had a 5.06 ERA last year and was yanked out of the rotation down the stretch. Home-run rate may be his bugaboo and the driver of his ERA in any given season; if he keeps it around one per seven innings, he'll be fine. I like him as a fantasy pick given the strength of the Cards' offense and bullpen: he'll get wins.

Andy Marte, Indians: His career line now stands at .204/.270/.367, so it's fair to say he's been a disappointment. You can't even criticize his handling; Marte got to play just about every day for the Indians in the second half of 2006. It's now time for this former #1 prospect to, at 23, pick a path. His strikeout rate isn't crippling (51 in 221 AB) and he's getting the ball in the air, so the power should be fine. His career BABIP of .242 is extremely low, and in just 221 AB, it's entirely possible that it's a fluke. Marte will be a good player, and I'm willing to say it'll happen as soon as this summer.

Zack Greinke, Royals: He's listed here for one main reason: I like that he essentially didn't pitch at all at age 22. The reasons may not have been standard, but the break gave his arm a year off coming off of fairly high workloads at 20 and 21. Greinke isn't overpowering, so he has to work near his max to get results. If he'd pitched, even pitched well, last year, I'd be worried about his health. Now, instead, I see him as a good command guy who can throw 200 innings. With the improved Royals' offense, that will net some wins.

Not all of these guys are classic "post-hype," but they're close enough to mention here at the bottom: Casey Kotchman, Angels; Brad Wilkerson, Rangers; Jason Kubel, Twins; Joaquin Benoit, Rangers.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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