Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for Every Position in 2012

Fantasy baseball owners are no different than anyone else. Whether you are looking to buy a car, invest in a stock, pick up a CD of your favorite band or draft a player for your fantasy roster, everyone is searching for a deal . In fantasy sports, deals come in the form of players who…

Fantasy baseball owners are no different than anyone else. Whether you are looking to buy a car, invest in a stock, pick up a CD of your favorite band or draft a player for your fantasy roster, everyone is searching for a deal . In fantasy sports, deals come in the form of players who are under-valued by your fellow fantasy owners at the draft table. These players are called fantasy baseball sleepers and can help you get the edge and possibly win your league. Most of these players have a good reason to be under-valued: they may be coming off an injury-riddled season; perhaps they have experienced a recent downturn in statistical production; maybe they have switched teams and have an undefined role with a new club. Whatever the reason, your competition at the fantasy draft may let these players slip down in their relative rankings. It's your job to grab these fantasy sleepers at a place in the draft where they can produce better numbers than the players they will be drawn alongside.

Here is a list of fantasy baseball sleepers , one at every position, who may be expected to provide a value to your roster and who may exceed the expectations of your fellow fantasy opponents.

Catcher – Nick Hundley (SD)

Sure, he plays in a terrible hitter's park and has struggled with mightily with injuries the past 4 seasons. However, if the definition of a fantasy baseball sleeper is a player who will slip down the list to a position where he can be drawn for value, then Hundley fits the bill. Nobody knows this guy and if he stays healthy he could challenge the 20 HR plateau.

First Base – Adam Lind (TOR)

After putting up a monster season in 2009, Lind was suddenly on everyone's radar. However, back-to-back years of mediocre overall numbers have caused many fantasy baseball owners to shy away from the Blue Jays' DH / 1B. If the Jays land a big free agent bat in the off season, Lind may have some of the pressure taken off of him and he may respond. He had an amazing first half in 2011. He could easily do it again over a full season.

Second Base – Aaron Hill (ARI)

Talk about a fall from grace. After setting franchise records for HR at second base, Hill went from hero to goat to finding himself traded to the National League West within a 2 season span. His BABIP in 2010 was.196 and.268 in 2011. You have to believe that number simply has to increase. Coupled with his Invigorated approach at the plate in Arizona, Hill may just pay dividends in 2012.

Third Base – Mark Reynolds (BAL)

Everyone's favorite whipping boy switched positions in 2011 and saw an improvement in his own statistics as a result. Perhaps the pressure of playing the hot corner affected his play at the plate. His slash line as a third baseman: .210 / .315 / .451. After the move to first base: .50 / .345 / .666. The Orioles expect to play him at 1B in 2012 but fear not, he will still qualify at 3B in fantasy leagues.

Short Stop – Dee Gordon (LAD)

A frightening lack of patience at the plate is the only thing holding Gordon back from stealing 80 bases. He walked a mere 7 times in 233 plate appearances in 2011. If he can find a way to add walks to his.305 batting average, he may steal his way into fantasy conversations next season. In the meantime, consider him sleeper material.

Outfield – Shin-Shoo Choo (CLE)

Injuries and a DUI led to a horrific season for Choo. A bona fide top 50 fantasy pick heading into 2011, he may have fallen off the radar for many not willing to overlook last year's fiasco. A return to the 20/20, .300 average seasons of 2009-2010 is very likely. He should not fall too far in most drafts but he may be a deal.

Designated Hitter – Adam Dunn (CHW)

The most consistent offensive player in major league baseball fell flat on his face in a historic way last season. Players of this consistency and talent level do not come along very often. What did we learn in 2011? That Dun is a human being, not a robot. That's all. Expect him to regroup and return to form with 35+ HR and 100 RBI.

Starting Pitcher – Adam Wainwright (STL)

Pitchers can not only return from Tommy John surgery, they can thrive afterwards. See Tim Hudson, Billy Wagner and Josh Johnson for recent proof of this. Heading into 2011, Wainwright was a top 5 pitcher. Entering 2012, he will not be on many top 30 lists. Let him slip and grab him just after the middle tier hurlers start to go (think Doug Fister and Max Scherzer for comparisons).

Relief Pitcher – Sergio Santos (TOR)

No one expected Santos to land the closer's role in Chicago. However, in 2011 he did exactly that. With less competition in Toronto's bullpen and playing for a team that may very well contend in 2012, Santos could be a draft day steal.

There are no sure things in baseball. This is especially true in fantasy baseball . However, if you take a chance or two on a few sleepers in your draft, you may just get the edge on your opponents. After all, having the edge is what it takes to win in fantasy baseball. Good luck in 2012!

Brain Vs Braun: Fantasy Baseball Impact of Ryan Braun’s PED Allegations

National League MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for having a banned Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) in his system. As a result, he now faces a 50-game suspension from major league baseball. Many observers have been quick to condemn the slugger but it is probably best to reserve judgment on Braun until all of the…

National League MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for having a banned Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) in his system. As a result, he now faces a 50-game suspension from major league baseball. Many observers have been quick to condemn the slugger but it is probably best to reserve judgment on Braun until all of the facts are known. Regardless, what is important in fantasy baseball circles are the implications this will have on Ryan Braun's fantasy value in 2012.

According to many, Braun was at the top of most lists which rank the top fantasy outfielders for 2012. That is certainly to change with the allegations that have come to light. Not only does this affect Braun's fantasy value, it has an effect on where other outfielders are ranked as well as an indirect effect on the value of his Milwaukee teammates.

With Prince Fielder supposedly leaving town through free agency, Braun was already faced with hitting in the middle of a Brewers batting order without one of the best power threats in the game protecting him in the line up. This would be a major concern to a less talented off player but is still bound to have some degree of effect on Braun's statistics. Being asked to carry a larger portion of the offensive put puts him in a greater leadership role with the team. These accusations of cheating make it more difficult for Braun to be viewed in a leadership capacity by his teams, his management or fantasy owners.

Regardless of a player's ability to put up monster offensive numbers (and Braun is very capable of this), missing 50 games will greatly reduce his fantasy value. In 150 games last season, Braun amassed 109 runs, 33 home runs and 111 RBI. A season truncated by 50 games looks more like 72 runs, 22 home runs and 73 RBI. These numbers are not bad if your name is Freddie Freeman but certainly knock Braun significantly down the list of offensive players. For those fantasy players in head-to-head leagues, missing Braun for the first 2 months could be devastating. Draft accordingly.

If Braun faces a suspension, the effect will also be felt by his teams. Expect recently signed third basemen Aramis Ramirez to hit in the middle of the line up and get the lion's share of RBI opportunities. If he stays healthy, Ramirez could have a nice fantasy corner infielder. Also, do not expect to see Corey Hart hitting out of the lead-off spot as he did at times last season. His bat will be needed in the heart of the order and will affect his numbers accordingly.

Until his appeal is heard and judgment passed, it would be safe to treat Braun as though he will miss the first 50 games of the 2012 season. In fantasy draft terms, that should put him firmly in the company of outfielders such as Alex Rios or Adam Jones.

Perhaps the most important fantasy baseball impact in this whole situation is the status of Matt Kemp who instantly becomes the top fantasy baseball outfielder for 2012.

Important Things to Know In Order to Play Fantasy Baseball

The more I play fantasy baseball, the more I love the game of baseball itself. There is no better way to closely follow box scores, standings, player trends, hot streaks, cold slumps and the inevitable friendly competition which arises from trying to best your opponents then by participating in fantasy baseball. However, more and more…

The more I play fantasy baseball, the more I love the game of baseball itself. There is no better way to closely follow box scores, standings, player trends, hot streaks, cold slumps and the inevitable friendly competition which arises from trying to best your opponents then by participating in fantasy baseball. However, more and more I am approached by people interested in this mysterious game and all of its quirks and quarks. Since I love the game of baseball, I love to talk about the sport in all of its forms – both on the field and off. For the uninitiated, here are the basics of fantasy baseball:

Fantasy Formats :

There are several different forms of fantasy baseball. You can play rotisserie (or, “roto” as it is often called), head-to-head, points leagues or many other formats. However, the one consistent element in all formats is that a group of owners each draft a “team” made up of real-life baseball players. As those players accumulate statistics on the field (in real games) their fantasy owners accumulate these same stats in an effort to gain more overall stats then their fantasy opponents. For example, if the home run total of your entire fantasy team is better than the home run total of your opponent, you win (that category at least!). Regardless of the format, your ultimate goal is to accumulate better overall stats than your opponents.

Fantasy Draft:

Every fantasy baseball league is a little different but most hold an annual “draft” where the owners choose the real-life players that will make up their fantasy rosters. Some leagues are called “dynasty” or “keeper” leagues because owners may keep some (or all) of their players from season-to-season.

Statistics Categories :

Much the same way that fantasy leagues have different formats, there are also many different statistical categories that leagues will employ. A common stats scoring system is based upon 5 hitting categories (often Runs Scored, Home Runs, Batting Average, Runs Batted In & Stolen Bases) and 5 pitching categories (Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, Earned Run Average & WHIP), often referred to as “5×5” scoring. Regardless of the stats used in any particular league, the idea is the same: try to accumulate better stats than your opponents collect. In addition to your standard league scoring system, fantasy baseball side bets are incredibly popular as well.

Tips and Tricks :

There are as many tips, tricks and pieces of advice as there are fantasy baseball formats (in fact some websites are devoted to this!). However, there are some universal tidbits that are good to follow. Baseball players are notoriously inconsistent (more so than otherwise any other sports), but this holds especially true for pitchers. Therefore, it is a good idea to select hitters prior to pitchers in your draft to less the impact of inconsistent pitching statistics. A good rule of thumb is to select hitters with at least 4 of your top 5 draft picks. Pitchers may always be picked up off the waiver wire through the baseball season, whereas good hitters are much more scarce once the season has begun.

Fantasy Baseball Rule # 1 :

More important than your league's format, draft, categories or any tips you may give or receive is fantasy baseball rule # 1: Have FUN.

If you are not a baseball fan, or just getting involved in enjoying the sport, fantasy baseball can help you dive right into the game in getting to know stats and the players. As a baseball fan, getting involved in fantasy baseball just might make you an even bigger baseball fan in the long run. I highly recommend fantasy baseball to everyone and remember, more important than anything else, have fun!

Fresh Prince: Why Prince Fielder Is Not a Good Long Term (Fantasy) Baseball Solution

Whether you run a major league franchise or a fantasy baseball team, Prince Fielder represents a risk to your team's long term success. There has been much ado in the sports media recently about Prince Fielder perhaps joining a new team (or re-signing with his old club) as a free agent for the 2012 season.…

Whether you run a major league franchise or a fantasy baseball team, Prince Fielder represents a risk to your team's long term success. There has been much ado in the sports media recently about Prince Fielder perhaps joining a new team (or re-signing with his old club) as a free agent for the 2012 season. Armed with a professional athlete's ego and uber-agent Scott Boras in tow, Fielder has made it clear he is looking for a long-term contract. Upon first glance, this looks like a no-brainer. He is a 27-year old slugger coming off a season which saw him hit 38 HR (good for 2nd in the National League) and 120 RBI (also 2nd in the NL). Based upon his age and his stats alone, Fielder looks like the kind of player that a major league team (or fantasy baseball owner) would fight tooth-and-nail to place on their roster. However, that might not be the wisest of moves.

Fielder has been remarkably consistent over his career. He has played in 157, 158, 159, 162, 161 and 162 games since 2006. Consistency like that is pretty rare this side of Cal Ripken, Jr. However, past consistency is only one aspect to consider when evaluating a player's potential. Heading into 2011 season, fantasy baseball owners were electrified with the prospect of owning a certain player coming off a run of steady home run totals from 2005 through 2010. This particular slugger's home run totals through that time frame read as follows: 40, 40 , 40, 40, 38, 38. You would be hard pressed to beat consistency such as this. This player was sure to deliver another clockwork season of offensive production, right? Not if you drafted Adam Dunn, who both boasted those aforementioned HR totals as well as one of the worst offensive seasons in history in 2011.

Fielder has also been remarkably durable for a big man. He has only missed a total of 13 games since since the start of the 2006 season. However, this does not mean he is a viable option for the next decade, and no mistake about it, Fielder will be looking for a contract that runs approximately 10 years. Big bodies tend to break down faster than their slimmer counterparts. One needs to look no further than the skilled declines experienced by players such as Mo Vaughn, Kent Hrbek or his father, Cecil Fielder for proof of this. The question is not whether he has been durable in the past. He has. The question is how durable he will continue to be as his large frame endures the constant wear and tear of lumbering through 6 full major league seasons.

Another issue that affects his on-field major league team but not the majority of fantasy leagues is the issue of his defense. His last name may be “Fielder” but this is not reflective in his defensive play. His UZR has been a negative statistic in 5 of his 6 full seasons with 2 seasons (2006 and 2008) almost reaching double digits (-9.4 and -9.2, respectively). Although most fantasy leagues do not consider defensive metrics in their scoring systems, it is something to consider when evaluating the overall strengths and weaknesses of a baseball player.

Although his short-term prospects for success look promising, if you have an eye for the future (especially in dynamic fantasy baseball leagues), this Prince may end up performing more like a Court Jester before his contract expires.

The Curious Case of Roy Helu – Fantasy Football

Stop me if you've heard this before, “I have no idea what Mike Shanahan will do at RB this week”. Sound familiar? We thought so. For you poor Roy Helu owners (myself included) I'm here to personally apologize on behalf of Mike Shanahan for being an idiot and not taking into account your feelings. Just…

Stop me if you've heard this before, “I have no idea what Mike Shanahan will do at RB this week”. Sound familiar? We thought so. For you poor Roy Helu owners (myself included) I'm here to personally apologize on behalf of Mike Shanahan for being an idiot and not taking into account your feelings. Just five days ago some owners surely ditched Helu upon hearing his coach say “I like Helu … I do not want to put too much pressure on him too early. Then in week 12 Helu exploded against the Seahawks with 23 carries for 107 rushing yards and a TD. He also pitched in 7 catches for 54 yards and you PPR owners got taken to the woodshed once again by Shanahan and his “Shananigans”. In Helu's only other start this year he tallied 41 rushing yards and a new Redskins record 14 catches for 105 receiving yards. He's long looked like the best back in Washington and should be the bell cow going forward for them.

Good things in Helu's favor are the fact that his coach has questions circling him like vultures to a lost man in the desert. Daniel Snyder has to be wondering if this so-called genius he's hired is as good as advertised. He's known for producing great running backs out of nowhere, shown by his history in Denver with Clinton Portis, Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Olandis Gary, Terrell Davis and the list goes on. One overlooked fact is Shanahan also had Gary Kubiak in Denver and that could be a huge reason for his running success as Houston seemed to be running the ball just fine. Where this helps Roy Helu is Shanahan will be forced to produce wins, even now with the season lost. He no longer is afforded the luxury of playing mind games that do not produce victories and that means the best players will be on the field, namely Roy Helu. With all of that said, you never know with ol 'Shanny, pick Helu back up if you've dropped him but start him with caution. We love his talent, despise his coach.

Looking forward owners can look forward to more Helu as his coach has come out saying “Helu's our starter for sure”. With a coach like Shanny, one can never know but one can also hope. With a tough matchup this week against the Jets, his receiving and rushing skills should come into play as Grossman's passing ability will be less due to Revis and company. Looking forward the Redskins would love to see what they have in this Nebraska product as their season slowly comes to a close. Good luck this week.

Dynasty Leagues: Turning Fans Into General Managers

In a traditional fantasy football league, we throw all of our old players back into the pot each year as if last season never happened. We proceed onward to take turns drafting up a team, one-by-one, and find ourselves the manager of a team that bares little to no resemblance to years prior. Sure, this…

In a traditional fantasy football league, we throw all of our old players back into the pot each year as if last season never happened. We proceed onward to take turns drafting up a team, one-by-one, and find ourselves the manager of a team that bares little to no resemblance to years prior. Sure, this redrafting approach helps to keep things fresh, but what happens when we want more than that “bait-and-release”? What happens when we want to feel less like fantasy managers and more like a real life general manager?

Enter the Dynasty League .

In a Dynastic League (also commonly called Franchise or Keeper Leagues ), managers keep the rights to most or all of their players from the previous year. This generally allows for deer rosters, stocked with players to “groom”. It also allows you to create a tie bond with your relevant players, because there is a long-term investment involved. I specifically have become quite fond of Larry Fitzgerald because he has been a cornerstone of mine for the past several years.

Different leagues add certain tweaks to shake up some of the rosters, but generally the main avenue for roster changes occur through Free Agency , Trades , and the Rookie Draft .

Free Agent pickups occurs during the season, and allow you to drop one of your existing players to pickup someone who has not yet been claimed by a manager in your league. Traditional leagues generally offer the same feature as well, although certain dynamic leagues offer off-season Free Agent auctions similar to the bidding frenzy at the start of real life free agency.

Trades , however, get spiced up a notch in dynamic leagues. The best part about dynasty trades is that they can occur in the off-season as well. You can scratch that fantasy itch in mid April by calling up one of your league managers to try to fleece away a young running back. Dynasty leagues also lend themselves purely to the trading of rookie draft picks and future rookie draft picks. Because the leagues are continuous from year to year, you can sacrifice some of your older impact players in order to rebuild your team with younger talent and / or draft picks (or vice versa!).

Rookie Drafts generally occurs during the same time of year as the traditional fantasy draft. It runs similar to the course of the real life NFL Draft, teams take turns in a worst-to-first order, drafting rookies onto their teams. The feature of a Rookie Draft also generates a considerable amount of a fan's interest in the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft. Rookie Drafts practically transform the Combine and NFL Draft into events with huge implications in your fantasy league.

Because of these unique features, dynamic leagues become more than just another fantasy league. They give you the incentive to talk trades in the off-season. You can chose a strategy based off of “win now”, “rebuild for the future”, or a combination of both. Your rookie draft picks makes you care about the NFL Combine, NFL Draft, and even Training Camps. Before you know it, you are learning more about the NFL, front office philosophies, and football in general than you ever though possible.

With all of these off-season features of a dynasty league, not only are you extending your fantasy season to last through the year … you're becoming a real life general manager in the process.

Making Transfers in the Fantasy Premier League

Part of the attraction of the Fantasy Premier League competition is the opportunity to mold and adapt your team over the course of the season. Managers are able to change their team as much as they like to take advantage of players that are in form and favorable runs of fixtures. This is a skill…

Part of the attraction of the Fantasy Premier League competition is the opportunity to mold and adapt your team over the course of the season. Managers are able to change their team as much as they like to take advantage of players that are in form and favorable runs of fixtures. This is a skill that all premier league fantasy managers must have if they wish to succeed against their friends or strangers.

Every game week, you receive one free transfer and if you choose not to use it, the transfer is rolled over to the following game week. However, only one transfer can be transported over and therefore in any one game week you will only receive two free transfers. Although, this does not mean you are limited to two transfers. Every additional transfer made on top of your free ones will cost your team 4 points, the equivalent of a goal or a clean sheet.

Taking this cost into consideration, it can sometimes be beneficial to bring in additional players if you believe that you can make up the points in the upcoming Fantasy Premier League game week or in the subsequent matches. It comes down to calculating the risk of the additional transfer and ruling if it is worth the initial outlay of 4 points. However, it is important to not get carried away with transfers and to remember that you are sacrificing points that you have already earned from previous weeks.

During the season, there will be periods where certain teams are performing better than others. This can be contributed to a range of factors including favural fixtures, high confidence levels and not suffering from injuries. Analyzing upcoming fixtures is very important for fantasy football managers who want to stay one step ahead. Planning and preparing for strong fixtures allows you to bring in certain players who may score highly over the coming weeks.

Confidence is incredibly important for every sport and it allows players to perform to their highest ability. At times during a season, players may develop confidence from strong performances and winning streaks. It's important to look out for these signs and to bring confident players who are in form into your premier league fantasy squad.

Whilst playing the Fantasy Premier League, it is inevitable that your squad will experience injuries. When this happens, you should consider transferring them out without it is a short-term injury and you have other players to cover. With managers now choosing to rotate teams more, you may experience players who are rested and this is when the players on your bench are replaced in. Having injured players on your bench provides no help to your fantasy football score and it is sometimes beneficial to transfer these players out for this very reason.

The skill of adapting your team over the course of the season is one that every premier league fantasy manager should strive for. Do not be afraid to mix things up if your team is not performing and it is the ability to make transfers that keeps the game fresh. It also gives those who are struggling the opportunity to shake up their teams with the aim of catching up friends in mini-leagues.

Advice for Those Who Are New to Fantasy Premier League

The Fantasy Premier League is the official fantasy football competition, which is free for all to join. Football fans from across the world pit their wits against each other in the quest for fantasy points. It is an excellent opportunity to test your football knowledge by controlling your very own squad over the course of…

The Fantasy Premier League is the official fantasy football competition, which is free for all to join. Football fans from across the world pit their wits against each other in the quest for fantasy points. It is an excellent opportunity to test your football knowledge by controlling your very own squad over the course of the season. The Premier League is watched by millions and is generally considered as one of the most competitive leagues in the world. With so many exciting players, these adds to the widespread appeal of the fantasy football format, where you are able to form your very own dream team.

At the start of the game, you are given a budget of £ 100m in which to spend on a 15-man squad. This includes two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three forwards. How you spend this budget is entirely up to you. Managing the budget is a large part of the Fantasy Premier League, as you must find cheaper players to make up for the more expensive stars of your squad. The one rule when picking your squad is that you are only able to choose a maximum of three players from any one premier league team.

After picking your squad of premier league fantasy players, you will then have to choose your starting eleven for your first match. You are given the option of several formations but you must include at least one goalkeeper, three defenders, two midfielders and one attacker. This gives you the opportunity to experiment with different forms depending on the fixtures and which players you feel might collect more fantasy points for you. You will also need to choose a captain and a reserve captain. Your captain will automatically double his points score for the gameweek, if he does not play, this benefit is passed onto your reserve captain.

During the season, you will find that some of your players may get injured or suffer from dips in form. As such, you may wish to transfer them out of your squad to bring an in-form player into your team. Each gameweek, you are given one free transfer, every additional transfer made will cost your team 4 points. If you choose to not use your free transfer, this will be added onto the following gameweek, giving you two free transfers. However, this accrual of free transfers stops at 2.

Over the course of the season, players will undergo price changes according to the amount of people transferring them in and out of squads. It is important to keep an eye on certain players you want to bring into your squad to avoid paying more than you would have a week ago. Being given the opportunity to transfer players in and out, keeps the game fresh and allows fantasy football fans to redeem themselves.

The Fantasy Premier League game has a fun and fresh format that will appeal to any football fan. We've all dreamed of being a football manager and in a way this game allows us to live out this dream. It also gives football fans the opportunity to test their knowledge against friends and strangers in mini-leagues. Therefore it comes as no surprise that this game is enjoyed by many over the course of the season.

On the Rebound: Fantasy Baseball Buy Low Candidates for 2012

So many fantasy baseball owners are obsessed with the latest 'hot prospect', MVP candidate or a player coming off a monster season. If you like to target these types of players, then expect to pay top dollar at the draft table or auction for Brett Lawrie, Matt Kemp or Justin Verlander. When you consider some…

So many fantasy baseball owners are obsessed with the latest 'hot prospect', MVP candidate or a player coming off a monster season. If you like to target these types of players, then expect to pay top dollar at the draft table or auction for Brett Lawrie, Matt Kemp or Justin Verlander. When you consider some of the strongest fantasy baseball seasons, they are often delivered by players coming off a poor statistical season or have lower expectations entering the draft / auction. Kemp was arguably the best player in fantasy baseball in 2011 and did so after a poor showing the season before.

The key is to target players this season that may have had a reduced price (or selected at a lower draft position) in relation to the fantasy value they will give your team. Often, this can be as simple as targeting players who have had productive seasons in the past but are simply coming off a poor year. Baseball players are people too, and as such can suffer 'ups-and-downs' along the way. Much like in life, these gambles do not always pay off, however it is much safer to take a risk with a lower draft pick as opposed to getting burnt by an underachieving first round pick.

Some players of note in 2012 who may perform better than their relative auction value / draft position may dictate include:

Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

A-Rod limped his way way 2011 and ended the season with 16 HR and 62 RBI. He has spent the off season working vigorously to regain his status as one of the most feared hitters of his generation. A return to the level of 30 HR and 100 RBI would not be a surprise. After all, he achieved those levels for 13 consecutive seasons entering last year.

Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)

After 10 consecutive seasons of 200+ hits, Ichiro hit only 184 en route to a career-low.272 batting average in 2011. However, the stolen bases were still there making Ichiro one of the best base stealers in the game. This is one very proud athlete with a multitude of skills. Expect a return to 200+ hits as a drop to third in the Mariners order should provide an interesting opportunity for one of the games most skilled players.

Vernon Wells (LAA)

Wells has made a habit of bouncing back after poor seasons in the past. If he approaches his 2010 numbers, he will make the Angels brass (and his fantasy owners) very happy indeed. His contract all but guarantees he will continue to see playing time for the Halos and adding a player like Albert Pujols can only help the opposing batting order in Los Angeles.

Adam Dunn (CWS)

2011 was a season of epic failure for the beleaguered White Sox slugger. It is almost easy to forget that entering last season, Dunn was one of the most consistent power sources in fantasy. He has worked hard in the off season on his swing mechanics and the change in managers certainly will not hurt. An increase in playing time in the field may be just what the doctor ordered to get Dunn untracked.

Josh Johnson (MIA)

It's not that Johnson did not put up the numbers last season. He was lights out when he pitched. However, he was sidelined in May for the reminder of the season with shoulder issues. Injuries have limited the Marlins ace from blossoming into one of the elite pitchers in the game. His off season prior to 2011 was focussed on strength training. This past off season he has focused on a more well-rounded approach and hopes to remain healthy for 2012. If he does, look out.

Carl Crawford (BOS)

Crawford never seemed to fit in with the Red Sox last season. Perhaps it was a management issue. Regardless, he lost his confidence early and never got it back. An off season wrist injury will further push him down the depth charts of fantasy owners. However, a rejuvenated Crawford has the opportunity to regain his status as one of the top players in the sport. Even if he is not ready to go until May, he may be worth the risk. He'll certainly come cheap.

Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)

Choo's issues last year were not confined to the field as a DUI charge combined with several injuries to decimate the season for the Indians outfielder. Do not forget, prior to last year, Choo was money-in-the-bank for a.300 batting average, 20 HR and 20 SB. Expect a bounce back.

Joakim Soria (KC)

Right near the top of many experts' pre-season lists entering 2011, the “Mexicutioner” stumbled early last year and even folded itself from the closer's role in June. His issues appeared to be based more upon his over-reliance on his cutter than any mechanical issues as his strikeout rate and control remained intact. He also went 21-for-23 in save opportunities once he resumed the 9th inning role. He should be a top closer again in 2012 and at a reduced price to boot.

Down seasons can be a warning sign of things to come. However, when it comes to players with proven past success, it can also mean a bargain may be available to the fantasy owner willing to take the risk. The good news is that risk will not be too costly.

Spring Ahead: Strong Spring Training Stats and Fantasy Baseball

When considering your options for fantasy baseball in the regular season, many owners look to put stock in the performances of players during spring training games . Pitchers are often behind their batting counterparts to begin camp and often spend time working on developing or refining pitches. Also, the big names on the mound often…

When considering your options for fantasy baseball in the regular season, many owners look to put stock in the performances of players during spring training games . Pitchers are often behind their batting counterparts to begin camp and often spend time working on developing or refining pitches. Also, the big names on the mound often only pitch a few innings per outgoing in an effort to get warm up as spring begins. As a result, lesser batting talents often have the opportunity to shine and as a result may put up stats that are a little out of the norm.

Also, there is the issue of a relatively small sample size. At any point during any regular season , if you were to take a slice of games and analyze the statistics you would not doubt find some oddities. Baseball has a long regular season and stats often regress to the mean. In other words, be careful not to put too much stock in spring stats as an outlier for regular season performance. There have been a few examples of spring training stats being a poor indicator of regular season success.

During spring training 2005, Toronto Blue Jays up-and-coming outfielder Gabe Gross set the franchise record with 8 spring home runs. After this impressive display, Gross managed to get himself into a grand total of 40 games for the big league team, amassing 102 plate appearances and musttering a single home run in the regular season.

What is more important than stats are the battles for positions on a particular ball club. For example, during spring training 2011, Washington Nationals Michael Morse made a push for playing time during spring games and ended up making the team and putting up impressive fantasy numbers. He increased his role from platoon player to big time producer.

For deep fantasy leagues, another key aspect of spring games is the battles for the back end of the rotation among starting pitcher candidates. A player such as Boston's Daniel Bard will have a significant different fantasy impact in the starting rotation as opposed to a relief role.

Getting the opportunity to see players in new roles is another benefit of spring games. A newly anointed closer such as Houston's Brett Myers can be watched during March to see how the adjustment is being handled and if there is a good opportunity to benefit his fantasy owners.

Keep a close eye on spring training games. Just try to concentrate on individual roles rather than stats and you should be in a better position to succeed entering the regular season.