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Friday, February 20, 2004
Nation: Fantasy Sleepers

Eric Gagne
We asked fantasy owners who the sleepers are. Who will be a surprise hitting star and this year's Mike Lowell? Or emerge as a closing sensation kuje Eric Gagne?

Here's the reaction in the SportsNation mailbag:

Rafael Soriano
He was lights out in the second half of last season as a RH setup man for the Mariners with an amazing SO/BB ratio. You have to think at some point the Mariners are going to use him in a more prominent role, either as closer or as a starter at some point during the season, which would sky rocket Soriano's value. At worst he'll be the top middle reliever to own. What Octavio Dotel was the last 2-3 years.

Kenny Lofton
Leading off with this explosive lineup, I expect him to score 180-200 runs and steal around 25 bases this season. Playing in N.Y. will rejuvenate him and make him a very valuable commodity in fantasy baseball this season
Matt Aucoin

Victor Martinez
With the overall lack of depth at the position, it is easy to see someone like Victor Martinez being a huge sleeper this year. If you are in a keeper league, you already probably know about him, but if you don't follow rookies at all, he's a two-time minor league MVP and batting champion. The guy can hit. Given the starting position in Cleveland, you won't need to waste an early pick on Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez or Mike Piazza. Given the risks of drafting either one these three guys, you might as well take the risk on someone in the later rounds and use the top 3-6 round picks on sure things.

Arthur Rhodes
Watch out for Arthur Rhodes. I think he has the potential to be a Top 5 closer this year. The last two years the A's have had a 4-plus save season with Koch in '02 and Foulke in '03 and Rhodes could be a third. Although he has struggled in save opportunities in the past, he was great as a reliever for Seattle and Billy Beane has shown to be a pretty good judge in talent when it comes to closers.
Newport News, Va.

I think that Oakland's Arthur Rhodes will be one of the top closers in the game this year. Over the past three years, the A's have had three different closers and each of him have averaged 40 saves a year. If Beane was able to squeeze at least 40 saves out of Koch and Izzy, and he was able to resurrect Foulke, I think that 40 saves for Rhodes is very possible and likely. People like to focus on the fact Rhodes only has converted 17-of-44 save attempts, but they're all haters. My prediction: 42 Saves in the regular season, six in the postseason, including Game 7 of the World Series.
Moraga, Calif.

Tim Redding
Tim Redding posted a sub 4 ERA last season for Houston and was by far their most consistent starter. He's in the 5 slot so he should see some good mathcups initially and get off to a good start with so little pressure on him. Last season he took a huge step forward. A similar step this year puts him in the low 3 ERA, 18 wins potential. He'll definitely be overlooked in Houston's new rotation.

Juan Gonzalez
I think Juan Gonzalez is going to be huge in KC and put up MVP numbers. They already have a good offense and the pitching in the AL Central is weak. I also like Wade Miller to have a Cy Young-caliber year. If he's the No. 3 or 4 starter for the 'Stros he going to have an edge on almost all of his matchups as he has No. 1 starter stuff. I also think Pat Burrell will be a monster this year and Bernie Williams will have 110 RBIs hitting in that lineup. Bernie should be going much higher than what he is being drafted.
Joel Rodriguez
Hartsdale, NY

Corey Patterson
Everyone would love to have a legitimate 40/40 guy. But if you aren't the lucky person who takes Carlos Beltran or Alfonso Soriano in the early rounds, is there a legitimate sleeper out there for you? Corey Patterson. Patterson was on pace for what could have amounted to a 30/30 season before he went down with an injury. With Dusty Baker talking about hitting Patterson third in an improving Cubbies lineup, he should also come close to 100 runs and 100 RBIs? Ranked as the 44th outfielder on ESPN, Patterson clearly has the potential to be a huge sleeper.
London, Ontario

Morgan Ensberg
The top fantasy sleeper this season is Morgan Ensberg. In 2004 will be his breakout year. It's not every year that you can say a guy who hit 25 homers the previous season a "sleeper," but Ensberg deserves this title. Because he split time at third base last season, he wasn't able to produce the numbers he could have. He proved he could hit against righties last season by hitting .282 against them, with 18 homers in a mere 287 at bats. With the departure of Geoff Blum, Ensberg has the third base job all to himself and fantasy owners can expect this sleeper to hit around .280, with 30-plus homers and 90-plus RBI.
Los Angeles

Laynce Nix
Laynce Nix of the Texas Rangers is going to be a major sleeper. He plays in a hitter's park, on a team that MUST produce runs in dozens in order to have a chance of winning, and his natural ability and the young, powerful lineup around him will enable him to follow in the footsteps of Mike Young, Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira before him. With Soriano in the mix, this is an offense to watch for years to come. Now can we get some pitching?

Jeremy Burnitz
Jeremy Burnitz to the Colorado Rockies: Burnitz moves from two of the toughest places to hit, in Shea and Dodger Stadium, to the best hitters' park in the land, Coors Field. In his career he holds a .920 OPS hitting in the thin air of Colorado, 88 points higher than his career avg. During the span of the last seven years, Burnitz is averaging 30 home runs a year. That number is only going to increase batting in a lineup that already includes Larry Walker, Todd Helton, not to mention Preston Wilson, who raised his OPS over 100 points and batted in 141 RBI in his first year at Coors. Don't think for one minute that there isn't enough to go around at Coors Field. Remember the Blake Street Bombers, Bichette, Burks, Galarraga, and Walker? Assuming Burnitz stays relatively healthy, 30 home runs and 100 RBI is a rather conservative estimate. If you let Preston Wilson slip by you last year, don't make the same mistake for this guy.
San Francisco