|Tuesday, March 4
Updated: March 6, 2:38 PM ET
Sleepers to watch in 2003
By Gary Huckabay
Special to ESPN.com
You have your list of stars, and you have your list of duds. But what about the unexpected? Well for that, here's our list of top sleepers to keep an eye on for the upcoming season:
Duckworth struck out 167 batters in those 163 innings, and bad pitchers don't do that. If Duckworth can catch a few breaks on batted balls, he could have an amazing turnaround season. Add in a dose of new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, and a new, improved Duckworth could be as important to the new-look Phillies as anyone.
John Patterson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
He's now 25 years old, two full years removed from his surgery, and has apparently regained his stuff. In a limited stint with the Diamondbacks, Patterson showed great mechanics, struck out 31 batters in 30 2/3 innings, walked only seven, and provided an occasional flash of dominance. The unlimited ceiling that made Patterson so attractive as an 18-year-old free agent is most definitely back. There's some risk here, but there's also the possibility of a legitimate star.
Marcus Giles, 2B, Atlanta Braves
Giles has shown he can hit for average and power, has a pretty good command of the strike zone, and is just entering his early prime. If he gets the opportunity, he could turn into one of the very best players in baseball over the next three to five years. Giles will eventually hit; whether he's playing second base, third base, or elsewhere.
Javier Valentin, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Valentin's hit in the minors, including a respectable-but-not-mindblowing .286/.346/.501 in Triple-A Edmonton last year. He's 27 this year, and has shown flashes of potential throughout a long minor league career. Now he's on a club where he'll be competing with Robert Machado, Keith Osik, Cody McKay, and Joe Lawrence for playing time.
Valentin's not going to be a star, but he could bust out and hit .260-.270 with 20-25 home runs, if everything breaks his way. The Brewers would certainly welcome that kind of pleasant surprise.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Florida Marlins
Before we even take Lee's impressive defense into account, he's one of the better first basemen in baseball, falling right between Jeff Bagwell and Richie Sexson according to the EqA rankings at Baseball Prospectus. Lee is durable -- he's missed only four games over the last three seasons -- will turn 28 in September, and unveiled a new part of his game -- speed -- during the 2002 season, when he stole 19 bases. Not bad for a 6-foot-5, 245 pound first baseman playing in the relative obscurity of Miami.
Michael Barrett, C, Montreal Expos
He may not end the season in Montreal, but he should end the season with solid offensive numbers, and if he can lift the ball a bit more, he could emerge as a legitimate power source behind the plate, in sort of a neo-Terry Steinbach way.
Perhaps he's not a "Left-Handed Pedro" just yet, but he sure looks awfully good, and if there's an injury to the fragile Twins rotation, Santana may just turn one of the Twins' starters into the first Wally Pipp of the 21st Century.
Miguel Olivo, C, Chicago White Sox
Olivo hit 10 triples in just over 100 games at Double-A Birmingham last season, a nice complement to his 29 stolen bases. It may take a little time for Olivo to adjust to the majors and become a productive bat, but he definitely has the skills, and could pull it all together as early as this season.
Bobby Kielty, OF, Minnesota Twins
Here are the OPSs posted by Minnesota outfielders last year. See if you can pick Kielty's out of the list without looking it up.
Give up? Kielty's .405 OBP, .484 SLG, and rounding put him at .890 --- atop a very crowded Minnesota outfield. Like most of the players on this list, he's right in his prime, and the main question marks about him are external; specifically, will he be able to get enough playing time?
Frank Catalanotto, OF/2B, Toronto Blue Jays
He's now entering a situation that's perfect for a breakout. He's going to play nearly every day, with the occasional day off against tough lefties. He turns 29 years old in April, and he's going to play a position (right field) that doesn't expose one to a huge number of nagging injuries because of collisions with baserunners. Catalanotto could very well hit .300 with 75 walks with a lot of power. Don't be shocked if he's north of 20 home runs.
Carl Everett, OF, Texas Rangers
If manager Buck Showalter can keep Everett's 32-year-old knees healthy, he could put up some truly huge numbers in Arlington, and have a late-career surge a la Ellis Burks. He's never had 500 AB in a single season, but Everett can still definitely pound the ball, and could be the center of a relentless, pitcher-crushing offense.
Rondell White, OF/DH, New York Yankees
But prior to last season, White was one of the most consistent performers in the game for years when healthy, with an OPS between .864 and .900 from 1998-2001. He's still only 31, and if the Yankees have to count on him, he's a good bet to deliver.
You can check out more work from the team of writers of the Baseball Prospectus at baseballprospectus.com. Baseball Prospectus is a registered trademark of Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC.