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NEWS | Feb. 20, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Infielders

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna 316th Wing Public Affairs

This article is the first of a three part series analyzing each position's preseason sleepers. The positions discussed over the next three weeks will be infielders, outfielders and pitchers.

Garrett Jones (Pittsburgh 1B/OF) -
Those fantasy owners who were lucky enough to snag this guy off of the waiver wire late last season were probably laughing their way to the playoffs. In just 314 at bats last season, Jones hit 21 home runs, stole 10 bases and had a solid .293 batting average. He's entering this season ranked behind guys like Mark Teahan and James Loney and can most likely be had well after the 10th round in most standard leagues. For those of you who'd like to focus on filling shallow positions like second base or shortstop early in your draft, landing a power hitter like Jones late to be your first baseman or your utility player is a great way to go.

Billy Butler (Kansas City 1B) -
Butler is a popular pick among pundits to have a breakout season, and if you look at his stats from last season, you'll know why. Butler, who's long been heralded as a top prospect, had a very respectable 2009 season, but if you look closer at his stats you'll see he hit 13 home runs and had 55 RBI after the All Star Break. As a player, he's comparable to Kevin Youkilis in that, while he's never going to hit 40 HR or drive in 150 RBI, he'll put up solid numbers across the board and considering he can be had in the sixth or seventh round that makes him a decent sleeper.

Chipper Jones (Atlanta 3B) -
I know what you're thinking. "Aren't sleepers supposed to be guys your buddies have never heard of that come out of nowhere to make you look like a genious?" Not quite. Essentially, whether a player is well known or not isn't as important as how well they play relative to their draft position. Sure, Chipper Jones is a well known future hall of famer, but he's also projected to go after the 10th round in most leagues. If you have faith, last season's struggles were due to injury and that he's due to bounce back to a .300 plus batting average, 20 HR and 85 RBI, he is a steal that late in the draft.

Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox 3B) - While he's currently only third base eligible in some leagues, Beckham is slated to be the White Sox starting second baseman this upcoming season, which is where his real value to fantasy owners lies. Beckham busted on the scene last year to the tune of 14 HR and seven SB in only 103 games. If he's as good as some think, he has the potential to put up a .285 average, 20 plus HR and 15 SB. A line like that is what you'd expect out of a second round player like Dustin Pedroia. Beckham can be had several rounds after Pedroia and that is what makes him a great sleeper at second base.
Ian Stewart (Colorado 2B/3B) - Like Gordon Beckham, Ian Stewart is a player who will have eligibility at both second and third base this season. That is where their similarities as players end. Stewart is way more of a risk than Beckham, but with that greater risk comes the potential for a bigger reward. Stewart has been compared to last year's breakout player Mark Reynolds because while both can help you in the power categories, they can also hurt you severely in batting average and strikeouts. If your league doesn't have strikeouts as an offensive category, Stewart is a player you should grab late due to his ability to give you 30 plus HR. Considering he's a second baseman that should be enough of a reason to give him a hard look in the later rounds.

Miguel Montrero (Arizona C) -
Catcher is the most shallow position in all of fantasy baseball and unless you're spending a high pick on Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez or Brian McCann, you should be patient and wait until late in the draft to snag a guy like Montrero. After splitting time his first two seasons, Montrero was finally given a shot to be Arizona's full time catcher last season after Chris Snyder went down with an injury. Montrero responded with 16 HR a .294 batting average and is slotted in to be the primary catcher in 2010. Be patient, draft more important shallow positions (third base, shortstop) early and then snag Montrero well past the 13th or 14th round. You'll be glad you didn't reach for a guy Russell Martin several rounds earlier.