As Albert Einstein once said, in fantasy baseball, it's all relative.
It's especially true when it comes to sleepers. A sleeper in a 10-team mixed league looks a lot different than one in a 12-team AL-only league. Today, we're going to focus more on the latter. Following are six players who, judging by recent Yahoo! ADP, are being undervalued and will be useful options late in single leagues. All six are being drafted after pick 235 in Yahoo! drafts with less than a week to go before Opening Day.
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Jason Hammel, SP Orioles
I was all set to tout one of our favorite sleepers, Erasmo Ramirez, in this space before it came out that Ramirez might not be in the rotation to start the season. That's fine, because Hammel deserves some love as well. His ADP suggests people are still drafting him as the Rockies pitcher with a mid-4.00 ERA and not the one who posted a K/9 more than two full points above his career average in 2012. Skepticism is fair, but there's reason to believe Hammel's numbers last season are repeatable. His newfound sinker produced a career-high ground ball rate, and being away from Coors should help keep the ball in the park. An increased reliance on his slider produced more swinging strikes, so while the strikeouts may decline slightly, last year probably wasn't a total mirage in that department either. Pitchers reinventing themselves mid-career rarely happens. Hammel may be one of the exceptions.
Brian Roberts, 2B Orioles
It might be a case of being fooled by spring training stats, but I'm buying the rebirth to some degree. Roberts isn't the kind of spring aberration that usually disappoints once the regular season rolls around -- the 35-year-old has a track record of success in the majors. A concussion and then a torn labrum in his hip sidelined Roberts for much of the past three seasons, but this spring the veteran second baseman has looked more like the 2009 version that hit .283/.356/.451 with 30 stolen bases. He's no spring chicken, so those numbers should be reined in a bit at his age, but he's already stolen three bases this spring and has four doubles in 42 at-bats. Roberts will enter the season as the Orioles starting second baseman and is certainly worth a look late.
Justin Maxwell, OF Astros
If you squint hard enough, Maxwell resembles a sort of B.J. Upton Lite. He's a batting average abyss, but Maxwell has enough speed and power to reach double digits in both home runs and stolen bases. The Astros lineup is a wasteland, which actually might be a plus for owners of the 29-year-old outfielder. New manager Bo Porter has stated his desire to be more aggressive on the basepaths, so Maxwell should have the perpetual green light to steal. And he'll likely hit near the middle of the order given his surprising pop -- Maxwell swatted 18 home runs in 315 at-bats last season. With a full slate of at-bats on the docket and no real threat to his playing time on the horizon, it's not hard to envision Maxwell approaching 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Just don't forget to make up the batting average elsewhere.
Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, Cardinals
For those who have been paying attention to the Cardinals second base situation this spring, the cat is already somewhat out of the bag on the 27-year-old infielder. Carpenter came up as a third baseman but spent time at first base and in the corner outfield spots in 2012. He's spent the spring working to prove he can handle second base, and it seems as though he's done enough that the Cardinals will feel comfortable starting him at the keystone a few times a week this season. Carpenter's best assets are his plate discipline and contact ability -- he posted above average walk and swinging strike rates last season, something his minor league profile suggests isn't an aberration -- so while his .294 average last year may be his ceiling, he should continue to be a serviceable source of batting average and OBP going forward. Pair that with something close to double-digit pop and, once eligible, Carpenter should be a worthwhile MI option in 2013.
Eric Young, Jr., OF, Rockies
Young doesn't have a permanent home on the baseball diamond, but that might not be a terrible thing under first-year Rockies manager Walt Weiss. Weiss, for what it's worth, played under notorious tinkerer Tony La Russa in Oakland. And Weiss has already stated his intention to have the Rockies be more aggressive on the basepaths in 2013. Together, that means Young will likely find his way into games and will be given the go-ahead to steal when on base. Young stole 14 bases in limited action last season, so if he can get even 300 at-bats that number could double.
Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals
At this point, it might seem like we know what Garcia is as a pitcher. In recent years, though, the 26-year-old lefty's peripherals have hinted that he's capable of more than his middling results. Trading a few fewer ground balls for a few more strikeouts hasn't been something Garcia's been willing to do to this point, but he's proven that the ability is there -- only nine pitchers with at least 120 innings registered a swinging strike rate higher than Garcia's 11.6 in 2012. The concerns about Garcia's shoulder seem to have been alleviated this spring, so he should be ready to go once the season rolls around. Even if he doesn't increase his career K% of 18.7%, he's a good enough pitcher that he should be going higher than 244 in drafts.