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NL Report

Ten sleeper keepers to consider for 2004

Posted: Thursday August 14, 2003 4:52 PM
Updated: Friday August 15, 2003 5:44 PM
  Miguel Cabrera Miguel Cabrera hit .318 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in July. Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

It goes without saying that in keeper leagues, you should dump everything you cannot protect next year for whatever you can get. It is amazing sometimes, though, how people refuse to do so because they aren’t “getting a fair enough offer.”

I just don’t understand that. Unless it seriously disrupts the balance of power in the league, in which case your constitution or commissioner might have something to say about it, I’d rather trade and get at least something for a player who has no value to me, or whom I can’t protect in 2004. You never know when a seemingly small deal could wind up giving you, say, a $1 Joe Borowski to protect, which happened in many leagues this year.

Many leagues have an Aug. 31 trade deadline, so there may still be some time to add a piece or two to your keeper list for 2004. Here’s a mix of intriguing National League players (in no particular order), some of whom are on a lot of radar screens and some of whom aren’t, but all of whom are intriguing keeper plays for 2004.

1. Miguel Cabrera -- Cabrera hit .318 in July, showing he has not been overmatched at the plate and justifying the faith the Marlins put in him when they did not try to acquire a left fielder. Although he’s piling up the strikeouts as expected, Cabrera has shown a willingness to take a walk and has come up with numerous clutch hits. The power will come as he matures. This may be your last chance to get in on the ground floor. Another 20-year-old, Jose Reyes, belongs on this list as well, but that one was too obvious.

2. Garrett Atkins -- Chris Stynes is on a one-year deal with the Rockies, and no one in the organization doubts that Atkins will become a primetime hitter for them at the hot corner, perhaps as soon as next year. He can hit for average and work the strike zone a bit, and though his power is a bit overrated, Coors can help that.

3. Alex Cintron -- The clear starting shortstop for now and 2004, Cintron should be at a low price in many leagues, and prime keeper material. He has good speed but has never really stolen any bases, so that could be a hidden bonus. A good average and good on-base percentage with a little pop are to be expected

4. Kyle Farnsworth -- This is a speculative closer play. Farnsworth is back at his 2001 level of performance, and while Joe Borowski has pitched well, you never know what 2004 will bring.

5. Jesse Foppert -- A 5.08 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP have many labeling Foppert a bust. Many of these people also labeled Hank Blalock a bust in 2002. He starts finding his command at the major league level, and the walks, his Achilles heel, will start dwindling and we’ll really have something. He allows under a hit per inning and strikes out nearly a batter per inning. That’s a strong basis for eventual success.

6. Zach Day -- A 1:1 BB/K ratio isn’t going to get you on very many “good” lists, but Day is still struggling with his command after a rotator cuff injury. While his command has never been stellar, a full offseason of rest should make him an even better pitcher next year. The good thing about that is that he was developing into a solid middle of the rotation guy to begin with.

7. Yorvit Torrealba -- Benito Santiago is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Giants have been very happy with Torrealba’s play, both as the backup and as the primary catcher when Santiago was injured earlier this year. Although batting just .250 right now, he has the potential to do a lot more. He hit .279 in limited time in 2001, and he has the capability to be a .270 hitter as a fulltime starter. He’s never going to hit for much power, but a fulltime job could mean he is a cheap source of runs, RBI and batting average.

8. Adam Eaton -- Eaton has had one very rough month in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and has been somewhat inconsistent (quality starts in half of his outings) but still usually very good. I think he’s a strong bet to be more consistent next year. He has No. 1 starter stuff, and the price should be reasonable.

9. Carlos Zambrano -- OK, I really don’t believe Zambrano is just 21, but he’s also been somewhat over looked in the hype about Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. His numbers (3.07 ERA and 1.35 WHIP) stand up nicely on their own. He has very quietly been an excellent pitcher this year.

10. Aaron Harang -- Acquired in the Jose Guillen deal, Harang has been feast or famine so far in his major league career. He can look like a world beater in one start, then barely get out of the second in the next. Perhaps the change of scenery will help in the long run. All he needs to find is some consistency. He may not do so, but the potential results are worth taking a chance on in a keeper league.

The “We were up in the majors for a little bit, but don’t forget us” addendum:

1. Brandon Claussen -- He will have every opportunity at a rotation job in Cincinnati.

2. Xavier Nady -- Probably wasn’t ready for a fulltime job, but will be soon enough. The Padres will need to find room for him.

3. Duaner Sanchez -- A hot September and a good spring in Pittsburgh, and Sanchez could be next year’s Mike MacDougal if the Pirates don’t sign an established closer.

Jason Grey is the publisher of The Masters of Fantasy Baseball at, a free daily source for news, analysis, insight, and opinion.

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