MLB Sleeper Teams in 2012

By Jason Fryer

Of course on paper it looks like there will be 6 dominant teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Rangers, and Angels); however, I feel plenty of teams will go under the radar and become great sleeper teams throughout the 2012 season. Even though some of the teams listed below might not make the playoffs, I feel the teams that don’t make the playoffs will start to show their foundation on their roster and be ready to make a good run in the future.

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs: Am I saying the Cubs will make the playoffs in 2012…no. At the same time, I do believe the 2012 Chicago Cubs will be a team that plays hard and the correct way day in and day out under new Manager Dale Sveum. If the Cubs can receive bounce back years (which I feel is very possible) from Soto, Soriano, and Byrd, along with Castro showing that he’s one of the top 5 shortstops in baseball, I believe this offense has the capability to be better than what people think. The biggest question surrounding the Cubs is their pitching staff as outside of Matt Garza, the rest of the rotation still has a lot of question marks.

With Zambrano out of the rotation, I feel there won’t be as many distractions surrounding the Cubs will become a more productive pitching staff. One website predicted the Cubs would win 66 games this year and I feel the Cubs will easily surpass that total and finish with a minimum (remember I said minimum) win total of 75. Again, I’m not sure the Cubs will win the division this year, however, I feel the Cubs will tougher a lot better than people think and a roster that most other teams don’t want to play against.

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves: If the Braves are able to forget about what happened last year (losing a 8 1/2 game wild card lead in 2011) and realize that this is a new season; the Braves can become a legitimate threat to the entire league once the season begins. The Braves feature one of the best young cores in baseball with hitters Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward to go along with veterans (who aren’t 30 years of age) Michael Bourn and Brian McCann.

Atlanta features a great young pitching staff (which goes 7 deep and has 6 of them being 26 and younger) with JairJurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Monor (who was the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft), Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran along with veteran pitcher Tim Hudson. In another shocking event, the Braves also have the best young bullpen in baseball with lefties Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters (both 27) and 2011 rookie of the year winner Craig Kimbrel. With team leader Chipper Jones announcing that this would be his last season playing baseball and the young Braves growing up next year, this could become a sleeper team to not just make the playoffs, but might just be the NL Representative in the World Series.

Atlanta Braves
Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman of the Braves before the spring training game between the Washington Nationals
and the Atlanta Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports Champion Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers will finally become a quieter place with the team being sold to a group that included NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson. The Dodgers have arguable two of the 10 best players in the league with Center Fielder Matt Kemp and 2011 NL CY Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to go along with Dee Gordon, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, Kanley Jansen, and Javy Guerra. The core of this team is very solid and showed at the end of the 2011 season that they have the potential to be a solid roster and might be a sleeper team to win the NL West Title.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals: The 2012 Kansas City Royals has a lot resemblance to the roster that the Colorado Rockies featured from 2007-2009. Colorado featured a lot of great young hitters (Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, Matt Holliday/Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Iannetta) and pitchers (Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel) when the Rockies were in the playoffs twice during this span. As for the Royals, they feature a core that will either resemble those Rockies teams or be even better.

The Royals have one of the best offense’s in baseball (Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (great Fantasy Baseball sleeper pick), Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler), a solid future young pitching staff (Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb), and good young bullpen (Tim Collins, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow). The Royals should be the next great young franchise, become a difficult team to beat in the long-term, and if there pitching is above average has a chance to finish in second place in the AL Central.

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays: Just like the Royals and Braves, the Blue Jays feature a good solid core of players which includes Jose Bautista and Adam Lind to go along with youngsters Eric Thames, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays biggest problem lies within their pitching staff which features a few solid number 3 and 4 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek), but no true number 1 or 2 starters on their roster. If the Jays were able to have manager (and former Red Sox pitching coach) John Farrell fix this problem and the rotation was stable in 2012, Toronto would become a difficult team to beat in 2012.

Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds: The Brewers and Cardinals might have won the NL Central in 2012, however, I feel the Reds “on paper” have the best team in the NL Central. At the same time, like other teams, the Reds still have a few key questions they have to make sure they address (which I’ll discuss in a few sentences). Before I get to these questions, I want to look at the positives on this roster which is highlighted by 2010 MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, and pitchers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Sean Marshall.

The Reds were hit hard with the surgery to closer Ryan Madson and now need to find a reliever who has the capability to record the toughest 3 outs in baseball. If the Reds are able to find a reliable closer (and as much as I like like Marshall, I’m not sure how successful he’ll be as a reliver), their bullpen is able to hold up, and Mat Latos is able to adjust to the Great American Ballpark, I feel the Reds might become the team to beat in the NL Central and might make a apearance in the World Series. The Reds and their fans also realize that Joey Votto’s contract is almost up (after the 2013 season) and the time for them to win and go deep in the playoffs is now.

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