Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers (Batters)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-chief.
With many fantasy drafts about to take place in the next week or two, these sleepers can give you a much needed edge over the competition come draft day. Each player is listed by position and in no particular order. To see pitchers, click here.
Wilson Ramos, C, Nationals – Despite once being the victim of a kidnapping fiasco, Ramos continues to ooze potential from his Venezuelan physique. The man has always had pop (evidenced by his 16 homers in just 287 AB’s last season) but durability has always been the question mark regarding Ramos’ fantasy value. However, after an extended stint on the DL due to a recurring hamstring issue, the Nationals’ catcher started 55 of their 67 final games in 2013. If he can continue that stretch of healthy play, Ramos will be one of the most formidable players in a shallow position in 2014. Predicted Stats: 456 AB, 22 HR’s, 85 RBI’s, .280 BA
Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds – Once Keith Law’s number 8 overall prospect heading into 2012, Mesoraco has certainly taken a hit in terms of his lofty status due to underwhelming numbers at the Major League level. However, with the departure of former starter Ryan Hannigan, the much-hyped prospect Mesoraco will now be able to play on a consistent basis and show off talent with much more frequency. I wouldn’t bet the farm on this guy to be your number 1 catcher, but as a number 2 with upside, you could certainly do a lot worse. Predicted Stats: 451 AB’s, 18 HR’s, 74 RBI’s, .276 BA
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs – A former Red Sox and Padres top prospect, it seems that Rizzo has finally found a home with the Cubs. Many detractors take note of his declining batting average (52 points lower from 2012-2013) but with his ability to absolutely crush the ball, a .233 average can most definitely be overlooked, especially since it leaves room for improvement this season. If Rizzo can bat .260, smash 30 bombs, and continue a newfound plate discipline (11% walk increase last year) then he will become a legit fantasy starter. Predicted Stats: 600 AB’s, 29 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, .257 BA.
Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox – This man is the one the biggest question marks entering the 2014 season. After the success of Cuban prospects in recent years (Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig) it’s understandable that fantasy owners feel euphoric. And not without reason, Abreu was the MVP of the Cuban league in 2011 and constantly showed excessive amounts of power. Now playing in U.S. Cellular Field, a ballpark conducive to power hitters, Abreu has the chance to often grace Sportscenter with his long bombs. One caveat with the Cuban native is his lack of average, but that can be accounted for in other ways in your lineup. Predicted Stats: 478 AB’s, 31 HR’s, 86 RBI’s, .247 BA.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks – Hill has been around for what seems like forever so “sleeper” may not be the best way to qualify him. He’s more of an undervalued player and you should pounce if you get the opportunity. Consider his per-162-games averages the past five seasons combined: .266 batting average, 26 home runs, 88 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 90 runs. That’s star quality second baseman numbers. The problem is that Hill has not been able to stay healthy recently. So if you roll the dice and they come up injury free, you might just find a diamond in the rough with Aaron Hill. Predicted Stats: 481 AB’s, 20 HR’s, 76 RBI’s, 8 SB’s, .265 BA.
Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres – You’re going to need steals from someone, right? What better way than from a middle infielder when most of them can’t hit anyways? At the time of his 50 game suspension last year, Cabrera had swiped 37 bags and was a top 5 fantasy shortstop. Obviously the missed time hurt his final value, but if he can put together a complete season, 50 stolen basis aren’t out of the equation, especially from the leadoff position. Predicted Stats: 578 AB’s, 3 HR’s, 40 RBI’s, 51 SB’s, .267 BA.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves – This kid quite possibly has the slickest glove in all of baseball, but everyone already knows about that. Since you don’t get rewarded for defense in fantasy, we won’t talk about his prowess at arguably the most important infield position. However, what his glove does garner him (in fantasy terms) is lots of playing time; Simmons will never be taken out of the lineup because he just provides too much value in the field. Combine his guaranteed at-bats with the fact that he hit 11 of his 17 home runs from July 1st onward last year (improvement with his power) and we have a guy that could blossom into a top 10 fantasy SS in 2014. Predicted Stats: 595 AB’s, 20 HR’s, 69 RBI’s, 9 SB’s, .267 BA.
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners – Already a consensus top 10 fantasy Third Basemen, many wonder if this kid can vault himself into the top 5 this season. His road numbers are enticing: .289/.345/.491 including 32 of his 45 career home runs away from home. But then you have to remember he plays in the black hole that is Safeco Field. While there’s no denying the fact that the (way too) comfortable confines of the Mariners home ballpark hurt Seager’s power, it also must be noted that this is the same for every player that steps foot on the field. So while he might put up better numbers in a place like Yankee Stadium, it’s also not a sufficient reason to not pick a potential breakout star. Predicted Stats: 599 AB’s, 26 HR’s, 91 RBI’s, 9 SB’s, .270 BA.
Xander Bogaerts, 3B, Red Sox – Yes, Bogaerts will be playing shortstop for the Red Sox this year, except he only qualifies for third base in fantasy because that’s where he played last season. As far as the actual player is concerned, Xander is an absolute gem. He has repeatedly been compared to Troy Tulowitzki and I have no doubt that he will one day reach the lofty expectations. While he might not perform at an all-star level this early in his career, (the kid is just 21) I still expect a productive season from him in 2014. Predicted Stats: 501 AB’s, 18 HR’s, 73 RBI’s, 10 SB’s, .281 BA.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates – While it may not be fair to call Marte a sleeper because he is quite well known among baseball aficionados, he’s still on my list of candidates that have the possibility to explode this season: the man has speed and pop to boot. He will hit double digit home runs and is a threat to swipe a bag any time he reaches first base. That type of versatility among categories has rotisserie league owners salivating and is just one of many reasons why Marte could be in line for a career year. Predicted Stats: 575 AB’s, 16 HR’s, 58 RBI’s, 40 SB’s, .275 BA.
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins – This man will be taken far later than Marte in fantasy leagues this year, but he could prove to be almost as successful. He’s the definition of a dream rotisserie player because of the way he accumulates stats in all the required categories. Solid batting average? Check. Speed to steal 15+ bags? Check. Double digit home run potential? Check. If you name it, Yelich has it, which is why he could be a fantastic steal in the later rounds.