Fantasy Baseball: Sleepers (Pitchers)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-chief.
Pitching is a position that has become so deep in recent years that it is quite tough to differentiate yourself from the competition. However, picking up the quality sleeper (that actually pans out) can be the difference between winning your league or not. Players like Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole, while young and tantalizing, will not be mentioned in this post because everyone already knows about them. The pitchers here are meant to give you an upper-hand in the later rounds and could ultimately put you over the top. To see batters, click here.
Danny Salazar, SP, Indians – You might have heard of this guy already; I’d actually be surprised if you hadn’t. However, not many people know the reasons why Salazar has become such a hot commodity in fantasy baseball. In 2010, this flame-throwing right hander wasn’t even close to being able to “throw flames.” In fact, he was barely able to touch 90 mph with his fastball. But after Tommy John surgery that year, Salazar came back stronger than ever and is now able to hurl 95+ mph every fifth day. Not only does he bring the heat, but his changeup baffles opposing batters to the highest degree (ranked 1st among prospects by Baseball America in 2012) and the slider that he posseses makes hitters look downright silly. If you’re looking for a late round lottery ticket, then stop looking: You’ve just found the winning numbers. Predicted Stats: 159 IP, 10 W’s, 3.39 ERA, 171 K’s, 1.18 WHIP.
Andrew Cashner, SP, Padres – Durability has long been the question with Cashner because before 2013, he never managed to pitch more than 111 innings in a given year. However, after completing 175 frames last season, that durability box can now be checked off. The next cause for excitement surrounding Cashner is his drastically improved control; he only walked 6.7% of the batters he faced last season. Couple that with the fact that in his final 11 starts of 2013, the Padres starter had a ridiculous ERA of 2.14 and an outstanding WHIP of .95 and good things are surely in store for an encore. Predicted Stats: 165 IP, 13 W’s, 140 K’s, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP.
Tony Cingrani, SP, Reds – In lieu of Johnny Cueto’s injury last season, the Cincinnati Reds needed someone to step in and fill that massive void. Enter Cingrani. In his 18 starts, the southpaw compiled 7 wins, 120 strikeouts (in just 104 IP) and a stellar 2.92 ERA. Those stats speak for themselves, but they don’t tell the whole story. Cingrani relies heavily on his fastball as he used that pitch more than 80% of the time in 2013. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and his heater is quite deadly, a pitcher also needs other weapons in his arsenal to be successful at the big league level. If Cingrani can develop a killer secondary pitch, then expect him to improve upon last years numbers. If not, expect slight regression to the mean. It’s a high risk/reward proposition, but late in the draft that’s all you can really ask for. I recommend keeping tabs on him during Spring Training. Predicted Stats: 160 IP, 11 W’s, 151 K’s, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP.
Jim Johnson, RP, A’s – The name of the game for fantasy closers is Saves, and Johnson provides that in spades. Over the past 2 seasons (his first two as a full-time closer) Johnson has amassed 101 saves, most in the bigs. Not only that, but his sub 3 ERA does wonders for your fantasy bullpen as he is frequently reliable and will rarely blow a big lead. Now with the Athletics, Johnson should receive even more save opportunities. By most rankings, this guy isn’t even in the top 10 for closers in 2014… I don’t see why not. Predicted Stats: 69 IP, 2.98 ERA, 44 Saves.
Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets – Before going down with an unfortunate neck injury, Parnell was actually having quite a fortunate season in 2013. Even though he’s a ground ball pitcher, he still allowed just 1 home run in 50 innings which is both impressive and lucky. Similarly, holding opponents to a .264 BABIP was quite fortuitous. Even with the expectation of regression in both of those categories, Parnell is still in line for a nice season. If he can stay healthy all year long, expect solid numbers from the Mets closer. Predicted Stats: 65 IP, 2.91 ERA, 37 Saves.