The past two days here at NatsGM.com have been spent identifying both hitters and pitchers that should be targeted during fantasy baseball drafts this year to insure victory. To conclude our fantasy preview coverage, today we shift our attention to players being selected later in drafts, commonly known in fantasy slang as Sleepers.
The term Sleeper is perhaps the sexiest and least concrete term in sports, as it has different meanings to each person. In general most consider a Sleeper someone who outplays his average draft position, though for me this fails to capture the entire concept – a late round pick who is the difference between a middle-of-the-fact finish and winning a championship. In order for a player to be considered a Sleeper for the purposes of this article, he must fall outside the top-200 in Average Draft Position on ESPN.com.
In this article last year I successfully predicted excellent seasons for then Sleepers Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and Yordano Ventura. On the other hand I missed like Adam Jones on a low-and-away slider on my predictions on Ubaldo Jimenez, Colby Rasmus, and Nick Swisher. That’s still a .500 batting average and dare I say, better than most of the fantasy “experts”. These are my 2015 Sleepers.
1) Oswaldo Arcia OF Minnesota Twins (ADP 200.1)
Arcia has weaknesses in his game, as his home park suppresses offense, he strikes out a lot and he provides little speed, but what he does provide is significant power and upside at a bargain price. He hit 20 home runs in 372 at-bats last season and has hit 34 homers in 723 career ABs. Still only 23-years-old, Arcia could hit 25+ bombs this season if he stays healthy for 500+ at-bats, with some potential for batting average improvement if he can learn to lay off the breaking ball away.
2) Jenrry Mejia RHP New York Mets (ADP 220.5)
A converted starter, Mejia has an electric upper-90s fastball and quietly converted 28 of 31 save attempts in 2014. The Mets have starting pitching depth throughout the organization, meaning that Mejia’s success last season should portend a career pitching in relief. Mejia likely begins the season as their closer, especially considering Bobby Parnell will start on the disabled list, meaning he should be a cheap source of saves and strikeouts for the shrewd owner (me!) who drafts him this spring.
3) Brandon Belt 1B San Francisco Giants (ADP 226.0)
Belt suffered a concussion last season that essentially wiped out the second half of his season, forcing him to struggle to a .243 average with 12 home runs. Allow this unfortunate injury to help you secure Belt late in drafts and grin like The Joker when this 27-year-old breaks out with 20+ home runs along with a handful of stolen bases.
4) Danny Salazar RHP Cleveland Indians (ADP 229.4)
Salazar is a talented but woefully inconsistent arm who struggled in the first half of 2014, to the point where he was demoted to the minors, before returning later in the 2nd half and striking out 73 hitters in 69.1 innings pitched. Salazar is only 25-years-old and owns a career 10.3 K/9 ratio, which when combined with the expectation of an improved Cleveland team this season, gives him an excellent chance to breakout like Dakota Johnson in 2015.
5) Nick Castellanos 3B Detroit Tigers (ADP 234.0)
This guy reminds me of the of the 1999 classic “Forgot About Dre” as the fantasy world is more than sleeping, they are in a coma, on Castellanos. Possessing one of the sweetest right-handed swings in baseball, Castellanos spent all last season as a 22-year-old in the big leagues and hit .259 with 11 home runs and 66 runs batted in. Now 23-years-old Castellanos should hit either #6 or #7 in a potent lineup behind Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez. I expect his batting average to jump closer to .280 this season, with 15+ home runs and 80+ RBI, making Castellanos a terrific value this late in drafts.
6) Wily Peralta RHP Milwaukee Brewers (ADP 260.0)
Lost amidst the poor finish to the Brewers 2014 season, Wily Peralta blossomed into a mid-rotation major league starting pitcher, posting a 17-11 record with a 3.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 154 strikeouts. Fast forward and the 26-year-old Peralta is often going undrafted this spring, as his sub-7 K/9 rate is scaring off owners thinking last year was a fluke. Certainly the 17 wins will be difficult to match, but otherwise I see little reason why Peralta cannot match or surpass his 2014 numbers this season.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Bauer RHP Cleveland Indians, Wilmer Flores SS New York Mets, Chase Headley 3B San Diego Padres, and Kennys Vargas 1B/DH Minnesota Twins
BOLD Fantasy Predictions
1) Shin-Soo Choo (192.2 ADP) will statistically outperform Nelson Cruz (60.5 ADP) in 2015.
2) Jimmy Rollins (133.2 ADP) will out produce Elvis Andrus (115.1 ADP) and Alexei Ramirez (96.8 ADP).
3) Justin Verlander (141.7 ADP) currently being selected outside the Top-35 starting pitchers, will finish 2015 as a top-20 starter.
4) Jason Kipnis rebounds like Charles Barkley from a poor 2014 to post a .275/15/70/25 statistical line for Cleveland in 2015.
* Have any fantasy sleepers and/or Bold fantasy predictions of your own – I encourage you to share them in the comment’s section. *