By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on March 20, 2014
It doesn't take a genius to figure out who the best players in fantasy baseball are, but what separates the great teams from the not-so-good ones is an owner's ability to grab potential high value depth where others are simply filling out their roster. Although not every sleeper pick works out, it's important to know which players you can snag later in the draft and have them make you look prescient in the process.
Although Justin Morneau hasn't broken the 20-homer plateau since 2009 and has been in steady decline since concussion issues started plaguing him, he's still put up decent enough numbers hitting in enormous Target Field. While Morneau will likely never return to his MVP-caliber days, he figures to get a boost from playing 81 of his games in the thin air of Colorado. As a result, 25 homers for Morneau wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.
While Will Venable was always a good source of stolen bases, registering 20-plus in each of his last four seasons, he suddenly turned on the spigot to unforeseen power. Venable erupted for 22 home runs last season and had a near .800 OPS, setting career-highs across the board. It's always good to be wary of a one year spike that comes later in a player's career, but Venable could be a solid OF3/OF4 who could be picked up late in the draft.
If it seems like Josh Johnson's name was in much the same position on sleeper lists last year, it's because it was. Johnson's one-year audition with Toronto failed miserably as he only made 16 injury-plagued starts and finished with by far the worst numbers of his career. Buyer beware here, but Johnson returns to the NL and a pitcher-friendly home park, where he could pay dividends.
Jacob Turner has been one of the top pitching prospects in baseball for a few years, and he finally got a consistent crack at a rotation spot last season. While Turner won't wow you with his strikeout numbers, he rarely gets hit hard and if he can lower his walk rate, he could be a nice find for teams searching for late-round pitching.
Although the depth at catcher is much better now than it was a few years ago, you still run the risk of platooning several different catchers throughout the year if you don't snag one of the top ones. While Travis d'Arnaud has had injury issues each of the past few seasons, when healthy, he's a solid offensive prospect. This will be d'Arnaud's first full season in the bigs, and you could do worse than a .750+ OPS and 15 HRs from your catcher.
While Jurickson Profar isn't that much of a sleeper in name, he's finally got an everyday spot in the lineup thanks to the Ian Kinsler trade. Profar will be the regular second baseman for Texas and his rare blend of pop and speed could result in a nice season for those teams who don't land one of the top 2B.
Jake Arrieta was a highly-touted prospect coming up with Baltimore, but he never lived up to his promise. The Cubs acquired him mid-season last year and he made nine starts for Chicago, during which he posted a 4-2 record, allowing only 34 hits while striking out 37 in 51 innings. Although it's a very small sample size and Arrieta didn't do much of his pitching when the wind was blowing out, he could be an intriguing late-round flier.
Corey Kluber isn't exactly a household name, but he did make 24 starts for the Indians last season, where he posted an 11-5 record, a sub-4.00 ERA and an impressive 4.12 K/BB ratio. Kluber allows just more than a hit per inning, but strikes out his fair share of batters too, making him a solid candidate for the back-end of a fantasy rotation. If you're looking to build on your pitching depth, this could be a guy you target for cheap.
If the secret isn't already out on Yordano Ventura, it will be soon. The highly-touted young flamethrower for Kansas City has been wowing teammates and scouts alike this spring, which all point to him eventually joining the rotation at the big league level. Ventura sits in the high 90s and touches 100 frequently, making him a very difficult proposition for opposing hitters. While he may take his lumps, this kid could be special.
If you blinked, you probably missed Wilson Ramos' 2013 season. Ramos was injured for a good part of the year, but in only 287 at-bats, he hit 16 home runs. Over the course of a full season, that's over 30 round trippers. It goes without saying that you have to be concerned with Ramos' possibility for injury, but if you're looking for solid numbers at a good value after all the top catchers are off the board, this is your man.
Christian Yelich has been one of the top prospects in baseball for a few years now, so you may have heard of his name. Yelich is an incredible athlete with both speed and power. Although he's not your prototypical power hitter, he's still a good bet for 15 home runs a season and, coupled with a high average and 20-30 stolen bases. He could be a steal on draft day after some of the bigger name outfielders have been taken.
The White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a hefty contract this offseason, and you can be sure he'll be slotted somewhere near the middle of the order as a result. Abreu is an unknown, as no one knows whether or not his incredible numbers from Cuba will translate to the big league level. Judging from the past success of his fellow countrymen, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to expect Abreu to put up some solid numbers.
Brett Lawrie was a hot name coming into last season, but after an injury-plagued year, his star has faded some. Lawrie looks healthy this spring and is still only 24-years old with tremendous power potential. If Lawrie can stay on the field this season, he should benefit from his homer-happy ballpark and a stacked lineup around him. Lawrie could end up being one of the best bargains in fantasy this season.
Chris Archer flew on to the scene last year, taking the league by storm after his recall in June. Archer pitched to a 3.22 ERA and a sterling 1.13 WHIP, and will be entering what figures to be his first full season in the big leagues. While Archer doesn't possess huge strikeout numbers, he's no slouch in that department either. Coupled with his tremendously low hit rate, it should make for yet another dominant young Tampa starter.
If you missed what Tyson Ross did in relative obscurity after he was inserted into the starting rotation in July, you should go check the numbers. While Ross' record was an unfortunate 3-8, that belies his 3.06 ERA as a starter, where he struck out 97 and allowed a paltry 70 hits in 94 innings after shifting from the pen. If Ross can maintain those numbers over the course of a full season, he could end up as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
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