Sleepers – Fantasy Baseball 2015 – Bats

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Brandon Belt - Sleeper
Caveball has now made a clearcut distinction between Sleepers and Breakouts.
We have noticed a lot of experts have a tough time explaining the difference between a breakout player and a sleeper. It is high time we make a tangible benchmark to differentiate the two terms. So, for the purposes of trying to keep things as simple as possible, Caveball has now made a clearcut distinction between Sleepers and Breakouts. A Breakout is considered to be any player who is currently ranked in the top 168, while a sleeper is any player ranked 169, or higher. (We could call it the B/S line, but something doesn’t sound quite right about this) So, in a 12-team snake draft, for instance, sleepers don’t enter the fray until around the 15th round.

A sleeper can be a relatively unknown minor league prospect or a veteran who has fallen in the ranks, just as long as his ranking has dropped below 168. So, now that we have this cleared up, let’s see which hitters might have more fantasy value than their plus-168 ranking suggests:

Catchers (The Age of Aquarius and 26)
  • Travis d’Arnaud (Yahoo Rank: 281) – d’Arnaud, who just turned 26 on February 10, had a .646 OPS before the All-Star break, but found his stride in the second half with a .787 OPS. In deep (or 2-catcher) leagues, if you follow my route and wait on the catcher position he could be a nice surprise. Might finish in the top 10.
  • Derek Norris (Yahoo Rank: +280) – Born 4 days later than d’Arnaud, on Valentine’s Day, no less, Norris is primed for an uptick in his stats, as well. His .763 OPS ranked 7th amongst catchers with 350-plus AB. Padres have a revamped offence. What’s not to “love”? 
  • Yasmani Grandal (Yahoo Rank: ?) – How many of you even remember who the Dodgers got in the Kemp trade? Dodgers’ fans, maybe. This can work in your favour in Fantasyland, especially if you take my recommendation to wait on the catcher position. Grandal was a big part of the trade, by the way. The 26 yr. old finally has a full season under his belt after injuries and a suspension. He managed 15 HR/49 RBI in 128 GP. He came on in the second half with a .795 OPS after the All-Star break. But perhaps the most important splits to glean are his home/away performances: His OPS at Petco was .698, while away from the hitter’s graveyard it was .758. Oh, and one more thing – he no longer has to face Dodger pitching. Try to get an idea of how Mattingly will approach the potential platooning of Grandal with Ellis during Spring Training. My best guess is that management will favor the C involved in the “Kemp trade.”
First Basemen (Last Year’s Teammates)
  • Brandon Belt (Yahoo Rank: 211) – Belt seems like he’s been a sleeper for ever. One thing (lack of 1B availability), or another (injuries), have prevented Belt from having that breakout year. He turns 27 in April, and someone must fill Sandoval’s spot in the line-up, making him a prime candidate for a big year.
  • Michael Morse (Yahoo Rank: 264) – Native Floridian returns to his home state with a World Series ring, and a revamped Marlins’ line-up. Morse could be seeing all the pitches that Stanton won’t, especially if he hits directly behind him or Ozuna.
  • Kennys Vargas (Yahoo Rank: 268) – Here’s where you have to temper yourself – there will be a wide disparity of where Vargas will be taken, depending on each individual draft. In 12-team drafts, for example, it will probably range from the 12th round (you know some owners won’t be able to resist reaching for him), all the way down to the 20th or so (for those not buying into the hype). I would start getting interested half-way between, in the 16th.
Second Basemen (Pronounced Jerk-O)
  • Jedd Gyorko (Yahoo Rank: 230) – With the Sophomore Slump and Plantar fasciitis done, Gyorko should begin to show more of that 30-HR potential. At least, that’s what we predicted in Mining and Pining for the Home Run. Remember, he had 23 in 125 games in his rookie year. A vastly improved lineup should help add to his numbers, as well.
Shortstops (Bogaerts Schmogaerts/Baez Schmaez)
  • Jean Segura (Yahoo Rank: 247) – If the Brewers slot him in the top of the line-up, Segura should be a shoo-in for 30 SB, and 80 R. This isn’t too bad for someone who ended up on the waiver wire in most leagues last year. He has that Ron Cey-esque frame that seems to have been created particularly for baseball. Anyone out there recall Ron Cey? Oops, could be dating myself here. Not that I would ever date myself. Time to stop typing. (Look for Segura in next Tuesday’s post, Comeback Players)
  • Chris Owings (Yahoo Rank: ?) – The 2013 MVP (and ROY) of the Pacific Coast League was hampered by a shoulder injury last year. A switch to 2B may ease his shoulder woes, but it won’t take away his eligibility at the scarcer shortstop position. If he continues to hit in front of Goldschmidt, and has fully recovered from shoulder surgery, he could cross the plate 80 times.  
Third Basemen (Former 30 HR-Club Members)
  • Pedro Alvarez (Yahoo Rank: 235) – He hit half the number of HRs (18) last year in defending his shared title from 2013, but the Bucs sent Ike Davis to the A’s, which opens up 1st base for Alvarez. Look for more ABs and HRs in 2015.
  • Chase Headley (Yahoo Rank: 241) – Headley is a bit of an enigma, but so were Petco and the Padres. A strong September and a .768 OPS with the Yankees might indicate there’s plenty left in the tank for the 30 yr. old. He’s 3 years removed from his 31 HR /115 RBI season, which he has never come remotely close to repeating.
Outfielders (Prime Year Upside)
  • Rusney Castillo (Yahoo Rank: 179 ) – Small sample size with Boston suggests there’s yet another Cuban about to take the league by storm. The 27 yr. old won’t go through typical rookie growing pains, and with a great surrounding line-up, what do you have to lose – an 15th round pick? That’s just good fun.
  • A. J. Pollock (Yahoo Rank: 188) – Will be a cheap source of SBs and Runs with Goldschmidt in the 3-spot. He was the main reason the D-Backs felt they could let Adam Eaton go. The 27 yr. old lead-off hitter could be a 10/30 threat as early as this year.
  • Adam Eaton (Yahoo Rank: 200) – Abreu and Laroche will each surpass the 100 RBI mark, which means, Eaton, the quintessential lead-off on-base machine, will most likely surpass the 100 R mark. If healthy, the 26 yr. old will have a breakout year with 30-plus SB.
  • Oswaldo Arcia (Yahoo Rank: 215) -His minor league OPS of .912, which came in the pitcher-friendly International League, suggests there’s more to come. As we so boldly projected in Mining and Pining for the Home Run, Arcia will flirt with the 30-HR Club. But it’s really not so bold at all if you do the math from last year when he had 20 HRs in just 103 games.
  • Stephen Souza (Yahoo Rank: 246) – He was the unheralded part of the three-team trade that saw 2013 Rookie of the Year, Will Myers, go to the Padres. And speaking of ROYs, Souza could be the fourth Ray in 8 years to win the award. If he continues where his Minor League numbers left off, then he will certainly contend. He had a 1.022 OPS over 96 games in the pitcher-friendly International League last year. Oh, and he turns 26 yrs. old in April, so he’s not going to go through the Harper-like growing pains.

OK, We know you guys have your opinions. So, let’s have ’em.
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