Sleepers – Fantasy Baseball 2015 – Arms

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Jose Quintana
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.

The pitching sleepers are a little more important to focus on compared to the hitters. This includes both starters and relievers. There’s no formula set in stone, but you are going to want to use at least 4 of your 6 picks from rounds 15-20 on pitchers. Pitchers tend to be tougher to predict from year to year, and this is where you can get some great value.

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 pitchers might have more fantasy value than their (plus-168) ranking suggests:

Starters (Cheap K-Cars and Southpaws)

1. Jose Quintana (Yahoo Rank: 190) The White Sox were the most effective team over the off-season: Top 5 Teams in the Off-Season . Three of their acquisitions are going to be particularly key to Quintana’s success: Melky Cabrera and Adam Laroche for more run support, and David Robertson to close out his wins. Quintana’s ERA has improved in each of his 3 years in the majors (2012: 3.76/2013: 3.51/2014: 3.32), and he won’t hurt you in the other categories: 1.24 WHIP and 178 K in 200 IP. Yes, the innings limit was still in effect in his 3rd year. Now, with the White Sox back in contention, you can bet that the limit will be removed for the 26 yr. old. Which means he’s in position for an uptick in strikeouts, his first double-digit win season, and then some.

2. Jake Odorizzi (Yahoo Rank: 206) – There’s comfort in taking a late-round pitcher who’s going to be a steady strikeout source, regardless of how he fares otherwise. Odorizzi has been a reliable K/Inning hurler throughout the minors, and last year with the Rays. (174 K in 168 IP) (Remember, I’m not big on taking young pitchers in the early rounds, but encourage it in the later ones.)

3. Collin McHugh (Yahoo Rank: 217) – (Apologies for overlapping with the breakout pitchers, but he is ranked higher by Caveball, so we’ll include him in both categories.) Here’s a perfect example of what hype can do to a player’s value:

  • Player A: (9-6)  140 IP/117 H/43 BB/144 K (with a) 2.69 ERA/.228 BAA/1.14 WHIP
  • Player B: (11-9) 154 IP/117 H/41 BB/157 K (with a) 2.73 ERA/.208 BAA/1.02 WHIP 

McHugh, who Yahoo (say that 5 times fast, owl-boy) have ranked at 217 overall, which slots him into the 18th round of a 12-team snake draft, is Player B. Player A is Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, who Yahoo have ranked at 106th overall, which slots him into the 10th round of a 12-team draft. Both pitchers could experience some regression, but wouldn’t you rather “risk” an 18th round pick over the obviously hyped ROY?

4. Matt Cain (Yahoo Rank: 212) – The 30 yr. old has dropped so far in the rankings that he now has considerable value for 2015. He may never be quite the same pitcher he once was, but if you take a closer look at his “demise” over the past two years, his stats are really not that bad at all:

  • 2014: 4.18 ERA/.242 BAA/1.25 WHIP (before he went on the DL last year)
  • 2013: 4.00 ERA/.228 BAA/1.16 ERA (over a full season)

I boil a lot of Cain’s “slip” down to arm fatigue. He pitched at least 217 innings for 5 straight years, not to mention all of the the post-season IP. Even the steadiest of pitchers have their down years. If you don’t believe me, just have a look at John Lester’s apocalyptic 2012, when he had a 4.82 ERA/.273 BAA/1.38 WHIP (and now look at him) Fantasy owners/experts all seem to take a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude, and tend to ignore the rest of the resume′. (Look for Cain in tomorrow’s post: Comeback Players)

5. James Paxton (Yahoo Rank: 250) – Apparently the PCL adversely affects a pitcher’s stats more than the Majors. During his 2013 stint in the PCL Paxton battled to a 4.45ERA/.277 BAA/1.48 WHIP line. On the other hand, in 13 starts with the Ms last year the southpaw had an excellent rookie line: 3.04 ERA/.223 BAA/1.20 WHIP. He enters his sophomore year as a 26 yr. old, so he could escape the jinx. And even though Paxton is Canadian, he’s somewhat of a local talent, as his home is just a 3-hr drive north of Seattle. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings. He may have to battle for a spot in the rotation, but his 2014 debut may have solidified it already.

6. Danny Duffy (Yahoo Rank: ?) – Excellent numbers (2.53 ERA/.209 BAA/1.11 WHIP) from the 26 yr. old southpaw that shouldn’t surprise (Career Minors Avg.: 2.28 ERA/.223 BAA/1.15 WHIP) , but still do. Maybe if his last name was cooler, like Salazar, more people would take note.

7. Andrew Heaney (Yahoo Rank: ?) – The 23 yr. old southpaw stood up to the hitter-friendly PCL last year with a 3.87 ERA/.234 BAA/1.17 WHIP, allowing 75 H in 83.2 IP, while striking out 91. Most pitchers do not fare this well in the PCL. Yes, he struggled in his MLB debut last year, but it was a tiny sample size, which makes him a hidden gem in the late rounds this year. And, don’t forget, he will now be guided by the esteemed Angel’s coaching staff.

Relievers (Former/Potential 40 Save Club)

8. Addison Reed (Yahoo Rank: 199) – Cheap source of saves, with a very good contribution to the K column. Reed converted 32 of 38 opportunities, and had 69 Ks in 59.1 IP. the 26 yr. old should continue to improve as he gets more comfortable in his role. Keep in mind, Reed had 40 saves with a poor White Sox team in 2013.

9. Luke Gregerson (Yahoo Rank: 213) – Reported to be the frontrunner for the closer job with the Astros, after they signed him and Pat Neshek over the offseason frenzy. Only Neshek and Chad Quails stand in the way here, so it’s a situation worth monitoring if you’re looking for a final round flier or an early pick on the waiver wire.

10. Joakim Soria (Yahoo Rank: ?) – Exactly when Brad Ausmus (or Joe Nathan, himself) realizes it’s time for Nathan to hang up his cleats is anyone’s guess, but Soria should be his obvious replacement. Nathan turned 40 last year, and his stats blatantly show it: 4.81 ERA/.265 BAA/1.53 WHIP. Meanwhile, Soria, 10 years his junior, went 3.25/.222 BAA/0.99 WHIP. Speaking of 40, Soria twice surpassed the 40-save mark with the Royals in 2008 and 2010.


Honorable Mention

Tyler Clippard - I thought he may have slipped under the radar here as an early source of saves, but Yahoo already have him ranked at 174 overall. This is too high considering Doolittle still owns the job, as far as we know, and his return from the DL is unknown.


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