SHHHH…Don’t Wake the Sleepers…

Fantasy Baseball 2015 by Brookes Britcher

Milwaukee-brewers-hot-girl2015 is a year of great promise in baseball. The SF Giants have already won their “off-year” World Series, so oft outlier teams like the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox and Padres are spending money and hoping for a Fall appearance. 2015 will be a year where all of the deep farm systems may finally start to pay off for some clubs, while other aging “giants” may see a steep production decline. 2015 will be a year of star injuries, post-injury redemptions and young talent getting substantial chances.

Tom has been gracious enough in the past few years to allow me to present some fantasy predictions or selections for consideration. Some suggestions have failed, but some have proven well worth it. I think my success rate is about 65%+ over the past 2 years with predictions. Not great – but pretty good for baseball. Last year I played in 7 leagues (Won 3 – Final in 4 – Playoffs in 5 – Selectively forgot the other ones…)

This year, I thought I might suggest some positional “sleepers” only – as opposed to positional draft value picks. The players are selected based on a Head-To-Head Points league. ROTO is a different story. The players below probably are not on the top of the draft boards – but can be had in the late-middle to late to midnight rounds, depending on position. They probably will not hit 40hr or drive in 120 – but these are the type of players you want on your team from those late draft spots: somewhat flawed, but strong production with upside. They are the players people scour the waiver wire for once their “star” player goes down for 2 months and need to fill the hole. They are the “glue” players that keep a fantasy team winning and competitive over the long haul of the season. Plus, all of these players have some major upside to outperform and perhaps become starter gold. Maybe…

 

CATCHER

yasmanigrandalYasmani Grandal (Los Angeles Dodgers) [#15 Rated Catcher by YahooSports]

In his rookie season for the SD Padres, Grandal hit .297 with 8 HR and 36 RBI in only 60 games. Drug suspensions and a prolonged ACL recovery slowed him down over the past few seasons. However – fully healed now, new setting (with a stronger lineup) and only 26 years old… Grandal could easily realize his potential as a slugging backstop in 2015 – and reassert himself as a valuable Cuban import at one of the weakest fantasy positions. Perhaps the most under-valued Cuban of 2015! Gotta catch ‘em all! 26 year old Cuban, “potentially” on PED’s, with crazy power potential, playing Catcher with eventual 1B potential on a team dysfunctional enough to let him play. #15 Catcher? If anyone can name 10 starting 2015 catchers in MLB (san Google) in the comments I will buy you a beer at the next Phillies game we go to together. (Hint: here are 5 to get you started – Posey / Molina / Rosario / Ruiz / Grandal).

 

FIRST BASE

(“I can’t say for sure…I guess my head has always been this way.”)

“I can’t say for sure…I guess my head has always been this way.”

C.J. Cron (Los Angeles Angels) [#44 Rated 1B by YahooSports]

Most of the time when young, promising stars get a chance to play due to drug suspensions we get to blame PED’s. Sadly, Josh Hamilton has relapsed into something which has been a lifelong struggle for him. However, this terrible scenario has opened the door for C.J. Cron. Cron can’t do much on a baseball field. In fact, sometimes he can barely hit the ball. But when he does – it is insane. He reminds me of another player with a similar skill set when coming up – Chris Davis – the one everyone drafted in the top 6 in 2014 after he suddenly “figured it out” and hit .286 with 53 HR’s.

Cron has the same raw power but the same poor finesse at this point. He only played in 79 games last season, but the absence of Hamilton (and the eventual Pujols injury) will give him ample AB’s at 1B, DH and perhaps a stint in the OF (depending on how desperate the Angels get). More AB’s and some consistent time will potentially make him a potent late-round power source in 2015. Sitting at #43 is Ryan Howard…if you think that will work out…

 

SECOND BASE

Martin Prado holding up the # of positions he can play…just to remind you.

Martin Prado holding up the # of positions he can play…just to remind you.

Martin Prado (Miami Marlins) [#20 Rated 2B by YahooSports]

My love affair with Martin Prado will never end. Massive position eligibility always attracts me to him (2B, 3B, SS, OF, 1B, Hitting Coach, Manager…). Plus, he is simply put: a professional baseball player. He wins baseball games – and has the multi-tool ability to add valuable “random” points to your week. And now, he is playing on a team which really needs him…everyday.

He batted .282 last year with 12 HR. If he stays healthy, the Marlins will be playing him every game they can – at any position, so perhaps a spike in production. .275 and 18 HR out of 2B is pretty good…Certainly keeps Utley in the top 10-15 2B each year. Plus – his position eligibility can potentially fill almost any injury hole you have for sustained periods – with solid production.

 

THIRD BASE

That is the chin of a man who wants to help you win – and obviously will settle…down.

That is the chin of a man who wants to help you win – and obviously will settle…down.

Coner Gillaspie (Chicago White Sox) [#31 Rated 3B by YahooSports]

Conor is a very boring player. But he likes to hit – enough that he will probably start at 3B for a team which could surprise some people. .282 with 31 2B’s in 2014. Even with the hits (131 in 2014) he needs to take more BB’s. Could he hit more HR’s … eh. He needs to do a lot of things a bit better for crazy fantasy attention. But – the White Sox are better offensively – and defensively. His hits and doubles will be key. Plus a 2nd year of Jose Abreu in the league. Maybe he could be on base more during those mammoth shots? At 27 years old – he is coming into his own with something to prove. Consistent numbers throughout the year are in store. Perhaps not your “starting” 3B – but possibly the best option otherwise – or for utility purposes. He’s not too picky. For perspective – Aramis Ramirez [#19 Rated 3B by YahooSports] probably won’t make it through the first month of the season – and if Gillaspie can improve a bit on power, will end up with better or comparable numbers. Even Alex Rodriguez is ranked above him!

 

 

SHORTSTOP

Danny SantanaDanny Santana (Minnesota Twins) [#14 Rated SS by YahooSports]

 Oh SS…the horrible position with only 3 “real” options to draft…When you are #14 at SS you know you must be terrible for draft value. But, Santana (23 years old – inexplicably NOT Cuban) may offer some hope. In 2014 he batted .319 – had 20 SB (caught only 4 times) with 27 2B’s, 7 3B’s, 7 HR’s and 70 runs. 98 SO’s / 19 BB’s is terrible. But he’s just a kid – growing up in the big Twin Cities. Playing on a mediocre team – which is getting better – but needs runs (Green light Danny!) – Santana could offer major point consistency in a few categories at a historically weak position.For perspective, Jimmy Rollins is the 7Th overall SS according to Yahoo. Have to take my chances on the kid here. Curious what the Over/Under is for HR for Santana vs. Rollins in 2015…It surely cannot justify a 7 place ranking differential at the weakest fantasy position. And the kid plays some great defense if your league counts it. God speed J-Roll.

 

OUTFIELD

Soler going through the standard Cuban MLB intake process

Soler going through the standard Cuban MLB intake process

Jorge Soler (Chicago Cubs) [#26 Rated OF by YahooSports]

Snagged this young (Cuban) man before he was called up last year in multiple leagues. Wow.

In a 24 game call-up he did this:

.292 AVG / 5 HR / 20 RBI / 8 2B / 11 R

At 23 years old – and with a starting job on a “hungry” team filled with young talent – what is not to like? 24 SO’s in 89 AB’s is troubling. When he hit fastballs, he made the most of it – but a 26% K rate is alarming. 2015 may take some time for Soler to adjust – as he sees new pitches and finds his true legs in MLB. But obviously, the potential to do real damage is there – and the Cubs will be sticking with him for the long haul. Or you can get on the Charlie Blackmon draft train a round before him…Don’t “miss the boat” on this Cuban…

 

 

OUTFIELD

robocop.j.d.martinez.140603

A malnourished RoboCop out looking for semi-Cubans…

J.D. Martinez (Detroit Tigers) [#33 Rated OF by YahooSports]

 J.D. was one of my best early Waiver Wire snags last season, and probably my favorite “sleeper” in 2015.

He ended up with these numbers last year:

123 G / 57 R / 30 2B / 3 3B / 23 HR / 76 RBI / 6 SB/ .315 AVG

For perspective – here are the 2014 numbers of Andrew McCutchen [#2 Rated OF by YahooSports]:

146 G / 89 R / 38 2B / 6 3B / 25 HR / 83 RBI / 18 SB / .314 AVG

At 27 years old, I think he may have finally have found his stroke. 23 HR playing in DET (largest OF in MLB) is an accomplishment. With the injury to Victor Martinez, his role will be even more vital for the Tigers – and he should see a bump in his lineup spot (potentially into a more R/RBI conducive spot). Will he have as productive a season as 2014? Probably not. But his draft ranking seems to suggest that most everyone believes he will regress off the face of the Earth. Even if he ends up with comparable numbers – while playing the additional 39 games he DIDN’T play in in 2014 – those are starter OF numbers – especially for a #33 ranked OF player. Expect the AVG to drop a bit (too many SO’s) – but Martinez could be a multi-category gem for next to nothing on draft day. So you could snag McCutchen in the top 5 – or have Martinez between 50-75 – with a potential for comparable output. Could free you up to draft Joey Votto…

 

OUTFIELD

He missed the ball btw.

He missed the ball btw.

Ben Revere (Philadelphia Phillies) [#40 Rated OF by YahooSports]

2014 was the year of the coming of Billy Hamilton [#17 Rated OF by YahooSports – 2015] – the “next” Ricky Henderson. Watch – or you might miss it. The man who could steal home out of the batters box. A “must draft” if you want steals. The ONLY person you need know to get you steals. 2014 proved that Billy Hamilton is really fast. In fact, he was so fast that he often outsmarted his own stupidity on the bases to produce pretty incredible numbers. But, we also learned he can’t hit a baseball to actually get on base it seems…

Below are 2 season lines from 2014… #whoworeitbetter

611 PA / 72 R / 141 H / 25 2B / 8 3B / 6 HR / 48 RBI / 56 SB / 23 CS / 117 SO / .250 AVG

626 PA / 71 / 184 H / 13 2B / 7 3B / 2 HR / 28 RBI / 49 SB / 8 CS / 49 SO / .306 AVG

For all his “unnatural” speed, Billy Hamilton was caught stealing 41% of the time – and batted just .250. Ben Revere was caught stealing only 16% and batted .306. Billy Hamilton only had 7 more steals (with 15 less PA). Hamilton produced (via SO) 68 more OUTS than Revere in 2014. So, Hamilton literally cost 2.5 entire games worth of outs for the Reds just at the plate – without getting on base to run, to give himself a nearly 50% chance of taking second base (which, if caught, would be an OUT).. If Revere can continue to prove to be even half of the second coming of Juan Pierre – sign me up. Points! Points! Points!

 

STARTING PITCHER

Matt Cain eating like a horse…kind of.

Matt Cain eating like a horse…kind of.

Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants) [#58 Rated SP by YahooSports]

Matt Cain is 30 years old. His nickname of “The Horse” is so prolific that even Baseball-Reference attaches it to his name when you visit his page. How does one get such an accolade you may ask? Starting in 2006 these are the innings pitched totals (not including postseason) for Mr. Cain (and his corresponding ERA):

190.2: 4.15
200: 3.65
217.2: 3.76
217.2: 2.89
223.1: 3.14
222.1: 2.88
219.1: 2.79
184.1: 4.00
90.1: 4.18

It is almost as if the more he pitches, the better he is. Crazy, huh?

You may have to just trust me on this one…but (if healthy) there is no chance Cain hits a +4.00 ERA in 2015 if he pitches over 160 innings. Anything less, and he is a STEAL as a #58 SP – with a real potential to return to Ace status in a K-prone NL West (You’ve seen Justin Upton and Jimmy Rollins swing a bat,, right?). Plus he taught Bumgarner everything he knows…Bumgarner is going to break down about… now.

 

STARTING PITCHER

masterson

Justin loves his Mom. We all love her.

Justin Masterson (Boston Red Sox) [Below #93 Rated SP by YahooSports]

 What do you do when you have a short porch and a big wall that creates doubles? Strike people out. As often as possible.

2010: 140 K
2011: 158 K
2012: 159 K
2013: 195 K *
2014: 116 K

*All-Star (Cleveland Indians / 14 W / 10 L / 3.45 ERA / 195 K / 193 IP)

At 29 years old, I think Masterson finds his role with an old, familiar club. He did have a DL stint (knee) and pitched through a substantial rib-cage injury in 2014 – which may explain his absolutley terrible season.

He throws a 97mph fastball, a nasty sinker (84-96mph – depending on situation…), a strong slider and a changeup. If he regains the dominant K form of years past – PLUS. If he can keep his ERA at 3.80 at Fenway – with 130+ K’s – BETTER. He is finally on a stacked team – which will score runs – and he may provide not only WIN’s but substantial K’s for your team. Not even rated as a Top #100 SP by YahooSports. (Maybe I missed him on the list…he is the #3 starter for the Boston Red Sox, right?)

By the way, he allowed 6 R / 7H / 2 HR / 2 BB / 0 K in 3.1 IP against the “potent” offense of the Philadelphia Phillies on March 15th. So he certainly is a risk/reward prospect in 2015. Hopefully his lackluster Spring performances are simply him working out his mechanics after his prolonged, nagging injuries of 2014.

 

RELIEF PITCHER

kengiles

All these players watching Giles are barely playing baseball now.

Ken Giles (Philadelphia Phillies) [Below #63 Rated RP by YahooSports]

 When you draft a RP, you tend to look for SAVES. “Closers” record SAVES – and Ken Giles does not have a “Closer” job…just yet. The fact that there are over 63 players that YahooSports suggests you should select over him is just sad (RP rankings seem to end at 63 btw…). Touche YahooSports. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Aroldis Chapman (CIN) [#1 RP Rated by Yahoo Sports]

2014 Stats

54 G / 36 IP / 54 SV / 3 L / 21 H / 12 ER / 1 HR / 106 K / 24 BB / 2.00 ERA / 0.83 WHIP

Ken Giles (PHL) [Below #63 Rated RP by YahooSports]

2014 Stats

44 G / 45.2 IP / 1 SV / 1 L / 25 H / 6 ER / 1 HR / 64 K / 11 BB / 1.18 ERA / 0.78 WHIP

Within a few months of the season Jonathan Papelbon [#19 Rated RP by Yahoo Sports] will be gone or relegated – and Giles will take on the “closer” role. So “1 save” will go to 25-30 pretty easily. Frankly, the Phillies are going to be in a TON of “save situations” this year. Outside of the K rate (which Giles has proven in tough scenarios) – not quite sure why one would spend the pick for Chapman. 24 BB in 36 IP over 54 appearances suggests maybe he can’t really “close” a game out. 106 K’s is impressive – but suggests a velocity crutch. #1 Champman vs. basically unranked Giles. A save that ends with a K is pretty impressive. ESPN will show it. But a save is a save – no matter how you get it. 0.83 vs 0.78 is a nice split for Giles.

 

TRUE SLEEPER

Billy Burns (Oakland Athletics) [Below #88 Rated OF by YahooSports]

 Billy BurnzI love Billy Burns. It took all of my effort to suggest Kolten Wong last year vs. Burns in this “True Sleeper” category [Wong is now the #10 Rated 2B for 2015 btw]. Billy Burns is now 25. He is a switch hitter. Plays great defense. And he could be faster than Billy Hamilton. Here he is scoring from 2B on a SACRIFICE FLY

 

SB / AVG Totals from the Minors:

2012: 38 (.322 AVG)

2013: 72 (.315 AVG)

2014: 54 (.237 AVG)

 

2015 Spring Training Stats:

13 G / 34 AB / 15 H / .441 AVG / 10 R / 3 RBI / 2 2B / 3 3B / 0 HR / 3 SB / 2 BB / 2 SO

 

One way to look at these number is that 33% of his hits have gone for extra bases. If you tally his steals turning a single into an “XBH”…then 53% of his hits place him at at least 2B. It is Spring Training, and the rating of pitchers he has faced is generally equivalent to Double-A level.

Even with this production, there is a strong chance he will not make the Opening Day roster for the A’s, but he will figure into the season sooner rather than later. With injuries to A’s OF’s Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp, Burns could sneak his way onto the roster. If he gets a call-up I doubt he will be sent down. If you have a pick to burn late in the draft, I would take Burns. You may have to stash him for a bit, but I think when he does get his chance he won’t disappoint.