Fantasy baseball is one part luck, one part research and one part more luck. Luckily, research and smart drafting can negate some of the happenstance inherent to fantasy sports.
Having a sound drafting strategy is critical for fantasy baseball success, and creating a list of high-upside sleepers will go a long way toward winning your league.
There are several pitchers available to fantasy owners this year who have the potential to put together quality seasons, and we’ll provide a few of those names in this article.
“Sleeper” is a subjective term, but using the average draft position numbers from ESPN, we’ll do our best to quantify these players as sleepers potentially available in the later rounds of your draft.
Jeff Samardzija: Chicago Cubs (ADP 152.7)
Samardzija made the move to the starting rotation for the Cubs last season, putting up respectable numbers in his 28 starts. An ERA of 3.81 and a WHIP of 1.22 in 2012 were positive signs, but it was Samardzija’s strikeout numbers that really stood out.
The 28-year-old hurler fanned 180 batters in 174.2 innings pitched, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was also encouraging (3.2/1). With a full season as a starter in the books, he is poised for a breakout year in 2013.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Samardzija has been named Chicago’s opening-day starter. With an average draft position of 152.7 in ESPN leagues, there’s a good chance he’ll be available beyond the 14th round. Any chance to acquire a No. 1 starter that late in the draft should be exploited.
Trevor Cahill: Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP 218.6)
After going 18-8 in Oakland in 2010, Cahill had a disappointing 2011 season and landed in Arizona as a 24-year-old hurler in need of a bounce-back season.
He posted a 3.78 ERA in 32 starts with the Diamondbacks last season, and there’s reason to believe he can pitch even better in 2013.
Cahill hasn’t thrown fewer than 200 innings in the last two seasons, and his 2.97 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2010 prove he is capable of big things. Entering his fifth big-league season, Cahill may be one of the most underrated pitchers in fantasy baseball.
None of Cahill’s numbers really jump off the stat sheet, but he’ll be a consistent option who should surpass 200 innings again this year. Expect to get 14 or 15 wins and an ERA in the low 3.00-range from the Arizona starter in 2013.
Justin Masterson: Cleveland Indians (ADP 227.4)
Masterson lost his command in 2012, resulting in an awful season as the Indians’ No. 1 starter. He went 11-15 with an ERA of 4.93 and a WHIP of 1.45 in 34 starts, but don’t expect more of the same from him this year.
Masterson has pitched well in spring training, seemingly regaining command of the dominant sinker that made him a highly-coveted target for the Indians in 2009. With Terry Francona at the helm and a bolstered offense due to offer a lot more run support in 2013, Masterson won’t be under as much pressure to be lights-out in the front-end of the rotation.
Even if Masterson doesn’t put up No. 1 starter numbers, he’s still a steal with an average draft position of 227.4. His ceiling isn’t especially high, but a mid-3.00 ERA and 15-plus wins isn’t out of the question in 2013. He’s certainly worth a late-round flyer.