Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2014: Rankings, Stat Predictions for Late-Round Gems

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIFebruary 24, 2014

Cleveland Indians pitcher Danny Salazar throws during spring training baseball practice in Goodyear, Ariz., Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Associated Press

Finding sleepers in the late rounds of fantasy baseball drafts can be one of the most rewarding parts about being a fantasy baseball owner.

It's always nice to snag a guy in the 20th round and watch him blossom into a legit everyday player. Now that the 2014 spring training season is about to get started with games this week, it's a good time to get studied up on some sleepers for the upcoming year.

Here's a position-by-position list of some of the top sleepers for 2014, followed by a closer look at three players on the rise who are poised to become legit fantasy contributors throughout the regular season.

*Average draft info via RotoWire.

2014 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
PositionNameTeamADP
CatcherWilson RamosWashington Nationals220
CatcherDevin MesoracoCincinnati Reds263
CatcherDioner NavarroToronto Blue Jays330
First BaseJose AbreuChicago White Sox171
First BaseBrandon MossOakland Athletics185
First BaseBrandon BeltSan Francisco Giants210
Second BaseJurickson ProfarTexas Rangers214
Second BaseOmar InfanteKansas City Royals281
Second BaseAnthony RendonWashington NationalsN/A
Third BaseWill MiddlebrooksBoston Red Sox204
Third BaseNolan ArenadoColorado Rockies217
Third BaseKelly JohnsonNew York Yankees262
ShortstopAsdrubal CabreraCleveland Indians167
ShortstopXander BogaertsBoston Red Sox211
ShortstopJhonny PeraltaSt. Louis Cardinals237
OutfieldAdam EatonChicago White Sox212
OutfieldKhris DavisMilwaukee Brewers223
OutfieldOscar TaverasSt. Louis Cardinals225
OutfieldWill VenableSan Diego Padres226
OutfieldKole CalhounLos Angeles Angels330
Starting PitcherMichael WachaSt. Louis Cardinals183
Starting PitcherRyan VogelsongSan Francisco Giants203
Starting PitcherDanny SalazarCleveland Indians205
Starting PitcherAndrew CashnerSan Diego Padres217
Starting PitcherMartin PerezTexas RangersN/A
Relief PitcherNeftali FelizTexas Rangers238
Relief PitcherNate JonesChicago White Sox305
Relief PitcherJesse CrainHouston Astros446
Alex Espinoza's Predictions

 

2B Jurickson Profar, Rangers

2014 Projections
GHR2B3BHRRBIAVGBBKSB
150155802751665.270551007
Alex Espinoza's Predictions

Average draft position: 214

ADP 8-team league: 27th round

ADP 10-team league: 22nd round

ADP 12-team league: 18th round

The Texas Rangers have assembled a deadly lineup in Arlington, and Jurickson Profar figures to benefit big time from the new look.

When the Rangers acquired slugging first baseman Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers this offseason, they also opened up a spot for Profar at second base by dealing away Ian Kinsler. Profar showed good power during his minor league career, but he could never find a rhythm as a bench player for Texas in 2013.

With an everyday playing opportunity in this robust batting order, I expect Profar to put up some big numbers in 2014. He'll likely be a nice hitter near the bottom of the lineup and should have plenty of opportunities to contribute while hitting in front of table-setters Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus.

There's certainly risk involved whenever you're drafting a prospect, but Profar has all the tools and a great lineup to produce in 2014.

 

OF Oscar Taveras, Cardinals

2014 Projections
GHR2B3BHRRBIAVGBBKSB
140155853022285.29540706
Alex Espinoza's Projections

Average draft position: 225

ADP 8-team league: 29th round

ADP 10-team league: 23rd round

ADP 12-team league: 19th round

As it stands now, the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to have a starting outfield of Matt Holliday in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Allen Craig in right. But with a big spring training, Oscar Taveras could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.

According to a recent report from Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, Taveras is ramping up his physical activity in spring training:

Taveras, who had right ankle surgery in August, estimated that he pushed himself at an "80 percent" effort level during Monday's conditioning work. He likely won't be included in the Cardinals' lineup for their Grapefruit League opener on Friday, but his spring debut should not come that much later.

The organization is merely taking its time building Taveras up to full speed. Running the bases and changing directions while sprinting are some of the last hurdles Taveras still has to clear.

Hopefully Taveras can stay healthy, because he has "future star" written all over him. While Carlos Beltran will certainly be missed by the Cardinals, I suspect Taveras will be able to impress during spring training and be an instant contributor to this team from Day 1.

His 2013 was derailed by the balky ankle, but his stellar minor league career and St Louis' reputation of cultivating homegrown talent bodes well for his future. I expect Taveras to win the National League Rookie of the Year race in 2014 while putting up solid numbers for fantasy owners in the process.

 

RHP Danny Salazar, Indians

2014 Projections
GSIPWLERAWHIPKBB
321901483.251.2021050
Alex Espinoza's Projections

Average draft position: 205

ADP 8-team league: 26th round

ADP 10-team league: 21st round

ADP 12-team league: 18th round 

Danny Salazar made quite the impression during his 2013 major league debut with the Cleveland Indians.

Still, fantasy owners seem to be overlooking the 24-year-old righty, who posted an 11.3 K/9 ratio in 52 innings pitched last year. Over the course of those 10 starts, Salazar went 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and had 65 strikeouts against 15 walks.

As Jordan Bastian of MLB.com detailed, Salazar is expected to play a big role for the franchise in 2014:

Salazar's right arm provides hope that losing key starters such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir will not be as devastating to the Tribe's quest to build on last season as it appears on the surface. The kid's poise on the mound provides promise and has the Indians daydreaming about an ace in the making.

When Cleveland clinched a spot in the American League Wild Card Game last fall, Salazar was announced as the starting pitcher while the champagne was still flowing. The fact that he was young on years and experience did not matter. The Indians believed in Salazar then, and the organization is pinning a great deal of hope on him now.

"It's going to be exciting to see what he can do," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "He can probably be one of the better pitchers in baseball."

Salazar was dominant from 2011 to 2013 as a minor leaguer, and he showed he could hang with the big leaguers down the stretch last year. While he often drives his pitch count up too fast, his high strikeout totals make him a savvy sleeper draft option.