While everyone wants Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera on their team, the best way to win in fantasy baseball is by grabbing a sleeper on the brink of a big year.
Those who grabbed Chris Davis last season with a late-round draft pick or for minimal auction cost were certainly happy with his production. Adding a player like this to a roster full of big-time talent can make your squad almost unbeatable.
Although it is tough to predict anyone to come out of nowhere to lead the majors in home runs and RBI like Davis did last season, there are still a number of young players set for big seasons.
These hitters should be available in the later rounds and could end up giving you a lot of production.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Sometimes it takes a few years for a top prospect to truly reach his potential in the majors. Other times, all that is needed is an opportunity.
Devin Mesoraco has been waiting to take over the full-time job as the Reds catcher since making his debut in 2011. Unfortunately, Ryan Hanigan has kept the role, preventing the young player from getting regular playing time.
That will all end in 2014 as Mesoraco is slated to be the Opening Day starter. He discussed the opportunity with Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
I was obviously sad to see Hani go, because we've been pretty close as a catching unit as far as sharing information and picking each other's brain. At the same time, it's a good opportunity for me. It's a vote of confidence for me. They've seen me improving over the years and getting better. I'm getting to be the player I'm supposed to be and can be. It definitely pumps me up a bit to come into camp in shape and 100 percent prepared to be an everyday catcher.
Jim Bowden of ESPN sees this as a golden opportunity for Mesoraco to shine:
With his power, the catcher can easily hit over 20 home runs in his first full season behind the plate, giving fantasy owners the type of offensive production not often found in catchers.
Although it might not be smart to make him your No. 1 catcher, he is worth the roster spot to see if he can reach his potential.
Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas Rangers
It was not too long ago we were talking about Jurickson Profar being the next big thing in baseball. After the 2012 season, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com listed the shortstop as the No. 1 prospect in the league.
A poor 2013 campaign certainly tempered expectations as he was only able to hit .234 with six home runs and two stolen bases in 286 at-bats.
However, baseball is a sport that requires rhythm and consistency, especially for younger players. Profar was asked to play only a few times per week, and that caused him to struggle at the plate and in the field.
A spot finally opened up when the Rangers sent Ian Kinsler in a trade to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder. Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated argues that Profar is the most important player of that trade due to the boom-or-bust ability:
As he continues to mature both physically and in his baseball abilities, Profar has the potential to grow into a 20-homer player who regularly flirts with .300 batting averages. Of course, there’s also the very real possibility that Profar will continue to struggle in 2014 despite his more consistent playing time and role. He will, after all, be just 21, and not every 21-year-old can be Mike Trout or Manny Machado. Still, the consensus around the game is that Profar’s total package, even if it lacks a singular elite skill, is that of a similarly elite talent.
Between these two options, the chances are greater that he finds success. He can easily become a 20-20 player who also hits for a high average with an even better on-base percentage. This is hard to come by for a middle infielder.
If he can reach his potential this season, he could be a huge help to your fantasy team.
Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Khris Davis hopes there is some magic in his name as he will try to replicate the success of the Baltimore Orioles star.
The 26-year-old outfielder got only 153 plate appearances last season, but he made them count with 10 doubles and 11 home runs. His slugging percentage of .596 would have ranked third in the majors last season if he had enough at-bats to qualify, trailing only Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis.
At this point, all he needs is more playing time to put up even bigger numbers. Fortunately, the Brewers are doing everything in their power to make this happen. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes the lineup switch for the upcoming season:
#Brewers GM Doug Melvin confirmed that Ryan Braun is moving to RF. Khris Davis gets first shot at LF with Caleb Gindl also in picture.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 5, 2013
Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl will both provide tough challenges in spring training, but it appears to be Davis' job to lose. Assuming he gets the starting spot, he has loads of potential for the upcoming season.
The hitter has enough pure power to hit close to 30 home runs in his first full season in the majors and carry fantasy teams in the process.
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