Fantasy Baseball 2014: Updating Top 25 Sleepers to Grab in Drafts
Imagine this scenario: You're in the final few rounds of your fantasy baseball draft trying to target a few end-gamers to fill out your roster and/or bench who just might turn into gems, except your already exhausted noggin just ain't working like it was through the first portion of your picking.
That's why you should bookmark this list now and save it for later, when you'll need it most.
Last time, we ran through the top 25 sleepers to know just as spring training camps were starting up. Over the past month or so, many of those names have become too popular to be considered true sleepers anymore, so in this installment, we bring another batch of players you should be looking at in the late rounds.
The goal? To dig a little deeper as a way to help owners in mixed leagues with at least 12 teams, as well as those who play in American League- or National League-only formats.
In order to be eligible this time around, players must fall outside the top 200—that's beyond Round 16 in 12-team leagues—based on average draft positions (ADP) from Mock Draft Central. Also, there will be no repeats from the initial list, because that kind of defeats the purpose.
Here, then, are 25 more fantasy sleepers, listed in order of ADP, to consider snapping up late in your drafts. Your brain can thank us later.
Angel Pagan, OF, Giants (ADP: 207)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .282 BA, 44 R, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 9 SB (305 PA)
A severe hamstring injury wrecked more than half of Angel Pagan's 2013 season, but now that he's healthy and ready to lead off for the Giants again, he's a candidate to reach double digits in homers, 20-25 steals and score plenty of runs while hitting for a helpful average. The lost season is keeping his cost down, but Pagan, 32, could prove to be an OF3 or OF4 in most formats.
Brad Miller, SS, Mariners (ADP: 209)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .265 BA, 41 R, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 5 SB (335 PA)
The 24-year-old Brad Miller has been vying with fellow second-year infielder Nick Franklin for the privilege of handling shortstop for the Mariners. Although both players are having strong springs so far, Miller appears to have the upper hand after a productive rookie season, and that could put him in position to approach 15 homers and steals, along with enough runs and RBI to keep AL-only owners content with him as a starting shortstop. Owners in deep mixed leagues should be happy with him as a middle infield option, too.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (ADP: 212)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .267 BA, 49 R, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 2 SB (514 PA)
Following his late-April debut, Nolan Arenado was good-not-great, but he's still only 22 years old and excels at making contact—both hard and often—which can only lead to good things in a potent Rockies lineup and in Coors Field. A jump to 20 homers and 80-90 RBI in Year 2 wouldn't be much of a surprise for this 2009 second-round selection.
Dan Straily, SP, Athletics (ADP: 216)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 10 W, 3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 0 SV (152.1 IP)
Dan Straily is an example of the kind of arm that plays up in single-league formats, because although he's never going to be more than a mid-rotation starter in real life, the 25-year-old should churn out quality starts pitching for a good Athletics club and, particularly, in a hurler-friendly park. In AL-onlies, that's a valuable asset as an SP4/5, especially when you can get him for cheap.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays (ADP: 218)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .276 BA, 57 R, 22 HR, 66 RBI, 0 SB (458 PA)
A pair of late-season ailments limited Colby Rasmus to just 29 second-half contests and only 118 for the season and ended his chance to set career highs in home runs and RBI for the second straight year. The all-around impact isn't there—seriously, Colby, zero steals?—but the 27-year-old has the stick to make a run at 30 long balls. (For those in points leagues where strikeouts count, though, it's worth pointing out that Rasmus did whiff a career-worst 29.5 percent of the time.)
Corey Hart, 1B/OF, Mariners (ADP: 221)
2012 Fantasy Stats: .270 BA, 91 R, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 5 SB (622 PA)
Those digits are from Corey Hart's last action back in 2012, as his 2013 was over before it began thanks to microfracture surgery on both knees. That's the sort of problem that can end a player's career, so the 31-year-old is understandably being cast aside in most drafts. Still, it's worth a shot with a late pick to gamble that Hart could extend his streak of 20-plus-homer seasons—when healthy—to four. Even in Safeco.
Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets (ADP: 221)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, K/9, 22 SV (50.0 IP)
A scary neck injury that required surgery ended Bobby Parnell's 2013 about two months early, but by that point the 29-year-old had proved he could succeed in his first legitimate chance at getting the final three outs. As long as he stays healthy this month, this could be a top-10 or top-15 closer owners can snag for well below-market value given that many are overlooking him based on the way he finished last year.
Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees (ADP: 227)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 9 W, 3.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 0 SV (139.1 IP)
In 2011, Ivan Nova began to show that he could post a solid ERA (3.70). In 2012, he displayed an increased ability to strike out batters (8.1 K/9). Then last year, he started to put everything together upon returning to the rotation to fill in for an injured David Phelps midseason. If the 27-year-old can stay the course, he might be ready for 175 or so innings as an SP5 in mixed leagues or as an SP4 in AL-only play.
Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox (ADP: 231)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 9 W, 3.51 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 0 SV (200.0 IP)
In his second big league season, the 25-year-old Jose Quintana was an ideal mid-rotation AL-only starter simply because relying on him for quality innings almost never backfired. To wit, in his 33 outings, the southpaw surrendered more than three earned runs only eight times and more than four earned just twice.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (ADP: 241)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .233 BA, 42 R, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 2 SB (514 PA)
Boy oh boy, was 2013 not Mike Moustakas' year. To his credit, though, with a lot on the line in what is looking like a make-or-break campaign, the 25-year-old put in work this offseason, got in better shape and hit well in winter ball. He's followed that up with a strong initial showing this spring—three homers in his first 25 plate appearances—and it might not be unreasonable to see him bounce back to 20 homers and around 75 runs and RBI in an ever-improving Royals lineup. To become more mixed-league relevant, Moustakas needs to lift his .244 career batting average about 20 or 30 points.
Robbie Grossman, OF, Astros (ADP: 249)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .268 BA, 29 R, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB (288 PA)
While he didn't exactly light the world afire in his first big league opportunity, Robbie Grossman has the profile to be the kind of hitter who does nothing exceedingly well in fantasy but just enough of everything that owners find him to be a useful fill-in outfielder. The 24-year-old showed more than a knack for taking walks and getting on base in the minors (.381 OBP), which should keep him in the lineup for a Houston club that is badly in need of batters who don't make outs. Grossman could be 2014's version of A.J. Pollock.
Jose Veras, RP, Cubs (ADP: 249)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 0 W, 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 21 SV (62.2 IP)
Coming off his first season as a closer—and the best showing of his eight-year career—Jose Veras, 33, has the Cubs' ninth inning all to himself, at least for now. Chicago could wind up doing with him the same thing the Astros did: build up his value as the closer then swap him for players who can help a rebuilding squad in the future. Even still, half a season of save opps and good ratios makes Veras worth owning as an RP3. And because of the expectation that he'll be moved, owners can pick him up late.
David Freese, 3B, Angels (ADP: 251)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .262 BA, 53 R, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 1 SB (521 PA)
Health has never been David Freese's forte, and in 2013 it was his undoing again. Although he wound up playing a decent number of games in the end (138), he injured his lower back while diving into the stands during spring training, which forced him to miss the start of the regular season and curbed his power production. He's not a starting-caliber third basemen in mixed formats, but the 30-year-old should be good enough to get the job done as a 3B in AL leagues, especially if he can stay healthy enough to drive in the heart of the Angels order—Mike trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton—hitting ahead of him.
Drew Smyly, SP, Tigers (ADP: 252)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 6 W, 2.37 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 2 SV (76.0 IP)
The Doug Fister trade opened up a spot in the Tigers' five-man for Drew Smyly, and the 2010 second-round pick is ready to take advantage of the opportunity. At 24, Smyly has spent most of his first two seasons in Detroit operating as a long reliever, but he has the repertoire to get it done every five days. Don't expect him to come close to those fantastic stats he notched coming out of the bullpen, but Smyly could be an SP4 in AL-onlies and a strong streaming option in mixed leagues.
Rajai Davis, OF, Tigers (ADP: 255)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .260 BA, 49 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 45 SB (360 PA)
Rajai Davis has never been a full-timer—he's topped 500 plate appearances only once, in 2010—and he's not expected to be one in 2014, either. He will, though, see extra action due to Andy Dirks' being out for the first two months of the season after back surgery. Although Davis is 33, he's capable of once again swiping 40-50 bases with a won't-kill-you batting average, which makes him a great (and cheap) grab for SB category help.
Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox (ADP: 260)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .303 BA, 77 R, 12 HR, 66 RBI, 0 SB (536 PA)
Just because Daniel Nava's career stolen base total remains at a whopping four after he pilfered not a single bag last year doesn't mean he can't be a quality leadoff man—or fantasy outfielder. The 31-year-old sports a .369 career OBP (.385 last year) and could be in line to hit at the top of what was MLB's most productive offense a year ago, at least whenever Boston faces a right-hander. The homers and RBI numbers won't overwhelm, but Nava could be a batting average and runs scored helper worth using as a plug-in play in all formats.
Darren O'Day, RP, Orioles (ADP: 265)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 5 W, 2.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2 SV (62.0 IP)
Worst-case scenario: Darren O'Day does his usual 2.00-ish ERA/1.00-ish WHIP thing over 60 innings as a set-it-and-forget-it RP4. Best-case scenario: The 31-year-old sidewinder takes over the ninth for a homer-prone Tommy Hunter and does the above—but with 20-plus saves, too.
Kelly Johnson, 2B/3B/OF, Yankees (ADP: 265)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .235 BA, 41 R, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB (407 PA)
When it comes to owning Kelly Johnson, it's more about tolerating the bad while trying to find the good. The bad: The 32-year-old has hit .226 since the start of 2011. The good: He's also averaged 18 homers and 12 steals, and he enters 2014 with eligibility at second base and outfield (and soon, third base, which he'll play for the Yankees). In mixed leagues, you won't want to own him, but in AL-only formats where you might have to, at least he's as good as he is bad. (Or maybe that's the other way around?)
Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees (ADP: 269)
2011 Fantasy Stats: 9 W, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 0 SV (171.0 IP)
As you know, the reason those numbers say "2011" is because that's the last time Michael Pineda threw a pitch in a regular-season major league game. And the reason for that? The big, burly, 25-year-old underwent labrum surgery in 2012 and has been working his way back since. Pineda is competing with David Phelps for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation, and while he has a long way to go still, his first spring outing was an impressive cause for cautious optimism. This one might be a big nothing in the end, but the upside if it all works out is exactly what makes Pineda a low-risk/high-reward end-game gamble in all leagues.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (ADP: 279)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .238 BA, 31 R, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB (352 PA)
Devin Mesoraco hails from Punxsutawney, Penn., so it was fitting that his first three seasons in the majors so far have been Groundhog Day-esque—except unlike Bill Murray in the 1993 comedy classic by that name, Mesoraco has been living the same year over and over. That'll change in 2014, as the 25-year-old finally is free from Dusty Baker and more than ready to take over the everyday job. Don't expect him to have all the answers, but Mesoraco could be a fringe top-10 fantasy catcher by season's end.
Eric Young Jr., OF, Mets (ADP: 281)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .249 BA, 70 R, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 46 SB (598 PA)
In case you forgot who led the NL in steals—and let's face it, you did—it was none other than Eric Young Jr. While the 28-year-old no longer carries that 2B eligibility that once made him more valuable as a roster filler, he could be the Senior Circuit's version of Rajai Davis, as a speedster who doesn't have to play every day and still could pilfer 30-plus bases. As is, there's been chatter in Mets camp that Young, who came over in a midseason deal from the Rockies and is battling Juan Lagaraes for the center field gig, could be the leadoff hitter. That might be a misguided way to use a guy with a .325 career OBP, but it certainly would pump up his fantasy value.
Wily Peralta, SP, Brewers (ADP: 329)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 11 W, 4.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, 0 SV (183.1 IP)
Wily Peralta's first half: 4.61 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 5.6 K/9. Peralta's second half: 3.99 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.6 K/9. Whatever the 24-year-old figured out along the way in his rookie campaign, if he can carry it over into 2014, he could be an SP4 or 5 in NL-only leagues.
Josmil Pinto, C, Twins (ADP: 376)
2013 Fantasy Stats: .342 BA, 10 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB (83 PA)
After a .309/.400/.482 triple-slash line across Double- and Triple-A last year, Josmil Pinto, 24, was just as impressive in his MLB debut, when he hit .342/.398/.566. Yes, it was only 21 games—small sample size alert!—but whether he starts this season at Triple-A or as the Twins backup, Pinto should get a chance to be the primary backstop once Minny tires of whatever's left of Kurt Suzuki. Which should be pretty soon.
Erik Johnson, SP, White Sox (ADP: N/A)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 3 W, 3.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 0 SV (27.2 IP)
Erik Johnson culminated a whirlwind 2013 in which he dominated the high minors (1.96 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) by pitching well in his first five big league starts last September. The 24-year-old is the South Siders' top prospect, and he's doing his part to lock up one of the final two spots in their rotation with a solid spring so far. Johnson should be a steady SP4/5 in AL-onlies and a streaming candidate in mixed play.
Daniel Webb, RP, White Sox (ADP: N/A)
2013 Fantasy Stats: 0 W, 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 0 SV (11.1 IP)
For a hurler with a lively arm, Daniel Webb proved to be way too hittable in the minors as a starter, but he converted full-time to a relief role last season and took off. In fact, despite never pitching above A-ball, the 24-year-old rocketed through three minor league levels and still had time to get into nine games with the White Sox. With the closer role an open competition in camp, it wouldn't be a shock to see Webb seize the job over Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario.