The 2014 fantasy baseball season is here, as spring training continues and we get ever so closer to Opening Day. As fantasy drafts approach, it's important to know crucial players to grab in late rounds of drafts. After all, the first few rounds are easy; everyone with a draft guide knows whom to take.
It's the sleepers that can make or break a fantasy season.
These players are important in any fantasy league—be it MLB, NFL, NBA or other. Winning your fantasy draft isn't about grabbing studs early on; it's about finding gems in late rounds that could emerge into your next All-Star.
Let's take a look at a few players who have late-round value, but who also have high ceilings and the potential to earn you your next championship.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Finally Springer gets his shot at the majors. After dominating at the minor league level, he has a shot to make the Astros' final roster this season. Even if he starts at the Triple-A level, Houston simply cannot deny his talent for long.
Last season with Oklahoma City in Triple-A, Springer managed an impressive .311 batting average, producing 68 hits, 50 runs and 22 stolen bases while crushing 18 home runs in just 62 games played.
Keith Law of ESPN.com (insider required) analyzes Springer as follows:
Springer may be a mold-breaker, a player whose raw abilities are so outsized that he can overcome contact problems that would sink almost any lesser player. He grades out highly in all five tools, with plus power already and 70 speed once he’s underway. His swing has a ton of leverage in it, almost knocking him over at times, but his hands are so quick that he makes a lot of hard line-drive contact — when he’s not swinging and missing, which he does often, in large part because he makes no adjustment at all with two strikes.
Springer's raw athleticism, blazing speed and brute strength give him all of the tools necessary to flourish in his rookie season—and on your fantasy roster.
Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox
Eaton's season was derailed early last year after he suffered an elbow injury in spring training. Now, he's with a different team and is looking to regain his standing as one of the league's most promising young players.
The new White Sox leadoff man has no worries about his role with the team or the change to a cold-weather climate. He explained during an interview with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:
Not for me. I don't think for the team either. We'll get used it. We'll have routines when it's cold, and when teams are coming from the south and the west, they're going to have to adjust.
I grew up in Ohio. I'm used to it. I played in the MAC (at Miami of Ohio), and I remember some cold games at Eastern Michigan in March. You have to use it as an advantage. They're coming to play in our element.
Eaton appears to be at home in Chicago, and his new role doesn't look to affect him in any negative manner. Once his bat gets going, he will have plenty of opportunities to grab stolen bases and score plenty of runs.
Most definitely a player to grab late, stash Eaton on your bench until he begins to click. After that, he should be a viable option as a third outfielder.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Salazar is a young, up-and-coming pitcher who has tremendous stuff. He throws a fastball in the high-90s, delivers a slider so good that it just seems unfair and has a changeup that can baffle the league's best sluggers.
In 2013, Salazar gave the nation a little taste of what he has to offer. He started 10 games and pitched 52 innings, allowing 44 hits and 18 runs; however, he also struck out an improbable 65 batters and recorded a 3.12 ERA over that span.
Salazar also impressed this year in spring training. In his Cactus League debut on Monday, he pitched 1.2 innings, allowing one run and two hits while striking out two and walking two.
After the game, Salazar told Doug Miller of MLB.com how good he was feeling: "I felt great—my arm and my elbow. I was a little wild, but I guess for being my first time out there, it felt really good."
It appears as though Cleveland is ready to unleash Salazar this season. He has a tendency to light it up when he's on and could be a viable second or third option as the year progresses.