Fantasy Baseball 2014: Underrated Studs Who Will Lead You to Victory

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Pitcher Chris Archer #22 of  the Tampa Bay Rays starts against the Texas Rangers September 18, 2013 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Superstars make a fantasy team good, but everyone else makes it great. That's why nailing the middle and later rounds is just as important, if not more so, as nailing the first four or five rounds. 

Everyone knows that Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Andrew McCutchen are going off the board early. It's the second- and third-tier players who get shuffled around that you need to know where and when to take. 

To save you the trouble of putting together an entire list of underrated gems, we have three for you to keep an eye on when you're drafting your team. These players have the upside to become first-round superstars or are at an age of decline but still possess skills to be valuable for one more year. 


Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium on February 24, 2014 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2013 Stats: .302/.353/.448, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 86 R, 11 SB

There was a period of time, in 2012 and the first of 2013, when Eric Hosmer looked like the latest in a string of highly touted prospects who filled Kansas City with hope only to take it away in the blink of an eye. 

A funny thing happened to Hosmer after last year's All-Star break, though—he found his swing. The 24-year-old hit .323/.379/.473 in 279 at-bats. That wasn't by accident, either. George Brett and Pedro Grifol, Kansas City's hitting coaches last year, identified a flaw with his hands that was corrected. 

Evan Tarracciano of sees big things in store for Hosmer this season: 

Some other predictions for 2014: Eric Hosmer of the #Royals will hit .300/22/85/13 this year. He's going to have a monster season.

— Evan Tarracciano (@Roto_Wizard) March 27, 2014

The first base market has more depth this year than it has had in a long time, especially with Miguel Cabrera moving back to the position, so a player like Hosmer could end up sliding into the fourth or fifth round, depending on the size of your league. 

Expect a huge season for Hosmer and the Royals in 2014 following a breakout campaign last year. 


Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Michael Cuddyer #3 of the Colorado Rockies bats during a spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 28, 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Im
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

2013 Stats: .331/.389/.530, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 74 R, 10 SB

It's rare that you struggle to name a batting champion, especially for a season that just ended a few months ago, but no one thinks of Michael Cuddyer as the type of hitter who will lead the league with a .331 batting average. 

There's no secret to Cuddyer's success last year—playing in Colorado and a .382 batting average on balls in play. He's not going to hit .331 with a .530 slugging percentage again, but there is still value in adding the outfielder in the later rounds. 

Colorado or no Colorado, Cuddyer has been a solid .277/.345/.462 hitter with at least 20 home runs in two of the last three years. He's also got value on the bases with 29 stolen bases since 2011. 

Another reason Cuddyer has good value is injuries. He hasn't played more than 140 games in a season since 2010. That doesn't help his fantasy stock when you draft him, though it makes him a valuable asset on draft day. 


Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 07:  Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 7, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

2013 Stats: 9-7, 3.22 ERA, 128.2 IP, 101 K, 1.127 WHIP

Sometimes, analysts and fantasy players get wrapped up in the success that a certain team has with players, overrating the name on the back of the jersey strictly because of the name on the front of it. 

The Tampa Bay Rays have had such incredible success with young pitchers since David Price debuted in 2008 that it's only natural to assume all of them will be great. Matt Moore has had moments of brilliance, but he is still trying to find consistency. 

Chris Archer, following a very solid rookie season, is the next young stud in the rotation. He might actually benefit from not being great out of the box, or having one dominant playoff start like Moore did, because it will help him get drafted lower than the raw talent suggests he should. 

There are reasons to love Archer as a breakout candidate in 2014. He has a rocket that masquerades as a right arm, averaging 95 mph with the fastball last year, and a slider that generated a high volume of swings and misses in September and October. 

Archer's control was a problem in the minors, but it didn't seem to be an issue once the Rays brought him up. He walked just 2.66 per nine innings last year. As long as the right-hander continues to pump the strike zone, strikeouts will come because the stuff is so good. 

Using ESPN's fantasy draft results, Archer is being taken 215th overall on average, later than Dan Haren, Jake Peavy and Dan Straily. He is a bargain in every sense of the word. 


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