We are continuing our series of AL-Only sleepers this week by heading to the mound as we try to help you uncover some targets for the back-end of your fantasy rotations. The first names listed are those that are likely to be drafted late in deeper mixed leagues, or as potential discounts later in your auctions. I’ve also listed a true “sleeper” for each team as well. Many of these will be names to consider in NFBC Draft Champions leagues, or as $1/reserve picks for your auctions. In the interest of time, I won't hit you with many numbers here, just more of a snapshot of my feeling about a particular player. We are all going to have to gamble on at least some combination of the names to follow, so consider this a starting point on your journey to deciding who to place your bets on this year. We’ll tackle half the league this week and finish things up with Part II next week.
Baltimore Orioles – Chris Tillman – I have witnessed other drafters more enamored with Miguel Gonzalez early this draft season, but for me the 6-5 Tillman has more of the skills I am looking for out of my sleeper pitching targets. Both Tillman and Gonzalez benefitted from luck and the Oriole playoff wave, and both will likely be slightly over-valued this spring by those who look at last year’s ERA’s, but at least Tillman has the underlying skills to prove that last year wasn’t a complete fluke.
Sleeper – Dylan Bundy – Bundy made a steady climb up the ranks of the Orioles system all the way to the majors at the tender age of 19. He won’t be rushed, but when things get shaky in the O’s rotation, and Bundy is dominating in the minors again, the inevitable call-up will come. He’s worth stashing in hopes of some second-half magic.
Boston Red Sox – Felix Doubront – Doubront was my sleeper pick here last year, and he more than delivered after stepping into the injury void. I like Doubront as a bet to make gains in his control this year, as fatigue seemed to slow him down a bit in the second half. We know he can strike people out, but if he can limit the homers I think we could see a real breakout coming here.
Sleeper – Rubby De La Rosa – Part of the mega-deal with the Dodgers, De La Rosa finds himself in the spot Doubront held last season. He will likely get the first crack at a rotation spot should injuries strike again. He showed some promise in 2011 before Tommy John surgery derailed him.
Chicago White Sox – Jose Quintana – Quintana looks locked into the fifth spot in Chicago’s rotation heading into the year. As a rookie, he started out very strong, before the inevitable regression kicked in down the stretch. Use that late season collapse to your advantage when scooping him up late in your auctions and reaping the profits, however modest they may be.
Sleeper – Hector Santiago – Santiago set the fantasy world buzzing last year as he opened the year as the surprise closer for the Sox. He coughed up the job by May, hung around the bullpen, before making four surprise starts to close out the year. He struck out 26 batters in 19 innings in those starts, and those numbers show that he has the arm to make noise as a starter in injuries hit this staff again this year.
Cleveland Indians – Justin Masterson – I’ve finished three real drafts so far this year and I have drafted Masterson in all three. In every league he is my SP6. Yeah, I know the Cleveland fan in me is talking here, but there isn’t a whole lot of downside to drafting him at that point. His price is being driven down by last year’s major step back from the promise he showed in 2011, and while I don’t think he’ll be that good again, neither do I think he’ll be as bad as he was last year. His price is low enough to draft him and use him when the matchups are favorable.
Sleeper – Carlos Carrasco – Carrasco will be returning to the rotation after missing all of 2012 recovering from TJS. He will try to pick up where he left off in 2011, when he showed signs of finally starting to put things together at the major league level.
Detroit Tigers – Drew Smyly - Smyly is a Mastersball favorite and one of my favorite late round targets this year. He absolutely saved my bacon as a waiver wire grab in my AL-Only league last year, and I was actually disappointed when the Tigers traded for Anibal Sanchez. He’s currently undervalued by many, as there doesn’t appear to be a spot for him in the rotation, but I expect a Rick Porcello trade is coming sooner than later. When it does, Smyly should stake his claim to being the best fifth starter in the American League.
Sleeper – Casey Crosby – Crosby finally got a taste of the majors last year, and will be the first name called up from the minors if reinforcements are needed. He hasn’t shown the control to truly succeed at the major league level yet, but as a lefty, he should be able to carve out a career in someone’s rotation. My guess is he is a piece that will be moved at some point this year.
Kansas City – Wade Davis – Davis was part of the return for Wil Myers from Tampa Bay, and after a pretty impressive year out of the bullpen, will return to starting, at least to begin the year. He never showed the K-rate he demonstrated last year as a RP in the previous two years as a starter, but there is at least some hope that he will retain some of the extra “oomph” on his fastball this time around. He is worth a late round gamble to see if he can follow the career path Phil Hughes took. Sometimes confidence can carry a young pitcher over the hump and back to the promise left behind.
Sleeper(s) – Danny Duffy/Felipe Paulino – Both Duffy and Paulino will return from Tommy John surgery around mid-season. Both have the ability to make some noise down the stretch for owners. I’m a little more bullish on Paulino’s chances for success, mainly because I think the team will play it safer with the younger Duffy.
Minnesota Twins – Vance Worley – Yeah I know the Los Angeles Angels should come next, but since we hit the other AL Central squads, we'll bump the Twins up a spot and close out the division this week. Coming over from the National League, and landing in Minnesota is about as good a cover as you can get if you are looking for a potential under-the–radar name to throw out at your AL-only auction this year. Coming off elbow surgery only helps take the shine off the package. He’s not likely going to be a major difference maker, but he can still deliver some decent ratios that won’t kill you late, and that’s always useful in any size league.
Sleeper – Kyle Gibson – Gibson showed signs in this year’s AFL that he could be ready to get his career back on track. He’ll be one to watch in Twins camp this year, as he could easily pitch his way into a starting spot with a strong camp. With so many shaky starters ahead of him, he should get the call fairly quickly regardless.
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