So we’ve gone through picks and un-picks. So what’s left? Sleepers, what else? The term normally means players who many people don’t expect anything from and so they come out of nowhere to be pretty solid fantasy producers. Not necessarily at the top of the list, but someone who is very useful at the price they came at. Usually, these are guys that can be gotten late in a draft or for a few dollars in the end game. But I’m not limiting my definition to those guys. I’m thinking of any player who could surprise and outperform their cost. So without further adieu……
Travis d’Arnaud – Yeah, he’s had injuries the past couple of years. Yeah, he’s struggled offensively in the big leagues. But the New York Mets backstop is still one of the top catching prospects in the game. You don’t get traded for two different Cy Young Award winners if you’re chopped liver. Due to the injuries and offensive struggles, the 25-year-old d’Arnaud can be gotten later in your draft or for a fraction of what the top catchers will cost you. He’s shown he can hit for average and power in the Minors and could be a cheap source of home runs in NL-only leagues. If he gets the plate appearances, he could surprise with near 20-home run power.
Ryan Howard – Whoever thought a one-time MVP could be called a sleeper? Well, maybe not in the traditional sense of the name. But the Philadelphia first baseman is coming off two very disappointing seasons in which he hit a total of 25 home runs. He used to hit almost that many in half a season and is only two years removed from 33 jacks. The past two years and the fact the hefty Howard is now 34 years old could signal a buying opportunity. Sluggers oftentimes have a resurgence in their career and I’m thinking 2014 could be Ryan’s year.
Taylor Jordan – The Washington Nationals’ Jordan has been battling Tanner Roark for the final starting pitcher spot. Even if Taylor doesn’t get the nod out of spring, keep an eye on him. He pitched well in 2013, his major league debut, and his penchant for inducing many ground balls was evident – well over 50% of the time. While not a strikeout machine, the 25-year-old has a hard breaking slider that results in a lot of swings and misses. If he can generate more swings and misses with his fastball, his K/9 could improve. Combine that with very good control (only 11 bases on balls in 51 2/3 innings) and we could have the makings of something special for very little cost.
Devin Mesoraco – With Ryan Hanigan traded and Dusty Baker now gone, Mesoraco is the catcher for the Cincinnati Reds in 2014. It was only a few years ago that he was in the top-15 prospects in baseball. The 25-year-old doesn’t strike out excessively and exhibited the ability to hit some home runs in the Minors. He was limited by a .269 BABIP in 2013 and a slight improvement here should put his batting average in acceptable range for a catcher. Toss in a chance at maybe 15 home runs and I’ll take that for a couple dollar investment.
Chris Owings – The Arizona Diamondbacks' shortstop situation is still unsettled with Didi Gregorious and Owings battling it out. Gregorious had the position in 2013 but turned it into a competition with a .229 batting average after the middle of May. Meanwhile, Owings hit .330 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A Reno and got a chance at a call-up late in the year, batting .291 over 55 at-bats with two stolen bases. While Didi is considered the better defender, the 22-year-old Owings is considered the better hitter and can play both middle infield spots. While he may not be projected for many plate appearances at this point, there is a lot of talk about Gregorious being traded, which would open the door wide for Owings.
Bobby Parnell – The closer for the New York Mets didn’t pitch after the month of July last year due to a herniated disc in his neck that required September surgery. As such, he’s not in the top group of closers for 2014 and he will be priced accordingly. Further in his favor is he doesn’t have much in the way of anyone supplanting him in the ninth inning spot with Jose Valverde and Vic Black behind him. The cost for 25 saves shouldn’t be high coming off injury and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him approach 30 saves.
Wily Peralta – It was a tale of two seasons in 2013 for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Peralta. In the second half, he lowered his ERA from 6.00 to 3.05, increased his K/9 from 5.1 to 7.3 and lowered his hits against from 11.4/9 to 7.5/9. While his 7.5 K/9 isn’t great, the 24-year-old showed much more potential in the minor leagues and does have some heat in a 95 mph fastball. He has shown improvement in his control this spring, walking only four while not yielding a home run. If he can keep that up (and I think he could), Peralta will better his 11-win 2013 campaign.
Pedro Strop – After the trade from the Baltimore Orioles to the Chicago Cubs, Strop was a different pitcher. The reliever had a 7.25 ERA with a 9.67 K/9 pre-Cubs and a 2.83 ERA and 10.80 K/9 post-Cubs. With a fastball that touches 96, the 28-year-old Strop has the tools to punch out hitters. With only Jose Veras ahead of him in the bullpen, I believe Strop will be in line for a good amount of save chances entering 2014. All it will take is a Veras implosion or trade, and I think either is pretty likely.I’m putting my money where my mouth is as I already own a few of these players and will almost certainly own more of them before draft season is finished.