Because who doesn’t love fantasy sports. The 2014 Major League Baseball season is set to begin and in a sport so full of talent, finding sleepers in a fantasy draft is paramount, even more so than in fantasy basketball or football. Over 162 games there will most assuredly be injuries and slumps, and over the course of a marathon of a season there will be players making names for themselves who don’t always grab a lot of headlines. Consider this a preview of five players who will make their fantasy owners look like incredibly smart managers at the end of this season.
1. Yordano Ventura – SP Kansas City Royals
The Royals finally broke through last season on their way to 86 wins. KC has been on the up and up for a number of years behind a retooled minor league system, and the latest product of the organization’s talent development will be Yordano Ventura. The flamethrower has broken camp as the Royals’ fifth starter after a dazzling spring training. Ventura easily hits triple digits with his fastball, but owners should be slightly wary of his relatively high walk rate and the innings limit he is likely to see. Regardless, Ventura has electric stuff and provides elite strikeout and ERA potential as a late-round selection.
2. Xander Bogaerts – SS Boston Red Sox
A consensus top-3 prospect in all of baseball, Xander Bogaerts has now been summoned to end a ten-year revolving door at the shortstop position for the Red Sox. The 21-year-old from Aruba burst onto the scene last year after taking over at third base for Boston’s magical postseason run to a World Series title. Bogaerts is a legitimate candidate to win rookie of the year and possesses outstanding hit tools. He exhibits patience far beyond his years and can drive the ball to all fields. Bogaerts is unlikely to hit a lot of home runs until he develops some more strength, but has already shown during his short sample size that he can turn around some fastballs on occasion. He will be a crucial member to Boston’s lineup from day one and is a safe bet for around a .285 average and 15 homers at least, which are stellar numbers at a weak shortstop position for fantasy.
3. Michael Pineda – SP New York Yankees
It seems like eons ago when Michael Pineda was a jaw-dropping rookie with the Seattle Mariners. He made the All-Star team after taking baseball by storm in 2011. Two years of injuries have taken him completely off the map after a big trade brought him over to the Yankees for Jesus Montero. Still just 25, Pineda is back and looked much like his old self in spring training. The Yankees are in desperate need of a starter to emerge from the woodwork and outperform expectations, and Pineda is the only one who can truly provide that. With the Yankees star-studded offense, he should be in for a nice win total and will likely get back to his old ways of racking up strikeouts.
4. Aaron Hill – 2B Arizona Diamondbacks
Another aspect of putting together a dominant fantasy squad is by striking gold on a couple of bounce-back candidates after injury-plagued seasons. Hill has undergone a rejuvenation of sorts since being acquired by Arizona during the 2011 season. He was well on his way to his typical 20 homers and 80 RBI last season, but injuries interrupted his campaign and he logged just 87 games played. He has looked fine in spring training, and just enough owners have forgotten about him so he can be a stealthy under-the-radar snag in a later round. There is no reason to believe that Hill will not be back to elite-status amongst second basemen this year.
5. Tony Cingrani – SP Cincinnati Reds
The Reds will be relying heavily on their youngster who made quite a splash across baseball last season after being called up. Cingrani has all the potential to be a beast in every stat category for a fantasy team due to his stellar 10.3 K/9 rate from last season. Cingrani posted fantastic overall numbers last season despite not getting much attention for it. He allowed no more than four earned runs in any of his 18 starts and could easily wind up as the Reds’ ace by year’s end. He is that good. A little improvement in the walk department could be all it takes to make him one of the best sleepers in all of fantasy baseball.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers