My first sleeper for the 2014 Fantasy Baseball season is Chase Headley. After what seemed to be a breakout campaign in 2012 (.286 AVG, 31 HR, 115 RBI and 17 SB), Headley's production faded last season (.250 AVG, 13 HR, 50 RBI and 8 SB). Maybe 2012 was a fluke. Maybe Headley will never hit more than 20 home runs again in his career. Maybe he will never hit above .275. But maybe he will. I am leaning more on the side that Headley takes last season and puts it behind him because he knows that after this season he is eligible for free agency. Some guys go put up huge numbers in their contract year and others remain the same. I think that Headley wants out of San Diego and he wants to prove that he is worth a decent contract. I am predicting that Headley finishes in the range of .270 AVG, 23 HR, 79 RBI and 12 SB. Considering how bad his 2013 season was compared to his 2012 campaign, I would guess that if you waited on third basemen in your draft this year, Headley would be available to draft and I think that he will be a productive option at the hot corner.
The Orioles first baseman hit an astounding 53 home runs in 2013 and was a huge surprise to many. Wait. Wrong guy? Whoops. Well the other Khris Davis was a surprise to many last season as well which is why he is on my sleeper list for this season. The previously mentioned Chris Davis became a household name last season and a human highlight reel for moonshot home runs. Khris Davis, however, isn't as well known which could be a good thing for you on draft day. Khris made some real noise in the second half of the season last year. He hit all of his 11 home runs in his final 41 games. There are 162 games in the Major League Baseball regular season. He only played in 41 games. By my calculations, that is roughly a quarter of the season. 11X4=44. “What? Khris Davis is going to hit 44 home runs this season? Oh man! Thanks, Zack!” Well I wouldn't go that far but somewhere in the range of 30 home runs for this season doesn't seem like too far of a stretch. And coming from a guy that you can probably get in some of the later rounds of the draft seems like a good bargain to me. He did have a K% (strikeout percentage) of 22.2% which isn't great but he was still able to hit .279 in that short span. Now some people may say that I am quickly reacting to a small sample size, and in their defense I kind of am. But Davis is 26 years old which is considered right in the middle of a player's prime years so if you want to take a chance on a potential 30 home runs then Khris Davis is your guy. He is a low-risk/high-reward player.
Now Adrian Gonzalez isn't your typical sleeper candidate. He is still a Top 10 fantasy first baseman. But I do think that he is in for a “breakout” year. To think that A-Gon once hit 40 home runs while playing for the Padres is crazy to me. Petco Park is one of the best pitcher's parks in the league. Now you are all going to check out his home vs. away splits. Go check I'll wait. Now I will admit that he had way better road numbers than home but that doesn't mean that he is a bad player. It just means he played in a bad park. Now you are all going to go check where Dodger Stadium ranks compared to Petco. Only two higher than Petco? Shoot. Now go look at his splits. He hit as many home runs at home as he did on the road last season. See where I'm going with this? I think that A-Gon had to go through an adjustment period and get used to hitting at Dodger Stadium. He walked more last season than 2012 (7.3% vs. 6.1%), he struck out less (15.3% vs. 16.1%) and his ISO (isolated power) was better (.164 vs. .168). All of these things lead me to believe that Gonzalez just needed a little time to adjust to his new team. Again, you aren't going to be able to wait on Gonzalez because he is still considered a Top 10 option at first base, but I think that he may be a little under-valued this season compared to some of the other players at this position. If you set the over-under for home runs hit by Adrian Gonzalez at 27.5, I would take the over and feel confident about it. I think that A-Gon gets close to 30 home runs this season and 100+ RBI. I would jump on him over guys like Pujols and Hosmer for the 2014 season.
Danny Salazar may not look like much. “Oh, he started ten games and had a 3.12 ERA and he went 2-3 in the win/loss column. So what?” I'll tell you. He had a K% of 11.25 and a LOB% (left on base percentage) of 83.3%. That's what. He may not look like much on the outside but when you look at his numbers, both Major League and Minor League, you can see that this kid has really good stuff. Now people may argue that hitters will “figure him out” but I would tell them to look at 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez. People were saying similar things about him. “He's a rookie. Hitters will see him a couple times and smack him around.” Well I beg to differ. Salazar may not be on the same level as Jose Fernandez, but he still had good enough stuff and numbers to warrant a late round pickup. His HR/FB rate (13.7%) scares me a little bit, but I think that he will figure it out and that number will lower more towards the league average of ~9%-10%. He may not pick up a ton of wins, but that isn't a category that pitchers can control. Solid pitcher and much like Khris Davis he is not much of a “household name” so you can use that to your advantage if you are playing in a more casual league.
With the recent addition of Masahiro Tanaka, the New York Yankees seem to be solidifying their pitching rotation. The last guy on my list seems like he is going to be either the fourth or fifth starter for the Bronx Bombers. I think that he is in line to have a bounce back year. He did suffer a decrease in his K/9 but at the same time he improved his BB/9, HR/9, and he cut his HR/FB in half (8.4% vs. 16.6%). He also left more guys on base and had a better ground ball rate. All of these improvements should keep getting better. He is a good late round guy to add to your bench and spot start f you play in a daily league. And with the re-tooling of the Yankees offense this winter, look for him to get more than the nine wins he picked up last season. I think he should post right around a 3.25 ERA and win about 12-14 games this season. He has the experience to succeed in this league and I think that he will be a good bargain for those who pick him up.
Thanks for reading this guys! I hope that this helped and make sure to comment below! If you want to hear more from me you can follow me on Twitter @FantasyZack for all of your daily adds/drops, rotation help, etc. Don't be afraid to tweet at me and ask any questions that you have. I would be happy to answer anything!