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Sleepers and Busts

2015 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Sleepers: 5 OFs to Watch

Borat - Outfield Sleepers Great-Success

If I buy one more Fantasy Baseball magazine that has a list of sleepers, all of which will probably go in the top 10 rounds, I swear I’m tossing it straight in the shredder (and I don’t mean Brian Kenny’s shredder on MLB Network) … Well, that’s not true. These magazines continue to go up in price, yet I continue to buy them, and I continue to use them less and less. (Why do I do the things I do? I digress, though.) Back on topic — to an article about 2015 Fantasy Baseball outfield sleepers — that you can read for FREE.

This is not an article to brag about Joc Pederson, Gregory Polanco, Jorge Soler, Rusney Castillo, and so on. Those are not sleepers. You don’t need someone to tell you those are top prospects that could have a great season.

No, those are breakout candidates, and I can not stress the difference enough. A breakout candidate, in my mind, is a group of people with a ton of hype from January to March, that quite frankly, a majority will disappoint. They are unproven players with immense upside. But, in fact, we select them in the first 10 rounds (eliminating the true value of the pick), and for every one player that returns top-five round value, three will return late 15-20 round value. Yet, every year we draft them because we think we will peg the one breakout that will win our league.

I guess I was not quite ready to digress. Off the tangent and to the reason you are, hopefully, still reading. A sleeper is (from 2014) a Dee Gordon, Tanner Roark, Jacob DeGrom, Devon Mesoraco, Josh Harrison, etc.

There’s a reason I didn’t mention Jose Abreu, Corey Kluber, Tyson Ross and Jose Altuve (those guys had great seasons, but they were breakouts, not sleepers). Predicting a Jose Peraza (2B) becomes the every day guy in Atlanta by mid-June and bats .280 with 60 runs scored and 30 stolen bases from June to September — that is a sleeper. Robert Refsnyder (2B) could have a 10-10-60-60-.280 season with the Yankees, another sleeper. But, let’s talk about outfield sleepers, I’ll let my counterparts discuss the 2B position.

Drumroll Please! … My 2015 Outfield Sleepers

Dalton Pompey/Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays

Pompey has the highest upside, Pillar probably has the best opportunity in 2015. The better pick between these two, obviously depends on who breaks camp as the starter. Toronto figures to score a lot of runs in 2015 with Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion anchoring the middle of the order. That means, plenty of run scoring opportunities for Pillar or Pompey if they can hit one or two in the lineup.

Pillar has never been much of a prospect, but has hit .298 and .323 in the minors the last two seasons and hardly ever strikes out (48 strikeouts in 434 Triple-A at-bats last season). He also has some power to go along with his speed (10 home runs and 27 stolen bases for Buffalo last year).

Pompey, meanwhile, is the future in Toronto. After making his Major League debut at 21 years old last season, he appears to temporarily be the favorite for the starting job. With that said, he only has 95 at-bats above Double-A. If Pompey does get the starting job, he has blazing speed (43 stolen bases in 50 attempts last season, while reaching base at a .392 clip) and he could easily be this year’s Gordon. Or, given the fact that he is only 22, the potential for him being Toronto’s next Anthony Gose (at least in 2015) also exists. If the hype becomes too heavy on him this Spring Training, there is definitely some risk.

Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays

A third-round draft pick by the Nationals in 2007 out of high school, Souza struggled through his first five minor-league seasons and never received much of a chance with Washington.

In 2012, Souza found his stroke, if you will, and batted .297, .305 and .345 over his past three minor league seasons. Now, playing for a team rebuilding in Tampa Bay and an everyday job open for the taking, Souza might have the biggest upside in 2015 among the players on this list. In addition to hitting .350 in 96 games for Triple-A Syracuse last season, he had 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Yes, please, may I have another!

Ryan Rua, Texas Rangers

Michael Choice looked absolutely overmatched for the Rangers last season, so he is certainly no lock to “lock down” the left field job in Texas. That leaves the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Nate Schierholtz, Jake Smolinski or… Mr. Rua.

Of the five, aside from potentially Choice, Rua projects as the guy with the brightest future. He has above-average plate discipline, not a ton of strikeouts, has legitimate 20-homer power and could probably steal 10-15 bases in his prime. He’s a career .279 hitter in the minors, and in 2014, he hit 18 home runs and stole six bases across Double-A and Triple-A. In 2013, he hit 36 home runs across 144 minor-league games.

Eury Perez, Atlanta Braves

Here’s a question for you: Who is the starting left fielder for the Atlanta Braves? Drawing a blank? They don’t really have one.

Perez comes to the Braves after spending the early part of his career in Washington. He has always hit for average and always been a base stealer. He does not walk much, which could impact his opportunity to bat at the top of the order in between Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman, but he should be given the green light when he reaches base for a team not expected to compete this year.

To give you an idea of his speed, in 2010, between Class A and the Dominican Winter League, he batted .309 with 85 stolen bases in 102 attempts over the span of 168 games. In 2012, where he accumulated 154 games played across Winter League, Rookie Ball, Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .301 with 53 stolen bases.

The Braves signed Jonny Gomes, and Cuban Dian Toscano this offseason, but neither project to truly grab hold of that spot in 2015. Gomes has shown his incompetence, while Toscano is a very raw outfielder, that has not played since 2013 and will likely need some seasoning. While Perez’s ceiling probably projects similar to that of an Angel Pagan, with an everyday role he could easily provide 5-10 HR, while batting .290 with 25-30 stolen bases.

When you figure a Christian Yelich is going top six rounds or so, and he projects as a 15-20 guy, Perez in the last couple rounds of a draft could really pay off.

Thomas Pham/Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals

2015 Fantasy Sleepers
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Pham is a true shot in the dark and probably left for deep NL-only leagues. I’m encouraged by the Cardinals adding him to their 40-man, and he doesn’t have a whole lot of “talent” in front of him to grab hold of the center field job by mid-season.

Pham had a true breakout season last year for Triple-A Memphis, batting .324 with 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The Cardinals traded fellow outfield prospect James Ramsey last season for Justin Masterson, which could mean they have faith that Pham has some potential. With that said, he may not get a ton of opportunity to prove himself playing for a team that has notoriously brought young talent along slowly.

Piscotty, meanwhile, is the big time prospect, but given his position (right field), he probably has one more season in Memphis ahead of him with Jason Heyward in right. Piscotty hit .288 with 9 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 136 games for Triple-A last season, and would definitely be a top waiver-wire pickup if anything happened to Heyward or Matt Holliday.

The best part about a sleeper is it separates the average and the die-hard fan. While your opponents take Juan Uribe and Jon Jay in Round 20 because they see 450 at-bats and an everyday hitter, you realize a Juan Uribe and Jon Jay can be had on the waiver wire at any time, and that is exactly where you will go if your sleeper doesn’t pan out.

You have nothing to lose if you let any of these outfield sleeperers stick on your bench in April, since you can cut him if you suffer an injury and the sleeper has not panned out yet. On the other hand, with a Pederson- or Polanco-type “sleeper,” you have a lot to lose if they do not pan out.

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