There comes a point in any fantasy draft season whereby certain players are hyped so much by so many different experts that it becomes unfair to label them a sleeper. The word is out and the cat has already been let out of the bag. Sure in a very casual public-universe-auto-draft selected redraft league you may sneak up on one of these guys, but in any self-respecting league with managers in-the-know, they've already adjusted accordingly. So now the question becomes whether or not you truly believe the hype or no.
With that in mind today I want to focus in on two outfielders that are your classic sleepers-but-no-longer sleepers of 2014: Kole Calhoun and Khris Davis. Back when I inherited my deep league dynasty team that I shared with you back in November, both of these guys were sitting on waivers. It took a desperate manager like me, whose team currently sat 18th out of 20, to roll the dice on two guys who had just come up and were getting some more playing time. Luckily, even after dropping and adding Calhoun about three times, I decided that they had shown me enough to keep them through the offseason (that and the fact that I truly had no better alternatives). Now, I have for no cost at all acquired two starting outfielders who have gotten crazy amounts of hype this offseason.
This is the perfect situation to be in-I've invested nothing into either player but get to reap whatever benefits may come. For you, though, getting these guys on your roster now (if they aren't already) will cost you. Should you pay the going price? Let's find out:
First, let's start with Calhoun. The 26-year old outfielder has displayed an above-average walk rate and kept the strikeouts under 20% throughout his entire minor-league career. He's shown power and speed combinations at every level, with ISO rates above .200 at every stop and a middling stolen-base success rate (which is to say, not-that-great). It's difficult to put much stock into minor league numbers other than to say high walk rates tend to mitigate bust-rate potential, even when K-rates are high. So, for our purposes we can at least say that Calhoun has a fighting chance to produce at the MLB-level. His 222 plate attempts last year back up our data as he swatted 8 home runs and two stolen bases while slashing .282/.347/.462 (.311 BABIP, 10% BB, 19% K).
However, two bits of information this offseason moved Calhoun from fringe bench piece to "sleeper." First, the Angels traded Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals in order to acquire the "services" of David Freese-a trade that was widely panned by critics, but that is another story for another post. This effectively made it possible to open up a starting gig for Calhoun in RF. The Angels brass must have seen enough in Calhoun's bat (because his -3.3 UZR probably didn't inspire a lot of confidence) to give him a shot because at no time did they seem to seriously go after a free agent or pursue trades to bring someone else in to fill that slot. Second, the news came (and is still coming) that there's a good chance Calhoun could hit leadoff this year for the Angels against righties. It's one thing going from fringe-outfielder-bench-piece to starting right fielder and lead off hitter in front of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton. Granted, Pujols and Hamilton are coming off of terrible seasons (by their standards), but provided Calhoun can get on base, there's really nothing "sleepy" about his status on draft day any longer.
I'd expect that you can still pick him up in the middle rounds of drafts, but he will not be discounted. He has a good shot at 15-17 home runs and double-digit stolen bases. Just for sake of argument, Alex Gordon (in 700 PAs last year), hit 21 home runs, stole 11 bases, walked 7.4%, struck out 20% of the time, and slashed .265/.327/.422 (.310 BABIP). These numbers are not dissimilar to the numbers that Calhoun could conceivably reach given a full slate of plate appearances atop a superior lineup in 2014. At any rate, Calhoun has value but it all depends on how much helium he is riding in your league right now. There are going to be over-eager managers who are expecting uber-great things from him so I'd have no hesitation trading him for the right offer as his value will probably never be higher than it is right now.
As for Khris Davis the numbers bear out similarly with Calhoun. This is a guy that has shown evidence of having a good understanding of the strike zone, posting high walk rates (as well as high K-rates) throughout his minor-league career. He's 26-years old, like Calhoun, has shown outstanding power numbers so far, and middling speed as well. It's hard to believe he could keep up the .316 ISO mark he displayed in his short cup of coffee last year, but he's certainly got it in him to muscle out 25 HR in Milwaukee (108 park factor for homers for righties). If he can keep his walk rate up and his strikeouts around 20% he certainly won't kill you in batting average or OBP, as he slashed .279/.353/.596 with a .293 BABIP last year. The front office must see something as they shifted Ryan Braun to RF to accommodate "Khrush" this offseason. Fantasy is sometimes equal parts ability and opportunity, and certainly with Ryan Braun returning, a healthy Aramis Ramirez, Jean Segura, criminally underrated Jonathan Lucroy, and (gulp!) Mark Reynolds, Davis could have ample opportunity to acquire counting stats. He's not going to win you over with speed, so expect a few SBs in there, and the 29% HR/FB rate is probably unsustainable, but there's value in what he is.
The question is, though, where the value actually lies. Neither one of these guys will come discounted this year (most likely) unless you play in that league with a bunch of unsuspecting slugs who still think B.J. Upton is star-material (oops, did I just say that out loud). So, it all comes down to the chicken game on draft day-who's going to flinch and go after these guys early? If they do, they wreck all the "sleeper" value that these guys supposedly have right now. However, if you're lucky enough to acquire either Calhoun or Davis on the cheap(er) then you should have reason to enough to believe they will be assets on your roster this year. At this point I'd give the slight nod to Davis as I believe more in his upside power potential and lineup/park factors than Calhoun, but the case could be made the other way as well.
I'm just happy I snagged them off of waivers last year!
Feel free to opine below or continue the conversation by following me on Twitter (@agape4argentina).
Minor League Central