Today, I begin a series where I will profile some fantasy baseball sleepers that could help you win your leagues in 2015. Every year, fantasy owners are looking for that late round hitter/pitcher who could help them deal with underperformance from an early round pick, or with an unexpected injury. Some will be busts, some will help you along the way.
I like to define a sleeper as a player who is one of the lower ranked players in standard leagues who could come out of nowhere to outperform their preseason ranking/value. Last season, we saw plenty of players come out of nowhere to help fantasy teams including Charlie Blackmon, Dee Gordon, Steve Pearce, Carlos Carrasco, among many others.
I will begin with the American League East division teams, in order of the 2014 standings, and proceed with the AL Central, AL West and so on.
Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is a former top 100 prospect, ranking between #80-85 in each of the last three seasons according to Baseball Prospectus. His fantasy calling card is his ability to hit for power and walk at a decent rate. He put up double digit home runs at each stop in the minors, hitting 15 home runs across Low A and High A in 2011, he hit 16 home runs in 2012, mainly in AA, and hit 14 home runs in 2013.
A power hitting second baseman has value in fantasy leagues, as long as they aren't Dan Uggla, circa 2013. If you forget what Dan Uggla looked like in 2013, here is a quick take:
2013: .179-.302-.362, 22 home runs, 60 runs scored, 55 RBI in 136 games
That was UGGLA UGLY.
The power was nice, but the batting average had a negative impact on any roster where he was owned.
Enter 2014 Jonathan Schoop. In his first full season of big league ball, Schoop hit just .209-.244-.354 with 16 home runs, 48 runs scored and 45 RBI in 481 plate appearances. he struck out in 25% of his plate appearances and walked in just 2.7% of his plate appearances. He struggled to make contact, generating a lot of swing and miss. He saw first pitch strikes in almost 66% of his plate appearances, so he was challenged in his first look at big league pitching. Pitchers challenged him and he didn't produce.
His 2014 season wasn't Uggla -UGLY, but it was close. There are reasons for optimism though. Last season was his rookie season and he isn't the first rookie to struggle to make contact and get on base in his first year in the majors. Second, he had a much better eye in the minors, so even doubling his walk rate will represent progress. Third, he hits for power. In an era when power is down across the sport, his power has value, even if it comes with a low batting average. And there is reason he will hit for a higher average in 2015, as his batting average of balls in play was a ridiculously low .249 last season. When .298-.301 is league average, Schoop has an opportunity to raise his average in 2015, and long with a better average could result in more home runs and RBI.
Looking forward to 2015, Steamer projects him to hit .231-.278-.369 with 15 home runs, 52 runs scored and 53 RBI in 505 plate appearances. I think that might be a little on the low side, as Schoop was unlucky with balls in play in 2014, and there might be a little more power in his bat.
What do Fake Teams readers think?