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2015 Sleeper Series: Yankees Starter Michael Pineda

Can Michael Pineda stay healthy in 2015? If he does, he could prove to be a valuable late round sleeper on draft day.

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Today, I continue the 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.

Yesterday, I started the 2015 Sleeper Series with Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, and you can find that in the link below:

2015 Sleeper Series: Jonathan Schoop

Michael Pineda

Like many of his rotation mates in the Yankees rotation, Michael Pineda missed some time due to injury last season. Pineda missed about 3.5 months due to an upper back injury, joining teammates Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list in 2014. The soon to be 26 year old is now three years removed from his breakout rookie season, where he went 9-10 in 28 starts, with a 3.74 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.52 xFIP, striking out more than a batter per inning. Since then, he has been traded straight up for former Yankees catching prospect, and current ice cream sandwich throwing Jesus Montero. Oh, and he had shoulder surgery soon after the trade, repairing a torn anterior labral tear in his right shoulder, missing the 2012 and most of the 2013 season.

Many felt that he would never return to be the starter he was way back in his 2011 rookie season. But, he turned heads in spring training last season, and was named the Yankees fifth starter out of spring training. As stated in the opening. Pineda once again dealt with an injury last season, causing him to miss more than half the season. When healthy, Pineda was solid, pitching to a 5-5 record in his 13 starts, with a 1.89 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 3.37 xFIP and an elite 0.83 WHIP.

He was dominant in his 13 starts, limiting opponents to two runs or less in 11 of his 13 starts, and one run or less in 10 of those 13 starts. He struck out just under seven batters per nine innings, but exhibited excellent control, as he walked less than a batter per nine innings. He kept the ball on the ground at a 39% clip, and limited the long ball as well. We can't expect him to maintain the 0.59 HR/FB rate, especially since he calls Yankee Stadium home for about half of his starts and is a fly ball pitcher.

Of concern to fantasy owners is the 2 mph drop in his fastball velocity last season. Pineda only threw his fastball 31% of the time last season, but according to FanGraphs, provided a 7.5 positive pitch value . He relied on his slider, using it 34% of the time, and his cut fastball, which he threw 28% of the time, but combined they weren't as effective as his fastball. He relied on his cut fastball more than ever in 2014, increasing its usage by over 20% when compared against his 2011 season, his last healthy season.

Steamer project Pineda to make 29 starts in 2015, going 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA and a strikeouts per nine just above 7.00. I think he pitches better than the Steamer projections, and could put up an ERA in the low - mid 3.00 range, and we could see his K/9 bump up as well.