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2015 Sleeper Series: Blue Jays Outfielder Michael Saunders

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The Blue Jays traded lefty J.A. Happ to the Mariners for outfielder Michael Saunders earlier this offseason. Saunders fantasy value increased as a result, and he could outperform his draft day value in 2015.

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Today, I continue the series where I 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 BlackmonDee GordonSteve PearceCarlos 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.

You can find links to my other sleepers below:

2015 Sleeper Series: Jonathan Schoop

2015 Sleeper Series: Yankees Starter Michael Pineda

Michael Saunders

Earlier this offseason. the Blue Jays traded starter J.A. Happ to the Mariners for outfielder Michael Saunders, in what appears to be a win for GM Alex Anthopolous. Saunders takes over left field for Melky Cabrera, who signed with the White Sox this offseason. Last season, Saunders was limited to just 78 games due to a shoulder injury, an oblique injury and a viral infection. But when he was healthy, he was pretty productive at the plate, hitting .273-.341-.450 with 8 home runs, 11 doubles, 38 runs scored, 34 RBI and 4 stolen bases in just 263 plate appearances. Though it was just half a season, Saunders had his best season at the plate, setting career highs in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

Now he gets to move out of Safeco Park, a dream park for pitchers, to the Rogers Centre, a hitters park. According to ESPN's park factors data, Safeco Park ranked last in run scoring last season, depressing runs scored by 17.5%, and ranked 12th in home runs, increasing home runs by just over 5%. The Rogers Centre increased home runs by 31%, ranking third in baseball, and increased run scoring by just over 4%, ranking 9th in baseball.

According to the park factors over at StatCorner, Safeco Park had a home run park factor of 102 for left handed hitters, while the Rogers Centre had a home run park factor of 125 for lefties, so we could see a few more home runs from Saunders in 2015.

Saunders will probably hit in the lower half of the Blue Jays lineup in 2015, hitting behind power hitters Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, who hit for power and get on base, so his RBI total should see a nice boost as well. Should he bat second in the Blue Jays lineup, we can expect a solid runs scored total, with around 15 hone runs, double digit stolen bases and a batting average in the .265-.275 range. There is a chance he could exceed these numbers if he can stay healthy.

Steamer projects him to hit .247-.328-.420 with 14 home runs, 59 runs scored, 54 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 2015. Like I said, I think he can exceed his Steamer projection as I think this projection was calculated before the deal to Toronto. I am not sure if it was adjusted to factor in his new ball park.

Fantasy Rundown

If you are looking for more fantasy baseball rankings, make sure you check out Fantasy Rundown, your one stop on the internet for all things fantasy.