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2015 Sleeper Series: Rays starter Jake Odorizzi

Ray continues his AL East Sleeper series, profiling Rays young starter Jake Odorizzi. He increased his K/9 in 2014, can the ERA follow in 2015?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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

2015 Sleeper Series: Blue Jays Outfielder Michael Saunders

Jake Odorizzi

Some of us might forget that Jake Odorizzi was involved in the James Shields for Wil Myers trade, but he was. You have to wonder how Andrew Friedman was able to get both Myers and Odorizzi in the deal for Shields, Wade Davis and a couple minor leaguers. Looking back, the Royals did well in the deal since they made the World Series with Shields and Davis last season, and it appears the Rays grew sour on Myers ever becoming a great player after dealing him to the Padres a few weeks ago.

In his first full season in the big leagues last season, Odorizzi made 31 starts, going 11-13 with a 4.13 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, a 1.28 WHIP, and a 9.32 K/9 in 168 innings of work. He walked more than three batters per nine innings last season, but there is room for improvement there. The issue I have with Odorizzi is he isn't a ground ball pitcher, and gives up a ton of fly balls. In fact, if it wasn't for Chris Young, Odorizzi would have led all qualified starters in fly ball % allowed last season.

Odorizzi relied on his fast ball quite a bit last season, and it was his most effective pitch according to FanGraphs pitch values, which is a bit surprising since his fastball averaged just 90.3 mph last season. If he can improve the effectiveness of his secondary offerings, we could see an increase in his ground ball rate and a drop in his HR/FB rate and a corresponding drop in his ERA.

Heading into 2015, Steamer projects Odorizzi to win 11 games with a 3.93 ERA and a slightly lower strikeouts per nine. I think Odorizzi can take another step up in 2015, and could see him winning 12-13 games with an ERA around 3.50. He also has a chance to reach 200 strikeouts, or approach 200 strikeouts, so he has a little more value in 5 x 5 leagues, due to the whiff potential.

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.