Everyone loves a sleeper, as sleepers can help win championships. The problem is identifying the late round sleeper who will outperform his draft ranking in your draft preparation, so we are here to help. I will be offering some fantasy sleepers every Friday during the Consensus Rankings Series. I kick off the Starting Pitcher Sleeper series with my AL-only league pitchers who could outperform their draft day values in 2014.
Here is a look at a few AL-only league starting pitchers who will be available late in drafts who could outperform their draft day value in 2014:
Kevin Gausman, Orioles
Gausman was pretty bad in his five starts last season, going 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA, 1.622 WHIP while giving up 21 runs on 34 hits in 24.2 innings. He was sent back to work on things in AAA, and returned to Baltimore working in the bullpen. In the pen, he was pretty dominant. In his 15 relief appearances, he struck out 29, walked 7, with a 3.52 ERA and 1.043 WHIP in 23 innings. I am on record saying that he "could" be an option to close this season after the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez and have shown interest in Ervin Santana.
There is no doubt in my mind he could succeed closing, but he has too much talent to keep in the bullpen. I see him being the first Oriole called up when a pitcher goes down or performs poorly. He is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and isn't the first starting pitcher to struggle in his first cup of coffee in the majors.
Brett Oberholtzer, Astros
Yeah, I know, Oberholtzer is an Astros pitcher. Why waste my time, right? Oberholtzer is the pure definition of sleeper, as he more than likely will not be drafted in any league this season, except for the deepest of AL only leagues.
Last season, Oberholtzer made 10 starts, going 4-5 with a 2.76 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 1.10 WHIP and a 15.4% strikeout rate. Not bad for an Astros starter, huh? He gave up two runs or less in seven of his ten starts, including a complete game shutout of the Mariners on September 1st. He doesn't strike out a lot of hitters, but did so in the minors, so we could see a bump in the Ks this season. That along with a sub-2.00 walk rate, and an improved curveball, and he could surprise this season.
Tyler Skaggs, Angels
Skaggs came over to the Angels in the trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks. He was once a top pitching prospect who struggled in his first taste of the big leagues. He gets a new start in Los Angeles, moving from the hitter-friendly Chase Field to the more pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium.
Skaggs made seven starts for the Diamondbacks last season, going 2-3 with a 5.12 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 3.95 xFIP, 1.37 WHIP and a 21.2% strikeout rate. While his surface stats don't jump off the page, his peripheral stats do. He struck out more than eight batters per nine, walked 3.49 per nine, and kept the ball on the ground at a 45% clip last season. He was hurt by an extremely high home run per nine rate of 1.63, which should drop considerably this season with the move to Angels Stadium.