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 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.
You can find links to my other sleepers below:
The Nationals have one of the better outfields in the game with Jayson Werth in left field, Denard Span in center and Bryce Harper in right field. Span will become a free agent at the end of the season, so the Nationals will have an opening in center field in 2016. That opening, more than likely, will be filled by prospect Michael Taylor.
With Jayson Werth expected to begin the season on the disabled list after having surgery on his right shoulder last week, Taylor will get an opportunity to show off his power/speed tools on Opening Day. This is assuming Nationals GM Mike Rizzo doesn't make a deal for a fourth outfielder type between now and the beginning of the season.
Taylor was impressive in AA last season, hitting .313-.396-.539 with 22 home runs, 74 runs scored, 61 RBI and 34 stolen bases in 42 attempts. Along with the power and speed, Taylor can take a walk, but has some big holes in his swing, as he struck out in almost 30% of his plate appearances in AA.
He didn't fare much better after his call up to the big leagues, as his strikeout rate rose to almost 40%, as he struck out in 17 of his 40 plate appearances in September. Long term, FanGraph's Kiley McDaniel wrote this about Taylor:
He's also made adjustments/improvements at the plate, particularly last year, and is still relatively young, so there's some thought Taylor needs to face an extended big league challenge to make the leap. That said, a contending team may not have the patience to wait for that to happen. It's also worth noting that some are very high on Taylor's defense: one Nats official said he's behind only Span in the org in terms of center field defense, playing shallow and covering lots of ground. Drew Stubbs has been tossed around as a reasonable comp and the speed, defense and raw power mean Taylor could even be terrible contact-wise and still a good backup outfielder.
With the emphasis on defense all around baseball, Taylor may be more than a fourth outfielder, but fantasy owners will have to live with the high strikeout totals and low batting, but with that, he brings power and the ability to steal bases.