Fantasy Fox: The top 20 sleepers in fantasy drafts
The Grand Introduction
FOX Sports South takes a detailed look at fantasy baseball's Top 20 Sleepers For 2015 -- a countdown promoting the most promising assets (5 x 5 roto leagues) that will generally remain on the board past Round 16. It's worth noting: We're not suggesting you reach for the above assets in the early rounds of a non-keeper draft; but we are advising fantasy owners to be on high alert for these potential gems in the latter rounds. After all, good drafting involves getting great value with every pick. (Photos: Joe Camporeale/Brad Rempel/Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports)
20 -- SP Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox
2014 STATS (North Carolina State): 6-7, 2.01 ERA, 117/31 K-BB, .229 opponents' batting average ...REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Rodon (the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft) has been on the fast track to the majors for some time, despite only nine outings in the minor leagues (2.96 ERA, 38/13 K-BB). 2) During spring training, Rodon posted stellar numbers with the White Sox: 1-0, 3.65 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 19/3 K-BB. 3) With Chris Sale nursing a foot injury, Rodon may be part of Chicago's season-opening starting rotation. And if that's not the case, Rodon remains a robust stash for the Memorial Day holiday.
Dave Weaver-USA Today Sports
19 -- OF Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
2014 STATS: 20 HR, 66 RBI, 73 runs, 8 steals, .227 batting, .326 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Of his last seven fully healthy seasons (2007-12, 2014), Granderson has belted 20-plus homers. 2) The 33-year-old has had a monster spring with the Mets, rolling for three homers, 12 RBI, 10 runs, a .475 batting average, .560 OBP and mind-blowing OPS of 1.360 (40 at-bats). 3) Of equal relevance, Granderson has a sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio (5/9). 4) From a splits perspective last season, Granderson notched two months of .500-plus slugging, three months of double-digit RBI, four months of four-plus homers and four months of double-digit runs.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
18 -- SP Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays
2014 STATS: 11-13, 4.13 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 174/59 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) From May 3 to July 28 last year, covering 16 starts, Odorizzi enjoyed a strong three-month run of: 6-5, 3.00 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 107/30 K-BB. 2) In the minors (2008-13), Odorizzi had solid career tallies of 43-27, 3.47 ERA and 613/192 K-BB rate. 3) For those minor-league seasons, Odorizzi also notched a strikeout-per-9 rate of 9.1. 4) With teammates Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore incurring various maladies, Odorizzi is a healthy lock for the Rays' season-opening rotation. 5) Citing the 17 lifetime outings at Tropicana Field, Odorizzi has a 2.62 ERA and 102/32 K-BB rate.
17 -- 3B Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 STATS (65 games with Cuban pro team): 6 HR, 35 RBI, 28 runs, 6 steals, .290 batting ...REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) The 24-year-old Tomas, who inked a lucrative contract with the Diamondbacks during the winter, had a productive spring: Two homers, eight RBI, five runs, .268 batting, .317 OBP. 2) This acquisition represents a flier pick for fantasy owners, who can never have enough corner-infield power in NL-only or mixed leagues. Plus, there's always a chance Tomas plays 15-20 games in the outfield with Arizona (dual-position eligibility). 3) With the Cuban team Industriales in 2011-12, Tomas tallied 31 homers and 102 RBI over 150 games.
Mark J. Rebilas
16 -- SP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
2014 STATS (15 outings with Yankees): 5-4, 3.78 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 81/29 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) The Tigers stealthily acquired Greene in a three-way trade involving the Yankees and Diamondbacks. In previous three-way trades which included New York, Detroit artfully landed pitchers Jeremy Bonderman (2002 swap) and Max Scherzer (2009 swap). 2) In the minors (2013-14), Greene tallied 17 wins, a 3.35 ERA and 194/56 K-BB rate. 3) With the Tigers this spring, Greene has a 1-1 record, 3.95 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .245 opponents' batting average and 14/3 K-BB rate. 4) Greene has already sewn up a back-end spot in the revamped Detroit rotation, as the No. 4 pitcher. 5) Brandon McCarthy, who played for the Yankees last year, says Greene has 'stupid, electric stuff.'
15 -- OF Avisail Garcia, Chicago White Sox
2014 STATS (46 games): 7 HR, 29 RBI, 19 runs, 4 steals, .244 batting, .305 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Garcia remains a virtual clone to Miguel Cabrera -- both in stature and swing -- his former teammate with the Tigers. And now it's time for the 23-year-old to resemble young Miggy, from a numbers standpoint. 2) Counting the 47 games in the minors from 2013, Garcia tallied seven homers, 36 RBI, 38 runs, a .379 batting average, .431 on-base percentage and .991 OPS. 3) Garcia has enjoyed a strong spring, racking up one homer, five RBI, six runs, one steal, .308 batting average and .368 on-base percentage. 4) With the White Sox, Garcia should be a healthy lock for 145 starts in right field. As such, he certainly has the capacity for 22 homers, 75 RBI and 80 runs.
14 -- SP Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins
2014 STATS: 12-7, 2.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 111/33 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) In 2014, Alvarez enjoyed career highs with wins (12), ERA (2.65) and strikeouts (111). Of equal importance, he had rock-solid tallies with WHIP (1.24) and walks per 9 innings (1.6). 2) For April, June and September last year (five starts per month), Alvarez had a perfect record for allowing three runs or less. 3) Alvarez (88 career MLB starts) doesn't turn 25 until April. He's essentially the Rick Porcello of the National League, in terms of opposing teams having a significant book on the kid's strengths and weaknesses -- and yet, there's still plenty of upside to appreciate.
13 -- OF Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 STATS (minors): 9 HR, 51 RBI, 84 runs, 43 steals, .317 batting, .392 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Pompey has been a breakout star during spring training, racking up three steals, eight runs, 17 hits (second on the Jays), a .327 batting average and .364 on-base percentage. 2) During the winter, the Blue Jays cleared a path for Pompey as the every-day centerfielder, trading Anthony Gose to the Tigers for heralded prospect Devon Travis (second base). 3) At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Pompey still has plenty of room for physical maturation. For example, the 22 doubles from last year will eventually lead to more home-run power. 4) In the meantime, the fleet-footed Pompey has the capacity for 25-plus steals in the big leagues.
12 -- SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
2014 STATS: 4-2, 2.44 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 70/13 K-BB, 12.2 K/9 ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Marlins fans can hope only for three months of excellence from Fernandez, who might not return from elbow surgery until mid-June/early July. 2) Of Fernandez's first seven starts last season, the kid absurdly notched three outings of 10-plus strikeouts, six efforts of eight-plus strikeouts and six games of two or fewer runs allowed. 3) Citing his final 18 starts of 2013, Fernandez was a perfect 18 for 18 in surrendering three or less runs. In that span (June 1-Sept. 11), the right-hander tallied eight-plus strikeouts 11 times. 4) If Fernandez can locate his elite-level stuff by mid-August ... might that be worth a late-round flier pick in late March? Heck yeah!
11 -- SP Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals
2014 STATS: 9-12, 2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 113/53 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) From a splits perspective last year -- while returning from surgery -- Duffy posted four months of a sub-2.50 ERA. 2) From June 2 to Aug. 31 last season, spanning 17 starts, Duffy surrendered three runs or less 15 times. During that prolific stretch, the southpaw had a 6-6 record, 2.04 ERA, 84/33 K-BB rate and .198 opponents' batting average. 3) As the No. 2 starter for the Royals, a healthy Duffy has the capacity for 14 wins, a 2.60 ERA and 165 strikeouts.
10 -- 2B/3B Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
2014 STATS (64 MLB games): 6 HR, 28 RBI, 30 runs, 3 steals, .234 batting ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Semien, one of the principals of the Jeff Samardzija trade during the offseason, is slated to be the Athletics' every-day shortstop for 2015. 2) As such, Semien should have fantasy eligibility at second base, third base and shortstop around April 25. 3) For the 2013 season in the minors (three levels), Semien notched the following supreme numbers: 19 homers, 66 RBI, 110 runs, 24 steals, a .284 batting average and .401 on-base percentage. 4) For the spring, Semien has racked up two homers, 11 runs and a .367 OBP.
9 -- OF Marlon Byrd, Cincinnati Reds
2014 STATS (with Phillies): 25 HR, 85 RBI, 71 runs, 3 steals, .264 batting, .312 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) With the Mets, Pirates and Phillies for 2013-14, Byrd averaged 25 homers and 87 RBI. But given his age, the 37-year-old slugger hasn't been a regular staple of Rounds 1-20 this spring. 2) In 38 career games at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark, Byrd has the following tallies: Six homers, 20 RBI, 19 runs, .310 batting, .353 OBP and .508 slugging. 3) From a splits standpoint last year (with Philly), Byrd enjoyed three months of five-plus homers, four months of double-digit runs and five months of double-digit RBI. 4) Byrd is slated to be the Reds' every-day left fielder ... hopefully resulting in 145 starts.
8 -- SP Shelby Miller, Atlanta Braves
2014 STATS: 10-9, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 127/73 K-BB, 6.2 K/9... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) With the Cards in 2013 (age 22) and '14 (age 23), Miller posted double-digit wins both times. 2) In his final six games last season, spanning 37.1 innings, Miller produced a 2-0 record, 1.69 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 29/7 K-BB ratio. Of equal relevance, opponents batted at a paltry .185 clip. 3) Covering 383.2 minor league innings (2009-12), Miller had a scintillating K/9 ratio of 11.1. 4) Two years ago, Miller was hailed as a can't-miss prospect (source:Baseball America) and a future linchpin with the Cardinals. Everything's in place for Miller to enjoy similar success with the Braves -- as the No. 3 starter (behind Julio Teheran and Alex Wood). 5) Check out Miller's spring numbers: 1-1, 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 14/7 K-BB rate and .215 opponents' batting average.
7 -- SP Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox
2014 STATS (with Tigers): 15-13, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 129/41 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) How's this for consistency? Porcello has amassed double-digit victories in each of his six major league seasons. 2) Last year, Porcello produced career-best marks with wins, ERA and innings (204.2). 3) Of his 32 starts last season, Porcello allowed two runs or fewer 22 times. In that span, he tallied three consecutive outings of scoreless ball (June 20-July 1) -- against the Indians, Rangers and Athletics. 4) The 26-year-old right-hander should be a good bet for 15 victories on a championship-contending squad. 5) There's no point in lamenting Porcello's porous career ERA at Fenway Park (6.41). He has collected only four starts and 19.2 innings at his new MLB home.
6 -- 1B Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
2014 STATS: 17 HR, 82 RBI, 62 runs, .319 batting, .364 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) In his inaugural season with the Rockies, Morneau claimed the National League batting title. 2) Which brings us to this: From a home/away splits standpoint, yes, Morneau enjoyed substantially better numbers with homers (11), RBI (52) abd runs (41) at Coors Field. But the differences with batting average and on-base percentage were negligible. 3) From an overall splits perspective last year, Morneau posted two months of four-plus homers, four months of double-digit RBI, four months of double-digit runs and five months of .300-plus batting. 4) Morneau, who has seemingly moved past his concussion problems of years past, doesn't turn 34 until mid-May. In other words, there's still plenty of tread on the proverbial tires.
5 -- RP Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers
2014 STATS: 2-4, 3.25 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 18 saves ...REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) If the Tigers should move on from Joe Nathan -- who has been wretched over the last 12 months, including spring training -- then Soria would step right in as closer. And frankly, Soria should be Detroit's go-to fireman anyway. 2) From 2008-10, Soria averaged 38.3 saves with the Royals. 3) Of his 35 appearances as the Rangers' closer last season (before getting traded to the Tigers), Soria surrendered zero or one run 33 times and collected 17 saves. 4) It goes without saying: Soria is a must-handcuff to Nathan in AL-only and mixed-league drafts. He would be a top-tier fantasy closer ... if given the chance.
4 -- 1B Lucas Duda, New York Mets
2014 STATS: 30 HR, 92 RBI, 74 runs, .349 OBP ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) As top-10 rankings go, it's hard to deny a 20-something power hitter who's notched double-digit homers for four consecutive seasons ... and boasts a .349-plus OBP three times in that same span. 2) In 2014, Duda experienced career-best marks with runs, hits (130), doubles (27), homers, RBI and steals (3). 3) I don't expect Duda to replicate the pratfalls of Ike Davis: Back in 2013, Davis (then with the Mets) was coming off a 32-homer, 90-RBI campaign ... but still didn't warrant a top-20 ranking from yours truly. I simply doubted that Davis (9 HR, .205 batting the following year) wouldn't sustain as a dynamo. The rationale: The mammoth size of Citi Field, the lack of lineup protection and terrible tallies with batting average, OBP and K-BB ratio.
3 -- SP Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 STATS: 11-13, 4.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 184/60 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Last season, Hutchison fell fractionally short of identically matching the strikeout tally (184) with his innings count (185). 2) The 24-year-old right-hander has had a fabulous spring with the Jays: 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11/4 K-BB and .196 opponents' batting average. 3) Hutchison has the stuff to be Toronto's ace. In fact, he currently sits atop the rotational depth chart. 4) Don't be fooled by the 4.84 ERA last season: Hutch surrendered two or less runs in 50 percent of the 2014 starts. 5) With 210 innings, Hutchison has the chops for 14-plus victories and 205 strikeouts. 6) Of his final six outings last season, Hutchison notched 50 strikeouts -- including back-to-back efforts of double-digit Ks (Sept. 10 and 16).
Noah K. Murray
2 -- SS Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins
2014 STATS (101 games): 7 HR, 40 RBI, 70 runs, 20 steals, .319 batting, .353 OBP ...REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) When extrapolating his numbers over 150 games, Santana might have collected 11 homers, 60 RBI, 105 runs, 30 steals and .315 batting last year. In other words, if he didn't play for the rebuilding Twins, Santana would have commanded a higher preseason ranking among shortstops. 2) Counting the minor/major leagues, Santana averaged 30 steals for 2013-14. 3) Santana will benefit from an improved Twins lineup that includes Torii Hunter, Oswaldo Arcia, Kennys Vargas (36 HR/156 RBI in the minors for 2013-14) and second baseman Brian Dozier, who might have had the quietest 20-homer/20-steal/110-run campaign in fantasy history. 4) Santana could soon be a breakout star at a scarce fantasy position.
1 -- SP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners
2014 STATS: 2-3, 2.61 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 34/18 K-BB ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) In five Cactus League outings, Walker (just 22 years old) didn't allow a single run. For good measure, he also had a 2-0 record, 19/4 K-BB rate, .103 opponents' batting average and otherworldly WHIP (0.56). 2) Walker compares favorably to Felix Hernandez. If that's the case, Walker (career marks in the minors: 30-30, 3.65 ERA, 491/176 K-BB) should be a breakout star in 2015. 3) In 11 career MLB appearances (eight starts), Walker has a 2.89 ERA. 4) In his final seven starts last year, Walker was a perfect 7 for 7 in yielding two runs or less. 5) We're begging fantasy owners: Don't let Walker fall past Round 17 in mixed-league drafts (standard 25-man rosters). Heck, Round 14 might be too long.