10 Wide-Awake Sleepers

Some might have you believe we just finished the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s actually coming up. Sleeper season is about to kick off for the 2016 fantasy baseball season and it promises to be another fun year of debating what actually constitutes a sleeper, who’s asleep and who’s just going at-cost, and whether or not you should include injury comebacks on your list. Another fascinating feature of Sleeper season is the group of guys who appear on virtually every list thereby negating their sleeper status by the time Draft season actually gets here: the wide-awake sleepers.

Examples from last year include Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman before his injury, Michael Wacha, and Matt Harvey (especially by mid-Spring Training). They were all in 40s or later among starters in the winter magazines (which are written in the fall), but all were early-30s or higher by March. Stroman obviously fell off once he suffered the torn ACL, but Harvey surged all the way through draft season, winding up 14th among starters and top-50 overall. Being a part of this list isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s just a byproduct of the proliferation of fantasy baseball content and it’s neither bad nor good – unless you really wanted several of these sleepers, then you’re probably kinda pissed. But hey, if they’re as good as you think, then in most cases you can pay the extra freight. Obviously nothing on the field changes with these players (except once we get to Spring Training, but that’s a different story), but a lot of people take the fall off from baseball after the World Series so they’re only now studying the year that was in 2015.

This research can uncover gems, expose duds, and strengthen previously held beliefs.  Names get out, buzz increases, and all of a sudden the hype train is racing down the track. Sometimes a guy can do a full-180: start the fall as a sleeper and hit spring overpriced. Most of the time, it just cuts into the profits, but doesn’t necessarily make them cost-prohibitive.

Here are 10 arms who I think will be wide-awake sleepers by draft season. Some of it is already happening; others are just my educated guesses.

Raisel Iglesias165th overall, 44th SP

Everyone is really excited (Eno & myself included, of course)

I’m already contributing to his surge up the draft boards. I took him at 147 in a 15-teamer (which is what these ADPs are for) a few weeks back. I’m very comfortable in that range, maybe even a smidge higher if I’m in the wrong room squaring off against Eno and the gents quoted above.

Jeff Samardzija173rd, 47th

At least some of his ADP was established when his destination was unknown and now that he has basically the ideal setup, his price is on the rise. I’ve already seen him go 20-30 picks higher than this in two drafts. Compare that to him going at pick 258 (18.3) of my 15-teamer from Arizona back in early-November. By the way, in that very same draft I took Raisel at 165 (last pick of the 11th round as my SP4 behind Strasburg, Stroman, and Str…erlander*). James Shields is up at pick 144 right now and I’d quite easily rather have Shark.

*it’s Verlander if you couldn’t figure it out… there is no Strerlander, dummy.

Yordano Ventura171st, 46th

Research will favor Ventura. He has two plus pitches, the insane velo, the second-half surge, a 52% GB rate, and he’s a really good team. Ventura’s earliest pick in current ADP data was 115th. I doubt he’ll frequently go that high, but I can see him jumping 10 spots in the SP ranks which would vault him up 35-40 picks overall.

Luis Severino157th, 41st

You may be noticing a trend. I really think there could be a shift with a host of guys in the 40s (for SPs) jumping into the 30s or higher. Severino is a pretty straightforward over-hype candidate: super young, big-time prospect, great in his small MLB sample, and plays for a premium team (speaking primarily of reputation, Yankees are regularly taxed in the market).

If I’ve got more stability with my top 2 arms, say Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels or something, then I’m very open to slotting Severino in the SP3 role. If it’s Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard fronting my rotation (first off, I’d be REALLY geeked about it), I wouldn’t be as open to the high-variance of 22-year old with 62.3 MLB innings. There are reasons for genuine excitement with Severino, but don’t get hung up on the 2.89 ERA as there could be some bumps in ’16 and then the breakout in ’17.

Jake Odorizzi159th, 42nd

If he can pluck the good from each of the last two seasons (the strikeouts and breaking ball success from ’14; the walk rate gains and hit suppression from ’15) then he could make the Archer-like leap for the Rays this year. It was nice to see him add an inning to his season total despite making three fewer starts. An oblique injury kept him from adding substantially to his innings count, but he gets credit for jumping up over 6 IP/start and making the most of the time he did have on the mound. He might already be 10 spots higher if it weren’t for that oblique anyway.

Odorizzi had a 2.47 ERA through 12 starts when he hit the DL on June 9th. He was unlikely to maintain that trajectory all year, especially because his core skills weren’t indicative of a mid-2.00s ERA, but he had a 4.08 ERA the rest of the way as his walk and homer issues from 2014 returned with a vengeance. It’s not just the oblique, like I said he was going to regress from that early pace anyway, I just would’ve like to see it play out sans the injury.

Five More:

  • Jose Quintana – 180th, 50th: 3 strong 200+ IP seasons in a row and he’s 50th off the board?!
  • Kyle Hendricks – 203rd, 55th: we will start seeing a Cubs Tax in ‘16
  • Andrew Heaney – 254th, 63rd: even at peak, hype won’t be out of bounds; just too low early on
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – 275th, 71st: had hiccups w/pitch-tipping, but was great for 17-of-21 starts
  • Nathan Eovaldi – 366th, 95th: he experienced it last year as excitement built for his NYY debut

To move up these guys obviously have to displace someone so here are a few guys I could see dropping as we move through the winter into spring: Steven Matz (107th, 28th), Carlos Martinez (110th, 29th… is he healthy?), Hisashi Iwakuma (31st, 118th), Shields (144th, 37th), and Shelby Miller (152nd, 38th).

We hoped you liked reading 10 Wide-Awake Sleepers by Paul Sporer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

newest oldest most voted
obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member

Here’s another reason Samardzija should rise: he was cruising along with a relatively normal (for him) season, high 3 ERA in late July, when his season just goes horribly bad. Some had speculated that it was the result of him being upset at not being traded at the trade deadline, and perhaps that led to the issue that he discussed at his signing press conference: he reported that he started tipping off his pitches, and wasn’t able to diagnose and correct that until his last two starts of the season (which if you check, he did great).

That, plus HR suppression park, better defenses, better pitching coaches, return to NL, and that should yield a lot of improvements to his stats in 2016 vs. 2015 and even 2013, with 2014 as the peak of what to hope for.