Sleeper samples (2016)
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins, Bats Right, Age 22 – Buxton is a top prospect and will try to win the center field job this spring. But he has to lay off breaking pitches out of the strike zone. He was overmatched at the plate after his recall last year as his 35/7 k/bb ratio attests. He also needs to stay healthy having battled injuries the last two seasons. But the Twins believe in him and traded away Aaron Hicks to give him a chance. He has line drive power, good speed and top defensive ability. He will be the most valuable for his stolen base potential right now and should grow into more home run power in a couple of years. A long-shot this year so don’t get carried away.
C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels, Bats Right, Age 26 – Cron, a former top draft pick, still needs to improve his k/bb ratio but has produced in a sort of platoon role of late. The fact that he hit right-handers better in the second half last year is a good sign but we need to see him keep that up for an entire season. Streaky hitter. He could begin the season as the DH but also has first base eligibility. Consider him late in deeper leagues.
Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals, Bats Left, Age 31 – Dyson has excellent speed and is a decent defensive outfielder but has no power and struggles with plate discipline. He is a part-timer and injury-prone, mostly battling ankle and lat ailments the last few years. He has value late or on reserve for the steals. [Dyson (strained right oblique) will likely begin the season on the DL and miss 2-3 weeks]
Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox – Holt was named the starter in left field against right-handers. Chris Young or Rusney Castillo will likely be his platoon partner so drop Castillo from your sleeper lists.
Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners – Miller is having a great spring and has won the starting shortstop job outright. He has 15-25 home run potential.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles – Schoop has 20+ homer potential but still needs to improve his k/bb ratio to raise the batting average.
Travis Shaw, Boston Red Sox – Shaw will open the season at third base and has 20-homer potential if he holds it.
Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles, Throws Right, Age 25 – Gausman throws in the mid-90s with sinking action (touches 99) with a nasty splitter, a slider and good control. He gets a lot of ground balls as well. He missed six weeks with shoulder tendinitis last year and has had some flair-ups this spring. He has shown flashes in the past but should be ready to break out if he can remain healthy and continue to refine his off-speed stuff.
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays, Throws Right, Age 26 – Odorizzi throws in the low-90s with a cutter and splitter. His mechanics have improved which is the key to his command. They also like his makeup, calmness and confidence. He got off to a great start last year and then suffered a strained oblique, missing a month, and struggled a bit in the second half.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, Throws Right, Age 23 – Bundy, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, says he’s healthy after a few years of injuries. He has pitched in just 17 games the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery. He pitched in just eight games last season before he was shut down with a calcification in his shoulder. He then missed most of the Arizona Fall League with elbow tightness. When healthy he throws in the mid-90s with a change, curve and slider – top stuff. He is out of options so he has to make the team or be subject waivers before he can be sent to the minors. He will likely compete for a bullpen spot this spring. When he’s healthy, he still has the stuff to be a top starter. Grab him on reserve for the vast potential.
Kendall Graveman, Oakland Athletics, throws Right, Age 24 – Graveman throws an 88-92 sinker (touches 95), a cutter, a slider and a changeup with pretty good control. Not a big strikeout guy but can work deep into games and get a lot of groundballs. He missed the final six weeks with an oblique injury last year. He could be a sleeper this year if he improves the changeup and wins back his spot in the rotation.
Aarón Sánchez, Toronto Blue Jays, Throws Right, Age 23 – Sánchez throws in the mid-90s (touches 97) with a hard sinker (that he mostly uses), a plus curve, and a cutter, slider and changeup but needs to work on his control and the secondary stuff. He’ll be stretched out this spring but could go back to a setup role (like last year) if he doesn’t make it as a starter. He put on 25 pounds of muscle to prepare for the role stamina-wise. He averaged six innings in 11 starts last year with a 3.55 ERA, with slightly higher on-base and home runs rates than as a reliever. Overall, his strikeout rate dipped because his velocity was down a bit. Could be a concern.
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, Throws Left, Age 23 – Snell, a top prospect, throws in the mid-90s with a change, curve and slider. He will likely open the season at AAA Durham but could be called up any time after 20 days in order to delay his free agency another year. He posted a 1.41 ERA with a 163/53 k/bb ratio in 134 innings at three stops in the minors last year. He’s not an ace but has a chance to be a solid number two starter.
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies, Bats Right, Age 23 – Franco, a top 3B prospect, has good power and improved his pitch recognition last year. Better discipline has been the key. He missed two months with a wrist injury but came back for the final three games and played some winter ball. Upside = 30 homers
Jung-ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates, Bats Right, Age 29 – Kang showed he could handle major league pitching last year. He operates with a high leg kick and an uppercut swing so he should be ok going forward if he continues to make the proper adjustments. He is currently rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus and fractured tibia, and might have to begin the season on the DL.
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bats Left, Age 25 – Lamb got off to a great start last year but then missed six weeks with a foot injury. He is a solid defensive player, with above-average range and arm strength. His swing has improved but he still needs to work on his k/bb ratio, especially against lefties. But he should at least be on the strong end of the 3B platoon this spring. The infield spots in both leagues are a tad short on talent so keep that in mind while bidding.
Wil Myers, San Diego Padres, Bats Right, Age 25 – Myers has excellent power but needs to stay healthy. He missed a lot of time following left wrist surgery last year and played with soreness in the second half. He was limited to 87 games with a fractured right wrist in 2014. He has 1B-OF eligibility.
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, Bats Left, Age 22 – Seager, a top shortstop prospect, will garner a lot of attention in drafts this spring – and he should. But he’s not going to hit .330. In his last 10 games, he had a .270/.325/.486 line which is probably more realistic for his current age. In the postseason, he went 3-for-16. But he has a sweet swing, hits lefties well and scouts praise his calm demeanor. Opponents will pitch to his weaknesses this year so he will have to make adjustments. But we think he has the mindset to make those adjustments eventually. He is currently battling a knee injury and could begin the season on the DL so he is falling behind already.
Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies, Bats Right, Age 23 – Story, a decent prospect, had a breakout campaign last year. He batted .279-20-80-22 with a .365 OBP at AA New Britain and AAA Albuquerque. He also lowered his strikeout rate but still needs to draw more walks. One report said that he’s “an over-aggressive hitter with swing mechanics that come unhinged at times, combined with a tendency to chase.” Another said: “The power numbers, the impact, the stolen bases he has. Standing tall, allowing his hands to work. His hands were so good, he was able to hit at lower levels from any position. Now, we’re trying to work on getting him into a more athletic posture.” Story played 2B-SS-3B as they want him to learn multiple positions but he could win the shortstop job with a good spring (depending on the Jose Reyes saga) so keep a close eye on him.
Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers, Bats Right, Age 26 – Broxton has power and speed and plays good outfield defense at all three spots but is still a bit raw. He has some holes in his swing leading to lots of strikeouts but he does draw walks and steal bases. He needs to improve vs. breaking stuff and chasing bad pitches. He will battle for the center field job this spring. He batted .273/.357/.438 with 10 homers and 39 steals in two minor league stops last year.
Travis Jankowski, San Diego Padres, Bats Left, Age 25 – Jankowski is set to open the season in a center field platoon with Melvin Upton. Jankowski stole 32 bases in the minors last year and draws walks but doesn’t have a lot of power even though he added 10 pounds of muscle over the winter. He has a lifetime .293 batting average in the minors but is not expected to hit that high in the majors. Consider him for the steals.
Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds, Bats Right, Age 22 –Peraza, a decent prospect, has excellent speed and is a good bunter but does not have a lot of pop. He batted .293/.316/.378 with four home runs and 33 steals in 481 at bats at AAA last year. He also hit .182 in a September callup for the Braves. He will play 2B-SS-CF this spring and should be considered late or on reserve for the stolen bases.
Adam Conley, Miami Marlins, Throws Left, Age 26 – Conley throws 92-mph (touches 96) with a changeup and a slider. His stuff is decent and he finished strong last year, but his upside is limited. He will battle for a rotation spot this spring. Watch him.
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds, Throws Right, Age 26 – The Cuban defector throws around 92-mph (touches 95) with a sharp slider, a sinker and a changeup. He is very tough on right-handers and as the changeup improves, so will his effectiveness against lefties, so the arrow is pointing up. Recommended.
Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals, Throws Right, Age 28 –Leake is a sinker-cutter pitcher (with a curve-slider-change) and has stayed healthy of late, missing time in 2011-12 with shoulder problems. He is not overpowering but throws strikes and is very competitive.
Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers, Throws Right, Age 28 – Maeda, signed from Japan, has mid-rotation stuff with excellent control. A low-80's slider is his best pitch because he has confidence to throw it in any count. He has a decent sinker too, and led the league in fewest home runs allowed.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, Throws Right, Age 24 – Martinez throws in the high-90s (touches 98) with hard sinker, a power slider and changeup. The fastball explodes in on right-handers with late movement, like a cutter, but he has trouble with command at times. His stuff is so good that he could become an elite closer. He missed a month with shoulder tendinitis in 2012 and a week late last year. Recommended.
Steven Matz, New York Mets, Throws Left, Age 25 – Matz, a top prospect, throws hard with natural sink and has decent command. He was called up last August and made the postseason rotation, posting a 3.68 ERA in three starts. He missed two months with a partial tear of his left lat muscle last year. He was a second round pick in 2009 and then had Tommy John surgery in 2010 causing him to miss over two years.
Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals, Throws Right, Age 29 – Roarke relies on command of a fastball-sinker-curve-changeup repertoire rather than velocity, throwing mostly the sinker and changeup – and rarely his slider. Things started to change for him two years ago when his minor league manager taught him to trust his stuff. But he slumped against lefties last year and with his release point. It would probably benefit him to move back to the first base side of the rubber. New Nationals' pitching coach Mike Maddux said he expects that Roark will be part of the rotation this spring. Consider him as a flier late.
Joe Ross, Washington Nationals, Throws Right, Age 23 – Ross, a sinker-slider guy, showed advanced poise last year, along with control, but wore down late in the season and was sent to the bullpen. "He's got good stuff to go along with good command and doesn't get rattled very easily. (He) is not afraid to get major league hitters out on the white part of the plate which is key to the progression of going from the minor leagues to the majors leagues," GM Mike Rizzo said. When he becomes stronger and the changeup improves more, he will take the next step up.