By Jon Edwards
You know what’s almost as fun as baseball games themselves? The prospect of winning your yearly fantasy league. Whether it’s for fun or for money, getting bragging rights with your group of friends is always the icing on the cake. Everyone knows the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Adam Wainwright, and Anthony Rizzo are going to give you top end production, but what’s the fun in that? These seven guys should go way ahead of their projected draft slot, and you can thank me for helping you win your fantasy league after the season.
7-4 are in this post with 3-1 being posted tomorrow.
(All stats and position rankings from espn.com)
7) Starling Marte OF – Pittsburgh PiratesEmbed from Getty Images
Marte comes in with the highest average draft position on this list, 30, which makes him the smallest sleeper, but e’s going to be worthy of that draft pick, and more. Marte started gaining a little more plate patience last year, which saw his on-base percentage increase by .13 points to .356. That doesn’t seem like much, but every time Marte is on base is another chance to swipe some bags. He went from 41 in 2013 to “just” 30 last year, but expect to see that number jump back up this year. Marte came into his own with the bat the last few months of last season and he looks to continue that success into this year.
6) Joey Votto – 1B – Cincinnati RedsEmbed from Getty Images
First base is extremely deep this year in fantasy, but Votto comes into the season ranked 15th at the position, which is absurdly low. Injuries derailed his 2014 campaign, but this is a guy who has been a staple at the top of fantasy lists for the previous five years. As the opposite of Marte, Votto thrives off being patient and working tons of walks, a bonus if your league uses OBP instead of batting average. He led the league in walks for three seasons from 2011-13. He’s not going to hit the 37 dingers he had during his 2010 MVP season, but Votto should regain some of the power he lost last year with his quad injury. His numbers won’t scream at you, but expect .300-25-80 as a baseline for Votto, putting him in at least the top 10 1B.
5) Yadier Molina – C – St. Louis CardinalsEmbed from Getty Images
Molina is the 7th ranked catcher this season, but it’s the overall ranking that really pops out, where he sits at 150. I don’t expect Molina to move much higher in the positional rankings, maybe up a spot or two, but this is all about value. It doesn’t make sense to reach for Jonathan Lucroy, Devin Mesoraco, or Evan Gattis when you can grab Molina about five rounds later. The injury bug hit the youngest Molina last season with a thumb injury, something a catcher can do nothing about but wait it out. Due to the thumb, he only played in 110 games, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2004. Yadi has been the model of consistency and improvement besides that. He increased his batting average and RBI in each of the four season before that, while supplying enough homers and runs scored for a catcher. Don’t reach, but wait on a catcher this year.
4) Gerrit Cole – P – Pittsburgh PiratesEmbed from Getty Images
The Pirates took Cole with the first pick in the 2011 draft, and this is the year for him to break out. He’s put up good, steady numbers in his first two seasons in the bigs, but hasn’t been the innings eater most expected out of him. A big positive is he struck out 138 batters in 138 innings last year, which is a great ratio for a starter. Even if that number falls a bit, expect Cole to log over 200 innings for the first time in his career, with strikeout numbers that should rival it. As the 76th ranked player overall, and outside of the top 20 pitchers, Cole will be one of the biggest steals in any draft this year. I think he finishes the year a top 12 starter.