Fantasy Flashpoint: Potential Sleepers for Dynasty Leagues
Welcome to the first edition of Fantasy Flashpoint! This series, brought to you by the entirety of the staff at Breaking Blue, will regularly provide updates to give you the extra edge to win your fantasy league. This week, we will look at potential sleepers and pickups that could provide great value for their cost.
Brandon McCarthy was signed to unexpectedly large contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter, providing him comforting context: His large contract guarantees him job security, and pitching on a great team and in a great park elevates his fantasy outlook. McCarthy saw his K-rate spike from 5.07 in 2013 to 7.88 in 2014 with the Diamondbacks and Yankees and his peripherals supported the jump, as evidenced by his 7.52 K/9 FRIAS reading. Steamer projects him for a 3.42 FIP with plenty of wins and strikeouts.
The main concern with McCarthy is injury. He hit exactly 200 IP last year, but that was the only time in his nine-year career that he has done so. His previous high was 170.2, and he has never eclipsed 150 aside from that. If McCarthy stays healthy, he seems poised for a big 2015, a great target for redrafts and dynasty leagues alike.
The young Blue Jays right hander had a quietly productive 2014, posting a 101 xFIP- with great individual-pitch stats, such as a fantastic 10.8% SwStr%. However, this was masked by a 4.48 ERA, the product of bad event sequencing luck. Hutchison could be in line for a break-out season with a catching upgrade from Dioner Navarro (one of the worst framers in the MLB) to Russell Martin (one of the best). Entering his age 24 season, now is the time to buy on Hutchison, who could return top 100 results.
Souza has seen some hype build around him after being included as the centrepiece of the Wil Myers trade. ESPN’s fantasy rankers have jumped on the Souza bandwagon as well, giving him a top 200 ranking. Souza posted insane minor league stats in AAA last year, a 180 wRC+ in 96 games. At 24, however, concerns about his age rose; Souza has progressed very slowly throughout the Nationals’ minor league system. Projected by Steamer to be a 112 wRC+ bat, Souza could be a productive outfielder at a cheap cost and a potential long-term option as well.
Hughes is one of the biggest value buys out there, posting his usual strikeout numbers approaching 8 batters per 9 last year, but shrinking his walk rate to a microscopic 0.69/9. As well, Hughes increased his GB% to his highest since his rookie year, at 36.5%, helping his home run problems. Hughes gets away with an average SwStr% at 8.8%, but the development of his excellent control (up to 56.4% zone% from 50.4% in 2013, and lower in years past) shows Hughes might have figured something out and could be in line for another big year. Hughes should be a great value in all formats.
Pearce flew under the radar quite a bit last year. Despite hitting 21 homers and a .293/.373/.556 slash, few have fully bought into him. Pearce’s BABIP (.322) and HR/FB% (17.5%) are both above his career averages (.295 and 10.3% respectively) but if he’s fundamentally changed then those aren’t necessarily unsustainable numbers. While the .322 BABIP might be a bit high for a slower hitter, the 17.5% HR/FB% really isn’t outrageous. Fangraphs Depth Charts has him projected as a .260/.350/.470 type, which is a very good OF bat, especially with 20+ home runs and 70 RBI. Considering he’s ranked close to 300th by some sources, Pearce seems like a very good target.
The 35-year-old is regarded by many as old and mediocre and a 3.82 ERA in the NL might throw some off the wagon completely at first. But following Lackey’s trade to St. Louis, his under-the-hood stats skyrocketed: His O-Swing% shot up by nearly seven percentage points, and his SwStr% rose nearly two points as well. His 4.30 ERA in St. Louis was largely due to an artificially inflated BABIP and LOB%. Going into a full year in St. Louis, Lackey is a late value buy in redrafts, and a cheap but useful piece for contenders in keeper leagues. He can be expected to produce solid stats across the board.