2014 NL Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Picks
Here is my list of National League fantasy baseball sleeper picks for the 2014 season. These are players that are under the radar for one reason or another, but have the potential to exceed their projected levels of production. My 2013 list identified several notable players that had breakout campaigns such as Matt Carpenter who led the NL in hits, runs, doubles, and won the silver slugger award; Matt Harvey, the pitcher with the golden arm; Starling Marte, who showed a rare blend of speed and power with his 41 steals and 12 home runs; Jonathan LuCroy, who had a breakout season for the dismal Brewers; and Homer Bailey, who recorded career bests in strike outs and WHIP. There were a few duds on the list as well like Josh Rutledge, who struggled to bat .200 and was demoted to the minors and Logan Morrison who had a tough time returning from his knee operation. Hopefully, the 2014 list has several hidden gems that can help lead your team to the championship.
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Miguel Montero, C, Arizona Cardinals
Nagging injuries plagued Montero all season and he ended up playing in only 116 games in 2013 after appearing in over 140 the previous two years. He had a forgettable season batting only .230 with only 11 home runs and 42 RBI. He is only 30 years old so he still has time to return to the form of his previous two campaigns when he batted over .280 with more than 80 RBI. Additionally, he will be batting in the middle of a potent lineup that includes Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, and Mark Trumbo. He is a catcher to target in the draft as he should fall to rounds 8-10. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .280, 15 home runs, 75 RBI.
Tyler Thornburg, P, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were a mess last season with the Braun debacle and their epic bullpen collapse, but Thornburg was one of the few bright spots. Check to see if he has both relief and starter eligibility in your league as this will only make him more valuable in head-to-head formats. He started 7 games and relieved in 11 in 2013 and accumulated a 3-1 record with a 2.03 ERA, 1.185 WHIP, and 48 strike outs in 66 2/3 innings. The 25 year old Thornburg is penciled in to be the fifth starter this season, but could be a pleasant surprise for the Brew Crew if given the opportunity based on his 10.3 K/9 number over 347 minor league innings. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: 10-8 with 3.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 140 strike outs.
B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
Upton is easily the biggest fantasy bust of 2013. He came to Atlanta with much hoopla and was going to play alongside his brother Justin and Jason Heyward to give the Braves one of the most athletic outfields in recent memory. B.J. never got the memo and laid an epic fantasy egg by hitting .184 with 9 home runs, 12 steals, 26 RBI, and .557 OPS. Yes, those numbers are correct. They are not a misprint. Many are rightfully sour on him but you can use this to your advantage. He has a solid history of performance. His BABIP in 2013 was only .266 compared to a career mark of .322 prior to the season. Forget 2013 ever happened and bid on B.J. as if he will bounce back to his normal 25 home run, 35 steal performance level this season. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .240, 24 home runs, 65 RBI, 32 stolen bases.
Devin Mesaraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
The keys to the car are now his with the trade of Ryan Hanigan to Tampa Bay. He will only have himself to blame if he doesn't deliver this season. Mesaraco batted .238 with 9 home runs and 42 RBI in 2013 in only 323 at bats. He should see between 450 and 500 trips to the plate with his expanded role and his counting stats should see a bump as well. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .250 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI.
Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals
The 26 year old Ramos struggled with injuries in the first half, but caught fire at the end of the season and ended up with totals that many catchers would find respectable for an entire season. In only 78 games and 287 at bats he batted .272 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI. If he can only stay healthy he could have a monster season. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .275, 22 home runs, 72 RBI.
Juan Lagares, OF, New York Mets
Lagares is a defensive force and would have likely won a gold glove if he had played a full season. He had 15 outfield assists in only 116 games in 2013 to go along with a .242 average, 21 doubles, 5 triples, 4 home runs, and 6 steals. His stellar outfield play will keep him in the lineup. Hopefully, the Mets have enough offensive support around him to help his offensive production. He showed decent speed in the minors and actually slugged over .500 in a few of his stops. Watch him this spring to see if he is able to win one of the outfield spots. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .282, 5 home runs, and 21 stolen bases.
Ben Revere, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Revere got off to a wretched start in 2013, batting only .244 through his first 59 games, got benched for a bit, then broke his foot which ended his season after only 88 games. He still managed to steal 22 bases and in his last 29 games before the injury batted a robust .407 (48 for 118) so he showed he could hit NL pitching. Revere is only 25 years old so I'm banking on a bounce back season from him in 2014. He's a sleeper because his problematic 2013 will cause him to drop a few rounds in most drafts. Be ready if he becomes available to you in the rounds 5-6 range as good source for steals. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .300 batting average with 85 runs and 42 stolen bases.
Evan Gattis, C, Atlanta Braves
The player with the best nickname, El Oso Blanco, or the white bear. I think it is a bit of a stretch to have Gattis on a sleeper list, but he's here because I think his numbers can be even better than people expect because of his ability to play left field. In 2013 he played 48 games in the outfield and 43 games at catcher and finished with 21 home runs and 65 RBI in only 354 at bats. With the addition of Ryan Doumit, the Braves will often spell Gattis, maybe twice a week, by playing him in left field. They want his potent bat in the lineup as much as possible and this will give him the opportunity to play more than 150 games this season, at least 10 more than a normal NL catcher. One fantasy magazine stated that pitchers figured Gattis out in the second half. I think it had more to do with his lack of playing time in August. He basically lost his timing but regained it after a short stint in the minors. In September he hit 6 home runs with 18 RBI. Also, his BABIP was only a meager .255, which is shocking considering how hard he hits the ball. Look for this to improve in 2014 as well. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .260 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
Stanton had an abysmal year due to shoulder and hamstring injuries and a weak Marlin supporting cast. He played in only 116 games and batted just .249 with 24 home runs and 62 RBI. His value has taken a hit and he should be somewhat of a bargain on draft day. He was taken in the first round in most NL-only drafts last season. My estimate is that he will fall to the lower half of the second round. If he drops this far and you have a pick be ready to pounce. Over 40 home runs are possible if he can manage to stay healthy and he could turn out to be the steal of the draft. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .285, 42 home runs, 98 RBI
Nate Eovaldi, SP, Miami Marlins
The owner of the highest average fastball speed finally started to make some progress in the last half of 2013. He started 18 games for the Marlins and went 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, and 78 strike outs in 106 1/3 innings. His main problem in 2013 was consistency as he pitched some real gems (7 innings of 1 hit ball at Atlanta on August 10th) only to follow them up with clunkers (12 hits and 9 earned runs in 3 innings the following start against the Giants), but that is to be expected with a 23 year old pitcher. He plays in a spacious pitchers park and will be one of the key starters in a strong 2014 Marlin rotation. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: 13-10, 3.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 155 strike outs.
Anthony Rendon, 2B-3B, Washington Nationals
With both 2B and 3B eligibility (82 games played at second and 15 at third base in 2013) in most leagues Rendon will be a valuable commodity. He is a Mark Grace-type hitter with .300 average and 10-15 homer potential. The Nationals are down on the free swinging Danny Espinosa and rumors have Ryan Zimmerman spending time at first base this spring training. All signs are pointing to a full season of at-bats for Rendon. In 2013 after being called up he played in 98 games and hit .265 with 7 home runs and 35 RBI. I'm expecting 500 at bats for him in 2014. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .290, 12 home runs, 65 RBI.
Which sleeper pick will have the best 2014 season?
Darin Ruf, 1B-OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Ruf's power is legit. He hit 14 home runs in only 251 at bats in 2013 and he displayed both power and decent average in the minors (.299 career). The Phillies are looking to retool so pay close attention to his progress in spring training. If he breaks camp as a starter he could hit 30 home runs this season. His dual eligibility at both first base and outfield adds to his value. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: .278 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI.
Marco Estrada, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
The 30 year old Estrada was highly regarded in fantasy circles before last season, but injuries and a dismal Brewer campaign caused him to fall by the way side. In spite of it all he still managed to go 7-4 with a 3.87 ERA, 1.078 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9. He's hoping to hit the rest button this year. If he shows good health in spring training he should be in the starting rotation. Estimated 2014 Stat Line: 12-11 with 165 strike outs and 1.12 WHIP.