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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for 2015
New Faces in New Places
With plenty of impact young talent joining the MLB ranks recently, there always seems to be a significant list of breakout candidates to choose from each season. With plenty of teams looking to gain the edge on their divisional opponents this offseason, some key moves were made to give young players a new opportunity to succeed. There are also some players who had down years last season despite their great talent level. Some of these players will be in position to return to the expectations that their talent has created for them. Players such as these will not be likely to earn a high rating on fantasy draft boards, but recognition of their talent should allow fantasy owners to add these useful players to their rosters. With at least one big breakout name likely to emerge from this list of names, those participating in fantasy baseball this season will now have the necessary notice to potentially add this year's impact player.
After a down year with the Marlins in 2014, Nathan Eovaldi was traded to the Yankees during the offseason. The Yankees plan to help Eovaldi to make the necessary adjustments to become an MLB top of the rotation starter after his career has gotten off to a promising start. Heading into his age 25 season, Eovaldi has had a significant amount of MLB success throwing mainly just a good four seam fastball, complemented by his slider. The Yankees plan to get Eovaldi back on track by having him throw his two seam fastball and curveball more often. This combination will make his changeup better, after having it be an almost useless pitch for him in his efforts to get left handed batters out. With average fastball velocities that have registered close to 96 MPH or better each of the past two seasons, Eovaldi could be a huge breakout candidate if he is able to put the Yankees plan for him into action.
Another hard throwing right handed starting pitcher who had a down year following a breakout campaign as a rookie. Salazar had a rough start to the season and ultimately ended up posting a losing record with mediocre numbers in his first large sample of MLB action. Salazar was able to strike out more than a batter per inning in 2014 however, which is promising for him heading into his age 25 season. With great control and command, Salazar should be able to bounce back in a big way this season as a pitcher with top of the rotation potential behind Indian's ace Corey Kluber. With a bounce back season, the talent of Danny Salazar could work to give fantasy owners value way beyond what they assign to him when coming up with their draft boards.
This former Royals top prospect showed the ability to strike out batters at a very high rate last season, despite having yet to post his breakout full season effort. Ordorizzi does not have the most dominant stuff of the five starters on the Rays staff, but he does have the talent to become their ace after they traded David Price at last season's trade deadline. Ordorizzi should only get better with experience after proving he has what it takes to consistently punch out MLB hitters. Ordorizzi should have more value than just strikeouts in fantasy baseball this year however, as he is likely to rack up wins pitching in a favorable position matchup wise on the Rays' pitching staff. He should also be in position to take a step forward in the innings total that makes up his season's workload, along with being a strong candidate to pitch a quality start.
Pompey may not have the power that some of the top centerfielders in baseball have put on display lately, but he is an excellent option to put up numbers in a bunch of categories for fantasy teams this season. With a great hit tool and a good eye at the plate, Pompey will regularly be creating scoring opportunities for the Blue Jays this season. His speed as a centerfielder plays well on the basepaths, and it should allow him to bat at the top of the order as one of the team's primary base stealing threats. Even though Pompey probably will not hit the ball over the fence with regularity, he is going to hit plenty of doubles because of his speed and ability to drive the ball through gaps. Pompey does not have much MLB experience, but he is a young outfielder who can play the game at a high level.
With high expectations before his MLB debut, Gregory Polanco was underwhelming in a rookie season where he may have experienced fatigue. He now enters spring training after putting on 15 pounds of muscle through his offseason workout program, and the 6'5" 235 pound outfielder is ready to play the game at a high level. As a five tool outfielder, Polanco should provide fantasy teams with strong numbers in just about every category. Polanco's size should allow him to hit 20 or more homeruns in his first full season at the MLB level, with the possibility of 60 extra base hits. As a top of the order hitter, Polanco will be in great position to use his speed on the base paths to collect plenty of stolen bases. Polanco's patience at the plate also makes him a great candidate to have in a starting outfield spot in leagues where on base percentage is a winnable category in each matchup.
Christian Yelich is coming off a solid season with Marlins after playing his first full season in the big leagues in 2014. As a young player who is getting closer to his prime years, Yelich could be in position for the first breakout season of what should be a spectacular career. Yelich's size should allow him to produce at least 15 homeruns this season with close to 50 extra base hits. Yelich's has plenty of speed to make an impact on the base paths as well, and he is able to get on base quite often with his advanced approach at the plate. There are many positive qualities to the overall game of Christian Yelich, and while he is likely to be noticed on draft boards, he is not likely to be one of the top outfielders taken. Yelich is a great candidate to help carry a fantasy team down the stretch run this season as his breakout season gets even better in the warmer months.
Heading into his age 26 season, Brandon Belt has had injury and inconsistency prevent him from truly posting a breakout campaign. Belt enters spring training healthy this year, with the Giants counting on him to be a force as one of their middle of the order hitters. Over a full season, Belt should be able to hit 20 or more homeruns while batting .280 or better. As a middle of the order hitter, Belt will have plenty of RBI opportunities while batting behind Buster Posey and a scrappy top of the order. 2015 is likely to be the year where Brandon Belt's potential is no longer just shown in flashes, and he puts it all together for a complete season that makes him a fantasy baseball star for the teams that are willing to take the risk on him.
This Cuban star may not be the best defender at third base, but his ability to hit is undeniable. Yasmany Tomas will join Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo in the middle of the Diamondbacks order, where his ability to hit the ball out of the yard will serve the purpose of driving in plenty of runs this season. With Tomas having similar pedigree to Cespedes, Puig and Abreu who have proven to be strong middle of the order producers, there is less risk attached to him than most fantasy owners might think. Tomas will play third base this season, and with stars at the third base position hard to find in baseball right now, he should prove to be very valuable in fantasy baseball for the 2015 season.
Shortstops with power are very rare in fantasy baseball, but Jung-Ho Kang has plenty of power even as a rookie from the Korean Baseball Organization. Kang's bat quickness gives him a plus hit tool that should allow him to post a significant batting average and on base percentage. His ability to drive the ball out to all fields has him projected to hit more than 20 homeruns in his first season in the big leagues. Kang is not in position to start at shortstop for the Pirates to open the season, so his playing time could be limited early on. He is definitely worth a roster spot though because of his potential. His situation will have to be monitored, but as soon as he moves into the Pirates everyday lineup, fantasy owners may be forced to put him in their starting lineups at the shortstop position.
Will a breakout star emerge?
This list of names outlines the skills of a group of ten very talented MLB players with varying degrees of experience. All of them are heading into their prime years at the MLB level which gives them the edge over some of top prospects who may debut this season, but they not going to experience the decline that some older players may see in 2015. All of these names are players to watch in upcoming fantasy drafts, in an effort to gain the edge over opponents who do not have this information provided to them beforehand.