When trying to find “sleepers” you are really finding hidden value: getting a player that will help your team more than many of the guys selected before him. So when talking about third base sleepers, we’re talking about undervalued players with good upside in 2015.
When I am trying to find this hidden value, I like to look at hitters who are in really strong lineups.
Fantasy Baseball hitters are similar to wide receivers in Fantasy Football: they need help from those around them. If the quarterback is Ryan Lindley then Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd’s value goes down.
If a hitter is in a lineup of spares, there will not be as many RBI and run-scoring opportunities.
Top Third Base Sleepers for 2015
This troika of third base sleepers should help anyone if they find themselves without Adrian Beltre or Josh Donaldson after the first couple rounds.
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
The best example of someone who is in a stacked lineup but is being overlooked for the flashier names in said lineup is Nolan Arenado. The 24 year-old third basemen dealt with some injuries last year that hurt his overall numbers and rating. This has blinded many to the drastic improvement he made from his rookie season through his second year.
Arenado had significant improvement in literally every hitting category, while playing in fewer games than his rookie season. Most importantly to me, his strikeout rate decreased to a solid 12% and his walk rate increased over 25% from the previous season. Arenado was getting on base more (27 point increase in OBP) as well as keeping the ball in play (which, if you read my Third Base Busts article, is my favorite thing to look for in Fantasy Baseball players).
What really stood out about Arenado’s second season is that he had over 10% less at bats, yet nearly doubled his home run total to 18, as well as saw 20% gains in both RBI and Runs. He did all of this while upping his average to .287. In fact, if you projected Arenado’s season out to a full year you come out with 84 Runs, 88 RBI, 26 HR whilst batting .287. His stolen bases are still low, but no third basemen stole more than 20 anyway with only 2 stealing more than 12 bags.
Aside from the serious progress Arenado made last year, what I love the most about his Sleeper-ness is the lineup that the Rockies have put together. Last year, Colorado had the third most runs in the league, the second most home runs/batting average, and the most total bases. The emergence of Charlie Blackmon as a decent five-tool player turned this lineup from good to one of the best in the league. If Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can stay healthy for the majority of the year, Arenado should break out into a fantasy stud and the most productive of the third base sleepers.
Arasmis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
Some Fantasy players shy away from the player that is closer to 40 than he is to 34, but Ramirez should end up being a steal at where you can get him. He is projected to be drafted in the mid-200s, or about the 15th third basemen taken. While this seems about right as Ramirez was the 16th ranked player with 3B-eligibility last season (Miguel Cabrera was still included), I would rather have him than a few of the guys ahead of him for their price.
Ramirez’s biggest detriment the past couple of seasons has been a diminutive runs scored total, averaging just 45 runs each year. I think that the Brewers’ lineup issues outside of Ramirez were more the cause of that since he was still averaging a .350 OBP. In 2013, they were without Ryan Braun for the season, while 2014 saw significant injury time to both Braun and Carlos Gomez. With both of them back healthy, and the addition of a now-healthy and ready for a bounce back year Adam Lind batting behind him, Ramirez’ should see a spike in his runs total.
The other total that should see significant improvement would be in RBI. If Ramirez stays in the cleanup spot for the sneaky-good Brewers’ lineup, there will be plenty of opportunity for driving in runs with Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun all sporting .800+ OPS averages. Combine that with the fact that only once in the last eleven seasons has Ramirez hit below .283, and I see a big spike in driving in runs.
Overall I like Ramirez at the price you should be able to snag him. You could reach for Manny Machado or Pablo Sandoval about 4-5 rounds earlier, and maybe get a little more; or you could build some pitching depth in those hurler-deep rounds and pickup Ramirez later to get basically the same production.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
On the surface, Castellanos seems like someone I might not want on my fantasy team. He struck out 140 times last year with just a .259 batting average and .306 OBP. His counting stats were not much better with 50 runs, 11 homers and 66 runs batted in. So what makes me think that the 22-year old has a chance to be worth a draft pick?
|2015 Fantasy Sleepers|
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The biggest reason I believe he is worth a roster spot is what I just said: Castellanos is just 22. Mike Trout has shattered normal expectations for young players after destroying the league at 20 years of age. There is a growing sentiment that if a player does not start out as an All-Star caliber guy then do not expect him to become one. I think that the young Tiger was just getting his feet wet last year and will make a big statistical jump this season.
In his brief minor league career, Castellanos showed major signs of progress. He basically played three minor league seasons and each year he decreased his strikeout totals while nearly doubling his home run total. He hit .300+ in the minors with an .800+ OPS. I think he is still growing and maturing into his build and that there is more power to be found as he becomes more accustomed to the big leagues.
The stacked Tigers’ lineup will accelerate the development of Castellanos as a viable fantasy option. Detroit was in the top two in the majors in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage last season, and they added one of the best power-hitting outfielders in the league, Yoenis Cespedes. In Detroit’s projected lineup, three of the four guys hitting in front of Castellanos hit for .300+ with and an OBP average between them around .380. There will be ducks on the pond for Castellanos and I think he will be able to cash in on the opportunities.
Nolan Arenado Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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