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Sleepers and Busts

6 Signs to Watch For Pitching Sleepers

When seeking to identify potential sleepers among starting pitchers, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.

(Once you’re done reading this article, check out the five Starting Pitching Sleepers I’ve predicted for 2015.)

I tend to start thinking “pitching sleepers” when some — or all — of the following apply:

Pitching Sleepers: 6 Signs to Look For

1. A Positive Change of Scenery

Pitchers who move from a “hitter’s park” to a “pitcher’s park” should see an uptick in their statistics — and Fantasy value. This theory also holds true for a move from the American League to the National League. Those of us who saw Doug Fister‘s 2014 breakout coming will attest to that. Note that this guideline doesn’t always apply in reverse — that Scherzer guy did pretty well after moving from the NL (Arizona) to the AL (Detroit).

2. If a Pitcher Moves From a High Spot in the Rotation to a Lower Spot

That pitcher figures to have a better opportunity to win games, as he’ll be matched against a lower-tier starter from the opposing team. This was another factor involved in forecasting Fister’s outstanding 2014 season.

3. Identify an Enhanced or Lowered Opportunity for Wins

TB-Smyly-Keith-AllisonWhile it’s not advisable to chase wins, it is important to identify an enhanced or lowered opportunity for wins. When the Toronto Blue Jays added Josh Donaldson this winter, the first thing that came to my mind was the positive impact it would have on the Toronto pitching staff insofar as run support.

Ditto for the addition of veteran backstop Russell Martin, who is well known for his ability to handle a staff and frame pitches. The reverse also applies: two sleeper pitchers that I like a lot — Oakland’s Jesse Hahn and Tampa Bay’s Drew Smyly — received downgrades due to what projects to be rather anemic offenses in 2015.

4. Supporting Cast Improves

Is the team’s closer more of an “opener?” The addition of David Robertson to the Chicago White Sox bullpen should aid the Fantasy causes of their starting pitchers, while Milwaukee’s hurlers are still wondering whom their ninth-inning man is going to be.

5. Returning From an Injury

This is a slippery slope: what type of injury, could it recur, could it linger, does the player have a history of similar issues? While a player coming back after being sidelined does present something of a buy opportunity, each situation must be weighed case by case.

6. Small Market Teams

2015 Fantasy Sleepers
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Ahhh, this is one of my favorites. Media hype can be a huge ally when it comes to targeting sleepers. While everyone is scrambling to draft the hot prospect who’s trying to crack the Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets or Yankees rotation, you evaluate players based on stats, not column inches or highlight packages. Bargains abound among the small-market teams. It doesn’t make one bit of difference whether your starting pitcher logs seven strong in front of 50,000 fans in the Bronx, or a friends-and-family-only crowd on a Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field. Numbers are numbers. Our game is played on paper (or cyber-paper, as it were). Who would you have rather had on your Fantasy team after last year’s All-Star break: Felix Hernandez or Carlos Carrasco? I think you already know the answer.

So take a look at the five pitcher sleepers I think could significantly outperform their Draft Day price in 2015. The talent pool is deep indeed, so there should be plenty of opportunity to make a late-round Fantasy splash.

Drew Smyly Photo Credit: Keith Allison

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