Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: 7 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for 2014

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on September 24, 2013 @ 12:22:42 PDT

 

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For the final week of the 2013 season, I started my list of players who intrigued me as potentially undervalued on my Hotpage piece yesterday.

So, in concluding Tumbling Dice for the season, let's look at the rest of the list. Note that some of these players are really under the radar, and some just seem to be values as this year concludes.

But, as Spring 2014 approaches, as we all know, things change.

Matt Carpenter (2b, Cardinals): I remember writing about Carpenter in 2010 in one of my weekly USA TODAY pieces on minor leaguers worth watching (even though the team had second and third covered at the time).

Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado
Arenado will build in solid 2013

That year he went .309-13-69 with 31 doubles and an .889 OBP at a couple of minor league levels, and by 2011 Carpenter had made a major league debut.

So, now, qualifying at second and third in most leagues (and outfield and first in others), he leads the league with 196 hits, 54 doubles, and 123 runs while hitting .324-11-77 (.860 OPS).

I am not sure how much Carpenter could improve upon any of that, although I do think as he continues to play a chunk of those doubles turn into home runs.

Brandon Belt (1b, Giants): Belt's 2013 looks a lot like his 2012, when he hit .275-7-56 over 145 games, and this season with .289-16-62 over 144 contests. Well, save the increase in power, for one (his OPS jumped 55 points to .836).

Actually, the really revealing stat is over the first half of this season, Belt was .260-10-38 over 89 games, and with a little less play (55 games) in the second half, he is .330-6-24. But, I don't think this is a factor of less play; rather that Belt finally figured it out on a consistent basis, much like his AL counterpart Eric Hosmer did.

J.B. Shuck (OF, Angels): Forget about Peter Bourjos, as the speedy center-field counterpart to Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout.

Shuck is as good, almost as fast, and certainly more durable. With a .290-2-39 line over his 122 games in 2013, with 20 doubles and eight swipes, and a solid enough .330 OBP (this year is the first season Bourjos has exceeded that number, though after 53 games he was done for the year), I look for Shuck to get the first nod next year.

Plus his 27 walks to 51 whiffs over 417 at-bats suggest Shuck's on-base average, and thus other counting stats, will improve accordingly.

Nolan Arenado (3B, Rockies): Like Jedd Gyorko's, Arenado's season was not a complete one, though due to a later call-up rather than injury. But, the results were not too far off, with the Rockies' hot corner guy delivering a strong .269-10-50 season over 468 at-bats. Arenado delivered a decent .710 OPS (.302 OBP, .408 SLG) as well.

Like Belt, though, over the second half, Arenado upped his numbers to .305-3-23 with a 77 point jump in his OPS, and at age 22, the 22-year-old is just beginning to show us the hitting skills he possesses, I suspect.

Cleveland Indians SP Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez has turned it around

Alex Wood (P, Braves): Other than a rugged September (0-1, 8.03 over three starts and 12 1/3 innings), Wood has been just another in the line of quality starters advanced by the Braves organization.

But, factor in the total of 3-3, 3.21 over 75 2/3 innings with 75 punch-outs to 27 walks, with 73 hits (1.32 WHIP) and we have a pretty good first look for a 22-year-old starter drafted in 2012 (second round). The Braves are just good with these guys, and with Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, Wood will be part of an elite rotation in the future. He will just be a little cheaper next year.

Daric Barton (1B, Athletics): Another Athletic, and one who has probably slipped so far off everyone's radar that his picture could appear next to the word "sleeper" in the dictionary.

Things were looking up after his strong 2010 (.273-10-57 with a league-leading 110 walks), but all Barton, a first-round pick of the Cards in 2003, did was hit a free-fall.

However, the Barton who was recalled by Oakland to add some defense to first base for the team's stretch drive has come back a more assertive hitter, as his .280-3-13 over 93 at-bats indicates.

Mind you, I am not suggesting you spend money on Barton, for barring a miracle spring he is a reserve pick at best, and even with a big spring he is still only a $2 gamble. Barton can put up numbers at least equivalent to those of James Loney, and probably even do better, and in a deep league, that can be a real boon.

Add in that Barton is only 27, going into his prime years, and pretty much manning first base every day as the season closes out, and keeping the left-handed hitter in your sights next year seems a good idea.

Ubaldo Jimenez (P, Indians): What happened to this guy? He puts up 19-8, 2.88 numbers in 2010, and then dreck through last year. As in Jimenez led the American League in losses in 2012, with 9-17, 5.40 marks.

Well, now 29, Jimenez might not be as wicked as in 2010, but with 174 strikeouts over 169 2/3 innings this year, (12-9, 3.39), maybe Ubaldo is a nice choice as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter in just about every format. Titles are won on the likes of Jimenez, Francisco Liriano, and Ervin Santana delivering as they did this year on the cheap.

Act accordingly.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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