Overhyped Sleepers in Fantasy Baseball
As we get into the heart of MLB fantasy draft season, I thought it would be appropriate to address an increasingly important topic that can have a deep and often very adverse effect on a manger’s draft: the overhyped sleeper.
I remember when I drafted Dee Gordon (2B, LAD) in the sixth round of my 2012 draft. Given the position scarcity at 2B, I was convinced with this pick that I'd just punched my ticket to the league championship. It was obvious that I was too wise and well prepared for my leaguemates to compete against. I knew that Gordon had hit .304 and stole 24 bags in around 200 at bats in 2011. Clearly, this meant that in 2012 Dee was going to stay at the top of the Dodgers order all year, swipe 75 bags with a .300 BA and score an untold number of runs. Whoops. Turns out those 200 at bats in 2011 weren’t enough time for major league pitchers to figure him out, but they sure had by early 2012. Within the first month of the season, Dee was batting at the bottom of the order, and by the All Star break he was in the minors.
Each preseason, a few guys emerge as likely breakout candidates, usually based on a handful of appearances the previous year which, projected over 155 games or 600 at bats, would make for a monster season. These players are popping up in preseason articles all over the place, and as a prepared fantasy manager, you’re all over it. The problem is that in competitive leagues, so are six or seven other managers. Knowing this, in snake drafts you feel the pressure to pull the trigger a few rounds on the early side to ensure you lock these guys up. In auction leagues, you and three other managers decide beforehand that you’re going after this guy, and you bid each other up to a price way above realistic projections.
4 Overhyped for the 2014 Season
Keeping all this in mind, here are a few players in 2014 that potentially fit the overhyped sleeper mold. Remember, this isn’t to say that these players don’t have huge potential. They do. The problem is that while all on this list could be great in 2014, most probably won’t live up to their ADPs. Don’t get caught in a bidding war or overreach for these players on draft day. If you’re targeting these players in an auction, set a reasonable limit on how much you’re willing to pay, and have an escape plan ready. In a snake, make sure you clearly survey the field before you pull the trigger, and think twice (at least!) before passing over a surefire stud:
Billy Hamilton – OF, CIN: Dee Gordon of 2013. Billy has unbelievable speed and is slated to hit at the top of the order. But can he hit? Completely unproven. 19 previous-year at bats should never be used to project the following season. Electric speed, but with a Yahoo! ADP in the sixth round, back off a little on him, folks.
Danny Salazar – SP, CLE: This hard-throwing hurler has Cy Young stuff and cruised through his 52 innings in 2013, posting a 3.12 ERA with 65 K and a 1.13 WHIP. But the season is long, arms get tired and major league hitters make adjustments. He could be a real gem, but manage your expectations.
Tony Cingrani – SP, CIN: Another young pitcher with excellent stuff and good success in his 2013 campaign; posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 120 K over 104.2 2013 innings. But remember that he only has two pitches right now, which is not ideal for a starter over a full season. He also might be kept on an innings limit.
Bryce Harper – OF, WAS: OK, he’s not a sleeper, but the young phenom is entering his third season with increasingly unrealistic expectations, especially given his ADP, injury uncertainty and lack of a clear improvement from his rookie campaign. Owners may want to take more of a sure thing in the first round or for a $40+ price tag. Don’t let Ryan Braun slip right past you while reaching for Harper.