It’s every Fantasy Baseball players favourite time of year. The yearly ESPN Fantasy Baseball maintenance! The Superbowl is over (as a Redskins fan I’m disregarding the result..), which means Pitchers and Catchers start reporting to Spring Training in the next week or so. Get hyped! So it’s time for some way too early players you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on in your fantasy drafts.
Gleyber Torres 2B/SS – New York Yankees
Torres may not be much of a sleeper to the prospect lovers out there, and had he not gotten injured last season, he’d probably already be a Major Leaguer. Alas, he’s got to battle for a job this spring. But it looks like he has the inside track on the opening day second base job. And should he win it, which I suspect will be the case, it drastically increases his fantasy value.
So if you can draft him in the mid-late rounds before he officially plays his way onto the opening day roster, then it’d be a very shrewd move. Even on the downside, if he doesn’t play well in spring and starts the year in the minors, I’d fully expect him to be in the Bronx come the start of May. I mean, the other options right now realistically are Danny Espinosa (my arch nemesis) and Jace Peterson. Two players who have shown they can’t quite cut it at the major league level. Buy in ASAP on Torres.
Brandon Morrow RP – Chicago Cubs
At the other end of the age spectrum is Brandon Morrow. A failed starter previously with the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, he’s since moved to the bullpen with great results. Even during his days in the rotation, he was renowned for missing bats, averaging over a 9.2 K/9. Pretty good. And since becoming a full-time reliever in 2016, he’s put up a 1.96 ERA and a 1.039 WHIP. Even better.
The only concern would be the lack of closing experience, which is fair, and could lead to him being demoted if he doesn’t look sharp from the get go. But a fair comparison would be the man he’s replacing as Cubs closer. Wade Davis. Another failed starter who still racked up the strikeouts, was converted to a reliever by the Royals. The rest is history. So if Morrow can handle the job, he’ll rack up the saves for a team expected to win over 90 games.
Jameson Taillon SP – Pittsburgh Pirates
Is it time to exercise one of my man crushes again? It is? Yay! I wrote about Taillon in one of my very first Free Agent find pieces when I joined Bat Flips & Nerds. And although he didn’t finish the year as I hoped, there’s plenty of reason to buy low on him in drafts this year. Despite the 4.44 ERA, his FIP was closer to his talent level at 3.48.
The former second overall pick is expected to stay with the Pirates despite the firesale, and continue to develop into a budding star. His draft status right now is at the point where you could get him as a 4th/5th starter. But if all goes to plan for him this year, you could get a pitcher worthy of being your second starter. Don’t sleep on Taillon.
Gerrit Cole SP – Houston Astros
Taillon’s now former rotation buddy Cole is also slipping somewhat in the pre-season fantasy rankings. Up until last season, Cole had been a pretty bonafide ace in fantasy circles. A 3.23 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and averaged 17 Wins over a 162 game schedule. However injuries prevented him getting those wins in all but his 19 win campaign in 2015.
A fresh start in Houston awaits, and although moving the to the American League is usually a red flag for a pitcher, this may be just what Cole needs. An Astros team that’s going to score a bucket load of runs once again, putting less pressure on Cole to be perfect on the mound. That accompanied with a strong rebound effort puts Cole would see Cole put up Ace numbers at a third pitcher price.
Yonder Alonso 1B – Cleveland Indians
We round off our sleepers piece with someone who I definitely won’t be drafting myself…honest…just in case those reading this and playing in fantasy league with me notice. Alonso had a fearsome start with the Athletics before finishing off a bit so-so. But in 2018 he has a great landing spot in Cleveland for his approach.
The Indians hitting lineup will likely be potent once again, with Catcher being the only standout weakness. So Alonso will have ample opportunity to drive in plenty of run hitting fifth or sixth. Fantasy owners should be paying for extra base power he provides and RBIs, and if he can rediscover the power surge he showed last season as well. He has a chance to be a real draft day bargain.