D’Backs Archie Bradley is a fantasy baseball sleeper pick in 2014 (Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
It has been an exciting week for baseball fans. With pitchers and catchers reporting to their spring training facilities, the 2014 Major League Baseball season is officially underway.
Fantasy baseball owners can now break out their rankings, cheat sheets, draft boards and, well, lots and lots of snacks, because the next month will be a grind.
As part of my fantasy baseball preview, I will be highlighting my “sleeper” picks in both hitting and pitching. Remember to keep checking back every day as I cover all 30 teams (alphabetically) leading up till Opening Day.
What is a sleeper, you ask? There can be many definitions, of course, but I’ll be sticking to one main guideline:
- The player’s ADP (average draft position) cannot be higher than 120 on FantasyPros.com. Essentially, that means they are being taken no earlier than the 10th and 12th round in 10-team and 12-team leagues, respectively. This prerequisite cannot be bent in any shape or form.
Archie Bradley, SP (current ADP: #356):
The Diamondbacks organization is loaded with pitching prospects, but Archie Bradley is at the top of that list. In fact, a lot of people will make a case for Bradley being the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.
The 6-foot-4 right-handed hurler recorded a phenomenal 1.84 ERA over 26 starts with High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile in 2013. He dominated batters using a three-pitch repertoire, which includes a low-to-mid 90s fastball (with great movement), a curveball and a changeup.
He’s not perfect, though. After blowing hitters away at the lower minor league levels, his K/9 took a steady drop during his time in Double-A, but at 8.68, he was still in ace territory. His control has been somewhat of an issue, having walked 4.31 batters per nine innings, but owners shouldn’t be concerned about Bradley reaching Trevor Bauer-like wildness. Bradley is a special talent and should find his place among some of baseball’s best young pitchers when all is said and done.
Right now Arizona’s starting rotation is set — and Bradley is not in it — but there are a lot of question marks among those five pitchers.
Brandon McCarthy would seem to be the starter most likely to be replaced by Bradley at some point. McCarthy is very talented, but has never been able to stay healthy. The 30-year-old has made just 87 starts over the past five seasons, and there’s no evidence to lead us to believe he can play a full season in 2014.
Trevor Cahill could also be at risk. Cahill finished last year on a good note (2.28 ERA in September), but he had some real rough patches early on — namely a 9.85 ERA across six June starts. If Cahill comes out in April pitching like he did this past June, expect D’Backs manager Kirk Gibson to make some changes.
Another road block that could stand in Bradley’s way — at least in the immediate future — is Randall Delgado. The former Atlanta Braves pitcher (whom Arizona acquired in the Justin Upton deal) is young and talented, but also out of minor-league options. Because of that, D’Backs brass may choose to allow Delgado, and not Bradley, to get the first crack at filling a vacated rotation spot if that situation arises. Whether that happens or not, expect Bradley to arrive in Phoenix no later than June.
If you are playing in a re-draft format, he may be a bit of a reach in leagues with less than 14 teams and shallow benches, but owners in dynasty and keeper leagues should consider making a sizable investment in Archie Bradley.
2014 Projections: 8-7, 3.91 ERA, 115 K, 1.32 WHIP, 125.0 IP
Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Gerardo Parra, CF (current ADP: #391):
The Diamondbacks have made a few noteworthy moves this off-season, but their biggest was acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels (I still can’t get used to saying that) in a three-team deal. In order to land the power-hitting left fielder, the D’Backs had to part ways with one of their prized prospects, sending 25-year-old center fielder Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox.
While the trade netted Arizona a slugger who has averaged 31.6 home runs over the past three seasons, it also opened the door for Gerardo Parra to finally get consistent at bats.
Parra has been a regular for the D’Backs during his entire five-year career, but he’s admittedly never been secure in his role. He has a brighter outlook for 2014, though. “It was hard,” said Parra. “The only thing was, I was waiting for my time. Right now, it’s my time.” It’s also the right time for fantasy owners to start paying attention to the Venezuelan.
Trading Eaton to the White Sox may have been easier said than done for the D’Backs. By doing so, it will allow Parra to play center field full time — a boon for them, considering he’s won two Gold Glove Awards.
Coming into his prime years (he’ll be 27 in May), Parra could also be poised to break out offensively.
In 2013 — his first full season — Parra set career-highs in home runs (10), runs (79), doubles (43), and walks (48). He also made a career-best 663 plate appearance over 156 games. His baserunning was a little disappointing — swiping only 10 bases after accumulating 30 in the previous two years — but batting leadoff for an entire season could get him back in the 15-20 SB range.
He won’t have a 30-homer season, but his exceptional defense guarantees him regular playing time, and batting at the top of a potent D’Backs lineup will make him a nice contributor for your fantasy team.
2014 Projections: .281/.350/.413, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 82 R, 20 SB
» Missed any of my earlier picks? Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve have covered from each team so far.