Fantasy Baseball: In contract year, Brewers’ ace Yovani Gallardo is a fantasy sleeper


Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011 the Milwaukee Brewers reached the NLCS, but just two years later, that same team finished with a record of 74-88, their worst mark since the 2006 season.

There were many factors the led to their disappointing season (I’m looking at you, Ryan Braun), but while things were falling apart in Milwaukee, they should’ve been able to rely on their top pitcher.

That was not the case — but things are looking up in 2014.

With renewed confidence — and impending free agency — Brewers’ ace Yovani Gallardo is poised to have a bounce-back season, making him a big sleeper in fantasy baseball drafts.

» Yovani Gallardo, SP (current ADP: #221):

The 2013 season was easily the worst of Yovani Gallardo’s seven-year major league career.  Even Gallardo himself admits it.

“I think [2013 was] obviously the worst year I’ve had since coming up to the big leagues.  My No. 1 goal is to make each year better. Last year, I went in the opposite direction,” said Gallardo.

He was coming off fantastic campaign in which he went 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA and 204 strikeouts, so 2013 was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners.

Gallardo had been one of the constants on a Brewers team that was becoming a mainstay at the top of the National League.

From 2009-2012, Gallardo had compiled a 60-38 record and had reached the 200-K plateau in each season.

2013 was cursed from the very beginning for 6-foot-2 right-hander out of Mexico.

In the off-season his mother had passed away, and that tragedy led to a drunk driving arrest in April.  Things were already off to a bad start and the season had barely begun.

His performance on the mound was clearly affected by his mental state.

The month of April wasn’t terrible for Gallardo.  He was able to win three games with a serviceable 4.25 ERA.  Of course, his offense was able to provide 7.7 runs of support in those victories.  The main concern was his ability to miss bats.

During April of 2012, Gallardo compiled a very nice 9.11 K/9 ratio, but during the first month of 2013, that rate stood at just 5.50.  His fastball velocity was down from the previous two seasons.  It had topped out at 92.6 mph during the ’11 campaign, but dipped to 90.7 mph in ’13.  Because of that, his strikeout percentage on his fastball was just 9.5%, down from 11.7% the previous year.

Things only got worse in May (5.97 ERA) and Gallardo hit an all-time low during the month of July, allowing 24 ER in 29.2 IP, which led to a Philip Humber-like 7.28 ERA.

Funny enough, it was an injury that turned his season around.

While facing the Cubs on July 30, Gallardo was forced to leave the game with hamstring tightness.  He was put on the 15-day DL following his abbreviated start.

The time off worked wonders.

In eight August/September outings, he went 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA.  He allowed a sparkling 2 ER over 19.1 IP in August.

The Brewers finally got their “ace” back.

It makes sense for fantasy owners to believe his newfound ambition though, and they should be jumping on the opportunity to draft him if he’s still on the board around the 18th round (where his ADP currently has him).

There is, however, one very big reason the Brewers’ No. 1 starter is primed for a breakout in 2014: this will be a contract year for Gallardo.

The Brewers hold a $13 million option for 2015 with a $600,000 buyout, and he will be looking to cash in on his opportunity to strike it rich.  Fantasy owners know too well how players perform when there’s a chance for a big payday on the line.

Yovani Gallardo is set to be the club’s Opening Day starter, but judging by his ADP, owners are obviously casting doubts.  Even his Brewers’ teammate, Marco Estrada, is going seven spots higher than him in drafts right now.  Being able to snag the 28-year-old in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft could prove to be a huge steal.

2014 Projections: 16-10, 3.75 ERA, 206 K, 1.29 WHIP, 201.0 IP

» Missed any of my earlier picks?  Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve have covered from each team so far.

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