March 14, 2013
Three Arms to Target
The nature of the “sleeper” in fantasy baseball has changed vastly in recent years. The internet era has ushered in a new level of preparedness for all fantasy managers, forcing those that hope to identify players their league-mates might be sleeping on to dig a level or two deeper—and even then, their sleeper status is far from guaranteed. In 10-team mixed leagues, there are no real sleepers; everyone is aware of the players that could provide value, and all that matters is the order in which they will ultimately be selected. Heck, there aren’t really sleepers in your 12-team NL-only leagues, either. If you are playing in a league that deep, then virtually everyone involved is knowledgeable about the pool.
Today, I am bringing you my list of “sleepers.” Call them undervalued, off-the-radar, or even simply “sleepers,” but just know that we’re diving deeper. Basically, if they appeared on the 41-80 portion of last week’s Starting Pitcher lists, then they won’t be on this list. Some of those ranked in the 65-80 range are going to fly under the radar a bit, especially in 10- and 12-team mixed leagues, but let’s jump down a level or three with this trio of arms.
This young righty—acquired from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez deal—quietly had the third-hardest fastball in baseball (95.19 mph) last year, among pitchers who threw at least 800 four-seamers. As you can see from the linked chart, he also logged the highest GB/FB ratio on fastballs among those in the top 10. Velocity and ground-ball generation are a nice foundation to build on, but command of the hard stuff is at least equally important. He had a nearly one-to-one of strikeouts and walks during plate appearances that ended with a fastball, which suggests that there is plenty of work left to be done in that department. Fortunately, Eovaldi’s slider is also an out pitch that is useful against both lefties and fellow righties, having accounted for 43 of his 78 strikeouts a season ago.
Eovaldi was a guy I really liked heading into 2012 (before I started at BP), and his transition to Miami is only better for us, because the park is more pitcher-friendly and he falls further off the radar on the hapless Marlins. He closed out his season with a six-start stretch that included a 3.76 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, to go with a 19.3 percent strikeout rate and a 6.2 percent walk rate, over 36 innings. Sample-size caveats apply, but that period represented 30 percent of his 2012 workload.