As this is the day before the REAL Opening Day for 2014 (No, I don't count the two games played on a cricket field on Australia or the game tonight), I figured I would make it official by releasing my "Sleeper" picks for the 2014 season. These are guys I believe will perform above their expectations.
Some rules I made for myself were to only take one player at each position, and only one player from each team. While I do think both the Padres and Rangers have a few guys who I think will come out of nowhere to surprise a lot of people, I wanted to give some other teams a shout-out as well. I also avoided superstars coming off of bad years (Kemp, Pujols, Verlander, etc.).
So, here we go. My 2014 "Sleepers" are:
C - Matt Wieters (BAL) - Wieters is one of those names that falls into the category of proven guys off of bad years, but he was never a superstar. Look for 20+ home runs from Wieters, and if he can hit close to .250, you might see 80+ RBIs from him as well in that stacked offense.
1B - Jose Abreu (CWS) - A ton of scouts are talking about his power, and this is the position you want your power from. 25+ home runs is not out of the question, as the wind will be blowing out in the summer. The RBIs may be tricky to guess in that streaky offense, but if guys like Adam Eaton can perform as well as they can, 85 is a number I'd feel comfortable with.
2B - Kelly Johnson (NYY) - Yes, he is currently listed as the starting third basemen on the Yanks' website, but he carries second base eligibility this season. Power is hard to find up the middle, and this guy could easily top 20 homers at Yankee Stadium. If he can hit around the .250 mark, you could see 20 homers, 60 RBIs, 80 runs, and 15 steals from him. And those are conservative estimates.
3B - Mike Olt (CHC) - Yes, we all know about his vision problems, but we seem to forget that he was once a top prospect and considered untouchable by the Texas Rangers. His vision seems to be better, as he smacked the ball around a bit in Spring Training, and has made the Opening Day roster for the Cubs. If he can hit better than .230, I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit 20 home runs and drive in 70. Not too bad for a guy who is only owned in 7% of leagues.
SS - Andrelton Simmons (ATL) - This is a guy who is on the rise, and fast. He hit 17 homers last season, while hitting below .250. I'd like to see him raise that batting average to around .270, which is not out of the question. He hit much better than that in the minors. If he does, expect 20+ home runs, 65+ RBIs, double digit steals, and close to 90 runs. For example, that's close to the numbers that Ian Desmond put up a couple years ago, and got him a third round draft price the next season.
OF - Khris Davis (MIL) - Davis is currently a starting outfielder in a Brewers offense that is loaded with potential. They have solid guys like Braun, Lucroy, and Ramirez, as well as Carlos Gomez, whose production has risen every year. Davis hit 11 home runs in just 56 games with Milwaukee last year, so we could easily see 25+ from him in a great hitters park. I'd like to see him run a little more, as he had just 13 stolen base attempts last year between the minors and the majors. If he can raise that number to 20 or more, we can see double digit steals as well.
OF - Peter Bourjos (STL) - Not much power from this guy, but 10+ home runs is about what is expected. You're not here for the homers, though. The Cards love to run, and Bourjos has the speed to steal over 40 bases. A ton of people are high on Billy Hamilton this year, and rightfully so. He can run. But so can Bourjos, and the Cards obviously think highly of him, as they gave up David Freese to get him.
OF - Leonys Martin (TEX) - Another guy who brings you steals, and is in an offense that will allow him to score runs as well. I think the power improves a bit this year, and he hits 15+ home runs. If he stays around the 10 homer mark, don't worry. The price tag isn't too high, and he still has a ton of speed and is surrounded by talent.
SP - Andrew Cashner (SD) - This man can flat out pitch. He has one of the best fastballs in the big leagues that you never hear of, and he pitches in maybe the best park in the majors. If he can get the run support, expect 12+ wins and 175+ Ks.
RP - Rex Brothers (COL) - LaTroy Hawkins is currently the closer in Colorado. Oh, you still need to hear more? Well, Hawkins' career ERA is well over 4, and his WHIP is over 1.40. Still need more? Brothers has a career ERA of 2.82 and a WHIP below 1.40. Brothers is simply the better option. He takes the closing job before the end of May and gets close to 30 saves, if not more.