We are officially in the fantasy baseball season and these fantasy baseball sleepers are here to contribute from day one.
The time has finally come. Grueling bus rides and inadequate facilities are a thing of the past, making way for the comfort and amenities of home that are far more pleasing. Spring training has finally come to an end and the arduous wait for the regular season is over. For aspiring minor leaguers such as the ones found in this list, it also signals a definitive conclusion in regards to their personal roster aspirations. Since I’m not a huge proponent of rules and regulations, a simple demotion from the major league camp will not automatically exclude those youngsters from the PPR rankings. Some will fall out and some will stick around, but fluidity is the name of the game and this column has got it in spades.
1) Kyle Drabek – Tor (LW:1)
Kyle Drabek finished up a stellar spring with an impressive start against the Red Sox on Monday. Five innings of one run ball with five strikeouts mixed in was more than enough to assure the Blue Jays they made the right call in keeping him on the opening day roster. More importantly, Drabek did not issue a walk in those five innings, which has only served to further indicate his readiness for the big leagues. He’s got the track record and the pedigree to stick and stay so make sure you hop on that bandwagon pronto.
2) Jeremy Hellickson – TB (LW:2)
Jeremy Hellickson had a fairly basic final week of spring training as the Rays are in the process of stretching him out for the rotation. He pitched last Saturday against the Orioles and surrendered two runs in four plus innings, but his health is what the Rays are focused on. After missing time earlier in the spring with that hamstring issue, the Rays were worried that their young phenom wouldn’t be ready in time for opening day. He has shown the ability to bounce back from a minor injury and is ready to make his first start of the season next Wednesday against the Angels.
3) Michael Pineda – Sea (LW:4)
Michael Pineda climbs his way into the top three this week with a rotation spot locked in and hype starting to mount. Expectations must be tempered since he will be pitching in front of one of the most abysmal teams in major league baseball, but make no mistake about the fact he can straight up deal. His long and painstaking rise through the minor leagues over the past few years have given him the focus and dedication he will most certainly need in order to slide in behind King Felix as the #2 in Seattle.
4) Brandon Belt – SF (LW:6)
Brandon Belt was the subject of all sorts of rumors this past week as to whether or not he would break camp with the team and head north to the Bay Area. GM Brian Sabean kept his cards incredibly close to the vest on this one, but there were signs all week as to which direction he was leaning. This time around pure talent won out over money constraints and the Giants elected to keep the young star on the roster and start him at first base. He made his big league debut last night against the Dodgers and went 1-3. He figures to be a very reliable option for the defending champs all season long.
5) Mark Trumbo – LAA (LW:5)
Nothing much has changed in Mark Trumbo’s world in the past week. He was already handed the starting gig at first base after an impressive spring and an underwhelming recovery from injury by Kendrys Morales. The Angels are well aware of what Trumbo is capable of and now it’s entirely up to him to see if he can carry that over when the games start to count. If he flashes enough in the next few weeks while Morales remains on the shelf, he may be able to snatch the job away permanently.
6) Freddie Freeman – Atl (LW:8)
A nice bounce back week from Freddie Freeman during the last few days of spring training leads to his ascension to the six spot. After beginning spring training blazing hot, Freeman cooled a bit in the middle portion of the schedule and almost fell off this list entirely. He came back to life last week and had a decent time at the plate while continuing to flash above average defense at first. He went hitless in his first major league game yesterday, but more than held his own at first. He should be just fine out there.
7) Ivan Nova – NYY (LW:7)
Ivan Nova also finds himself holding steady from last week. Nova finished up his spring with a nice outing against the Astros last Friday after which Joe Girardi officially anointed him as the #4 starter. He has arguably been the most consistent and impressive of all Yankees hurlers this spring and figures to put up some nice numbers in the Bronx this year. He will draw the Twins on Monday in his first major league start.
8) Brandon Beachy – Atl (LW:10)
Another youngster in what seems like an endless line down in Atlanta, Brandon Beachy rode his hot spring and finally earned a spot in the Braves opening day rotation. Beachy tossed four scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Twins in his final tune-up before getting thrown into the show. He finished the spring with an incredibly miniscule 0.90 ERA in 21 innings and looks poised to do some big things on a title contending squad.
9) Craig Kimbrel – Atl (LW:NR)
Craig Kimbrel sneaks his way back into the rankings this week after notching a save in his first appearance of the season on Thursday. Kimbrel, the third Brave to make my rankings this week seems to have the inside track on the starting closers job in Atlanta. Although manager Fredi Gonzalez has yet to officially commit to which young fireballer will assume regular duties, I suspect it will ultimately be Kimbrel. The Braves seem to like Johnny Venters in the eighth inning, but that could change at any time. Keep tabs on this situation.
10) Mitch Moreland – Tex (LW:NR)
Mitch Moreland makes his first appearance in the rankings after a hot spring and much hype.
The Texas Rangers handed the keys over to the first base kingdom to Moreland this spring and
he has done nothing to force them to regret it. He wrapped up an impressive spring batting a
scorching .403 with four homeruns and 15 RBI and looks ready to shine. You would be best
served to keep an eye on this young masher as he could very well get himself included in
rookie of the year conversations by year-end.
Dropped Out: Zach Britton (Bal), Brad Emaus (NYM)