When using 2014 fantasy baseball rankings, identify promising assets that others may ignore. In fantasy baseball drafts, sleepers and undervalued players will allow you to make the most of your picks.
SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
Estrada's skills are overlooked
Don't judge him by that anomalous first half; his control slipped a little, which led to more homers allowed. Not much else changed, though, and he's still a fine SP1 alternative to the bigger names. -TH
SP Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
No reason yet to worry about his knee and elbow. If he's fine in March and your opponents still doubt him, bonus: His skills remain excellent. Though he still pitches home games in GABP, Latos has limited the long ball, putting him in near-ace territory. -TH
SP Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians SLEEPER SPOTLIGHT
Good pitching has become plentiful. If good becomes common, then fantasy owners would be well served to search for great.
This RHP was a "prospect" in 2010, before he underwent elbow-ligament replacement in August of that year. But he certainly wasn't as intriguing then as he is exciting now. Salazar's Tommy John surgery success story is one of the highest order: His velocity and command improved dramatically (thanks also go to a rebuilt delivery) as he distanced himself from the procedure.
These days, the 24-year-old's four-seamer sits in the upper 90s with ease. He also has a changeup that Baseball America labeled the best in the system in 2012. And Salazar can excel with just two plus offerings. It's unfortunate for the opposition that he occasionally unleashes a quality slider.
Salazar reached his career high in innings as a pro (145) last year. The club says that it doesn't intend to limit him in any way in 2014, however. That may worry some people. Hey, even if he doesn't make 30 starts or win more than 10 games, when he pitches, Salazar should be fantastic. Think Stephen Strasburg's 2012 (a 3.16 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 159 1/3 frames), minus the top-50 pick or $20 he probably cost in a mixed league that year. -NM
SP Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
The control freak's grounder inducement reached an apex last year. He gains a much better infield defense than Motown's, which should curb that insanely high .332 BABIP. He's a bargain version of Jordan Zimmermann. -TH
SP Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers BREAKOUT PLAYER
Durability, velocity and homer prevention leave some to be desired, but the rest of his outlook points to better things, especially at his middle-rounds price. He's had back-to-back second halves of skills growth, and in this past one, he enhanced his changeup. Even if his K-9 dips (it shouldn't, by much), his low-WHIP outlook could make him one of the most valuable SP bargains. -TH
SP Dan Haren, Los Angeles Dodgers
Haren turned around his 2013 by keeping the ball down in the zone. He lands in one of the best pitcher's parks with a strong supporting lineup and, if all goes right, should kiss his recent 4.00-plus ERAs goodbye. -TH
SP Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres
A tweak in his leg kick helped Kennedy finish 2013 with momentum. His homer problems won't vanish but will subside at PETCO Park. Few late-rounders boast this combo of skills, experience and ambience-fueled optimism. -TH
RP Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres
SD hasn't had a clear-cut successor to injury-prone stopper Huston Street in some time. No doubt Benoit, if healthy, is that guy. He doesn't waste many strikes, which sustains his talent, even at 36. -TH
2014 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Undervalued Players: Hitters | Pitchers
2014 Fantasy Baseball Busts and Overvalued Players: Hitters | Pitchers
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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