Before draft day, we all take part in a ritual of highlighting guys that we are going to target in the later rounds of the draft. Whether we call them sleepers or underrated, these are the picks that give us bragging rights at some point during the season as you can tell all your friends “I knew he was going to be a stud, that’s why I drafted him.”
Here is a look at some players that may provide you with some bragging rights in 2014.
#1 Rick Porcello – Detroit Tigers
The relatively young Porcello’s K/9 made a nice little jump from 5.46 in 2012 to 7.22 last year, which included two games with double-digit Ks. What I like best about Porcello is that he was, according to Fangraphs, in the top 15 in xFIP in the entire league last year. The guys that followed him on that list include the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Hisashi Iwakuma, and David Price.
Porcello’s strong xFIP did not translate to a strong ERA until the second half of last year where he posted a 3.71 ERA, down sharply from the 4.80 ERA in his first half. Porcello’s WHIP was fairly average as well at 1.28 but over the last 29 innings on the season he posted 1.17 WHIP.
This off-season the Detroit Tigers let Doug Fister go to the Washington Nationals to make room for Drew Smyly, who deserves an honorable mention on the underrated list. But the fact they let Fister go and not Porcello speaks volumes to where he stands in the eyes of the Tigers front office.
That confidence from the organization should trickle down to Porcello which could serve as a catalyst for even more growth this season.
#2 Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals
The guy doesn’t walk much, which might frustrate you in some fantasy formats, but in over 900 at-bats, Perez has a career avg of over .300. Perez, who is only 23, got off to a slow start last year batting .267 in April and stalled around the break batting .208 in July, as well.
However, in 58 games in the second half, Perez hit .303 with 9 HRs.
The 2013 season was really his first full year with the Royals, so I am ranking him this year with the hope he will be a little more used to the big league grind and less susceptible to slumps along the way.
More reason to like Perez as your catcher in 2014, Ned Yost does not rest his number one receiver as much as most managers do. For example, Jason Kendall and his .246 AVG was sixth in at-bats among catchers in 2008, Yost’s last season with the Brewers. In 2013, Perez was 7th in the league in ABs among C and 5th in GP. If Perez does get a breather behind the plate, he still might get some at-bats at first base, where Perez played the final game of the year and has been stationed during winter ball.
If the Royals youth finally plays with some consistency, that too could increase Perez’s numbers and push him into the Top-10 fantasy catcher and amongst the likes of Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Wieters, and Brian McCann.
For more literature on this signal caller, see fellow Crackerjack Clave Jones’ piece and cue in on Perez’ “freakish contact percentage”.
#3 Danny Salazar – Cleveland Indians
Small sample size indeed, but in 10 starts last year Salazar posted a k/9 of 11.25 with an era of 3.12 and an xfip of 2.75. Salazar’s fastball averaged over 95 mph last season which helped him produce a swing strike% of 14.6, which was the highest percentage among starters who pitched over 50 innings. Matt Harvey in comparison was at 12.5.
Salazar has some injury concerns, and when a young guy throws that hard, it will always be in the back of people’s mind whether or not his arm can hold up. Terry Francona might be worried the most, so do not expect a lot of innings out of Salazar. I would not rule out the possibility he gets bullpen duty to help keep his innings to a minimum, especially with the Indians closer role being handed to John Axford who failed to record a save in 2013.
For more insight on Salzar’s ability to miss bats, specifically with his fastball, check out Brad Johnson’s piece at Fangraphs
Click here for a look at some overrated AL Central players.