The Search For Narco | 2015 Sleeper Hitters

The sixth year of Mr. Cheatsheet will start off just like the previous five. Yes, that’s right, welcome to the 2015 edition of my list of sleeper hitters which is lovingly known as The Search For Narco. For the uninitiated, you’re probably first wondering what a “narco” is; think of it as a sleeper that is so sleepy that he is practically narcoleptic. This little sleeper system has been fairly successful over the past few years in identifying some of the best hitters before they break out. This year we have quite a big list of possible names. First, for the new readers, let’s dive a bit into the history of this system and take a quick look at the methodology behind it.

History

To come up with my sleeper hitters, I go through a process of creating a list of players that meet various statistical benchmarks based on my research from over the years. As a result, the list isn’t subjective at all. I just publish whatever the numbers tell me to publish. Despite a relative lack of human intervention, the system has been pretty great at unearthing big name sleepers while their value is still low.

Using the current parameters, the system identified 43 sleepers since 2008 and a healthy 32 of them ended up outperforming their draft position. Just to name a few successes, it would have told you to draft Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt before they became fantasy stars in their times. To see a full list of who had been identified and how they performed before and after they were named a sleeper, check out this nice little Google Doc.

Methodology

My goal with this system is to find players who have not gotten a full year of stats so the general public isn’t fully aware of them despite the fact that they performed great in their brief time in the MLB. To find players who meet that criteria, I look at the past year’s stats and start by filtering it so that the only people on the list are those that meet these benchmarks:

  • Less than 400 plate appearances last year
  • More than 100 plate appearances last year (I do want players who got more than just a cup of coffee and actually established themselves a bit)
  • Less than 900 career plate appearances going into this year (I want to avoid pulling in journeyman utility players or established players who only had limited PA’s because of injury)

I now have a nice little list of guys who should be a bit unknown to the general public due to their limited playing time. My next step is to look within that list for guys who performed at an elite level during that limited time.

There are a million ways this can be done but I kept the same method that I’ve been doing since the very beginning of this experiment. That method involves using the Total Fantasy Points that the players accumulated in my points league (the type of league where you gain 1 point for a single, 2 points for a double, etc). I take those total Fantasy Points from the past year and divide them by the player’s Plate Appearances to get a Points Per Plate Appearance statistic. I then trim down that list to only look at those that were 0.5 standard deviations above league average for that year in that Points Per Plate Appearance stat.

Despite now having a list of elite part-time performers, there are a couple more steps that must be taken to perfect this list of sleepers. I want to only include players who are actually being drafted after the early rounds. Sometimes a player like Wil Myers last year could qualify as a “sleeper” from these other steps but is being drafted in the early rounds because of his reputation and potential. I’ve found that these players are bad gambles. So, once we start to get Average Draft Position data for the year, I eliminate all players who have an ADP within the top 100 players. The final step (which we also can’t do at this time) is to only target guys who are going to actually be starters for their team to start the year. If a player doesn’t end up being an Opening Day starter (we’ll have a better idea of this as the preseason goes on) then I don’t qualify them as a potential sleeper either.

Okay! That’s it. So, who met that criteria and are among the great potential narcos for 2015?

The 2015 Sleepers

At this point in time, there are nine players who meet the qualifications. Once we know ADP data and who may be starting for their teams, this list may get trimmed down more. But, for now, we have a list that kind of breaks down into three different groups.

THE NOT-SO-SLEEPY SLEEPERS

  • Jorge Soler (OF, CHC) – Soler isn’t exactly flying under the radar as he is one of the most touted Cuban imports. He hit the ground running in limited duty last year and should be on many people’s radar in 2015. We’ll see where his draft position ends up as that will determine whether he’s really a “sleeper.”
  • Mookie Betts (OF, BOS) – Betts had a nice debut for the Red Sox last year and, like Soler, is now already being hyped up as a 2015 sleeper. This may result in an inflated draft stock but I’m hoping he somehow slips under the radar.
  • George Springer (OF, HOU) – Springer was hyped up as the top prospect in the majors last year and he lived up to the hype when he got called up. He likely will be drafted early on in drafts and not really qualify as a sleeper.
  • Evan Gattis (C, ATL) – Gattis has been around for a bit but still hasn’t eclipsed enough plate appearances to disqualify him as a narco candidate. That being said, he’s still a guy who puts up solid numbers at a scarce position so that’s never a bad thing.

THE WILL-THEY-GET-PLAYING-TIME SLEEPERS

  • Scott Van Slyke (OF, LAD) – The Dodgers have had an overstock of outfielders for a while but Van Slyke somehow got playing time last year and delivered in a big way. The Dodgers still have that same logjam in the outfield so he may not be able to get playing time in 2015. But, if a spot opens up for him, this could be a player to watch.
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis (OF, NYM) – Oh god, I hope he doesn’t become a star because I hate spelling his name. It took me long enough to learn how to spell Tiexeira right. But, anyway, he also may not get a chance to play full-time in 2015 so we have to see how this plays out after a successful 2014.
  • Kris Negron (3B, CIN) – Negron is still a question mark as far as what his role will be this year but he’d be a potential impact player if he gets regular opportunities in 2015.
  • Stephen Vogt (1B, OAK) – Different player but same story. He had a nice little campaign in 2014 but we don’t know what his 2015 role will be quite yet.

THE COME-ON-HE-JUST-GOT-LUCKY-LAST-YEAR SLEEPER

  • Michael McKenry (C, COL) – McKenry had a nice season last year in limited duty but, damn, he had a super high BABIP that really inflated his stats. A little further investigation is necessary but this doesn’t seem like a guy to purchase stock in.

That’s your list of potential shiny brand new sleeper hitters that met my criteria. Over the coming months, I’ll write up individual profiles on these players to see how worthy they are of actually being on your draft radar in 2015. Until then, enjoy this lovely snowy winter weather and keep dreaming about the baseball season that’s just around the corner!

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  • schulni
    January 18, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Loving Vogt's name on here! I was thinking he'd end up on a bunch of teams this year, and this list confirms that. Thanks for putting this together each year. Soler's another guy I will pounce on after pick 100. The other guys are either going to have inflated draft stocks or murky playing time situations, I'm afraid.

  • Luke
    January 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Yup, I'll be interested to see how these next few months play out. The best name on the sleeper list last year (Charlie Blackmon) looked murky at this time of year but you never know.

  • Matthew Garofalow
    January 29, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    You still haven't figured out how to spell Teixeira. 🙂