I like being the only one saying something on a player. I do. It works against me sometimes — hello, Cody Asche 2014 sleeper! — sometimes it works in my favor — hello, Michael Brantley 2014 sleeper. Michel Saunders reminds me of Michael Brantley, and I don’t think it’s because they share a first name, but it could be. Psychology is a weird phenomenon. One day you’re a finicky eater, the next day you’re trying anchovies on your pizza and aren’t totally grossed out. Maybe Saunders is our anchovies. Gross to a lot of people, but not reprehensible if you give him a try. Going into last year, Michael Brantley’s high in power was 10 homers, and his high in speed was 17 steals. Obviously, that didn’t stop him from being a top ten fantasy player in 2014. In 2012, Saunders beat both of those Brantley numbers easily; he blazed a trail of badonkadonks and monkey butts with 19 homers and 21 steals. That year should’ve put Saunders on the map, but he hit .247. Fantasy baseballers (<–my mom’s term!) don’t like low averages. Why? I don’t know, ask them. Then Saunders didn’t equal that year in 2013, and was injured-slash-unownable for a lot of last year, so Saunders disappeared into an abyss of 5th outfielders, who are grabbed off of waivers then dropped like a sack of potatoes. If I didn’t think he was capable of reaching the heights of 2012 again, I wouldn’t even waste your time, but for s’s and g’s let’s take us into the 2nd paragraph with a little… Anyway, what can we expect from Michael Saunders for 2015 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
I love guys that can contribute 20 homers and 20 steals without a high price tag. If a 20/20 player can luck into a solid average, they’re a top 20 fantasy player overall. That alone makes Saunders a sleeper. When he hit 19 homers in 2012, his HR/FB% was 15. That’s way above his career average of 10.9, and it feels a bit high to expect, but — and this is a J. Lo-sized but — he only had a 34.6 FB% that year. That feels low. He’s easily exceeded that every year that he’s been in the majors. If he stayed healthy last year and only had a HR/FB% of 13.1 as it was last year, he would’ve had 17 homers. He also hit .273 last year while cutting his K-rate. If Saunders would’ve hit .273 with 17 homers and his usual 15-20 steals, we wouldn’t even be having a conversation about him. He’d be obviously on everyone’s radar. Oh, and he’s 28 years old, still firmly in his prime years. Sure, we should throw out spring training numbers always, but last spring Saunders cut his K-rate from 25.2% to 11.4%. Wouldn’t even bother talking about it, if he didn’t continue to cut his K-rate in the regular season. In 2012 during his quasi-breakout season, he swung at 30.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone. Last year? Only 22% of pitches. In 2012, he swung at 70.9% of pitches inside the strike zone. Everything he saw, he swung at. Now he’s waiting for his pitch, and he only swung at 65.2% of pitches inside the zone. Saunders needs to do three things to be a huge value grab in 2015. A) Stay healthy. B) Hit at least .270. C) There’s no C. We can’t do anything about A, and B looks like it’s well within his reach. Right now, I’m seeing Josh Donaldson in the Blue Jays projected lineups in the two hole and Saunders batting 7th. I don’t think that’s done changing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like Reyes, Saunders, Bautista, Edwin, Donaldson and Martin. You think that might just be the best lineup Saunders has ever been in? Oh, yeah, he’s in line for a huge year. For 2015, I’ll give him the projections of 82/18/68/.276/20, with upside from that. Yes, I want him on every team I draft next year.