All Major League teams now have their official 25-man rosters for the season. They will undoubtedly change over the next few weeks and months, but they are set for at least a series or two. Here’s a look at some sleepers who made their team’s roster and could have a bigger impact than expected.
Ian Thomas is a left-handed pitcher who will start the season in the bullpen for Atlanta. He spent 2013 in AA Mississippi where he went 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA and had 123 strikeouts. Thomas may be optioned back down to the minors once Ervin Santana and Mike Minor come onto the roster a few weeks into the season, but for now he appears to be a solid rookie pitching candidate for the Braves. The success for Thomas could come from the pen but could also come from the starting rotation should there be another freak injury that makes Atlanta scramble for another new starter.
Christian Yelich is one of the top prospects in the Marlins’ organization, but he is still a sleeper given his lack of playing time in the Majors. After playing in only 62 games last season, Yelich will play his first full season barring any injuries. He gives the Marlins a second top tier outfielder, at least on paper, and could be a candidate for Rookie of the Year. After hitting .288 with 31 walks and a .370 on-base percentage, Yelich is a young player (22 years old) with major upside. He may not find a long term deal as large or as quickly as Mike Trout did, but Yelich will definitely be signing a multi-year extension sooner rather than later.
New York Mets
Despite playing in 121 games in 2013, Juan Lagares only batted .242 in his rookie season. He will be the center fielder once again for the Mets and should find himself with a higher average and better results with some better talent surrounding him this season. Lagares has a great glove and will joined this year by Curtis Granderson. Granderson will provide some veteran leadership to a young gun who reminds me of a young Shane Victorino. Watch for him to be the everyday starter in center for at least the next few seasons.
On a team full of aging veterans, third baseman Cody Asche is probably the easiest choice for a sleeper on the Phillies this season. He played in 50 games last year and had five home runs with a .235 batting average. Asche may not be the next Scott Rolen, but he is on the way up as he begins his Major League career, as opposed to his teammates who are the wrong side of 30 and 40 years. A product of Nebraska, Asche could find his power with a full season under his belt and provide a stable at the hot corner that Philadelphia hasn’t had since Rolen. He didn’t have the best spring training in 2014 but his numbers should improve with the increased workload and more consistent playing time.
Taylor Jordan will round out the rotation once the Nationals opt for a 5-man rotation this season. He pitched 51.2 innings last season and had a 3.66 ERA. There is not much pressure on Jordan with the abundance of talent in the rest of the rotation, but Jordan could come into his own this season. There are few new faces this season in Washington but Jordan is a welcome addition to join the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. With teammates like that to learn from, Jordan will fly under the radar before long becoming a threat of his own.