If you believe Fangraphs (and there is no reason not to), the top rookie in the American League so far in 2015 is second baseman Devon Travis of the Toronto Blue Jays, hitting .278/.352/.530 with a 1.2 fWAR already.
Now, Travis was something of a trendy "sleeper prospect" coming into the season. That may sound like a contradiction, trendy and sleeper together, but it is true that many people saw him as a player who could "exceed expectations" following his strong career in the Detroit Tigers system and subsequent trade to the Blue Jays. Hitting .323/.388/.487 in your minor league career will do that, even if you don't have outstanding physical tools.
He looks good so far and there are always sleeper prospects out there. The hard part, however, and the key thing if you are a fantasy owner in a deep dynasty-style league, is identifying the sleeper guys before your competition does.
This is where my book comes in, the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. I put a lot of effort into trying to get ahead of the curve on prospects like Travis, and in his case struck gold. Here is the report on him published in the 2013 edition of the book:
SLEEPER ALERT!! A 13th round pick from Florida State University last June, Devon Travis didn’t receive a lot of pre-draft hype despite a solid college career, but he continued to play well in the New York-Penn League and is getting some attention now. Like many college second basemen, he’s undersized and doesn’t have the arm for shortstop, but he does have quick hands and good range in the field. With the stick, he does a decent job controlling the strike zone, makes contact, has some punch to the gaps, and has hit well at every level to which he’s been exposed. If he was two inches taller, he’d get more attention. Grade C but a sleeper.
Lest you think Travis is a total cherry-pick, the next player in the book that year was Blake Treinen, at the time a fairly obscure pitcher in the California League with an ERA over 4.00.
SLEEPER ALERT!! A seventh round pick in 2011 out of South Dakota State University, Treinen was raw for a college senior and it occasionally showed last year in the California League. However, his natural talent showed too, especially when he was used in relief, where he posted a 2.08 ERA with a 14/4 K/BB in 13 innings. Treinen can run it up there in the mid-90s and his fastball has sinking action, resulting in a 1.88 GO/AO ratio. He has a good slider, but his changeup is fuzzy and will need to be improved if he is used in a starting role. He could move pretty quickly if used in relief, but with his strong body and clean mechanics, it is tempting to keep deploying him as a starter. I like him, and he could be a breakout guy. Grade C but a sleeper.
Now, Treinen isn't doing what Travis is, but he is in the majors with the Washington Nationals and he did have an effective big league season in 2014. In contrast, Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook (which is an excellent tome and I strongly recommend) didn't include reports on Travis or Treinen. That isn't a criticism of BA. They profile 900 players rather than 1100+, the stock of Travis and Treinen wasn't high with inside sources at that point, and my outsider methods certainly miss players too. BA did include good reports on both Travis and Treinen in their '14 book of course, but if you bought my '13 book you could have noticed them a year early.
Much of the material in the Baseball Prospect Book each year ends up here on Minor League Ball in the form of reports and the yearly prospect grades, but not all of it does, and the cases of Travis and Treinen are particularly notable: both were rated as Grade Cs but both were identified as sleepers in the descriptive text of the book. There are reports on over 1,000 players every year. Obviously they are not all going to pan out, but sometimes you find a real nugget.
And that's why you should buy the 2015 edition: because somewhere in there is the Devon Travis of 2018 and you want to know about him before other people do. Another reason is that the book has some humor in it, as well as a riff about car engines. The other other reason is that I want to keep writing the book, but I can't do that if I don't sell enough. It is available in PDF and paperback (which includes the PDF) and you can only order it at JohnSickels.net because Amazon doesn't deserve a cut.