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2016 sleeper Cy Young Award candidates: Carlos Martinez and Michael Pineda

Carlos Martinez and Michael Pineda have the talent to make the jump to elite starters. Icon Sportswire, AP Photo

For the fourth consecutive year, I’ve decided to indulge in the process of making “Sleeper Cy” picks. My definition of a “sleeper” pick is the choice of a pitcher who has not received a Cy Young Award vote. These aren’t my actual Cy Young picks, but they’re the guys I think could make the jump to greatness.

In 2013, I took Homer Bailey and Miguel Gonzalez. Bailey finished with a 3.49 ERA, 199 strikeouts and a no-hitter. Gonzalez had a 3.34 ERA through 17 starts and a 2.30 ERA in September, but fizzled a bit and posted a 3.78 ERA.

The past two years, my picks have been better. In 2014, I made only a National League choice, but I put it in print -- Doug Fister. Fister made only 25 starts, but they were really good starts. He had a 2.41 ERA (albeit with a 3.93 FIP), and finished eighth in Cy Young Award voting.

I couldn’t have done better than I did last year, as I tabbed Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer. Cole and his 2.60 ERA finished fourth in the NL race. Archer’s 3.23 ERA and 252 strikeouts netted him fifth place in the American League.

Let’s see if I can keep it going in 2016. This year, I’m going with Carlos Martinez of the St. Louis Cardinals and Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees.

Why Martinez? I had a couple of other candidates in mind. I was leaning to Padres starter Tyson Ross but bailed after getting skittish about his high walk total and slider usage and his inconsistent spring. Noah Syndergaard was another option, but he’s a bit of a trendy pick and I prefer to go my own way.

The 24-year-old Martinez has the stuff to be great. He had a 3.01 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 29 starts before being shut down at the very end of the season with a shoulder strain. Martinez had a 2.52 ERA before the All-Star break and a 3.73 ERA after, but all of his peripherals (strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed) were considerably better after the break. His 9.5 percent hard-hit rate after the break ranked 14th among the 114 starters with the most innings.

Martinez’s fastball ranges from 95 to 98 mph. His sinker helps limit his home runs allowed (13 in 179 2/3 innings), his slider is a nasty strikeout pitch and his changeup is high-end.

“He’s a good sleeper choice,” one major league scout said. “He has weapons versus both right- and left-handed hitters, and has swing-and-miss off-speed stuff. He needs to show an innings buildup, and with that, reliable health of a front-line talent. He’s a potential star if healthy.”

Why Pineda? Pineda underachieved in 2015. He had a strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 7-to-1, but a 4.37 ERA because of a propensity for giving up home runs (16 in Yankee Stadium, five on the road).

I’m going to gamble that he figures it out. He’s 27 and healthy and a lot was expected of him early in his career, so why can’t he fulfill those expectations now? He’s also looked awfully good in spring training.

The key for Pineda will be full-season maintenance. He had a 2.72 ERA through seven starts (including a 16-strikeout gem against the Orioles) last season, and seven starts after that in which he allowed no runs or one run, but he also had a bunch of clunkers in which he got fried by the long ball.

There’s also the advanced stats case to be made for Pineda. Though his ERA was 4.37 last season, he had a 3.34 FIP (based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed). His 1.03 ERA-FIP differential was third-biggest among those who pitched at least 100 innings last season and was the product of a lousy BABIP (.332) and a low-strand rate (68.6 percent).

If Pineda pitches as well as he did last season -- and there’s no reason to believe he won’t -- he’s going to be pretty good. And if he’s a little better, he might be Cy Young Award worthy.