Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers
Semantics have it that the term ‘sleepers’ means something different to each person. What we can all agree on, however, is that nabbing those sleepers is an essential step towards another fantasy championship and thus, the hype surrounding these articles is well deserved. I’ll get you to the list, in reverse order, of course, for neurotic effect, but first, let me explain what I mean by sleeper:
- A sleeper is not someone who isn’t known in casual baseball circles but will be drafted high (see Trea Turner)
- A sleeper is not someone who you will find hyped up in every article you read (see David Dahl)
- A sleeper is not someone who will be drafted late despite being a big name (see Michael Brantley)
- …and a sleeper is not someone who will be drafted late and has limited upside (see Devon Travis)
Rather, a sleeper IS someone who is not well known, not hyped and has upside that can win you a league if you nab him in the later rounds. This list is geared towards standard 10 team leagues with 25 players per team. Without further ado, your master list of key sleeper targets:
10. Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA): ADP #476
When the Seattle Mariners sent Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks for Jean Segura, they also acquired a little-known 26-year-old prospect named Haniger. The former first-round pick blew up in 2015 when he compiled an .883 OPS, then he took another leap forward last year, knocking the ball around for an .869 OPS in Double-A then a ridiculous .341/.428/.670 slash line in 74 Triple-A games. Seeing that Seattle is known as a pitcher’s park, you might expect a severe drop off, but consider that since moving their fence in, Safeco has been a top-six park for hitting homers. Haniger should have the job from the get go (by the way, he is an excellent defender) and should end up in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
My 2017 Prediction: 520 AB, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 69 R, 7 SB, .271 BA
9. Cam Bedrosian (RP – LAA): ADP #296
After tearing up the minors in 2014 with 82 K’s and just 16 hits allowed in 45 innings, Bedrosian got his taste of the Majors and was mediocre. Last season, he finally took the step forward we were all waiting for. Among relievers with 40+ innings, Bedrosian ranked 10th in FIP which means Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that, more accurately than ERA, displays just how good a pitcher was. Not that you need that with his 1.12 ERA and 51 Ks in 40 IP during 2016. It is only a matter of time before Huston Street (see 6.45 ERA and just 14 K’s) loses the job, and when he does, Bedrosian might just snatch it and hang on for a decade.
My 2017 Prediction: 57 IP, 1.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 80 Ks, 29 SVs
8. Kolten Wong (2B – STL): ADP #362
After knocking 23 HRs and stealing 38 bases in his first 1000 plate appearances, the Cardinals’ slick defending second basemen went nuts in the playoffs and cemented his ADP in the top 100. Fast forward one year and after struggling through a shoulder injury, that high-ceiling middle infielder is being undrafted in standard fantasy leagues despite possessing the same upside. The Cardinals had loads of interest for Wong this off-season but insisted on keeping him so you can bet he will remain in the lineup if he stays healthy and seeing that his OPS jumped 18% in the second-half, you can expect his offensive production to progress.
My 2017 Prediction: 489 AB, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 68 R, 17 SB, .274 BA
7. Nick Castellanos (3B – DET): ADP #227
Trevor Story, Mookie Betts and Manny Machado were the only 24 year olds with a higher OPS than Castellanos last season. Yes, that means he was better offensively than first-round fantasy pick, Bryce Harper and third-round pick, Xander Bogearts. When you consider that this former top-15 prospect batted .405 one season in the minors, it is easy to forgive the second-half slump and expect him to look more like the .302/.342/.534 type of player that we saw in the first-half and considered an all-star snub. Please, I beg you, do not let someone else in your league reach for him before you do.
My 2017 Prediction: 554 AB, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 60 R, 1 SB, .293 BA
6. Tyler Glasnow (SP – PIT): ADP #238
Say what you want about Alex Reyes‘ dominant 40 innings in 2016 and all of his potential, Glasnow is the most polished rookie pitcher this season, as evidenced by his career minor league 2.03 ERA with 11.6 K/9 and just 5.3 H/9. In fact, last season in Triple-A, he was even more impressive than his norm despite being five years younger than the league-average player. This 6’8″ rookie consistently throws a 97 MPH fastball and should have no problem solidifying his place in the Pirates rotation this spring on his way to winning the NL Rookie of the Year award.
My 2017 Prediction: 172 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 195 Ks, 11 Ws
5. Carter Capps (RP – SD): ADP #412
Don’t bother looking for his 2016 stats, they don’t exist. Capps missed the entire season after receiving Tommy John Surgery. That didn’t stop the Padres from acquiring him for Andrew Cashner mid-season, however. Let’s do a quick comparison here:
|Carter Capps ’15||16.8||2.0||5.2|
|Aroldis Chapman ’15||15.7||4.5||5.8|
Am I suggesting Capps was better than Chapman? Hmmm… I think that would be an understatement. In fact, Capps’ FIP was 1.10, a full 0.61 better than #2, or the same difference above #2 than between #2 and #15. To put it plainly, before he was injured, Capps was really really good. Do you think Brandon Maurer (4.52 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) will be able to hold him off for the closer job? Yeah, me neither. Oh, and now he is pitching in the best ballpark for pitchers.
My 2017 Prediction: 53 IP, 1.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 84 Ks, 27 SVs
4. Yulieski Gurriel (3B – HOU): ADP #255
If you listen to the FantasyPros Baseball Podcast, you might be shocked he is only #4 on this list. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you don’t reach for him, you don’t care about winning. How about another chart?
|Jose Abreu (final year in Cuba)||.345||.481||.617||14.8%|
|Yoennis Cespedes (final year in Cuba)||.333||.424||.667||11.3%|
|Yulieski Gurriel (final year in Cuba)||.500||.589||.874||1.7%|
|Jose Abreu (MLB rookie year)||.317||.383||.581||23.6%|
|Yoenis Cespedes (MLB rookie year)||.292||.356||.505||20.9%|
|Yulieski Gurriel (MLB rookie year)||???||???||???||???|
Now, if you apply the same translation rates to Gurriel that Abreu and Cespedes had, then we are talking about Gurriel batting .448/.481/.742 with a 2.9% strikeout rate. Heck, lets even TRIPLE the translation rates for old age and a thinner crop of Cuban talent. That comes out to a .346 hitter with a .479 slugging percentage and just 27 K’s over a full season. Now, we’ve got to be realistic, that .500 BA had to have been BABIP driven and the increased K-rate will continue to cut down on that average, but still, we aren’t talking about a mediocre baseball player here. Remember, he was playing with a bad hammy last year after taking 18 months away from baseball!
My 2017 Prediction: 461 AB, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 55 R, .299 BA, 4 SB
3. Lance Lynn (SP – STL): ADP #320
I hope you are wondering right now how in the world anyone could be a better sleeper than Gurriel. Well, you start by adding a 29-year-old ace back to a St. Louis Cardinals team that was third in the National League in runs scored last season before upgrading their offense this off-season. Lynn’s 60 wins from his rookie season to 2015 were only matched by Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and David Price. His ERA during that time? 3.38 and among the top 10 in baseball. Strikeouts? Yep, he does that too: top fifteen. Even if he comes back at just 80% of his former self, he should still warrant a top 100 pick. Letting him go undrafted is borderline criminal.
My 2017 Prediction: 182 IP, 3.53 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 160 Ks, 13 Ws
2. Jorge Soler (OF – KC): ADP #275
I know what you are thinking. Dude batted .238, doesn’t steal any bases and couldn’t even crack the starting lineup–why would anybody draft Soler? Well let’s see–You’ll recall Aroldis Chapman was dealt for a top 10 prospect (and more!) while Andrew Miller was traded for a top 30 guy and a top 100 guy. The fact that the former World Series champion Royals traded their stud closer for just Soler should tell you enough. If you need more, consider that in 2014, both Soler and Kris Bryant were 22 years old and played Double-A and Triple-A together. Bryant hit an absurd .325/.438/.661 that year then proceeded to win the MVP last season. Soler was better in 2014! He went .340/.432/.700 and was also named a top five prospect. The only differences since, have been hype and injuries. Also, note that Soler’s OPS in the second half last season was .864. That’s Manny Machado/Corey Seager territory.
My 2017 Prediction: 482 AB, 26 HR, 77 RBI, 70 R, .270 BA, 2 SB
1. Lance McCullers (SP – HOU): ADP #154
Ok, maybe McCullers is being drafted too high to be considered a true sleeper, but do you expect me to sit by and let all of you readers miss out on nabbing a Cy Young candidate in the 13th round? No way! I get it, there are injury concerns and he has had some control struggles, but what we saw in July was the real Lance McCullers, he is a true all-world talent. As a 21-year-old, Baseball Reference says he was most similar to Mark Prior. Last year, most similar to Cy-Young candidate Matt Morris. In those two years since he joined the league, his xFIP ranks 12th, right between Corey Kluber and Jon Lester. Here is the list of pitchers in that time with 10+ K/9: Jose Fernandez, Kershaw, Strasburg, Scherzer, Archer, Sale, Syndergaard and McCullers. Don’t miss out.
My 2017 Prediction: 194 IP, 2.92 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 235 Ks, 15 Ws