8 Deep Sleepers (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
If you’ve ever had the wonderful privilege of winning a fantasy baseball championship, you understand what it takes to win. Skill, dedication, and luck all play a vital role.
It takes the right players, at the right time, to win. For some, that is the exact definition of skill. Acquiring the players who will be good enough to make the fantasy playoffs, yet be the best during the playoffs, is a noteworthy feat. For others, they consider that to be luck. There’s no doubt that even the best experts will tell you there is some luck behind having healthy players perform at their highest during the optimal time of the fantasy season. Regardless, factor it all together, and it definitely takes a mix of skill, fate, and whatever else the fantasy sports gods are looking for. So, knowing this, what can you do to ensure that you have the best odds in your league to succeed? Find great values.
Year after year, individual players prove that preseason draft rankings only tell a small part of the story. Ask owners who were fortunate enough to snag Christian Yelich in 2018 drafts. Or, if you don’t believe me, talk to fantasy football owners who took Patrick Mahomes as a late-round flier.
We could go right on down the list and find names that were drafted significantly later in fantasy drafts than their production last year warranted. J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, Eugenio Suarez, and Whit Merrifield were just a few of the players who significantly outperformed expectations.
What if I told you, though, that you could have any sleeper you wanted, essentially for free? Well, it’s true! Okay, okay, I’m also omitting a big part here. You can have any sleeper outside of the top 300 essentially for free. It’ll only cost you a bottom of the barrel draft pick or a post-draft transaction. Might not sound as enticing, but there’s plenty of value to be had outside of the FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus top 300 picks. For example, could I have interested you in a free Walker Buehler in 2018? Not like he could have helped your fantasy team win or anything.
To give yourself the best odds at winning a ‘ship, find great value picks. These guys outside of the top 300 ECR can be just that for you in 2019.
Deep Sleepers Outside of the Top 300 ECR
Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL): ECR 304
This is the guy I can’t believe is going outside of the top 300. Since 2015, O’Neill has 113 minor league home runs. His power is off the charts good and was good enough to warrant him 130 at-bats with the Cards last season. In those 130 at-bats, he cranked nine home runs. Give him 450 at-bats this season, and that could mean easily over 30 home runs for O’Neill. The real question here is obviously how many at-bats he will see, and there are a lot of factors at play. How much of a chance the Cardinals will give Dexter Fowler, whether or not Marcell Ozuna’s surgically repaired shoulder will hold up, and where the redbirds will play Jose Martinez will all factor in. O’Neill may very well force their hand, however, and find himself in the lineup most days. If that happens, getting him this late would be an absolute steal.
Matt Barnes/Ryan Brasier (RPs – BOS): ECR 309 & 356
Plain and simple, one of these two, as it stands, should be the closer on what could be the best team in baseball. Barnes has nasty stuff, shown by his 36.2% strikeout rate. Brasier had a 1.60 ERA in his first season in Boston. If either one of these guys had the job secured, it wouldn’t be out of the question for their ECR’s to slide up 200 spots. Of course, Boston could make a late addition to the bullpen or re-sign Craig Kimbrel, but their unwillingness to do it so far shows the confidence they have in Barnes and Brasier. This is like buying a dirt cheap lottery ticket that has a one in three chance of hitting it big. It’s a no-brainer to grab Barnes, Brasier, or both at the very end of your draft.
Jorge Soler (OF – KC): ECR 313
Ahhh, the annual Soler hype-train has arrived at the station! The thing is, Soler was actually decent with the Royals in 2018 before getting hurt. He would have been on pace for about 25 HR, 10 SB, and a .265 AVG. Now, getting ready for his age-27 season, it’s slowly but surely becoming now or never for Soler. Here’s the deal, neither you or I know whether or not Soler will put all the pieces together and reach his ceiling in 2019. However, this guy has way too much potential to not have one good season before he creeps up on 30. If that happens to be this year, you could do much, much worse at 313 overall.
Mike Minor (SP – TEX): ECR 337
Minor has been the definition of inconsistent over his career. Take his 28.7% strikeout rate and 2.55 ERA in 2017 and his 20.6% strikeout rate and 4.18 ERA in 2018 as a perfect example. Some of that could be written off to the fact that Minor was used exclusively as a reliever in 2017 and a starter in 2018, but Minor has had some very good seasons as a starter too. It wasn’t like Minor’s 4.18 ERA was terrible in 2018, but his peripherals were even worse. His xFIP was 4.53. Minor just seemed to have something missing from his stuff.
With all that said, Minor was actually useful in mixed leagues in 2018. He did win 12 games, and he had some gems along the way. In fact, Minor was good enough in the second half of 2018 to register a 2.97 ERA. So, now that he seems to be adjusted back to the starting pitching life, there’s hope for improvement in 2019. Minor has already been announced as the Opening Day starter for the Rangers and could be very useful to fantasy owners willing to pick him up at the end of the draft.
Brad Peacock (SP/RP – HOU): ECR 372
Peacock has been a fantastic real-life pitcher but just hasn’t been ultra-useful because of his role on the Astros. In 2018, Peacock spent all but one of his appearances out of the bullpen. In 2017, 21 of his 34 appearances were as a starter, where he registered a 3.00 ERA. The Astros simply haven’t needed him as a starter, but that could change this year. Peacock is preparing to start for the Astros, and fantasy owners should take notice. This is a guy who could truly register top-of-the-rotation numbers on one of the best teams in baseball. If Peacock starts all year, he has the potential to be a 15+ win guy with a strikeout percentage in the upper 20s. Talk about solid for a guy you could currently grab with your last pick in the draft. Obviously, if the Astros decide to go with two out of the three of Wade Miley, Josh James, or Framber Valdez in the rotation instead, Peacock would be banished back into the bullpen. For what it’s worth, it seems like Peacock wants to be a starter himself. This is definitely a situation to monitor as spring moves on, as Peacock has the potential to be one of the best values of 2019.
Drew Pomeranz (SP – SF): ECR 425
Pomeranz’s problem has long been health. Last year with the Red Sox, that problem resurfaced in a major way. Between health and ineffectiveness, Pomeranz only made 11 starts for the world champions, relegating him all the way down to the 400s in the Expert Consensus Rankings. But at the end of your draft, you’re taking fliers on guys with upside that can’t be denied. That’s Pomeranz. Don’t forget, this guy dominated in 2017. Actually, he dominated in 2014 through 2017 when he was on the field! During that four-year stretch, Pomeranz’s highest ERA mark was 3.66. He gets just enough strikeouts to remain relevant there and be a really solid fantasy starter when healthy. Add in that Pomeranz receives a slight boost by moving out of Fenway Park and to Oracle Park in San Francisco, and he has a good chance to bounce back in 2019.
Keon Broxton (OF – NYM): ECR 436
Finally freed from the epic logjam that was the Milwaukee outfield, Keon Broxton has a chance to show that he belongs in the bigs. He’s never been a batting average guy, but in 2017, he proved he could contribute to fantasy lineups with a 20-20 season in only 414 at-bats. Then, the Brewers decided to revamp their outfield, banishing both he and Domingo Santana to the minors in 2018. Now, as a member of the Mets, Broxton has no one in front of him that is absolutely cemented into the lineup every day. If you’re looking for high upside late, Broxton could be a great stash.
Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.