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8 Early Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Jan 28, 2021

Hitting on a sleeper is one of the most rewarding aspects in all of fantasy sports. Not only does your team gain a huge benefit from having someone who was severely undervalued mightily exceed all their expectations, but you also feel like a genius on top of that. Most sleepers end up providing some value, although it’s typically not nearly as much value as you’d like. However, there are always several players that end up standing out as true sleepers, some of whom had no hype at all before the season. Players like Kyle Lewis, Teoscar Hernandez, Luke Voit, and Corbin Burnes come to mind as guys who crushed it for the fantasy GMs that touted them early on. Also, Jeimer Candelario and Dominic Smith were two unknowns who provided a huge boost for those who rostered them. Which players are big sleeper candidates for 2021? See who our featured analysts are planting their flags on below.

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Q1. Which hitter outside the top 150 overall in ECR do you expect to be this year’s biggest sleeper and why?

Ian Happ (2B/3B/OF/C – CHC) 
“Happ is a fantastic value this year. After a fantastic rookie season in 2017, he stumbled the next two seasons and even was relegated back to the minors to start 2019. Once he was called up in 2019 and all of 2020, he started to really hit the ball. He totaled 23 home runs, 52 runs, and 58 RBIs in just 115 games (387 PAs). The biggest improvement has been in him reducing his soft-contact rate and slightly increasing his hard-hit rate. His wRC+ of 132 last season and 128 in 2019 are another sign that he is for real.”
– Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

Ian Happ projects to surpass several outfielders ranked ahead of him, largely due to securing everyday playing time and hitting near the top of the lineup for the Cubs. He still strikes out too much, but his batting profile suggests he can hit 30 homers. He should be able to provide 175 combined runs and RBIs with that power-hitting near the top of the order, and his double-digit walk rate. The five to 10 steals he will provide is the cherry on top and makes him a top-70 overall hitter.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Dylan Carlson (OF – STL) 
“Carlson is the quintessential sleeper — an exciting prospect who flew up draft boards the previous year, only to completely disappoint fantasy managers. Carlson slashed just .200/.252/.364 with three home runs in 119 plate appearances in 2020 and couldn’t hold an outfield job for the Cardinals. But he played well in the postseason and is just 22 years old. There is still some competition for playing time, but given Carlson’s minor-league track record and his power-speed combination (he hit 26 home runs and stole 20 bases in 126 minor league games in 2019), the Cardinals should give him every chance to succeed in left field. If he holds down an outfield spot all season, he’s got pretty easy 25-15 potential.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Dylan Moore (2B/3B/SS/OF – SEA) 
“Moore isn’t gonna carry your team alone, but does have the potential for a 25/25 season. He will battle with Shed Long for the second base job and should easily come away as the winner of the spring competition. In 2020, Dylan started to barrel up more balls (13.8%) doubling his percentage the prior year (6.5%). His average exit velocity also gained two MPH (90.4) and his strikeout rate improved versus 2019. He also has outfield eligibility and if he can improve the contact rate, he could be a super sneaky pickup in late rounds.”
– Todd D Clark (The Fantasy Fix)

Victor Robles (OF – WSH) 
“Robles’ peripherals (BA/OBP/SLG) have declined in back-to-back seasons while his COVID-19 impacted 2020 was a disaster for the uber-talented outfielder. Recency bias is real and those are suppressing his ADP while blinding fantasy managers to the immense physical potential we saw in a breakout 2019 season (17 HRs/28 SBs) that strongly suggests there isn’t a player with his dual-threat contributions and upside outside of the top 150. Fellow Nats teammate Trea Turner, in the same lineup with an ADP of No. 9, isn’t a lock for 30 HRs/30 SBs, while Robles IS a lock for 15 HR/20 SB fantasy season with an ADP of 157th. He is too talented to be a ‘sleeper’ by my definition, but his ADP suggests he is currently being ignored and qualifies as such.”
– Chris Mitchell (FantasyData)

Q2. Which starting pitcher outside the top 150 overall in ECR do you expect to be this year’s biggest sleeper and why?

John Means (SP – BAL) 
“Means is the easy answer here. His 2020 was overall very forgettable as he finished with a 4.53 ERA and was blasted for an HR/9 rate of 2.47. Dig a little deeper and you see, he finished the shortened season very strong. In his last four starts, he had a 1.52 ERA, 30 strikeouts, and only three walks in 23.2 innings. No, he won’t repeat that for a full season, but you’re getting crazy value right now for a guy who just two seasons ago finished with a 3.60 ERA and won 12 games for the lowly Orioles.”
– Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

“John Means is on the cusp of showing us that he’s a top-40 SP. Means dealt with arm fatigue ramping up this past season and then his dad sadly passed away after two starts. He missed one start, and due to the arm fatigue he had already experienced, he wasn’t able to consistently pitch into the sixth inning until September 2. Despite the ugly ERA and FIP, he struck out 21 batters in his final two starts and finished 2020 with a higher strikeout rate (backed by a higher swinging strike rate), a two MPH gain on his fastball velocity, and a lower walk rate than 2019. The Orioles will lean on him as their ace and he projects to provide above-average ratios over 180 innings.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Frankie Montas (SP – OAK) 
“Montas has a lot of things working against him in terms of fantasy managers’ outlook toward him. His breakout 2019 season was derailed by a PED suspension and he pitched to a 5.60 ERA and 1.51 WHIP last year. But there is reason for optimism that he can return to his 2019 numbers and have a huge season. Montas was excellent in his first four starts last year (four runs, 22 strikeouts in 23 innings) before he was scratched with back tightness, after which he got hit hard for almost the entirety of the remainder of the season. Considering he lost about a mile of velocity on his fastball, it’s a good bet that he wasn’t fully healthy after returning. Further evidence of that is the fact that batters teed off on his outstanding split-finger (.333 BA, .600 slugging) after being unable to touch it in 2019. Montas is far from a guarantee, but considering that he was pitching through an injury last year and looked just fine when he was healthy, there’s a huge potential for profit for someone who will undoubtedly be undervalued in drafts.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Marcus Stroman (SP – NYM) 
“2020 was a mess, and unfortunately for Stroman, it was a lost season entirely due to injury. Prior to a midseason trade to the Mets in 2019, Stroman was on his way to his third straight season with an ERA of 3.09 or better and his third straight improving season for fantasy managers. Stroman’s move to the National League — which may or may not have the designated hitter — and a much friendlier pitching environment should result in a 2021 ERA no worse than 3.25, a WHIP of 1.30, and 160 strikeouts. Add to what I project to be an extremely safe floor, a potential career-best ceiling of 2.90 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 175-200 strikeouts with 15-18 wins as the cherry on top. At an ADP of 229, I’d rather roster Stroman than ex-Met Zack Wheeler and his 84th overall ADP or Lance McCullers Jr. with all of those injury risks and an ADP of 124. Don’t be surprised if Stroman is the best pitcher not named deGrom on the Mets and one of the five best pitchers in a division overloaded with aces and exes. There could be mid-September mania in Metsville and he will be a significant reason why. Fantasy managers need to hop on the wagon before the ADP rises inside the top 100. ”
– Chris Mitchell (FantasyData)

Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD) 
“It’s been a while since Price has pitched … or performed well. Gonsolin is waiting to pounce on that SP job and will have plenty of other opportunities to shine out of the pen if he doesn’t earn it out of camp. The control of the four-pitch arsenal doesn’t strike out a lot of batters (8.87 K/9), but does earn a lot of weak contact and swings and misses. Excellent control of those pitches and trusting his defense will equate to major value if he wiggles into a startling role & I want a Dodgers starter.”
– Todd D Clark (The Fantasy Fix)

Thank you to the experts for giving us their top early sleepers. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter.

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