Sleepers for AVG/OBP (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
What defines a “sleeper” in today’s era in which every fantasy player has a scouting report readily available for every big-leaguer or prospect seemingly at the touch of a button. Well, the term might now be a bit dated, but the principle remains the same. Which players are down further on most draft boards than they probably should be? For this article, the qualification for a “sleeper” will be anyone outside the Top-125 hitters according to current consensus ADP around the industry, focusing on players that should excel in batting average and/or on-base percentage.
David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF – LAA) – ADP 211
Along with position versatility, batting average is the reason to draft Fletcher. Entering his fourth MLB campaign, the track record is now there to believe what has been seen from Fletcher so far. Over the past three years, he has impressively raised his average from .275 to .292 to .319.
Fletcher’s .348 BABIP from 2020 is likely due for a little regression, but his career mark now sits at .320. Given his incredibly disciplined approach, line-drive producing swing, and whopping 91.3-percent career contact rate, Fletcher should be viewed as a legit .300 hitter. Also, he should score plenty of runs atop the Angels’ batting order.
Raimel Tapia (OF – COL) – ADP 243
Everyone knows what playing half of your games in Coors Field can do for offensive statistics. When a player hits the number of line drives and possesses the speed that Tapia does, great things should happen in the batting-average department.
That certainly played out for Tapia in the abbreviated 2020 season, as he hit a cool .321 to go with a .369 OBP. Those numbers followed a decent .275 average across 447 plate appearances in 2019, and, to date, the 27-year-old outfielder boasts a .285 mark in more than 300 big-league games. Further encouraging signs for Tapia last year were career bests in strikeout percentage (18.4) and walk percentage (6.8)
Tommy La Stella (1B/2B/3B – SF) – ADP 275
All La Stella has done with the 549 plate appearances he has seen since the outset of the 2019 season is put up a .289/.356/.471 slash line with 21 homers, 69 RBI, and 80 runs scored. He has become a true rarity in this era regarding K/BB ratios, as the 32-year-old has drawn 47 free passes compared to a mere 40 strikeouts during the same span.
La Stella spent most of his time with the Angels over the past two years, but he played the final month of last season with the A’s following an August 29 trade. The veteran infielder will remain on the West Coast a while longer, as the Giants were so impressed with his recent performance that they gave him a three-year, $18.75MM free-agent contract this offseason. La Stella’s versatility will allow him to move around the infield for the Giants. However, he’s not likely, barring injury, to move from the top half of the batting order when the Giants face off against right-handed pitchers.
Adam Eaton (OF – CWS) – ADP 337
Okay. Eaton struggled in the unusual 2020 season. He hit an ugly .226 with a .285 OBP over 41 games, but his ADP falling basically 150 spots from last year is egregious. Eaton is just one year removed from a 15-15 season in which he turned in a .279/.365/.428 slash. That .279 batting average actually goes down as his lowest mark in the category during the six-year stretch from 2014-20.
Following four years in Washington, Eaton now returns to a far different caliber White Sox offense than the one he featured in from 2014-16. He should receive plenty of at-bats in front of the likes of Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, and company, so runs should come in abundance. Eaton has the makings of one of the top-overall “sleepers” for the 2021 period.
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