Sleepers for Home Runs (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 with an aim toward finding some extra pop to bolster the home-run category.
Jesse Winker (OF – CIN): ADP 225
Winker has yet to have that big breakout that many have expected. Much of the reason is that he has seen a high of just 384 plate appearances in any of his four MLB seasons. 2020 could well have become the year for him, but the pandemic limited everyone in the game, as everyone already knows.
Over 54 games last year, Winker rolled to the tune of a .932 OPS with 12 deep drives. Going even further back, the 27-year-old has smacked 28 homers in 567 total plate appearances since the beginning of the 2019 season. It may surprise quite a few drafters that Winker also boasts a strong .280/.380/.479 slash line for his career. He might just turn out to be the absolute best bargain on the board if he can finally get the at-bats. The potential is there.
Joc Pederson (OF – CHC): ADP 264
Even in a season that saw him hit an ugly .190, Pederson still delivered seven home runs in 43 games. That came one year after launching 36 across 514 plate appearances. Pederson’s power did not just suddenly disappear. He still has it in droves, and a 30-homer campaign for his new club – the Cubs – is certainly well within the realm of possibility.
Pederson’s strikeout rate did slightly tick up in 2020, but nowhere near enough that his batting average should have tanked nearly 60 points from each of the previous two seasons. While his barrel rate remained basically the same and his average exit velocity actually improved, Pederson saw his BABIP end up at a ridiculous .200 last year compared to his career mark of .257.
For some added encouragement, just take a look at what Pederson did during the NLCS and World Series for the Dodgers this past October. Over 31 plate appearances in those two rounds, he went 11-for-28 with a couple of long balls.
Hunter Renfroe (OF – BOS): ADP 306
Fenway Park could see Renfroe putting up “monster” power numbers this year. Like Pederson, Renfroe’s batting average, while he has never been known for high marks, completely tanked in 2020. Despite hitting an atrocious .156, he still popped eight home runs over 139 plate appearances for the Rays.
In the previous three seasons before 2020, Renfroe hit 26, 26, and a career-high 33 while never reaching 500 plate appearances for the Padres. With a career ISO of .257 and a home-run rate of one for every 16.4 plate appearances, Renfroe is among the most powerful hitters in the game. He may not help you anywhere else, but there is little competition for his lineup spot in Boston right now, and he should have no problem taming the Green Monster this summer.
Kyle Seager (3B – SEA): ADP 307
After three outfielders, the infield needs some representation. It really does not get much more consistent than Seager in the home-run department. Before the shortened 2020 campaign, the 33-year-old veteran had finished between 20 and 30 homers in eight consecutive seasons. He was pretty much right on target to do it again last year, belting nine out of the yard while playing in all 60 games for the Mariners.
Being outside the Top-300 right now in ADP, Seager is not even getting drafted in some 12-team standard formats. Given his rate of 32 home runs per 162 games since the outset of the 2019 season, that may well prove to be a mistake. Seager is nothing special overall in fantasy terms at this point in his career, but he is worth a bench spot and a solid option should injury strike at the position.
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