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Sleepers: Hitters (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 27, 2021

Ah, sleepers. What a term that is for fantasy managers.

See, back in the day, the term used to hold true value. You could get a leg up on your league by getting information on a player that no one else had.

Then came the internet and fantasy advice on every corner of it.

Now the term is – to break the 4th wall – used to drive SEO, which is super, super important. It shows that fantasy managers still want that leg up and still want to find those sleepers, despite all of the information out there.

So in a vacuum, sleepers can still exist, but the term we should be using is value players. It’s not as sexy, of course, but it’s what they are.

It’s identifying players who are going at a certain cost in drafts who can return a greater value.

For this article, we will look outside the top 200 of FantasyPros’ Consensus ADP to identify who are value players, I mean sleepers, are. 

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Gavin Lux (2B – LAD) ADP 228
There are typically two things that happen with highly-touted prospects. 1. We overrated them, and we tend to draft them over proven veterans. 2. When they don’t live up to unfair expectations out of the gate, we forget about them and move on to the next new thing. Lux falls in both buckets, as he was the consensus No. 1 prospect for fantasy in 2020, but boy did he struggle. It sounds like the Dodgers want him to be their starting second baseman, and there’s a great chance that he goes all Kyle Tucker on the fantasy world this year. At second base, in that lineup, especially, you’ll take it at the cost. And if Chris Taylor blocks him, we’ll be right back at it next year again.

C.J. Cron (1B – COL) ADP 238
I’m pretty shocked that Cron’s ADP isn’t higher. Like, a lot higher, especially since the Rockies announced that he’d be making the major league roster. He’s a huge power bat who will be starting every day – as close as we can assume given the Rockies track record – at first base. The only concerns in his career have been health-related, but this is a 35-40 home run player who the market apparently hasn’t caught on to yet.

Joc Pederson (OF – CHC) ADP 266
Pederson has notoriously been pretty bad against lefties in his career, leaving the Dodgers to start him primarily against righties during his career. That looks like it could be changing in 2021, as Pederson is cemented in the middle of the Cubs lineup. What’s notable about Pederson’s move to the NL Central is that there are only a handful of lefties in the division, and they are all pretty bad. That is unless you’re a Wade Miley fan. Pederson could see a career year across the board, and he’ll at least get a shot to prove he doesn’t deserve to start against lefties.

Elvis Andrus (SS – OAK) ADP 332
He’s a year older, sure, but let’s throw out that three-steal season in 2020. After 2018, Andrus looked left for dead until he rebounded with a 31-steal season in 2019. Should we expect 25 steals from him? No, probably not. Are 17-18 realistic? I think so, and he’s a sneaky MI grab at the end of drafts.

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Evan White (1B – SEA) ADP 434
White’s rookie season was … something. The final numbers looked back, but the Statcast numbers were off the charts for him. He’ll stay on the field due to his defense, but there’s serious growth to his game that should happen this year. The strikeouts won’t stay at 40 percent, and the walk rate should increase, too. He also has sneaky speed, and he has the chance to be a .280/18/12 guy this year and even better in OBP/points leagues. 

Robbie Grossman (OF – DET) 436
Grossman feels like he’s been around forever because he has. We always reach the Grossman portion of the season, and in 2021, it’s Opening Day. He’s going to be leading off for the Tigers, who are a below-average offense, but Grossman is sneaky good – especially in OBP leagues. He has a below 20 K%, with a double-digit walk rate, and he can give you double-digit steals and homers to go along with a .340ish OBP. That’s a perfect OF5.

Josh Naylor (OF – CLE) ADP 456
Speaking of players who are drafted as an OF5, Naylor going this late is puzzling. He has true OF3 upside, and he’s made significant changes at the plate, which should unlock some more power in his game. People will see the one home run last year and shy away, but he’s locked into an everyday spot in the lineup and should be closer to a 20-homer guy than a 10-homer guy.

Tim Locastro (OF – ARI) ADP 492
Look, the easiest category to fall behind on or, in some cases, whiff on completely is steals. If you’re drafting Locastro, it’s because you messed up in your draft. This one is for those in deep leagues only, but Locastro should steal 20ish bases this year even in limited playing time. You’ll need an injury to lock him in for a weekly league, so he profiles as a better option in a daily league or a best-ball format.

Akil Baddoo (OF – DET) ADP 639
A blast from the past! Baddoo used to have some prospect hype when he was with the Twins, but injuries derailed that train, leading him to be selected by Detroit in the Rule 5 draft. Baddoo needs to make the team if the Tigers want to retain him, and he’s giving them every reason to consider it with his spring play. While the quality of opponent is a 6.2 for Baddoo this spring (that’s between Single-A and Double-A quality), Baddoo is hitting .333 with four home runs in 33 at-bats while drawing eight walks. Baddoo is a late-round flyer in deep leagues and an interesting pick-up in dynasty leagues, as he’s only 22 years old. 

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.