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8 Early Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Jan 18, 2022

Many seem to believe that in order for a player to be a “sleeper” they must be someone who is relatively unknown to the fans. But unless you’re playing in an AL- or NL-only league or have rosters that are 35-40 men deep, none of the players most fantasy managers will select on draft day will truly meet this definition. For the purposes of this article, the general definition of a sleeper is anyone that has a high chance to heavily surpass expectations and can develop into a surprising difference-maker for fantasy managers. With that being said, our featured pros have come to shed some early insight on who their favorite sleepers are heading into the season. All of these players are fairly well known by most fantasy baseball managers, but the industry may be collectively ranking some of these athletes far below their ceiling.

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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?

Jo Adell (OF – LAA) 
“Adell isn’t much of a sleeper since he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball heading into last year. His ADP remains low (currently outside of the top 225) because he had a disappointing debut and a mediocre follow-up. In 2020, he slashed .161/.212/.266 with a 41.7% K% over 124 at-bats and was only slightly better in 2021 with a .246/.295/.408 slash line and four homers over 130 at-bats. Now it’s time to remember that he’s just 22 years old and has less than a full season of Major League experience. The massive power is still there and he cut down quite a bit on his strikeout rate, showing signs of progress in the second half. It was a lost year for the Halos but if Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon come back healthy alongside Shohei Ohtani, this could finally shape up to be one of the best offenses in the AL with Adell seeing plenty of RBI opportunities.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Brandon Belt (1B/OF – SF) 
“Over his last 148 games dating back to the beginning of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Belt had put up a tremendous .988 OPS with 38 homers, 89 RBIs, and 90 runs scored. Health is always a question with the veteran first baseman, but he needed only 97 games to blast a career-high 29 round-trippers in 2021. Entering his mid-30s, Belt is hitting for more power than ever. With an early ADP outside the top-200 overall, there is a ton of upside and little downside here.”
– Nate Miller (Fantasy Six Pack)

Ty France (1B/2B/3B/DH – SEA) 
“France finished the 2021 season with a .291/.368/.445 slash line and 18 home runs, 73 RBIs, and 85 runs scored in 152 games. He also batted .321 in the second half after batting .262 in the first half. In 2022, he’s projected to bat in the middle of the Seattle lineup and could very well put up better numbers than he did in his breakout 2021 season.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT) 
“Last year’s overall numbers were limited by nagging hand and wrist injuries as a result of a cyst. Positive news out of Pirates camp gives me hope that we can see 140+ games out of Hayes. With 3B shallow and SBs always in demand, the ability to find a 3B with a potential 20/15 season at pick 177 is extremely enticing.”
– Nate Marcum (Fantasy In Frames)

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

Luis Garcia (HOU) 
“Garcia is being drafted as the last of Houston’s starting rotation options but he could be the best fantasy asset. As a rookie last season, he posted a solid 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, finishing 14th in the AL in wins (11) and strikeouts (167). Garcia uses a five-pitch mix and has begun to incorporate his cutter more, which is a good thing considering it invoked a 42% whiff rate in 2021. In fact, four of Garcia’s five pitches (all but the fastball) had a Whiff% over 36% and an xBA under .210. He was already a solid source of strikeouts but he could jump up even higher if he can disguise his fastball better or use his secondary pitches more. Garcia poses a serious threat to finish as a top-25 SP in four roto categories while being available in the mid-to-late portion of fantasy drafts.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Steven Matz (STL) 
“After a disastrous 30.1 innings for the Mets in 2020, Matz rebounded for a nice one-year stint with the Blue Jays, winning 14 games alongside a 3.82 ERA and 8.6 K/9 across 29 starts. A move from Toronto and the AL East to St. Louis and the NL Central should be a very welcome one for any pitcher. Matz could pay big dividends from the late rounds.”
– Nate Miller (Fantasy Six Pack)

Michael Kopech (CWS) 
“Kopech was deployed as a multi-inning reliever in 2021 and struck out 103 batters in 69 1/3 innings with an ERA of 3.50 and expected numbers that were all sub-3.00. In 2022, he is expected to transition back to the rotation and could strike out 200 batters with 15 wins and a solid ERA if he’s able to throw enough innings.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Justin Verlander (HOU) 
“Early drafters will be rewarded with an ADP outside the top 150 for Verlander. As soon as Spring Training rolls around and the positive reports surface, he will easily see a major bump in his draft price. The workload is the major question mark, but even with 160 innings, Verlander gives you a chance at 200 Ks with solid ratios.”
– Nate Marcum (Fantasy In Frames)

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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