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Sleepers for AVG/OBP (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 9, 2022
Nicky Lopez

Looking for a late-round player or two to balance out that big-power, low-average Joey Gallo, Matt Chapman, or Eugenio Suarez pick? That is precisely what the group of players highlighted below can do for a fantasy baseball roster. Each profile as assets in the AVG and/or OBP departments. These “sleepers” can typically be found beyond the overall top 240 (beyond Round 20 for 12-team formats) in drafts based upon current ADP trends around the industry.

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Nicky Lopez (SS – KC): ADP 269

Lopez consistently put up high batting averages throughout his time (2016-2019) in the Royals’ farm system. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 and ’19, the fifth-round selection out of Creighton University hit .316 over 161 games (620 at-bats). It would take him a couple of years following his MLB debut in mid-May of 2019 to produce anything close to that same type of success in the bigs.

Heading into play on June 15 of last year, Lopez had seemingly settled into being a light-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop who slotted into the nine-hole for the Royals. He had struggled to a .226/.324/.302 slash line with only nine extra-base hits over 190 plate appearances to that point. Something clicked that day though, as Lopez turned in the first of four straight multi-hit games.

Lopez never looked back. Over the rest of the season, he cruised to the tune of a .334 AVG (.386 OBP) to go with 16 steals and 53 runs scored across 375 plate appearances. It is far too optimistic to expect Lopez to maintain an average in the .330s this year. The high .200s or low .300s would certainly suffice, particularly with his newfound prowess on the basepaths.

Jeff McNeil (2B/OF – NYM): ADP 283

Unlike Lopez, McNeil enjoyed immediate sustained success at the major-league level. Over 248 games for the Mets from 2018 to 2020, the versatile All-Star recorded a sensational .319/.383/.501 slash line while pacing 20 home runs and 41 doubles per 162 games. But 2021 told an entirely different story.

McNeil struggled mightily last April. Then, just when he seemed to be turning it around in the first half of May, a hamstring injury put him on the shelf for a month. After his return in late-June, the 29-year-old managed a pedestrian .254 AVG (.313 OBP) with four home runs, 27 RBI and 35 runs over 88 games.

Overall, McNeil’s fourth MLB campaign was a forgetful one. It is worth noting, however, that his hard-hit rate, K rate, and average exit velocity were in line with career norms. With that, his three previous seasons cannot simply be ignored. His current ADP seems to suggest that many are ignoring his track record. Take advantage.

Connor Joe (1B/OF – COL): ADP 312

Joe plays his home games in the most offensively inclined environment in baseball. That is a main point of emphasis with this pick. The next point is his mini-breakout once he finally received a real opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level this past summer.

While spending time between the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Dodgers’ system in 2018 and 2019, Joe hit just a hair shy of .300, with 32 home runs and 52 doubles over 211 games. He carried that over into the Rockies’ system in 2021, hammering his way to a .326 AVG and incredible 1.114 OPS in 110 plate appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque. That earned him the permanent promotion to the show.

Late last July, just a few weeks shy of his 29th birthday, Joe stepped into basically an everyday role for the Rockies and responded quite well. During a 37-game (32 starts) stretch from July 20 to Sept. 3, he put together a strong .304/.392/.552 triple slash with eight homers and seven doubles across 148 plate appearances. That is a rather small sample size of course, but it came along with some promising metrics.

Year Hard Hit% Line Drive% BB% Z-Contact%
2021 39.0 28.4 12.3 88.0

 
Unfortunately, a hamstring strain cost Joe the final month of the 2021 season. That issue should be well behind him when the 2022 MLB season eventually begins.

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