Deep Sleepers Outside the Top 300 (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Anyone that has been around the fantasy-baseball world for even a minute is well acquainted with the term “sleeper.” At this time of year, everyone entering drafts is in search of those players with cheap draft stock that can pay off big time.
The players below have, so far, regularly been available for those final couple of rounds in early drafts based on consensus ADP around the industry. Each of them has the potential to deliver serious value for fantasy managers and could become an absolute steal this season.
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Sleepers Outside the Top 300
The following five players are “sleepers” to consider in the late stages of 2023 fantasy-baseball drafts.
Kike Hernandez (2B, SS, OF – BOS)
Despite the fact that Hernandez has played just 81 2/3 innings at shortstop over the past two years in Boston, he is the favorite to man the position for the Red Sox in 2023. In addition, the versatile veteran could end up in the top part of the batting order. That development would immediately enhance Hernandez’s fantasy value, as he would likely be in one of the two spots in front of RBI machine Rafael Devers.
Hernandez enjoyed a career year as the main leadoff man for the Red Sox in 2021, posting a .786 OPS with 20 HR, 60 RBI and 84 R over 134 games. Those numbers all fell off last year, but at age 31, Hernandez should still be plenty capable of something similar. Manager Alex Cora has even suggested recently that he wants Hernandez to swipe some bags in 2023.
Carpenter arguably had the most surprising bounceback in baseball last year. The three-time All-Star was basically a complete afterthought in fantasy circles after abysmal seasons with the bat in 2020 and 2021. Following his release from the Rangers minor-league system in mid-May of last year, Carpenter signed with the injury-plagued Yankees.
Carpenter debuted with the Yanks on May 26. He instantly began to show that his work to regain his ability with the bat during the previous offseason had paid off. By July, Carpenter had earned his way into the everyday lineup and proceeded to absolutely crush over the next several weeks. Over 29 games between July 2 and Aug. 8, he turned in an outstanding .326/.417/.707 with nine homers, eight doubles and 24 RBI.
Unfortunately, Carpenter suffered a bone fracture after fouling a ball off his foot on Aug. 8 and missed the rest of the season. The Padres were impressed enough with his reemergence to bring him in on a free-agent deal back in December. Carpenter is expected to see plenty of at-bats this year. As long as he can remain healthy, there should be ample opportunity to produce for a strong lineup.
It may surprise most that have not kept up with Escobar, but the now 34-year-old switch hitter reached 20 home runs for the fifth time in his career last year. He mostly underperformed during his first season with the Mets and then missed a couple of weeks in late August due to an oblique injury. However, Escobar finally endeared himself to the Mets’ faithful with a huge stretch run.
After the calendar flipped to September, Escobar hammered his way to a .982 OPS with eight deep drives and 25 RBI across 30 games. He is likely to be lining up in the bottom third of the batting order early on, but that could quickly change if he starts like he ended last year. In any event, Escobar has the potential to be a virtually risk-free source of home runs and RBI from anywhere in the Mets’ lineup.
Maeda has not been seen on a big-league mound since August of 2021. Now, the veteran righty is 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery and looking to reassert himself during a contract year. He is facing no restrictions this spring and eyeing a spot at the back of the Twins’ rotation for the season.
Obviously, Maeda is not expected to log a work-horse load of innings in his first year back, but there should be enough to make an impact far beyond his current draft range. At the time of his injury in 2021, Maeda was carrying a lofty 4.66 ERA and 1.30 WHIP through 21 starts. Notably, he also held a 3.73 xERA and was still getting plenty of whiffs (24.9 K%).
Maeda finished second in A.L. Cy Young balloting back in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Though a repeat of that is incredibly unlikely, he is certainly intriguing as a comeback candidate this year. He is not Justin Verlander, but Maeda could deliver some nice dividends in his first year back from TJ surgery.
There will be a competition this spring to claim closing duties for the Nationals. The good bet is on Finnegan to land the gig, as he has successfully converted 11 saves in each of the past two seasons for the club. Finnegan also showed improved control and the ability to miss more bats during a solid 2022 campaign.
Last year, Finnegan worked 66 2/3 innings out of the Nats’ bullpen, compiling a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 26.1 K%, and 8.2 BB%. That strikeout rate was up three points from the previous year, while that walk rate was down more than three points. Finnegan picked up 10 of his 11 saves after the All-Star break last season, blowing only one chance in the second half.
The rebuilding Nationals are nowhere close to contending, but, as every team does, they will win some games. Finnegan should be called upon to close out a good share of those victories.
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Nate Miller is a featured writer at FantasyPros and a 9-year veteran of the fantasy sports industry. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @Miller_RotoDad.