Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleeper Hitters (2023)
Everyone loves sleepers, but not everyone can agree on the qualification for one. For this piece, a sleeper hitter is any with an average draft position (ADP) after 180. Thus, they’re available after the 15th round in most 12-team mixed leagues. The following four hitters are intriguing choices before their ADPs.
- Fitz’s Positional Primers
- Justin Mason’s Draft Day Cheat Sheet
- Players the Experts Draft
- Latest Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft
Sleeper Hitters (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Masataka Yoshida (OF – BOS): 183.4 ADP & 201.0 ECR
Projecting players from overseas to MLB is tricky. Yet, the potential for Yoshida to struggle while adjusting to playing in the US and MLB is more than accounted for in his ADP and expert consensus ranking (ECR), creating the potential for the former NPB superstar to generate value for gamers who take a chance on him.
First, according to Sports Info Solutions, Yoshida hit .358 in 53 at-bats with 10 walks against fellow NPB-to-MLB transplant Kodai Senga, supremely talented young hurler Roki Sasaki and former MLB starter Masahiro Tanaka. The left-handed-hitting outfielder also excelled against two of NPB’s Pacific League’s best left-handed relievers over the three previous years. Yoshida’s success against three top-shelf starters and two talented lefty relievers provides optimism about the veteran outfielder succeeding against quality pitching in MLB and fairing well in same-handed matchups.
Second, Adam Jones, the former big leaguer and Yoshida’s teammate had high praise for Yoshida’s approach. The approach was successful. According to Baseball-Reference, Yoshida had more walks (427) than strikeouts (307), clubbed 135 homers and slashed .327/.421/.539 in 3,189 plate appearances in seven seasons in NPB.
Thankfully, Yoshida can benefit from his home park and where the Red Sox plan to slot him in the lineup. According to our MLB park factors, Fenway Park has the third-highest park factor for runs (1.210) and enhances homers (1.095), singles (1.116), doubles (1.298) and triples (1.643). And the Red Sox project to hit Yoshida in the cleanup spot to split up lefties Rafael Devers and Yoshida while allowing Devers to remain in the second spot in the order. Calling a hitter-friendly ballpark home and hitting cleanup are reasons enough to roll the dice on Yoshida a round ahead of his ADP. Finally, his Zeile projection of 67 runs, 16 homers, 67 RBI, four stolen bases, a .291 batting average and a .362 OBP is a tasty cherry on top.
Thairo Estrada (2B/SS/OF – SF): 191.0 ADP & 188.6 ECR
Estrada can’t seem to get any respect. He’s not an exciting player in a specific category. Nevertheless, he was the 51st-ranked hitter last year with his jack-of-all-trades contributions. The multi-position-eligible hitter had 71 runs, 14 homers, 62 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .260 batting average.
Estrada’s average should remain palatable or better thanks to a high-contact approach. According to FanGraphs, he struck out in only 16.5% of his plate appearances in 2022, lower than the league average of 22.4%. Estrada’s .290 BABIP was also identical to the league average.
His 21 stolen bases were a massive leap from one in 132 plate appearances in 2021. Still, Estrada has the speed to push for 20 again this year. Per Baseball Savant, his 28.3 feet per second sprint speed in 2022 was better than the 27 feet per second average.
Despite manager Gabe Kapler’s tendency to platoon players, Estrada should also see the requisite playing time to compile stats. Grant Brisbee projects Estrada to be the everyday second baseman and moonlight at shortstop to give Brandon Crawford occasional days off, namely against lefties. Finally, the Zeile projection for Estrada this season is a near-carbon copy of his 2022 campaign, making him a bargain.
Josh Jung (3B – TEX): 226.4 ADP & 214.4 ECR
I previously discussed Jung as a sleeper, and gamers continue to sleep on him. He’s healthy this spring, something new for him in his young career. So, the former prospect can enter the year in good form and hit the ground running. Gamers should take advantage of the rare opportunity to select a promising young player with a starting spot already sewn up for cheap.
Jesse Winker (OF – MIL): 237.8 ADP & 237.4 ECR
Fantasy folks are a fickle bunch. Winker struggled mightily in his only season for the Mariners last year. The left-handed-hitting outfielder broke out the previous year, though. Winker had 77 runs, 24 homers, 71 RBI, one stolen base and a .305/.394/.556 line in 485 plate appearances in 2021 for the Reds.
Sadly, his production cratered for the Mariners. They’ve since shipped him back to the National League Central. Can Winker rebound this year? Maybe. The cost is cheap enough to find out without feeling too much pain if Winker cannot bounce back.
The 29-year-old lefty should get a lift from playing home games at American Family Field this year after calling T-Mobile Park home in 2022. The latter has the fourth-lowest park factor for runs (0.877), and the former is almost precisely neutral (0.999). In addition, Winker’s power will get a pick-me-up. American Family Field has the eighth-highest park factor for homers (1.158), and T-Mobile has the sixth-lowest mark (0.825) for left-handed hitters.
MLB banning the shift is also a win for Winker. Per FanGraphs, he’s a .319 hitter against no shift and a .293 hitter against the shift in his career. However, Winker had an ugly .258 batting average in 324 plate appearances against the shift last season.
Winker should also be healthier this year after offseason knee and neck surgeries. He won’t contribute to stolen bases. Moreover, Winker will likely land on the bench against lefties or struggle if he faces them. Nevertheless, Winker is a low-risk, medium-to-high-upside option after the 200th pick.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.