Feb. 16, 2017
Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Sleepers Edition #1
Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to shift to our attention to fantasy baseball season. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing about my favorite targets in the upcoming drafts. Today, we’ll focus on the guys traditionally known as the sleepers. These are the guys you should look to draft late in your snake draft or throw out a small dollar amount in your auction that could definitely outperform their price on draft day.
-Ryan Howard has finally passed the torch to the 25 year-old Joseph, and the future looks bright for the Phillies at first base. He hit 21 homers in only 347 major league at-bats last year and had a 36% hard hit rate. Of course, there’s a reason he’s on the sleeper list and not the breakouts. He only walks about 6% of the time, and he’s not projected to increase his average from the mid-.250s. Joseph is definitely worth a shot late in your draft, especially for that extra power boost in a roto league. First base is deep, but I’d be willing to take a chance on him for cheap at the corner infield position.
This is a great example of how value changes from year to year in fantasy. This is also where deals are found. Duda was one of my favorite targets going into the season last year because of that impressive walk rate and his solid power. If you play in a roto league, his average is probably only going to be in the .240s, but if you play in a league that doesn’t deduct points for strikeouts, this guy can be a goldmine. His walk rate is likely to be sitting at 12% and he hit at least 27 home runs his last two healthy seasons (14 and 15). His warts lie in his struggle to hit lefties, but he did actually hit .285 against southpaws in 2015. The scary thing about Duda, not to mention why he’s cheap, is the reason he missed so many games in 2016. He had a stress fracture in his lower vertebrae which as anyone who’s had back problems knows, they often linger. For his likely price, though, betting on Duda could be worth the investment.
The whole fantasy industry in torn on Robbie Ray. Perhaps he should be in a breakout column rather than a sleepers column, but his ERA (4.90) was so nasty last year that many may write him off before taking a closer look. His K/9 was borderline elite at 11.25 in 2016. His FIP was much lower than his ERA, and there has to be correction there. His Steamer projections are off the charts, but it’s easy to take those with a little grain of salt. He’s got four pitches, but his fastball is the only pitch with a high Pitchf/x rating. He needs to throw his other pitches more effectively and with more control to truly take the next step. I don’t know if he’s going to have a 3.50 ERA. It’s probably even doubtful, but this guy could strike out 200 batters this year and I’m not sure that your average league is even going to be in on him.
I heard quite a bit about Devon Travis for his performance in 2015 in limited at-bats. He has potential for double-digit power and steals with an average near .300. Those numbers are not groundbreaking, but can be helpful if you have a middle infield spot in your league. Check out the second base and shortstop rankings, there’s a ton of similar players in the mid-to-late round range in your league. Injuries are always a concern, but he’s certainly more appealing as an upside pick rather than the boring veterans you’ll find at the position.
This guy has been playing in the majors since mid 2014, and he’s still only 24 years old. He never really got solid at-bats with the stacked Cubs, so he moves on to Kansas City where he is going to get every opportunity to play everyday. His walk rate was very impressive last year and still projects to sit around 10%. How much power does he have in his bat? Steamer has him at 15, and while that doesn’t offer much in itself, I’d be willing to bet on the over. The outfield position is a thunderdome of mediocrity after the elite come off the board, so take Soler over the Brett Gardners of the world.