Who doesn’t love sleepers when it comes to fantasy draft season? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We have 30 candidates, one from every MLB team, for you to consider in the late rounds. Some of the players below are young guys on the rise, while others are familiar names who are getting overlooked.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jarrod Dyson – Arizona’s outfield is crowded, but all three starters have had injury issues in the not-so-distant past, some of them persistent. Steals are at a premium, and opportunities should be up in the desert to counter the installation of a humidor, and Dyson has swiped 58 bags over the last two years while averaging just 322.5 at bats.
Atlanta Braves: A.J. Minter – He’s not slated to close and has just 15.0 career innings pitched, but Minter posted a 26:2 K:BB ratio in those frames and is in the conversation of having the best stuff in baseball right now. At worst he’ll help your ratios, and he’d quickly become a top-five closer should Minter take over the role.
Baltimore Orioles: Tim Beckham – The former top pick showed real improvement last year and could hit leadoff. Beckham is a post-hype sleeper who remains cheap at draft tables, and Camden Yards has boosted HR for RHB by 21 percent over the last three years, which is the third-most in MLB over that span.
Boston Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez – He’s finally healthy after undergoing overdue shoulder surgery and slated to hit third in a Boston lineup projected to score a bunch of runs. Coming off a down year with the boring old veteran tag, now’s the time to buy.
Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ – Maybe it’s a stretch to call him a sleeper at this point, as any chance of Happ flying under the radar is gone after he’s posted a 1.339 OPS with seven homers/steals in 35 ABs this spring. He’s unproven and a BA risk, but skeptical owners who sit out are going to miss big power production from the middle infield position.
Chicago White Sox: Lucas Giolito – With TJ surgery further in the rearview mirror, Giolito finished strong last year and has impressed in spring, and there’s huge potential if the former top prospect harnesses his curveball. No pitcher carrying a similar ADP has nearly as much upside as Giolito, who could be a true difference maker this season.
Cincinnati Reds: Jose Peraza – After attempting 31 steals in just 241 ABs as a rookie in 2016, Peraza entered last season with strong buzz that has since died down after a disappointing 2017. But he’s still slated to start in an underrated Reds lineup, and Peraza stole 124 bases over 224 games from 2013-2014 as a 20-year-old.
Cleveland Indians: Trevor Bauer – He’s not exactly hidden, but I’ll say Bauer makes a bigger jump than his ADP already suggests he will. The switch from using his cutter to a slider really helped his control down the stretch last year, and my bold prediction is Bauer finishes with more fantasy value than teammate Carlos Carrasco in 2018.
Colorado Rockies: Chris Iannetta – He’ll turn 35 years old soon and won’t be given at bats like other starting catchers, but that’s why he’s so cheap. Iannetta hit 17 homers in 272 ABs last year and is now calling Coors Field home. He’s probably the favorite to hit more homers than Buster Posey.
Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene – Among all relievers ostensibly with closing jobs, Greene is right there among the last taken. The Tigers should win around 70 games this year, and he’s a candidate to eventually get traded, but he enters locked into the closer’s role and should be effective enough while in it.
Houston Astros: Derek Fisher – He’s likely to enter the year in the minors, but Fisher can take a walk and is a 20/20 combo waiting to happen. Be ahead of the owners who’ll be running to the waiver wire as soon as he’s recalled.
Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler – He’s been a bust in the past so now he’s free, but Soler was once highly thought of and is still just 26 years old. He quietly hit well in Triple-A last season and continues to do so in spring training, when he’s recorded six five homers and a 1.072 OPS over 48 ABs.
Los Angeles Angels: Matt Shoemaker – A healthy Shoemaker looked impressive not all that long ago (he had a 3.52 FIP in 2016), and he owns a career 11.2 SwStr%. He also benefits from having baseball’s best defensive shortstop and an extreme pitcher’s park both on his side, so he’s an ideal late round SP flier.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Joc Pederson – He’s still getting ignored in fantasy drafts despite hitting three homers in the World Series. Pederson is 25 years old and has 54 homers in 953 career at bats against right handers. There isn’t a cheaper source for power than Pederson where he’s been going in drafts.
Miami Marlins: Lewis Brinson – Service-time issues may get in the way, but Brinson should be starting and hitting atop Miami’s lineup if not at the beginning of the year then soon thereafter. He’s put up big minor league numbers and could approach 20/20 as a rookie. It was a small sample, but Brinson’s average exit velocity (90.9 mph) ranked No. 16 among all hitters last year.
Milwaukee Brewers: Orlando Arcia – He’s 23 years old and still improving at the plate, and while Arcia’s counting stats might be modest remaining lower in the Brewers’ improved lineup, he’s a cheap source for power/speed at middle infield. Miller Park boosts power for righties and also run scoring overall.
Minnesota Twins: Max Kepler – He’s struggled against lefties but the fact the Twins have let him fail against them could pay dividends in the future. Or he’ll platoon and still give you 25 homers/steals in 130 games. Kepler just turned 25 years old and has a strong minor league track record, so he’s a candidate to breakout.
New York Mets: Dominic Smith – He has a lingering quad issue, so Smith will only be worth considering in deeper leagues with DL slots. He was slated to start the year in the minors anyway, although Adrian Gonzalez seems like the easiest of hurdles to eventually clear. Smith is a BA risk but has good power upside and will be worth adding as soon as he gets another chance in New York.
New York Yankees: Neil Walker – He’s one season removed from hitting 23 homers in just 412 at bats and had a .362 OBP last year. Walker is now the starting second baseman on a loaded Yankees team that plays in a park that’s increased home runs by 31 percent over the last three years, which is by far the most in MLB. With an ADP still outside 400 over the past week, Walker truly is a sleeper.
Oakland A’s: Sean Manaea – He entered with plenty of hype last year but has considerably less buzz this time around despite ostensibly feeling healthier. Manaea had a 1.19 WHIP as a rookie, and there’s reason to write off last year’s disappointing campaign.
Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Altherr – He might be ticketed for a bench role to open the year, but Altherr can hit, and it won’t be long before he’s a fixture in an underrated Phillies lineup. He finished with a strong 6.8 Brls/PA last season, and no park in baseball has increased HR for RHB more than Citizens Bank (24 percent) over the past three years.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Joe Musgrove – His 15.1 K-BB% would’ve ranked top-25 among starters had he qualified last season, and that was during a disappointing performance. Musgrove has good stuff and now goes to the National League and to a home park that really suppresses homers, which was his main problem in 2017.
San Diego Padres: Austin Hedges – He popped 18 homers in just 387 at bats last year and has added another four long balls in 33 spring ABs. He strikes out a ton, making him a BA liability, but Hedges joins Chris Iannetta as the best catchers to target late when looking for power.
San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence – It’s possible he’s finished, as Pence has missed an average of 65 games over the last three seasons. But he’s looked healthy this spring and is still the clear starter in San Francisco, this year set to play left field. He’s become an afterthought at draft tables, but a healthy Pence could prove to be plenty valuable as an OF5.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez – He’s battling injuries and coming off a season in which he posted his worst ERA (4.36) since 2006, but in reality, Hernandez pitched much better in 2017 (14.1 K-BB%) than 2016 (8.7%), so his decline may be overstated. At his cost, even this lesser version of Hernandez should provide a nice profit.
St. Louis Cardinals: Dominic Leone – Luke Gregerson may be the favorite to close, but he only recently returned from an oblique injury, and his reliance on a slider makes him less than ideal for the role. Leone, meanwhile, proved he can handle the job at the end of last year and has looked dominant this spring. There’s a good chance he’s an effective closer for a team projected to fight for a wild card spot.
Tampa Bay Rays: Mallex Smith – His exact role is unclear, but Smith has put up huge SB numbers in the minors and ranks top-15 in sprint speed, so he’s the best late target if you’re looking for bags.
Texas Rangers: Keone Kela – Texas enters with its closing role in flux, with Alex Claudio the uninspiring favorite to win the role. However, Kela is the better pitcher, so it wouldn’t surprise if he quickly overtook the job.
Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk – While he wasn’t particularly valuable to St. Louis with such low OBPs, Grichuk hit 46 homers over 858 at bats over the last two years, and there’s hope for some further growth. It might actually help him reach 100 RBI if he continues to refuse to walk.
Washington Nationals: Victor Robles – Patient owners will be rewarded as soon as Robles is called up to Washington, as the 20-year-old sports a strong power/speed portfolio and will be ready to make an immediate impact in fantasy leagues.