I’m notoriously good at sleeping. I’ve taken a nap during a college football game surrounded by 90,000 cheering fans. I’ve even slept in a bathroom on a party bus (door closed, and yes it was clean) while my friends played card games on the way to a casino. I’m not saying this “skill” is a good thing, but it’s something I’ve learned to embrace.
And besides my actual sleeping ability, I also have a knack for identifying sleepers in Fantasy baseball leagues. I build teams in the late rounds and simply try not to make a mistake with any of my early-round draft choices. I take players with high floors at the start of drafts and players with big upside on the back end.
Some of the names I identified as sleeper targets last season include Wil Myers, Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Villar, Brad Miller, and Alex Colome. Just like those players in 2016, the following have high ceilings and can be difference makers throughout the 2017 Fantasy season.
These players are being drafted outside the top 250, meaning they are there for the taking in the last few rounds of any draft. You might even be able to get a few of these deep sleepers off the waiver wire following draft day, so keep an eye on them and be confident in adding them to your Opening Day Fantasy roster.
Bird Should Be Big Bopper
Let’s start with Greg Bird — partially because I’m a homer (I get to see him up close and personal next Friday at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa) and partially because he should supply super cheap power late in drafts.
After missing the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery, Bird looks primed to bounce back in a big way. He showed tremendous pop in limited at-bats during his 2015 rookie campaign — 11 homers in 157 ABs — and those numbers are no fluke. The big lefty has put up power numbers at every level in the minors and his stroke has been on full display throughout Spring Training; he smacked his fourth long ball on Wednesday.
Bird looks healthy and is in the driver’s seat for at-bats, with Chris Carter likely taking on the southpaw side of the platoon. I’m banking on Bird for 30 homers and 90 RBIs. He can be drafted after the 20th round in mixed leagues. That sounds like music to my ears.
Speedster Is a Late-Round Steal
Another player I’m hoping passes the eye test next Friday (the Yankees are facing the Phillies) is Cesar Hernandez. Coming off a breakout year, during which the second basemen hit .294 with 67 runs scored and 17 stolen bases, I expect new career highs across the board.
Hernandez is slated to bat leadoff in a not-so-bad Phillies lineup, and he said he wants to steal 30 to 40 bases in 2017. While his steal attempts are trending in the right direction — 24 in 2015 and 30 in 2016 — his steal percentage went way down from 79 percent to 56 percent last season. If those numbers meet half way and the attempts continue to rise, look for the speedster to have at least 25 stolen bases.
I’m thinking more like 30-plus steals and 80-plus runs to go along with a .280-plus batting average. To get that from a player going after pick 300 seems like a steal to me.
Mets Pitcher Makes Sense as Sleeper
If I told you there was a starting pitcher on a winning team with an ERA under 2.50 who averaged nearly a strikeout an inning last year, you’d want him on your team. If I also said that player was being drafted outside the Top 300, you’d tell me I was crazy.
Well, Robert Gsellman is just that. The righty posted a 2.42 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 44.2 innings in 2016 and looks to be in line for the Mets fifth starter job. In addition to those numbers, he has two other positives that I target in any starting pitcher (especially one I’m taking a late flier on) — the National League and home games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark like Citi Field.
Put all that together and you’ve got super sleeper appeal in Gsellman. I’ll take 10 to 12 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and a strikeout an inning from a starter I can snag in the last two rounds any day of the week.
Draft The D-Backs Cleanup Hitter
In his first full season in the bigs in 2015, David Peralta batted .312 with 17 homers, 78 RBIs, 61 runs, and nine stolen bases. He was a major breakout candidate in 2016, but battled injuries and sadly appeared in just 48 games last year.
Let’s take that as a lost season and simply look at what Peralta could possibly be. He’s in a great situation in Arizona — slated to bat cleanup behind Paul Goldschmidt at Chase Field, the second-best hitter’s ballpark behind only Coors Field. That screams, “draft me,” yet Peralta is going after pick 300.
This is a guy who can bat .300 with 20 homers, 85 runs and RBIs and should add at least 10 steals, to boot. If that lost season didn’t happen, Peralta would likely be ranked in the Top 150. Instead, you can use your last round pick on a player that will 100 percent be on a lot of championship teams this year. Put him in your queue and take him with your last round pick — thank me later.
Take This Twins Closer
Drafting closers is all about save chances. There’s a reason someone gets named a closer and it’s usually because they’re the best pitcher in a bullpen. Because of that, I never waste an early pick on a closer. I do, however, often end up taking one, two, or even three “potential closers” in the last few rounds of a draft. The perfect target for those who wait for saves is the Twins’ Brandon Kintzler.
He continues to be the last, or one of the last closers, coming off the board after pick 250, despite very good job security. Kintzler had 17 saves and a 3.15 ERA while serving as the team’s closer last season, and it’s been made clear that the Twins brass will give him every opportunity to start the year in the closer’s role again in 2017.
Drafting closers and amassing saves is all about opportunity and this guy is going to have a bunch of them. Sure, closers falter, but Kintzler is in the right spot with former closer Glen Perkins making his way back from shoulder surgery, and looking like a longshot to get the closer job back any time soon.
All I’m saying is don’t sleep on these players who are being drafted outside the Top 250, as they’re essentially free assets who should lead to a lot of future Fantasy success.