Last Minute Hitting Sleepers for Draft Weekend
So finally the big day is here. Maybe you've had a few drafts already or maybe you stick to just one league a year and it's time for your hometown league to get 'er done for the 2018 Fantasy Baseball season. Whatever the case, the staff here at RotoExperts is here for you. We've all participated in numerous mocks and each of us had multiple drafts in the rear-view. Today we share that experience with you, with each of us naming our favorite hitting sleepers that have been unappreciated all draft season.
Each of my esteemed colleagues was asked to provide one hitting sleeper and one pitching sleeper from each league. We'll stick to the hitting sleepers in this article, but you can check out the pitching sleepers over here.
Of course the term sleeper means different things to different people, so you'll find a variety of names here. The better to help you said the big bad Fantasy wolf. I've separated our responses by league with each RotoExpert's reasoning for their respective pick.
American League Hitting Sleepers
Michael Waterloo - It's frustrating that the Rangers sent Willie Calhoun to Triple-A to begin the season. Calhoun is poor defensively, but his bat should stay in the lineup every day - regardless of how bad he is in the field. Calhoun is a legitimate power threat that doesn't strike out due to his excellent approach at the plate. If you're going to draft Ronald Acuna and wait a couple of weeks for him to make his debut, it's worth drafting Calhoun much later and wait the few weeks for him to get called up. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
George Kurtz - I have no idea why Nomar Mazara is being drafted outside the Top 40 OF. Is it because he didn’t hit 30 HR last season or because he batted .253? He’s only 22 years old. His best years are coming and he hits in a park with a jet stream to right-center. This guy could win a league for quite a few owners.
Doug Anderson - Sometimes a sleeper is a young player ready to break out. Nowadays I find it's quite often the opposite. Everyone is all over the next big thing and veterans don't get their due. This year people are treating Carlos Gomez like he's Melvin Upton. Sure, he's not the high upside play he used to be, but he hit 17 homers and stole 13 bases in just 368 at-bats last year. He could easily go 20/20 this year and can be had for basically nothing in mixed leagues. Take free value where you can.
Scott Engel - C.J, Cron was streaky with the Angels, but they toyed with him too much and never let him get comfortable. Cron was always going back and forth to the minors like a yo-yo, sometimes even when he was playing well enough to stay in the bigs. Now he'll have a comfortable spot in Tampa Bay and won't have to worry about getting yanked around, and you should see the positive power returns.
Jake Ciely - Where is the Nomar Mazara love? The only difference from 2016 to 2017 for Mazara was a large jump in RBIs. Before worrying about the jump, you need to know that in 2016, Mazara had 18 games hitting leadoff, 37 second, 36 third and 20 eighth. Last year, Mazara became the main three-hole hitter, having 96 games there with just nine combined leading off, second or eighth. Mazara is the same high-level hitter with possible further development in his third season (he’s still just 23 this year).
Tim McCullough - I am astounded at how low Randall Grichuk's draft position has sunk (currently ADP #254 on Fantasypros.com), especially after the trade to the Toronto Blue Jays whose home field is among the most favorable for HR production in MLB. Couple that with the fact that since 2015, Grichuk is tied for the 11th hardest hit rate in MLB. He’s only 26 years old, so he’s just approaching his peak years. The change of scenery is going to help him maximize his power swing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he approached 40 home runs with every-day play.
National League Hitting Sleepers
Tim McCullough - Injuries have kept David Dahl from the majors; he missed all of 2017 due to a back problem. He’s got the tools to put up a 20/20 (or better) season with a batting average approaching .300. You’ll have to draft and stash him because the re-signing of Carlos Gonzalez means Dahl will start the season in the minors and will need someone to get hurt or gravely disappoint to get a promotion. When he finally arrives, he’ll make an impact right away, which makes him worth the roster spot.
Scott Engel - There is a clear path to playing time for Michael Taylor now, and we've already seen the combination of power and speed that can make him appealing. An improved approach at the plate in a good lineup could lead to a real breakout year.
Jake Ciely - I find Ozzie Albies amusing because young players are often over-hyped, not overlooked. Maybe it’s because Albies plays for the Braves? I’m not sure, but the kid deserves your attention. Albies already said he plans to run more, and he already had 25-30 stolen base potential. If Albies truly is more aggressive, he could reach the mid-30s to go with his mid-teen home run pop and around 150 Runs plus RBIs. That makes Albies a Top 12 second baseman and Top 100 hitter.
Doug Anderson - With most of my leagues consisting of AL or NL-only affairs, I find my sleepers go a bit deeper than my fellow RotoExperts. Jose Pirela fits that to a tee. Pirela is a late bloomer, who, since his June call-up, has led the Padres in batting average, on-base percentage, runs batted in, and slugging percentage. This on a team with Wil Myers. In Hunter Renfroe, Pirela has some competition, but Padres manager Andy Green may have already tipped his hand. Pirela is being virtually ignored, even in NL-only formats. I'll take that handout any time.
“Pick somebody who plays harder than him. Just try.”
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) March 19, 2018
George Kurtz - Starlin Castro is yet another player that Fantasy owners seem to hate. Okay, he’s on Miami, yeah, this is going to be a bad team, but someone has to get on base. He’s going to bad third, he’s a .300 hitter, who can hit double-digit HRs and SBs. You can pretty much get him for free at the end of your draft.
Michael Waterloo - The Reds showed that they believe in Eugenio Suarez with their recent seven-year contract extension, and you should believe in him, too. As the 200th overall player off the board, Suarez is the type of player that allows you to wait on the position and get a productive third baseman with Top 12 potential for next to nothing. Suarez reminds me of a poor man's Nick Castellanos, but the ballpark makes him even more attractive for a fraction of the price.
There you have it. These are the hitting sleepers you'll be able to grab late in your draft. Spend your money and high draft picks on the big names, but save a slot for these unappreciated Fantasy assets and your 2018 Fantasy Baseball season will play out just fine.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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