Wednesday, October 5 2022

Your definition of fantasy sleeper may vary, but the following list contains undervalued players when compared to ADP.

Thomas may spend the first month or two in the minors, but the top-20 ranked prospect is MLB ready as soon as Arizona gives him a chance (Jordan Luplow’s oblique strain may accelerate his timeline). Thomas offers a nice combination of power/speed and will be a popular waiver wire add this summer.

A shoulder injury kept Ynoa from pitching during Atlanta’s postseason run last year, but he’s looked healthy this spring and is favored to win one of the team’s final spots in the rotation. His K-BB percentage last season would’ve ranked top-20 had he qualified, just ahead of Joe Musgrove and Walker Buehler, so Ynoa has legit upside should health cooperate.

Camden Yards moved in its LF fences during the offseason, which is huge for the lefty Means. In fact, the new dimensions would’ve prevented a dozen homers for Means, whose ERA was nearly two runs higher at home (4.62) than on the road (2.84) last season thanks in large part to a higher HR rate. Means had a BB% in the top four percent of the league last season and could make a further leap in 2022 with the park changes.

Houck dominated with a 2.58 FIP last season and now enters 2022 as part of Boston’s rotation. The former first-rounder may be limited by an innings cap, but Houck’s stuff is good enough to be plenty helpful to fantasy managers this year.

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Robertson is going undrafted in Yahoo leagues, so this is a deeper sleeper. But he’s my pick to emerge as Chicago’s closer this season, with Rowan Wick and Mychal Givens his main competition. Robertson’s stuff remains plenty good, and he has “closer’s experience,” which managers often covet.

The Cubs aren’t short on sleepers either, as Nick Madrigal, Clint Frazier and Brennen Davis also qualify to varying degrees.

Kopech will benefit from pitching for the White Sox and in the AL Central, but his stuff is good enough to dominate in any environment. Kopech recorded a K% in the top three percent of the league last season to go along with an expected ERA in the top seven percent, and he’s just getting started. Innings will admittedly be limited, but Kopech is a dark horse Cy Young candidate.

Senzel is a former No. 2 pick who produced 26 homers/steals in just 375 ABs as a rookie. He’s been a huge disappointment while battling numerous injuries over two years since, but the former top prospect is going to once again be given a chance at an everyday role for the rebuilding Reds.

Senzel is still just 26 years old, possesses a “70” grade on his future hit tool and has real power/speed upside. He has a career .402 wOBA and a 156 wRC+ in more than 1,000 career PAs in the minors, so health is the real issue holding him back. Moreover, Great American Ballpark has been one of the friendliest venues for hitters, increasing homers a whopping 28% for right-handed batters over the last three seasons. Senzel is even eligible at 2B as well, so he’s a real sleeper in Yahoo leagues.

Cincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) is a fantasy sleeperCincinnati Reds center fielder Nick Senzel (15) is a fantasy sleeper

Nick Senzel is fully in the fantasy sleeper territory. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With steals at an absolute premium, Straw is a fine target should you miss out on speed early. He isn’t a great hitter but good plate discipline leads to strong OBPs. Slated to hit leadoff in Cleveland, Straw’s elite centerfield defense should also help keep his bat in the lineup. He once stole 70 bases over 131 games in the minors as a 23-year-old yet isn’t being drafted among the first 60 outfielders in Yahoo leagues.

Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon

While some sleepers are unknown youngsters, the best undervalued players are often older, boring veterans like Blackmon. His ADP has rarely been this low (outside 200), as the 35-year-old just posted his worst OPS in nearly a decade. But Blackmon was much better during the second half and most importantly, still calls Colorado home. Coors Field has increased run scoring by 34% over the last three seasons; Great American Ballpark is second over that span at 16%. Colorado has also boosted batting average by 18% over the last three years, with the second-best a full 10% lower. It’s simply an unfair advantage to hit there.

Blackmon’s expected batting average (.292) was in the top 8% of the league even during a down season last year, and he’s slated to hit leadoff in 2022 (with a pitcher no longer batting ninth in the NL). There are 50+ outfielders being drafted ahead of Blackmon in Yahoo leagues.

Detroit Tigers: Spencer Torkelson

Torkelson was the first pick in the 2020 draft after a prolific three years at Arizona State as college baseball’s best hitter. His bat looks ready after a successful first season across the minors last year (30 homers over 431 ABs), yet Torkelson’s ADP currently resides after Round 20 in Yahoo leagues. Steamer is projecting 27 homers and 75 RBI over just 130 games (with a 125 wRC+ for the rookie), and he’s also 3B eligible in Yahoo, making Torkelson even more enticing in fantasy leagues.

Houston Astros: Jeremy Peña

With Carlos Correa signing in Minnesota, Peña is Houston’s new starting shortstop. The rookie is a plus defender who missed most of last year in the minors after undergoing wrist surgery. Peña had 10 homers and five steals over just 30 games in Triple-A when healthy, so there’s some nice fantasy potential, especially while hitting in the Astros lineup. Peña is considered Houston’s top prospect and a top-50 overall one; he’s a deep sleeper.

Kansas City Royals: Brady Singer

Singer isn’t likely to rack up wins and ended last season with arm issues, so this is a deeper sleeper pick. But he’s healthy now and is a former first-rounder who’s one improved changeup away from making a huge leap. If you’re seeking an esoteric stat, I’m your huckleberry; from the date the ban started on the sticky stuff until the end of last season, Singer was second among all starters in called strike percentage. His season long 4.91 ERA came with a 4.04 FIP, and his unreal bad luck with BABIP is especially likely to regress given Kansas City has a strong defense. Take a chance on Singer late in your draft.

Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Marsh

Marsh quietly had the second-highest line-drive rate last season despite being a rookie and battling an injury down the stretch, and he hits pop ups about as frequently as Joey Votto (read: almost never). Marsh also possesses some speed and should have a full-time job this season in a home park that’s been among the most favorable in all of baseball for left-handed power since lowering the right field wall in 2018.

Los Angeles Dodgers: AJ Pollock

Pollock isn’t likely to play 150+ games, but that’s why his ADP remains so affordable for such a good hitter (and fantasy contributor). After swatting 16 homers in fewer than 200 ABs in 2020, Pollock added 30 homers/steals in just 384 ABs last year, when he was also in the top 10% of the league in expected batting average. Pollock can remain a fine source of counting stats despite hitting at the bottom of LA’s lineup, as the Dodgers are projected to score by far the most runs in baseball. Pollock will be a fantasy difference-maker when in the lineup.

Miami Marlins: Anthony Bender

Even though Bender has emerged as one of baseball’s best relievers, he’s still plenty affordable at draft tables with Miami’s closer’s role up for grabs. His ADP is admittedly on the rise with presumptive closer Dylan Floro dealing with arm soreness, but don’t be surprised if Bender runs away with the job (Anthony Bass is another option). Fangraphs expects the Marlins to be much improved and projects them to have a winning record this season, so more save opportunities should be in store as well.

Milwaukee Brewers: Aaron Ashby

Ashby’s exact timetable remains unclear, but he’s going to be part of Milwaukee’s rotation this season one way or the other (possibly a 6-man to open the year? Adrian Houser’s luck ending? Injuries?). Ashby struck out a whopping 100 batters over 63.1 innings in Triple-A last season, and beneath his 4.55 ERA with the Brewers (in limited work) was a 3.03 expected ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. There’s something clearly going on with pitching in Milwaukee; three Brewers starters ranked in the top-seven in K% last season, while three of the team’s relievers ranked top-10.

Impressive stuff.

It helps that Miller Park increases strikeouts by 7% (third-most in baseball). Ashby is lasting almost to pick 250 in Yahoo leagues, but he’s going to make a major impact over 130-150 innings.

Minnesota Twins: Bailey Ober

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Ober is going near pick 250 in fantasy drafts despite recording a K-BB% (20.3) that would’ve ranked 16th among starters had he qualified last year. His rookie season also featured a 3.49 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP after the All-Star break, and Ober looks even more impressive when examined under the hood. With the addition of Carlos Correa at shortstop, arguably no team in baseball now fields a better defense up the middle (this is especially true when Ryan Jeffers starts and Gary Sanchez moves to DH). Moreover, Target Field has decreased homers by 10% over the last three seasons, while divisional opponents the Tigers, Royals and Guardians project as bottom-10 offenses. Ober is a late-round steal.

New York Mets: James McCann

McCann is cheap at draft tables coming off a rough first year in New York after signing a big contract. But he posted a 142 wRC+ the season prior, and it’s safe to expect a bounce back after experiencing a year of NL pitching. McCann could easily move up New York’s lineup should he return to hitting like he did from 2019-2020.

New York Yankees: Gleyber Torres

Torres is coming off a couple of down seasons but hit 38 homers (125 wRC+) as a 22-year-old and remains in a favorable situation in New York. He countered some struggles at the plate last season by adding a career-high 14 SBs, and a full-time move to second base should help as well. Torres is still just 25 years old, hits in a loaded lineup and in a home park that boosts righty power; he also looks to be in the proverbial “best shape of his life.” He’s enticing with a depressed ADP.

New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres New York Yankees' Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres’ depressed ADP now makes him a huge a value. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Oakland A’s: James Kaprielian

Kaprielian is free at most drafts (and likely soon available to stash on IL) as he opens the year sidelined with a shoulder injury. But he’s already completed a successful bullpen session and isn’t expected to miss much time. Kaprielian is a former first-round pick who seemed to put it together last season, when he recorded a 24.5 K% that would’ve ranked top-25 among starters if he qualified. Wins could be a problem in Oakland, but Kaprielian has potential for a real breakout should health allow.

Philadelphia Phillies: Zach Eflin

Eflin was posting a solid 3.87 expected ERA thanks to a BB% in the top one percent of the league last year before a knee injury ended his season prematurely. His underlying stats suggest further growth could happen, and Eflin will benefit from a loaded Phillies lineup that should provide a ton of run support.

Pittsburgh Pirates: David Bednar

Given his lack of track record, the Pirates unlikely to rack up wins and Pittsburgh’s reported plan to split closing duties, Bednar remains plenty affordable at draft tables despite posting a 1.05 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP after the All-Star break last season. He’s the Pirates’ clear best reliever — by a wide margin — so I’m not too worried about the uncertain role to start a very long season. Bednar has a strong fastball/curveball combination, is only getting better and posted a 2.51 expected ERA last season that was in the top 3% of the league. He’s available after Round 16 in Yahoo formats.

San Diego Padres: Dinelson Lamet

Lamet is likely pitching through a partially damaged UCL, but it’s possible many pitchers are doing the same without our knowledge. He’s certainly looked healthy this spring, with Lamet’s fastball clocking in at 97 mph while his vintage slider appears to be back. A full-time move to the bullpen should help keep the converted starter healthier; Lamet would often wear down when asked to go out for a second inning last season, so a strict one-inning role in the ninth makes sense.

In a truly wide-open Padres bullpen, Robert Suarez looks like the favorite to close for the Padres to open the year, but Lamet can turn into a shutdown, dominant reliever if his arm cooperates, and San Diego’s sick rotation should provide a bunch of save chances.

San Francisco Giants: Alex Cobb

Out of the AL East for the first time in his career, Cobb showed real improvement last season with the Angels, fanning 98 batters over 93.1 innings while posting a 2.92 FIP that would’ve ranked fourth-best in baseball (tied with Gerrit Cole) had he qualified. Cobb is a health risk, but he now joins an organization in San Francisco that’s produced an extremely impressive recent track record in getting the best performances out of pitchers (EG Logan Webb, Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, Jake McGee, etc). Cobb is a ground baller who will also benefit from a massive upgrade in defense, as the Giants are above average whereas the Angels saddled him with the worst defense in MLB last season. His fastball velocity is also reportedly up this spring.

Seattle Mariners: Julio Rodriguez

It seems the worst kept secret in the industry is that Rodriguez will open the season in Seattle, as sanity reportedly will prevail. He’s arguably the best prospect in baseball who’s capable of helping fantasy managers right away, as Rodriguez posted a 173 wRC+ (with 16 steals) in Double-A as a 20-year-old last season. He could easily hit .270, go 20/20 and is suddenly a major threat to Bobby Witt Jr. to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Few players have seen their fantasy value rise more over the last month than J-Rod.

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul DeJong

DeJong reportedly put in work during the offseason coming off a couple of down years (and is off to a strong start at the plate this spring, for what it’s worth). He hit 30 homers with nine steals as recently as 2019 and is one of the cheapest sources of middle infield power available late in drafts.

Tampa Bay Rays: Vidal Brujan

Brujan will open the year in the minors, but his upside is well worth stashing in deeper fantasy leagues. Stolen bases continue to decrease league-wide, and Brujan swiped 44 bags (with 12 homers) over just 389 ABs in Triple-A last season (including 29 SBs after getting sent back down on 7/22). THE BAT X projects 18 homers/steals in fewer than 250 ABs, while ZiPS is projecting 38 steals in fewer than 115 games for Brujan, who’s also 2B eligible in Yahoo leagues.

Texas Rangers: Jon Gray

Gray is a former No. 3 pick who recorded 77 strikeouts over 63.0 innings after the All-Star break last season and is now finally free from Colorado. Coors Field has increased run scoring by 36% over the last three seasons (more than twice as much as the second-best hitter’s park) and has boosted homers by 13%. Texas has decreased both home runs and scoring since opening Globe Life Field. Gray will also benefit from frequently getting to pad his stats against the A’s and what looks like their league-worst offense as well as from his new middle infield defense. Gray had the biggest jump in K-BB% after the All-Star break among all pitchers last season and now gets a major upgrade in environment, so he’s a strong target currently coming off the board after Round 20.

Toronto Blue Jays: Alejandro Kirk

Kirk suddenly looks like a top-five fantasy catcher now that DH at-bats have opened in Toronto thanks to the Randal Grichuk trade. The 5-8, 265-pounder hit .347 in Triple-A last year and has real power. Kirk has the potential to be the best hitting catcher in baseball soon and just had his playing time concerns eased, so it’s go time.

Washington Nationals: Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez appears to have traded steals for power, as he hit a career-high 21 homers at age 31 last season. He remains awfully cheap in drafts for a second baseman who just swatted 20+ homers and recorded 80+ RBI, especially one slated to bat leadoff (with a pitcher no longer hitting ninth in the NL). Hernandez had 18 homers over just 374 ABs before struggling after the trade to Chicago last season, but he’s locked in as Washington’s starting second baseman in 2022. Nationals Park boosts power for both sides of the plate, which also helps the switch-hitter.

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter

Source: Yahoo Sports

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