Well now that the title of the article got your attention, allow me to break the bad news to you and tell you there’s no such thing as a fantasy baseball sleeper anymore. Sorry. It’s 2017 and thanks to the internet and the vast number of fantasy websites out there, the term “sleeper” has been a misnomer since the turn of the century.
Sleepers were once hidden gems only the hardcore fantasy baseballer knew about after doing extensive research of every team’s 40-man roster and “future stars.” Nowadays, no stone is left unturned as every fantasy baseball magazine, website, blog, podcast and radio show discusses nearly every player with a professional contract and even some collegiate and high school stars as well.
But as you can see just by Googling the phrase “2017 fantasy baseball sleepers,” everyone is still using the term as a way to hook you in. Why? Because far too many of you out there still believe in sleepers like a five-year old believes in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I’m not saying this to be condescending. I’m actually saying this with the hope that you will change your way of thinking and make the adjustment to the times.
As a result of the internet’s assistance in the explosion of the fantasy sports business, sleepers are now considered the mainstream trendy picks. If you go to one of those articles you found on the Google machine, you’ll see that none of those names listed are players you’ve never heard of. In fact, you’ve probably heard about them a ton. Why? Because every site is talking about them. They are the players who you should have been able to attain at a low cost but now lose a portion of their return-value because the cost continues to rise as Opening Day approaches. Hence the new moniker “trendy picks.”
So with that, let’s take a look at the ADP and drafts trends we are seeing with some of the trendier picks we are seeing in fantasy baseball drafts.
Wil Myers, 1B SD – Last season’s 28-28 season was a big eye-opener for many and then the pundits began writing about how we tend to pass judgment too quickly on highly-touted prospects who don’t deliver inside the first year or two. That alone put Myers on a lot more fantasy wish-lists. But then the first baseman said he wanted to go 40-40 this season and BAM!! To quote Van Halen, “Everybody wants some!” His ADP has hovered in the mid-to-high 40’s for more than a month now and if you want him, that’s the going rate. It probably won’t get any higher than that, but if he starts to really tear it up this spring, it certainly could.
Ian Desmond, OF COL – People were wary of Desmond’s offensive struggles last spring and were a little down on him when no team wanted to sign him. Then he landed in Texas and his draft stock spiked a little bit, especially because he still had his shortstop eligibility. After a 22-21 season, while the excitement grew, the interest spiked exponentially when he signed with the Rockies. Add to it the fact that he will add first base eligibility within the first month of the season, people are going nuts for this guy. Rightfully so, though, as I’m also a big fan. You see his ADP is steadily rising, so understand that if you really want him, you may have to make a slightly uncomfortable reach.
Kyle Schwarber, OF CHC – While he’s still a trendy player, the over-excitement of Yahoo’s granting him catcher eligibility this season has seemingly worn off a bit. As you can see by the trend report, he’s still lurking inside the top-75 overall, but the days of him going in the second and third round of drafts are gone. Thankfully. He’s got the potential to be a beast in OBP leagues, but with a high strikeout rate and no speed, I’m treating him like any 20-25-homer guy.
David Dahl, OF COL – The interest level remains high for many out there despite the back issues he’s experiencing this spring. I remain optimistic about Dahl’s long-term value, but for right now, there’s a cautious optimism. One thing people seem to forget is that the Rockies handed Gerardo Parra a three-year, $26M deal prior to the 2016 season and they’re not just going to eat that money and relegate him to back-up duty. This situation could be more of a platoon than many would like, so keep that in mind if you see his ADP continue to climb.
Alex Bregman, 3B HOU – I’ll be the first to admit the minor league numbers look great. There’s nice progression and even some steady power growth as he moved through the different minor league levels. But are we really ready to say we’d take a kid with 201 career big-league at-0bats over a proven talent like Evan Longoria? Or even Anthony Rendon? Maybe if we’re talking keeper leagues, but in re-draft, I’m less enamored. He’s a solid talent and a great long-term option, but I want to see him actually hit 20 home runs at the big league level and maybe strike out less than 24-percent of the time. His ADP may be slightly down on the trend report, but we’re talking picks, not rounds. Be careful.
Andrew Benintendi, OF BOS – Ah, the rookie love. You know it’s prevalent in the fantasy world. Now add to it that Benintendi is expected to bat second in the lineup and those who value upside and potential more than proven talent are flocking to get him. We’ve seen a steady climb for his ADP already, but if he starts to heat up even just a little this spring, we could see him break into the top-100 soon.
Jose Peraza, 2B CIN – His ADP was trending north even before the Brandon Phillips trade and now that he’s got a starting job, will add second base eligibility to his already tasty SS/OF positioning and is batting second in the lineup, people are grabbing him earlier and earlier. Maybe it’s the speed, maybe it’s the multi-position eligibility, maybe it’s because the speculation has him batting second in the lineup. Whatever it may be, if you want Peraza, based on the ADP trend, you may actually have to spend more than the seventh-round pick he currently costs, to get him.
James Paxton, SP SEA – You can probably lay most of the blame on Jason Collette and Paul Sporer (FanGraphs.com) after they took Paxton in the 10th round of the LABR Mixed League draft, but Paxton is getting a considerable amount of buzz here in the preseason. He threw 171.2 innings last year with a 3.79 ERA which isn’t the greatest, but many are pointing to his 2.80 FIP and are expecting him to take a step forward this season. As a result, he’s gradually crawling up draft boards and probably isn’t going to top out until closer to the start of the regular season.
Eric Thames, 1B MIL – The 30-year old perennial minor-leaguer is expected to be the starting first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers and people are drafting him as if he’s the next big 30-homer guy. It’s as if no one has ever heard of Bryan LaHair or Chris Shelton, two of the most over-drafted and disappointing fantasy players in recent years. The recent trend shows a slight dip in his ADP, but he’s not falling enough for that decrease to be noticeable. Track record, people. Track record. Forget the Miller Park hype that seems to be floating about look at the player and his skill set.
Robbie Ray, SP ARI – His second half spike to a 12.04 K/9 has a ton of people looking at Ray as a serious strikeout augmentation for your rotation, but why are they ignoring the 5.03 ERA that came with it? Is it because he had a 3.61 FIP and 3.23 xFIP during that stretch? Probably. Granted the peripherals saw a nice increase, but are we elevating him in drafts too much based on a half-season’s worth of peripherals? The ADP is just inside the top-200, but he’s been taken as early as 115th overall, so watch out for the over-draft. He’s not someone you should be reaching for, but if his ADP stays where it is, you can feel good about targeting. Anything earlier and you’re running the risk of losing draft value.
Tom Murphy, C COL – The expectation, or at least the hype started, when many thought he was a lock to win the primary job behind the dish for the Rockies. And while he still may, if you’re listening to what the Rockies are saying, he is still going to be sharing the work with Tony Wolters. It won’t be a straight platoon and Murphy probably has the bigger power potential, but let’s not forget that he’s still better suited as a second backstop in a two-catcher league.
Daniel Norris, SP DET – Remember when we were focused on him for living out of his van a few seasons ago? Well, he’s been a relative disappointment since then thanks to injuries, but lately he’s been getting a little more buzz as he is expected to be the No. 4 starter for Detroit. The lefty’s K/BB increased last year and that strikeout rate is pretty tasty, but you’re also looking at a guy whose innings are likely to be closely monitored and potentially limited. He’s gone from a late-round reserve pick to a sixth or seventh starter in most leagues. That’s fine for now, but if he heats up this spring and the ADP continues to climb, you may want to sit this one out.
Carter Capps, RP SD – So many people are hyping this guy up and many of them are expecting him to end up the closer for the Padres this season, but maybe we should wait to see how the MLB rules change, supposedly changed specifically because of him, affects his performance. He’s got great stuff, but if his delivery change isn’t accepted my MLB umpires, we’re looking at a number of balks and baserunners circling him like he’s John Burkett (remember him?). His ADP continues to climb, but if it goes beyond anything more than a late-round reserve pick, you’re paying too much.
Joe Panik, 2B SF – For me, he’s a late-round pick if you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it middle infielder, but some people are elevating him just a little bit more. He hit a career-best 10 home runs in an injury-shortened season last year, but there’s nothing in his peripherals that says he’ll be anything more than that. The ADP is hovering around the 350 mark right now, but he’s been going just outside the top-200 in 12-team drafts and that is going to put him on the radar of people who don’t really know him and think his ceiling is significantly higher.
Travis Shaw, 3B MIL – He started off white-hot last year and beat out Pablo Sandoval for the starting third base job in Boston, but then did next to nothing the rest of the way. In fact, after batting .292 with seven home runs through April and May, Shaw took a serious nosedive to the tune of posting just a .269 average with nine homers in the first half and a .194 average with only seven homers after the All Star break. Still, the move to Milwaukee and the starting job at third base have some thinking he’s going to explode this season. He’s only batting .231 with zero homers so far this spring which is helping keep the ADP at a normal place, but if he heats up, you can bet someone is going to reach.