With the inundation of analytics along with the volume of preseason articles, the term sleeper loses some of its luster. For the purposes of this article, a sleeper will be identified as a player capable of being more valuable than his preseason average draft position (ADP), one who could return early round value or one who may fly below the radar prior to live drafts. In an effort to canvas all positions and using two industry mocks as a guide, here’s 20 players who possess the skills to outperform their present price point. 


Carson Kelly - Arizona Diamondbacks

From May fourth to the end of the season, among all catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Carson Kelly owned the best on-base plus slugging percentage (.887), the second highest on-base percentage (.373) and finished second in slugging percentage (.514). Last season, Kelly racked up 37 extra-base hits of his 77 over 365 plate appearances with 18 home runs and 47 RBI in 111 games. Everyone’s going to flock to Will Smith of the Dodgers as the catcher of choice in drafts, so wait a couple of rounds and get the better option in Kelly. 

Tom Murphy - Seattle Mariners

It’s ironic Tom Murphy finally surged in terms of power after leaving Coors Field, don’t you think? Murphy recorded a .277/.344/.532 slash line in the second half of last season with nine home runs in only 40 games. More importantly, Murphy finished with a 9.6 walk percentage and 26.9 strikeout rate after the All-Star break with an eye popping .255 isolated power. Knowing Murphy will struggle to produce an average above .250 in 2020, note his second half underlying data compared to Mitch Garver ’s from 2018: 

  • Tom Murphy 2H 2019: 17.2 line drive percentage, 39.4 ground ball rate, 43.4 fly ball percentage and his slash line above
  • Mitch Garver 2H 2018: 18.5 line drive percentage, 39.8 ground ball rate, 41.7 fly ball percentage, .293/.340/.474

First Base

Christian Walker - Arizona Diamondbacks

Wait, two positions in and two players from the desert? Well, one should not overlook how well Christian Walker performed in 2019. In fact, look how he did versus the player he replaced: 

  • Paul Goldschmidt 2019: 97 runs, 34 home runs, 97 RBI, three stolen bases; .260/.346/.476
  • Christian Walker 2019: 86 runs, 29 home runs, 73 RBI, eight stolen bases; .259/.348/.476

Wait, what? There’s one major difference between these two players besides 24 RBI, price. Goldschmidt will be taken double digits in rounds ahead of Walker. Before overpaying for Goldy, Walker produced a fly ball in more than 50 percent of his batted balls, a 21.4 home run per fly ball rate and 46.1 hard hit percentage. Also, Walker recorded a .452 xwoBACON (expected weighted batting average on contact) last season with a 13.1 barrel percentage. Not too shabby. 

Second Base

Tommy Edman - St. Louis Cardinals

Although cheating a bit here, Tommy Edman did appear in 29 games at second base in 2019 with 55 at third base as well. In 2020, he may also add outfield eligibility to the mix as a sweetener. Edman played in 92 games during his debut with 59 runs, 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a robust .304/.350/.500 slash. Despite his expected batting average of .287 portending some regression, Edman owns a skill highly sought after this year, steals. He could finish with 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases while hitting .280, yet still be a bargain according to early draft data. Key on the 24.7 line drive percentage and 82.6 contact rate to keep him productive in the year ahead. 


Amed Rosario - New York Mets

It’s tough to label Amed Rosario a sleeper, but it’s relative to a potential breakout. Yes, Rosario did hit .287/.323/.432 slash with 75 runs, 15 home runs, 72 RBI and 19 stolen bases last season. Beneath the numbers, he reduced his swinging strike percentage plus his swings and misses at pitches outside the strike zone. Rosario slightly increased his contact rate, and sits on the precipice of a run at 20 home runs with 25 or more stolen bases. All he needs to do is improve upon his stolen base conversions. Last season, Rosario attempted 29 stolen bases getting caught 10 times. If new manager Luis Rojas gives Rosario the green light, along with some tutelage, 30 or more steals could ensue. Yes please. 

Luis Urías - Milwaukee Brewers

Hitters who play half of their home games in Miller Park get a boost in the fantasy community. This offseason, Luis Urías will get the chance to become the starting shortstop for Milwaukee. Translation, Urias could be worth a flier in the later rounds of deeper formats. He cratered last season hitting only .223.329/.326  over 71 games, but also hit .315/.398/.600 in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League with 19 home runs in only 73 contests. Urias recorded a double digit walk percentage across in Triple-A and with San Diego. Steamer projects Urias for a .252/.333/.403 line with 70 runs, 16 home runs, 59 RBI and five stolen bases. If he steals eight or more bases and pops 20 home runs, reap the rewards. 

Third Base

J.D. Davis - New York Mets

Statcast hero J.D. Davis made the most of his chances in 2019 hitting .307/.369/.527 with 65 runs, 22 home runs, 57 RBI and three stolen bases. According to Statcast, Davis recorded a whopping 47.7 hard hit percentage meaning almost half of batted ball events generated an exit velocity of 95 MPH or higher. Davis produced 36 barrels of his 315 batted balls with a .308 expected average and .548 expected slugging. Targeting average later in drafts can be tough to do, but Davis not only could provide upside with more counting statistics in 2020, he may hit .290 or better enhancing a team’s batting average foundation. 

Nick Solak - Texas Rangers

A late season slump could benefit prospective owners of Nick Solak . After accruing 27 home runs with a robust .289/.362/.532 slash with two different Triple-A teams, Solak hit .293/.393/.491 during his 33 game sample with the Rangers. Solak finished with a contact rate just below 80 percent with an 8.5 swinging strike percentage and 26.3 O-Swing (swings and misses outside the strike zone) percent. Armed with a career 38.3 on-base percentage in the minors in more than 1,600 at-bats, Solak will benefit owners in on-base formats. Steamer projects him for 70 runs, 21 home runs, 70 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .268/.340/.447 line. Basically a poor man’s Justin Turner minus the batting average upside, but younger, healthier and with some pocket steals. 


Trent Grisham - San Diego Padres

So, both players involved in a trade appear in this column? Absolutely. During a 51 game sample with the Brewers, Trent Grisham recorded 24 runs, six home runs, 24 RBI, a stolen base and a .231/.328/.410 slash line, which is less than stellar. He will be remembered for his error against the Nationals as well in the playoffs. However, across two levels prior to his promotion, Grisham owned a .300/.407/.603 line with 71 runs, 26 home runs, 71 RBI and 12 steals. Within these numbers, Grisham walked 67 times against 72 strikeouts and his career 37.6 on-base percentage in the minors bodes well. With Milwaukee, Grisham finished with an 8.1 swinging strike percentage while swinging and missing at only 22 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. Players with strong on-base skills, the ability to hit for power along with providing double digit stolen bases will be coveted this season. 

Willie Calhoun - Texas Rangers

It seems like fantasy owners pine for Willie Calhoun to breakout every season. Well, the time may be upon us. Calhoun launched 21 home runs in only 83 games in 2019 with 51 runs and 48 RBI. He hit a respectable .269/.323/.524 with a home run every 14.7 at-bats along with reaching base safely in 65 of his 76 starts. Calhoun increased his average launch angle by six degrees to 17.6 and his average exit velocity increased to 89.7 MPH. Steamer projects Calhoun for 24 home runs and a respectable .273/.334/.483 slash. He could hit 30 this year. 

Sam Hilliard - Colorado Rockies

While Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers will garner most of the fantasy attention on the Rockies, another rookie merits your attention, Sam Hilliard . In 126 games at Triple-A last season, he hit .262/.335/.558 with 109 runs, 35 home runs, 101 RBI and 22 stolen bases. There will be swing and miss in his game with a 26.4 strikeout percentage but check out his spray chart from 2019:

According to Fangraphs, Hillard owns a fly ball rate just under 40 percent and his ability to hit for power to all fields in BABIP haven Coors Field only enhances his appeal. If he wins the job in center field, a 20-plus home run with 20 stolen base season could be on tap. He is potential late round gold.

Hunter Renfroe - Tampa Bay Rays

Never fully appreciated in San Diego, Hunter Renfroe takes his prodigious power to Tampa Bay and a potential full-time role. Renfroe started the season hot hitting .252/.308/.613 in the first half with 27 home runs in 81 games. He slumped after the break but owns a fly ball rate near 47 percent, has produced a hard hit rate above 45 percent in each of the last two years and with some luck, could hit 40 home runs with a .240 average. It’s a make or break season for Renfroe but at a bargain for his owners. 

Starting Pitcher

Mitch Keller - Pittsburgh Pirates

Dying on the Mitch Keller hill could be my burden to bear. However, it’s tough to give up on a pitcher with a 28.6 strikeout percentage last season armed with a slider and curve along with a fastball which sits between 93-96 MPH in games but can reach 98-plus MPH. With the Pirates, Keller recorded a 36.8 strikeout percentage with his slider and a .238 expected batting average against. With his curve, a 37.1 strikeout percentage and .149 expected average against. Key on Keller’s 3.47 xFIP in his 48 innings with Pittsburgh and his 65 strikeouts. Steamer projects him for 9 wins, 140 innings, a 149:51 K:BB and 1.32 WHIP this year. Taking the over on innings, strikeouts, and a WHIP closer to 1.25 as a fifth starter in fantasy with upside. 

Ryan Yarbrough - Tampa Bay Rays

Although it’s dangerous to chase wins, over the last two years, Ryan Yarbrough owns 27 of them including an 11-6 record last season. Yarbrough graduated to starter status from an opener in 2019 and racked up a 3.79 ERA along with a 70:9 K:BB in 78.1 innings in the second half. He increased his swinging strike percentage to 10.2, upped his O-Swing percent by 3.1 points and reduced contact. Yarbrough’s not sexy, but ranks as another fourth or fifth starter in fantasy who could be much more valuable. 

Max Fried - Atlanta Braves

While everyone swoons over taking Mike Soroka in the top 100, his teammate could own more upside this year around 50 picks later. Max Fried went 8-2 after the All-Star break last season with 76 strikeouts against 18 walks in 67 innings. He surged to a 3.63 ERA, 3.12 xFIP and 1.22 WHIP in an extreme hitter environment. Steamer projects Fried for a 12-9 record over 172 innings with a 3.62 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Best news, his 178 strikeouts as a clincher. 

Dylan Cease - Chicago White Sox

Somehow, Dylan Cease keeps ending up on my team’s in mock draft season. Beneath his numbers from 2019 in the majors lies a 45.7 ground ball rate, a swinging strike percentage of 11 percent and a plus-slider. According to Statcast, Cease generated a 39.2 strikeout percentage with the pitch and a 34.4 whiff percentage. Cease should benefit from the guidance of Yasmani Grandal and take the next step in his development in 2020. Plan accordingly. 

Sandy Alcantara - Miami Marlins

Covered in last season’s Behind the Breakout which subscribers can read here. Once Alcantara increased his sinker usage, he finished the season with a bang. He also recorded two complete game shutouts joining Shane Bieber and Lucas Giolito in doing so in 2019. Alcantara pitched a career high 197.1 innings with a 3.88 ERA and 151 strikeouts. Not sure there’s another level with strikeouts but if it happens, he will deploy his secondary pitches more often. Track this in the spring and if his curve or change-up clicks, buy shares of Sandy. 

Relief Pitcher

Emmanuel Clase - Cleveland Indians

Adjusting the team in the header of a player rarely happens when writing a column like this, but Emmanuel Clase will not be usurping José Leclerc from saves in Texas, rather he becomes the closer of the future for Cleveland. Clase ascended from High-A in 2019 to the Rangers with a minuscule walk rate and high octane cutter. If this seems intriguing, remember the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera made a career almost exclusively with this pitch. Even though Clase only notched one save with Texas last year, his upside late in drafts makes him a worthy flier. Keep in mind, Brad Hand missed time in September with an injury and could be on the trade block this season during a potential Indians rebuild. UPDATE: With Clase out for 8-to-12 weeks with a lat issue, James Karinchak should slot in as the next in line for saves in Cleveland. He's a quality arm and can be used as a handcuff despite not having the stuff Clase brought to the table. Consider Clase a second-half sleeper now.

Scott Oberg - Colorado Rockies

Wade Davis gets paid like a closer but has yet to act like one in Colorado. Enter Scott Oberg . Armed with a new deal with the team, Oberg proved to be the team’s best reliever last season and should be treated as such going forward. He ranked third in ERA (2.25) in the National League among all relievers, tied for seventh in wins and finished 14th in opponent’s batting average against (.196). Oberg also went 5-0 at home with a 1.71 ERA over 31.2 innings in 28 appearances. He can be wild at times, so some bumpy saves will occur. However, at his present ADP, Oberg rates as a steal. 

Hunter Harvey - Baltimore Orioles

Raise your hand if you believe in Mychal Givens . Hopefully you’re still reading, so it’s time to get to know Hunter Harvey . He transitioned to the bullpen last season in the minors and recorded 11 of his 19 outs in the majors via strikeout. As a reliever in the minors, Harvey tallied a 2.81 ERA with 33 strikeouts in only 15 outings between Double and Triple-A. It may not be an immediate ascension to the closer role in Baltimore, but with health Harvey ends the season with double digits in saves and a strikeout rate at or above 30 percent. 

There’s players intentionally left off since Dinelson Lamet and Frankie Montas will be on everyone’s sleeper or breakout list. Use the notes, take bargains when they drift in drafts, and build a roster with no holes. Be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm all year to accomplish this. 


Statistical Credits: