Fantasy Baseball 2018: Sleepers
Every championship is built on the surprising production of players down the draft board. Who could be that magic sleeper for you this season?
It isn’t a fantasy draft unless you have a cheat-sheet full of late-round sleepers. So while we have handed out our top tens for every position, it’s time to find a sleeper or two for each spot on your roster.
These players should all be available late in your draft (we’re talking Round 12 or more) but have a shot at overperforming that value and being the difference between an average season and a championship that you can laud over your friends all winter.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 201)
Taillon battled testicular cancer last year, but after getting the all-clear from doctors he is back on the mound this spring and fully healthy. With a career ERA of 3.98 and an 8.0 K/9, Taillon has a shot at being a top-40 starter this year but comes with the price tag in the late 50’s.
At 26, the former second-overall pick has the kind of pedigree to improve, and while wins may be tough to find due to his run support, he should at worst be a zero in your rate stats, and at best a positive influence.
Joakim Soria, RP, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 198)
The White Sox aren’t exactly going to give Soria 60 save chances, but opportunity is king when it comes to closers, and Soria will get the first crack at the closer job.
Soria hasn’t been a full-time closer for two years now, but with 204 saves under his belt, he knows what he is doing. Last year’s 3.70 ERA doesn’t look too great, but his FIP was a tiny 2.23 and he struck out more than a hitter per inning. If you don’t want to pay for saves, Soria could be a great avenue to points in that category while protecting your rates and contributing in strikeouts.
Travis d’Arnaud, C, New York Mets (ADP: 224)
It’s been a while since d’Arnaud had any shot at reaching stud level behind the plate, but he has sufficient pop to be worth the batting average risks. 16 homers last year in 112 games is a nice return from a catcher, and if he cools off he can be replaced on the waiver wire with minimal problem. A low BABIP last year (.250) suggests there is a bit of bounce in his batting average too. Upside you’re looking at a .255 hitter with 20 homers. That is more than enough to be happy with.
Logan Morrison, 1B, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 253)
Morrison has bounced around the league somewhat of late, but last year saw him dramatically improve his power thanks to buying into the launch angle revolution. He mashed 38 homers with the Rays, and while his .246 average was a problem, if you are choosing to punt that category or have the horses that can carry him, power and counting stat help is always nice. You have to bake a little regression into Morrison, say down to 28 homers, but that is still valuable production at such a late stage of the draft.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 190)
Sleeper usually refers to a youngster that is about to come good, but sometimes it can include a veteran who is going to bounce back in a new home.
Kinsler’s 2017 was a nightmare. His average dropped 52 points to a horrible .236 and he only managed 52 RBI. However, there were reasons for it. An awful case of bad luck handed him a shocking .244 BABIP, more than explaining the drop in average, and he still hit 22 homers and stole 14 bags. His move to the Angels puts him in the hands of a more aggressive manager as far as steals go, so he has a shot to improve dramatically there, and hitting in front of Mike Trout could put him over 100 runs if the BABIP just returns to his average. He might not crack the top ten at second base but as your middle infielder, he could be extremely useful.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 189)
Simmons is best known for his outrageous glove work, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get it done at the plate.
Simmons backed up a .281 average in 2016 with a .278 one last year, both his best marks since 2012. He hit 14 homers and stole 19 bases along with that nice average, and while the pop is inconsistent, Mike Scioscia is one of the more aggressive managers and sending his guys, so double-digit steals is almost a certainty. That’s good value for his draft position, and if he replicates his power then he is an absolute steal.
Evan Longoria, 3B, San Francisco Giants (ADP: 192)
Longoria is no longer the star he was, but a move to San Francisco has seen people unnecessarily bail on him this year. It may be bad for homers, but it is only marginally worse than the Trop, and there is still that 36-homer upside from 2016 lingering.
Longoria is a nice corner infield option as he won’t kill your average, is a remarkably healthy player to provide reasonable counting stats, and has that power potential. He should return very good value for his draft position.
Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals (ADP: 228)
Taylor hit 19 homers and stole 17 bases last year in just 432 plate appearances, but is being priced behind the likes of Matt Kemp and Mitch Haniger.
With a starting spot in a good lineup, Taylor could easily register a 20-20 season, and hitting behind the likes of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman gives him a shot at being a serious RBI contributor as well. His strikeout rate is high enough to make him a potential liability in batting average, but his speed should help mask some of that by beating out grounders.