2016 Fantasy Baseball: All Sleeper Team — Hitters
Fantasy baseball fans look forward to the preseason rankings as much as any fantasy player in any sport. There is a whole cottage industry surrounding ranking players for fantasy sports and there is as much science involved as Astrology. So, a second cottage industry has emerged and that is the industry of identifying sleepers and busts. This edition will focus on the positive end of identifying possible sleepers for the coming season. Of course, knowing who the sleepers are is only half of the battle. Knowing when to pick them is the other battle.
This is where identifying the sleepers gets a bit uncomfortable. It’s like shoving your test to the side of your desk so the other kids in class can sneak a peak. You don’t want to waste all of your hard work. In spite of that fact, we have identified one player at each spot that should outproduce expectations. Players selected were based on those ranked outside of the top ten at their respective positions according to ESPN and Yahoo rankings.
Catcher: Welington Castillo (ESPN= 11, Yahoo= 13)
Castillo almost didn’t qualify for the list. Technically, he averages out to be a fringe starter between the two platforms. If he had played his entire season in Arizona last year, he likely would have surpassed 20 home runs on the season. You certainly can’t make an entire draft around sleepers, but Castillo should give you solid starter production at nearly bench prices.
First Base: Carlos Santana (ESPN= 16, Yahoo= 22)
Some day, batting average will go by the wayside and we will be freed from its strictures. Santana has lived north of .350 in the OBP department every season of his career. He has more than 600 plate appearances for five years in a row and has averaged more than 20 home runs a season. He’s not an elite fantasy first baseman, but he is good enough to start in 12 man leagues. This is particularly true in six category leagues.
Second Base: Logan Forsythe (ESPN= 15, Yahoo= 22)
If he lasts this long in your league you are nuts for not picking him up. You are essentially getting a player at a backup spot who put up numbers good enough to be a top five second baseman a season ago. He is one of those players though that someone might sneak in and make a middle round selection on. The question is how high you are willing to go to get him on your squad. A steady second base producer should fit somewhere on your draft list in case he turns back into a pumpkin.
Third Base: Jung Ho Kang (ESPN= 14, Yahoo= 19)
One of the faults of an average fantasy player is that they think in terms of only one or two dimensions. If a player isn’t going to be available on opening day, he tumbles down their list. Kang should be available by mid April or late April at the latest. The Pirates have him penciled in as their second baseman, so by the end of May he will be available at three fantasy positions in most platforms. He’d definitely be a top utility infielder on a championship fantasy team.
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera (ESPN= NR, Yahoo= 20)
ESPN only ranks players through the top 250 for the time being. So, they are projecting Cabrera to go undrafted and Yahoo is doing the same with their ranking position. Cabrera had a backlash when the average fan realized that Web Gems were not a terrific method of grading fielders. So, he was labeled as overrated and thrown off the bus. Still, he has hit at least 14 home runs every season since 2011 and now he has found his way on the defending NL champs. He might even be good enough to start.
Outfield: Gerardo Parra (ESPN= 54, Yahoo=LF21)
Coors Field exists in a kind of value vacuum that makes any transaction meaningful and extraordinarily difficult to rate. Corey Dickerson narrowly missed being considered a bust because he’s leaving that place. Parra was astounding in Milwaukee last year, but crashed back to earth in Baltimore. One could easily imagine him putting up Milwaukee-esque numbers in Colorado. That makes him a starting quality outfielder at bench prices.
Outfield: Adam Eaton (ESPN= 38, Yahoo= CF16)
Eaton has two full seasons under his belt and he’s averaged 87 runs in those two seasons. His power expanded last season where he gives you a little power and a little speed to accompany those runs. Let’s keep in mind that this isn’t your older brother’s MLB. Run scoring is down, so players just don’t roll out of bed and score 90 runs. Like Parra, he is putting up starting quality numbers and is being projected to go outside of the zone where starters are picked. He does look like the first outfielder off the bench and if you can get him there I definitely would.
Outfield: Shin Soo Choo (ESPN= 46, Yahoo= RF19)
There’s puzzling and then there’s absolutely nuts. Take a look at his numbers and try to figure out why he is ranked this low. Sure, his steals are down from the 20 he stole in 2013. Everyone knows what I think of steals by now anyway. In eight seasons as a regular, he has never had an OBP worse than .340. His career mark of .382 in considerably better than most of the players above him. His slugging percentages have hovered around .450 for most of his career. This placement by these two platforms is a huge head-scratcher.
Utility: Albert Pujols (ESPN= 1B12, Yahoo= 50)
Imagine a world where Albert Pujols is underrated. Again, we have the one dimensional thinking because he will likely miss the first couple of weeks. He hit 40 bombs a year ago and he was apparently playing hurt the entire year. We can easily imagine seeing his batting average come back closer to his career norms. No, he will never be the player he was in St. Louis ever again, but he is certainly good enough to hold down your utility spot for the majority of the season.