The term “sleeper” doesn’t have the same luster that it used to. We have so many great analysts in this Fantasy Baseball industry with an endless amount of stats and metrics at our disposal, most every “sleeper” will be talked about multiple times in articles or on podcasts. So, while this article is called 2022 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Sleepers, it’s more so an article discussing my favorite outfield targets outside pick 200 in drafts. Call them sleepers if you want, just don’t sleep on them in your drafts as all of these players could return a solid ROI this season.
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2022 Outfield Sleepers
Jesús Sánchez, Miami Marlins
It took several years to figure out exactly what Jesús Sánchez was going to be as a hitter, but we now have a clearer picture in that regard. The name of the game is power with Sánchez. In just 251 plate appearances with Miami last season, Sánchez swatted 14 homers after hitting 10 in 155 Triple-A plate appearances. Sánchez also posted strong quality of contact metrics with a 12.7% barrel rate, .482 xSLG, 90.2 mph AVG EV, 42,7% hard-hit rate, and was in the top-20% of hitters (minimum 150 BBE) in AVG EV on FB/LD.
Rook Jesús Sánchez is scorching! 🔥📈
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) September 12, 2021
As good as the quality of contact metrics look, Sánchez’s swing and miss issues are equally as notable. Sánchez struck out 31.1% of the time last season with a 29.2% whiff rate, 13.4% SwStr rate, and 31.5% chase rate, all of which were worse than league average. The same can be said for his contact, zone contact, and chase contact rates. Without improvements in these areas, Sánchez isn’t likely to improve on his .251 average from last season, but even in that range, he could bring 30 homers and solid counting stats to those that draft him. His ADP is quite reasonable now and could look like a steal if he takes a step forward at the plate in what will be his first full season in the Major Leagues.,
Lane Thomas, Washington Nationals
One outfielder that I’m probably higher on than most this season is Lane Thomas. Maybe I’m a bit too high on him, but there are several aspects of his game and profile for 2022 that have me buying his current ADP. First off, Thomas got some run down the stretch last season as a starter and contributed seven homers and three steals in 137 September plate appearances with a .277/.365/.538 slash line. On top of that, he also scored 26 runs and drove in 21 more. The only other players with 5+ HR, 3+ SB, 20+ RBI, and 20+ R from September 1st on were Trea Turner, Tyler O’Neill, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Ian Happ, and Ozzie Albies. That’s an impressive list to be included on.
Obviously, that’s only one month, but it’s enough of a teaser to dig even further into Thomas’ profile to see if I really do want to invest in 2022. When digging a bit deeper, Thomas recorded a 93rd percentile sprint speed with a 14% walk rate and 23.9% strikeout rate overall in 2021. His QoC metrics were skewed a bit by an underwhelming first five months where he was only playing sporadically, but in September, those metrics were far more impressive. In that month, Thomas posted a .327 ISO, .585 xSLG, and .421 wOBA.
Was it just a hot month? Possibly. But at his very affordable price around pick 250-270 in NFBC and Fantrax drafts, plus his likely spot atop the Nationals lineup in front of Soto and Bell, I’m willing to pay that price tag to find out.
Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox
Adjusting to the Major Leagues is a difficult task. Doing so while being jerked around by your manager and playing out of position for the vast majority of the season adds an additional monkey wrench into the fray. A natural first baseman, Andrew Vaughn was blocked by Jose Abreu at first base so he was forced to play both corner outfield spots (mostly left) while also mixing in 10 starts at first and one apiece at second and third base. I’m not saying he would’ve flourished and won Rookie of the Year honors if he strictly played first, but all that shuffling around and learning new positions couldn’t have helped.
Fast forward to 2022 and first base is still filled by Abreu, but it’s looking like Vaughn could slot in as Chicago’s everyday DH. That will allow this former top-10 prospect to focus more on getting back on track offensively. Even during his struggles in 2021, Vaughn still posted a 47.3% hard-hit rate, 10.9% barrel rate, and a 91.1 mph AVG EV, all of which were in the top-30% of hitters. He also displayed a solid approach at the plate as well with his 8.7% walk rate and 21.5% strikeout rate.
The skills we saw in the minors are still there and hopefully, Tony La Russa will leave Vaughn alone and let him start full-time at DH with some outfield and 1st base mixed in. With the underlying skills intact and an everyday gig penciled in, Vaughn is a solid post-200 pick target with .270/25 potential this season in a good White Sox lineup.
LaMonte Wade Jr., San Francisco Giants
It’s somewhat surprising that LaMonte Wade Jr hasn’t gotten more love in early 2022 drafts. Currently going in the vicinity of pick 300 on average, Wade is coming off a surprising breakout season where he slashed .253/.326/.482 with 18 HR, 56 RBI, 52 R, and six steals in just 381 plate appearances. Was it a fluke? Well, if you’re a believer in Baseball Savant’s expected metrics, Wade’s .256 xBA and .475 xSLG indicate that his 2021 performance was legitimate.
Beyond the xBA and xSLG, Wade posted above-average quality of contact metrics with a 10.6% barrel rate, 90.1 mph AVG EV, .418 xwOBACON, and a 41.7% hard-hit rate. His contact metrics were just as impressive, maybe even more so. Wade was well above league average in zone contact, chase, whiff, and contact rates while also recording an 8.2% SwStr rate.
There’s a strong chance that Wade lands somewhere in the top half of the order after making 77 of his 83 starts last season in the top-4 in the order. Posey’s retirement could mean a shift into the heart of the order too, instead of leading off which he did mostly in 2021. However, the one downfall here is that Wade struggled mightily against southpaws in 2021, slashing .135/.200/.189 against them. Even in the strong side of a platoon in 2022, Wade should exceed 400 plate appearances which could mean 20-25 homers to go along with a handful of steals and maybe even 70+ RBI and 70+ runs. That would still be solid value for where he’s going in drafts and Wade could vastly outperform his ADP if he can improve against lefties.
Brandon Marsh, Los Angeles Angels
Like many other prospects to debut last season, Brandon Marsh’s performance could be labeled as underwhelming. In 260 plate appearances, Marsh slashed only .254/.317/.356 with a 7.7% walk rate and a 35.0% strikeout rate. Am I surprised to see that slash line from Marsh in his rookie season? Not really. But am I surprised to see a 35% strikeout rate? You’re damn straight I am. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a prospect’s strikeout rate rise in the Majors against the best pitchers in the world. But we’re talking about a prospect that posted a 24.3% strikeout rate in the minors. Nothing indicated a major strikeout issue lurking in the Majors, so expect that to come back down under 30% this season.
Speaking of Marsh’s minor league tenure, he hit well at every level, finishing with a .287 average and 11.2% walk rate across 295 games. Marsh also added 45 steals with an 80.4% success rate thanks to his plus wheels. I had a chance to see Marsh live out in the Arizona Fall League and he looked every bit the part of a future #2 hitter with an above-average hit tool, plus speed, and a solid approach. The power wasn’t quite there in games yet, but that was more due to a higher ground ball rate that was above 46% in Hi-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
Brandon Marsh is a very underrated prospect and dynasty commodity. Saw him live in the AFL & was thoroughly impressed. Smooth swing with a knack for barreling up pitches.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 5, 2020
Marsh has the raw power to flirt with 20-homers annually if he begins driving the ball in the air more consistently. That showed up in his quality of contact metrics last season with the Angels as he recorded a 10.9% barrel rate, 92.1 mph AVG EV, .469 xwOBACON, and 51.7% hard-hit rate. But yet again, the flyball rate was below 25%. He also had a 95th percentile sprint speed. With center and right field wide open for the Angels, Marsh has a decent chance to serve as the Angels’ starting center fielder in 2022 with a strong showing in spring training. You can get him for basically free in your drafts, going after pick 300 on average in Fantrax drafts and post 350 on NFBC drafts. A .260+/10+/15+ season is well within reach with the upside for more.
Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
Depending on the depth of your league, a player like Josh Lowe might not even get drafted. That’s a mistake. Lowe has the skills to return top-150 or better value in 2022 with regular at-bats, and that might just happen. There have been rumblings that the Rays could explore a trade for Kevin Kiermaier after the lockout ends, and that would open up center field for Lowe. If that happens, Lowe would go from an enticing target to a must-draft player late in your drafts.
In the minors, Lowe displayed an intriguing power/speed blend including an 18/30 season in 2019 (121 G) and 22/25 in just 111 games last season. I’m willing to bet on talent this late in the draft and keep my fingers crossed that the playing time will be there. Lowe projects as a potential 20-homer, 25-steal threat annually down the road thanks to his plus raw power and plus or better speed. That power really began materializing more in games over the last couple of seasons as Lowe began driving the ball in the air more consistently. He might only be a .250-.260 type of hitter, but that power/speed blend makes him incredibly intriguing after pick 350 in drafts. If those Kiermaier trade rumors get stronger, move him up your boards.
Deeper Outfield Sleepers
Bradley Zimmer, CLE: You have to be impressed by the power/speed blend that Zimmer continues to show. In 2021, Zimmer racked up eight homers and 15 steals in 348 PA, but couldn’t get his AVG above .227. With a .225 AVG over parts of five seasons paired with well below league average contact rates and a whiff rate around 36%, I’m not sure Zimmer will ever not be a black hole in AVG, but if he can get into the .230-.240 range and hold down the starting CF gig in Cleveland this season, he could flirt with a 15/30 season which would make him a steal at his current ADP around pick 425-450.
Bradley Zimmer's 471 ft HR is the longest by an @Indians player ever tracked by Statcast.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 10, 2021
Darin Ruf, SFG: This one is dependent on the National League adopting the DH in the new CBA, but all indications are hinting at that happening. If it does, Darin Ruf becomes incredibly intriguing in 2022 drafts. After returning to the Majors in 2020 from a stint in the KBO, Ruff has hit .272 with 21 homers in 412 PA including a .271/16 line in 312 PA last season. That also came with a 14.7% walk rate, .385 OBP, and a .248 ISO. He’d be a perfect fit for the DH spot in San Francisco and could flirt with 25-30 homers if given close to 500 PA. He’s currently going well outside pick 400 in both Fantrax and NFBC drafts.
Tony Kemp, OAK: Many probably missed it, but Tony Kemp quietly put up a .279 AVG, .378 OBP, eight homers, and eight steals in 397 plate appearances last season. Now he enters 2022 as the likely starting second baseman and potential leadoff hitter for Oakland. The upside is limited, but Kemp could post 12-15 homers and steals with a solid AVG/OBP along with dual 2B/OF eligibility which is helpful in deeper leagues.
Chas McCormick, HOU: With Jake Meyers recovering from mid-November surgery to repair his torn labrum, the center field gig appears to be McCormick’s for the taking entering 2022. Obviously, Houston could bring in another outfielder via trade or free agency once the lockout ends, but McCormick would be a great deep-league target if that doesn’t happen. McCormick slashed .257/.319/.447 last season with 14 homers and four steals in 320 PA. On top of that, he posted a 10.2% barrel rate, 90.3 mph AVG EV, .425 xwOBACON, and 49.2% hard-hit rate. That’s an interesting profile around pick 450, although, McCormick’s 32.7% strikeout rate in 2021 is a tad concerning.
Kyle Isbel & Edward Olivares, KCR: At the moment, it looks like the left-field gig in Kansas City is wide open barring any free agent signings. HA! Almost got through that without laughing. Of course the Royals aren’t going to sign anyone so Kyle Isbel or Edward Olivares will likely battle it out in spring training for that spot. Both have the speed to make a fantasy impact in deeper leagues and can be drafted after pick 500. Just a situation to monitor in the spring and adjust accordingly.
Media Credit: Bally Sports Florida, MLB Stats, Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire, Chris Clegg/Justin Johnson (Vaughn image).
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