Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Top Infield Sleepers for 2019
Sleeping is an essential part of our lives. It recharges our bodies and allows us to function and perform our daily tasks. Some of us get 8-plus hours a night, while others like myself, somehow function on 4-5 hours ( I don’t have time for that 8-10 hour nonsense. I have articles to write and kids to take care of. Regardless, sleep for us is as important as Fantasy Baseball sleepers are for our fantasy teams each season.
Yes, establishing a solid core in the early rounds is essential, but hitting on a sleeper pick or two can go a long way. If you drafted players like Blake Snell, Mike Foltynewicz, Jesus Aguilar, German Marquez, Mitch Haniger, etc last season, I’m sure you were happy with that investment at season’s end. Those are the type of players we’re trying to identify here today. Players being taken outside the first 200 picks or so that have a chance to vastly outperform their current Fantrax ADP, or at least, provide solid value for the pick used to draft them.
Today, we’ll start with the infield. Outfielders are on deck and pitchers in the hole.
Also, make sure to check out Nathan Dokken’s “Dudes and Don’ts” articles here on FantraxHQ.
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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Infielders
Sleeper = Outside top-200 in Fantrax ADP
Deep Sleeper = Outside top-300 in Fantrax ADP
Prospect to Watch = Outside of top-200 in ADP and has not made MLB debut yet
Catcher – Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds (309.6 ADP)
Originally, I was going to go with Danny Jansen here, and he would fit the criteria. However, he’s already being taken as the eighth catcher off the board in Fantrax leagues, so it’s hard to really classify him as a sleeper anymore. So, I’ll switch it up and go with Mr. Barnhart instead.
Don’t look now, but the Cincinnati Reds lineup looks pretty damn good. Not Red Sox or Yankees good, but capable of being a top-10 offense this season. Barnhart will likely hit in the vicinity of seventh in the order but will have several good OBP guys hitting in front of him, making a run a 60-70 RBI very possible. And when it comes to OBP, Barnhart ain’t too shabby himself, recording a 10.3 BB% last season with a .328 OBP despite hitting just .248.
While he’ll never be mistaken for a fantasy star, Barnhart offers some stability at a position where stability is rare. If you end up waiting on catchers, you can do much worse than grabbing Barnhart in the later rounds.
Projection: 450 AB, .255 AVG, 14 HR, 65 RBI, 55 R, 2 SB
Deep Sleeper- Omar Narvaez, Seattle Mariners (361.4)
This was like picking which spoiled pack of chicken at the grocery store you want to give you food poisoning. The catcher position reaks like my dog’s farts, but no matter how much pain it causes us, we need to fill the position. Most of the time, we’re just trying to find a catcher that doesn’t hurt us too much and Narvaez fits that mold. In each of his three seasons, Narvaez has hit between .267 and .277 with an OBP between .350 and .373. At the very least, we should expect a solid AVG/OBP in 2019 with the chance to post career highs across the board with the starting job in Seattle.
Prospect to Watch- Andrew Knizner, St Louis Cardinals (790.4)
Both Jansen and Francisco Mejia don’t qualify here as they’ve each made their debut, so I had to go a little deeper. Not many top catching prospects are expected to make significant impacts in 2019, but one that could is Andrew Knizner. It will take an injury to Yadier Molina to open up playing time, but if that happens, Knizner instantly becomes relevant in NL-Only leagues and possibly in two-catcher mixed league formats as well. He does one thing incredibly well: Hit for average. Knizner hit .319 in 2016, .302 in 2017, and .313 last season. The power upside isn’t overly high, but if playing time opens up, Knizner could be a batting average asset from the catcher position. Can’t say that every day.
First Base – C.J. Cron, Minnesota Twins (275.0)
By now, we all know what C.J. Cron brings to the table. In each of his five Major League seasons, Cronk has hit between .248 and .278 with a power pace of 25-30 homers. That’ll definitely play when you’re pushing pick 300 overall, that’s for damn sure. Another added bonus is the better lineup he’s going to be in. Minnesota might not finish with a nice looking batting average, but man, are they going to hit some dingers with Cron being right in the center of that. As many as four of five hitters in that lineup could hit 30 dingers this season. I wouldn’t bet money on that, but it’s a safe bet that two or three reach that mark.
CJ Cron MASHES his 2nd tater of the day off (who else but 2018's league leader in HR allowed) Dylan Bundy. pic.twitter.com/a8LsItvxLg
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 4, 2019
Cron knows what he is and doesn’t try to go against that. He pulls the ball 45-50% of the time with around 40% of those being in the air. In fact, out of all first basemen with 500+ plate appearances last season, Cron’s 39.6% hard contact rate ranked 10th overall, sandwiched between Cody Bellinger and Jose Abreu. Sure, Abreu will likely have a better batting average, but the rest of the counting stats could look very similar for the Cronkasaures Rex. Getting 80-90% of the production almost 200 picks later is a home run in my book.
Prediction: .260 AVG, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 75 R, 2 SB
Deep Sleeper- Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (324.6)
I’m not ready to write off old man Zim yet. Yes I know, injuries have ransacked his career lately, but if I may direct your attention to the 2017 season for a second. That season, Zimmerman hit .303 with 36 home runs, 108 RBI, and 90 runs scored. Let me look at my calendar real quick. Oh, that was only two seasons ago? Granted, that was Zimmerman’s best year since 2009, but when healthy, he’s been one of the steadiest performers at the first base position. Grabbing him after pick 300 represents very little risk too. What’s the worst that can happen? He gets hurt in April and you cut him? Whatever.
Prospect to Watch – Peter Alonso, New York Mets (233.1)
This one was easy. Regardless of whether the Mets give him the starting first base gig on opening day or play the service time card (likely the latter), Alonso is going to be a force this season in the power department. In 132 games last season split between Double-A and Triple-A, Alonso tied for the minor league lead with 36 homers and has already bashed a couple this spring.”But what about Dominic Smith?” Stop. Once Alonso is up, first base in Queens is his. Mark it down now, Alonso is hitting 30 dingers this season in the Majors.
Second Base – Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies (222.9)
Anything to gush about Garrett Hampson some more. The rookie Rockie has a skill set that can make him an annual top-50 fantasy selection and top-5 second baseman as soon as 2020. Heck, I would not 100 percent rule out either of those two things happening in 2019 if he gets enough at-bats. First off, the hit tool and plate discipline are phenomenal. Hampson never hit below .301 in any of his three minor league campaigns and had a 10.9% walk rate and a 14.7% strikeout rate for his minor league career. He also never dropped below 36 steals in any season.
GH: 5/16, 2 HR, 3 SB (0 CS), 3/3 BB/K
RM: 9/18, 5 XBH, HR, 3/3 BB/K
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) March 5, 2019
With Ryan McMahon also in the picture, Hampson will need to win the starting job for this to stick, but I firmly believe he does so and is already swinging a hot bat this spring (as is McMahon). At the very least, we can likely expect a .280 average and 25 steals from Hampson with the potential for 10-15 homers and 125-plus R+RBI. A potential top-100 player after pick 200? Sign me up.
Projection: 525 AB, .280 AVG, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 75 R, 31 SB
Deep Sleeper – Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates (317.6)
Does a .306/.357/.533/.890 slash line look enticing to you? Well, that was Adam Frazier’s slash line over 180 2nd half at-bats. I’m not saying he’s going to replicate that in 2019, but it does make you keep an eye on him at the end of fantasy drafts, especially as he’s penciled in as the Pirates starting second baseman. There are a few Pittsburgh middle infield prospects on the way, but none pose an immediate threat to Frazier’s playing time. With 500 at-bats, we can realistically expect a solid batting average in the .270-.282 range with double-digit power and maybe even double-digit speed if he starts running like he did in 2017.
Prospect to Watch – Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers (350.0)
This is one of the best pure hitters in the minors with .320/25/20 upside. I really don’t need to say much more than that. Hiura made it as high as Double-A last season and will likely return there to start 2019 or head to Triple-A. Regardless, if Hiura continues to perform like he has, he’ll be up by the all-star break and could be a top-10 second baseman down the stretch. He’s that good.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-250 prospects and Top-300 Dynasty League Rankings.
Third Base – Johan Camargo, Atlanta Braves (283.2)
I really struggled with this one. None of the third baseman outside of pick 200 give me that tingly feeling. One that potentially could though is Camargo. While he doesn’t have a starting spot right this second, there are a few different paths to at-bats for him this season. Firstly, Dansby Swanson is not that good. Sorry to all you Swanson optimists out there, but it’s true. Camargo could easily supplant Swanson as the Braves starting shortstop by the end of April. If that doesn’t happen, Josh Donaldson is one double away from straining a hamstring or calf muscle or something. Lastly, we have the Marwin Gonzalez route with Camargo seeing time all over the field.
My money is on the shortstop route, but the moral of the story is that he can still get regular at-bats this season. While there’s no speed here, Camargo’s 2018 numbers are very attainable. Some might me leery of the power surge, but nothing in his underlying metrics signals that his 19 taters were a fluke. If you can get a .270 average, 15-20 homers, and 130-plus R+RBI near pick 300 with 3B/SS eligibility and potentially 2B/OF if he becomes Atlanta’s Marwin Gonzalez, that’s some good value.
Projection: 475 AB, .275 AVG , 18 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, 1 SB
Deep Sleeper – Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates (469.5)
Remember him? For a myriad of off-field issues that I don’t need to get into, Kang has recorded six measly at-bats over the last two season. Not 600, six. And those came at the tail end of the 2018 season. But we need to remember the hitter Kang was in 2015-2016 where he hit .274/.355/.482/.837 with 43 doubles and 36 homers in 745 at-bats. We can reasonably expect the power to still be there and hitting three solo shots in his first five spring games helps back that up. How much average he hits for after the extended absence is another question, but I’m willing to take a shot in NL-Only and deeper mixed leagues with the hope that he beats out Colin Moran for the starting third base gig in Pittsburgh.
Prospect to Watch – Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (641.3)
Remember the criteria. Vladdy doesn’t qualify due to his high ADP. So let’s turn to Beantown and the Red Sox top prospect, Michael Chavis. After being suspended for the first 80 games of the season due to testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (say that five times fast, or even one time correctly), Chavis picked up where he left off in 2018, hitting .298 with nine homers in 46 games. He’ll return back to Triple-A Pawtucket to start the 2019 season, but could play a factor in Boston later this summer at either corner infield position, or maybe even at second base.
Fellow prospector, Ralph Lifshitz of Prospects Live, wrote a great piece on Chavis earlier this week. Well worth the read.
Shortstop – Willy Adames, Tampa Bay Rays (215.4)
While he doesn’t have the flashiest tools around, Willy Adames has a skill set that could make him a top-10 shortstop this season. Throughout his minor league career, Adames routinely hit north of .270 and began flashing his 20/15 upside in 2016/2017. And if his 2018 MLB debut was any indication, a 20/15 season in 2019 is not entirely out of the question after finishing on a 20/12 pace. However, I’d like to see higher than a 30/4% flyball rate to confidently project 20 homers. Even if he falls a little short there, Adames has displayed the contact skills and plate approach to post a .275/.350 type of season with 140-plus R+RBI to go with the double-digit power and speed.
Projection: 550 AB, .275 AVG, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 80 R, 12 SB
Deep Sleeper – Luis Urias, San Diego Padres (311.0)
This 311 ADP is highway robbery. Luis Urias is slated to start the season at shortstop for the Padres and then slide back over to his natural position of second base once Fernando Tatis Jr gets the call. Remember when I said that Keston Hiura was one of the best pure hitters in the minors? Urias isn’t that far behind him. Take my projection for Adames above, add a little average, and take away a little power/speed and that’s what Urias can bring to the table this season. He has top-150 upside and can be yours for the low, low price of a pick outside the top-300. Act now and I’ll throw in dual 2B/SS eligibility for later on in the season after Tatis is up.
Prospect to Watch – Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (269.5)
“Hopefully, Tatis breaks camp with us and he’s our shortstop,” — Manny Machado
The 300 million dollar man wants Tatis up now and so do countless fantasy baseball owners. Tatis is the top shortstop prospect in the game and my #3 overall prospect in my top-250 prospect rankings, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Eloy Jimenez. The offensive upside is massive and should be on full display in the Majors before the all-star break. Draft, stash, monitor, do what you need to to make sure Tatis is on your roster when he gets the call to San Diego.
Photo/Video Credit: Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire, Alex Fast.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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