If you thought the infield was exciting, just wait until you see the intriguing Fantasy Baseball sleepers below. No, Garrett The Goat isn’t listed below, but there are several names that I feel can provide more value than their current ADP outside the top 200 picks. A few of these guys weren’t even on our radar a mere 9-12 months ago, but now can be nice little value targets for your fantasy squad. Like I mentioned last week, assembling a solid core is key, but hitting on some sleeper picks can really put your team over the top.
Spring Training games are in full swing! It’s time you got your fantasy baseball season started as well. Leagues are already forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and get your league started today.
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Outfielders
Sleeper = Outside top-200 in Fantrax ADP
Prospect to Watch = Outside of top-200 in ADP and has not made MLB debut yet
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays (195.8 ADP)
Alright, I’m cheating a little bit, but that’s allowed since my fingers are the ones pressing the keys on my laptop, right? Also, every workout/diet plan has a cheat day, so consider this my cheat day. The talent has always been there for Meadows, but what has hidden under a rock somewhere in Bora Bora is the durability. Those durability concerns add a bit of risk here, but the upside more than makes a pick around 200 overall worth the gamble.
Over his 457 career minor league games, Meadows slashed .294/.357/.470/.827 with per-600 AB averages of 41 doubles, 16 homers, and 23 steals. If he can stay healthy all season, I think Meadows can start displaying some of that power/speed upside this season and finish on a near 20/20 pace with a batting average north of .280. If he does so, he’ll be a borderline top-100 player at season’s end.
Projection: 525 AB, .290 AVG, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, 20 SB
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds (216.1)
Regardless of position, one of my favorite players to target outside of the top-200 this season is Jesse Winker. Due to not having a high power or speed ceiling, Winker tends to fly a little under the radar in the fantasy world. But when you really start analyzing his numbers and watching him at the plate, I guarantee you that you’ll walk away more impressed than when you started.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) January 7, 2019
First off, Winker makes consistent hard contact with an all-fields approach. His 43.9% hard contact rate ranked 17th out of all outfielders with 300-plus plate appearances, right behind Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Ronald Acuna. Making hard contact isn’t everything, but it’s a great start. Winker also remains patient at the plate and never recorded a walk rate below 11% at any minor league stop. In a time when strikeouts are annually rising, Winker managed to walk more times than he struck out last season and finished with a solid 13.8% strikeout rate.
This is a professional hitter with an advanced plate approach capable of hitting .300 with an OBP north of .400. As for the power, let’s not go crazy here, but Winker is very capable of eclipsing 20 dingers in a full season while adding in around 150-160 R+RBI hitting leadoff in a sneaky good Cincinnati lineup. It wouldn’t shock me if Winker scored 100 runs this season.
Projection: 575 AB, .300 AVG, 21 HR, 70 RBI, 90 R, 1 SB
Franmil Reyes, San Diego Padres (217.4)
This one has a little bit of risk attached if Franmil Reyes doesn’t win a starting outfield gig, but the power potential is too enticing to ignore after pick 200 in fantasy drafts. All Franny does is mash. His 44.2% hard contact rate ranked 18th amongst outfielder with at least 250 plate appearance, while his .218 ISO ranked 27th. He did get a little lucky with a massive 29.6% HR/FB rate, but I expect his 29.8% fly ball rate to get back into the mid-30’s which will help offset the likely HR/FB regression.
Outside of Wil Myers, Reyes is the most desirable fantasy target of all the San Diego outfielders and I expect him to still get around 500 at-bats, even if he’s not a starter on Opening Day. Yes, that’s me saying I’m not a huge believer in either Hunter Renfroe or Franchy Cordero to hold down starting spots this season.
Projection: 475 AB, .260 AVG, 28 HR, 75 RBI, 70 R, 0 SB
Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics (221.0)
Raise of hands if you thought that Ramon Laureano was going to be a top-250 pick in 2019 drafts when he made his MLB debut last summer. Anyone? Nope, not one hand went up. And if your hand did go up, you’re lying to yourself. While Laureano was a solid MLB prospect, he was never highly ranked on any prospect lists, including my own. But after hitting .288/.358/.474/.832 with five homers and seven steals (1 CS) in 156 at-bats, the power/speed upside has vaulted him into sleeper territory in the last third of your draft. He’s not a big power guy, but Laureano displayed above-average contact skills and plus speed throughout his minor league career, which gives him a decent start. He’ll likely hit in the bottom-third of the Oakland order to start the season, but Laureano still makes for a solid sleeper pick after pick 200.
Projection: 525 AB, .280 AVG, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 70 R, 28 SB
For more on Laureano, check out Anthony Franco’s piece on him from February.
And 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.
Domingo Santana, Seattle Mariners (302.8)
Coming off a .278/30/15 season in 2017, Domingo Santana found himself struggling to get regular at-bats in 2018. The man goes 30/15 and is basically a 4th outfielder the following season. Everything about that sentence seems very wrong. But it is what it is and now we have a very good potential value pick just outside of pick 300. Outside of his HR/FB ratio crashing back to Earth, Santana was roughly the same hitter in 2018 as he was in his breakout 2017. The playing time just wasn’t there. Luckily for Santana and prospective fantasy owners, Santana has a full-time gig to start 2019 as the Mariners every day left fielder and should hit 5th or 6th in a solid Seattle lineup. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a 30/15 season out of him, but even 20 homers and 5-10 steals with a .270 average would make him a late-round steal.
Projection: 550 AB, .270 AVG, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 70 R, 6 SB
Christin Stewart, Detroit Tigers (312.1)
While I’ve long been skeptical of Stewart’s hit tool and ultimate batting average potential, Stewart has a few things going for him. Outside of the big names like Eloy and Robles being drafted early, there aren’t that many outfield prospects I expect to make a big impact in 2019. Stewart is penciled in as the Tigers starting left fielder this season and could easily hit 30 homers over a full season, even if the batting average does flounder in the .240 range. And with the lack of better options in Detroit, Stewart could see plenty of time in the top half of the order. Basically, he’s the definition of cheap power.
Projection: 550 AB, .245 AVG, 28 HR, 75 RBI, 60 R, 2 SB
Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (337.8)
This ADP confuses me to the point that my brain hurts a little. I know, not hard to do right? I understand that there are a ton of “sexier” picks than Brett Gardner, but the man has been a steady contributor for most of the last decade and likely remains a starter and potential leadoff hitter for a loaded Yankees lineup. After missing almost all of the 2012 season, Gardner has six straight seasons of 80-plus runs and 16-plus steals while recording double-digit homers in four of those six seasons. And up until last season, his batting average had been holding steady in the .260-.270 range for the most part. Shorten that time frame to the last two seasons and Gardner has averaged 95.5 runs, 16.5 homers, 19.5 steals, and 54 RBI while hitting .251.
So why the batting average drop? Well, Gardner’s BABIP, which had been holding firm just over .300, dropped to .272 despite all of his underlying metrics staying the same or even improving a tad. Seeing Gardner get back to the .260 range is very realistic while adding 80-plus runs and double-digit power and speed. I nabbed Gardner in the 25th round of TGFBI (368th overall) and feel pretty damn good about it… Even if he is a Yankee.
Projection: 525 AB, .260 AVG, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 85 R, 15 SB
Alex Verdugo, Los Angeles Dodgers (346.5)
For the love of Vin Scully, can someone please tell the Dodgers that Alex Verdugo is better than Joc Pederson and should be starting every day this season. I’ll do it myself if I have to. Eventually, the switch will happen or one of Pederson or Verdugo get dealt out of town. Whatever it may be, Verdugo possesses solid fantasy upside if given everyday at-bats for his ability to chip in across the board. You got to figure the Dodgers wisen up at some point soon, right?
Projection: 350 AB, .280 AVG, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 50 R, 12 SB
Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins (369.3)
By the time you’ve finished this article, it’s very likely that Lewis Brinson has gone yard again. Ignore the last two years and Brinson’s hot start to the spring would be creating a lot more buzz than it already is. I would love to pretend that the last two years for Brinson didn’t happen, but that’s not how it works, unfortunately. Grab a barf bag because here is Brinson’s current Major League stat line:
- 429 AB, .189/.239/.331/.570, 5.2 BB%, 29.7 K%, 13 HR, 3 SB
Many questions arise after looking at that stat line and emptying the contents of your stomach. Where did that power/speed upside go? Did the above-average contact skills and plate approach vanish into thin air? I sure hope not, but immense struggles have basically made Brinson free for the taking as a late-round flier in fantasy drafts. Even if he can finally put it all together, hitting in a putrid Miami lineup isn’t going to do him any favors. But with that being said, Miami also doesn’t have any better options and can afford to keep running him out there, even if he is struggling.
Ultimately, I expect Brinson to do enough to provide NL-Only value and fringe mixed league value as well. What’s the worst that can happen? If he stinks again this year, cut him and grab someone else. No big deal.
Projection: 500 AB, .245 AVG, 19 HR, 70 RBI, 60 R, 8 SB
Prospect to Watch – Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds (241.0)
But wait, Nick Senzel is a third baseman, isn’t he? By trade, yes he is. However, due to the presence of Eugenio Suarez, Senzel is getting a chance to win the starting center field job in Cincinnati. Regardless if he wins the job or not, it won’t be long before Senzel breaks into the Cincy lineup and you’re going to want him on your roster when that happens. From the moment he’s up, Senzel has top-100 upside for his strong batting average potential and 20/20 upside.
Projection: 425 AB, .285 AVG, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 55 R, 9 SB
If The Playing Time Was There…
Although consistent playing time is a long shot to start the season, keep an eye on the guys below if they somehow can wiggle their way into regular at-bats.
Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals | Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros | Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres | Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers
Photo/Video Credit: Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportswire, Cincinnati Reds
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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