2021 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Sleepers
Remember when you were young and your parents would tell you how important sleep is as you tried to come up with every BS reason why you shouldn’t go to bed? Well, in the fantasy baseball world, sleepers are just as important as that sweet slumber. Just disregard the fact that I average 4-5 hours of sleep a night. When it comes to the outfield, the position is as deep in 2021 as it’s ever been. I’ve been finding myself grabbing a few outfield studs in the first 10 rounds or so and also trying to capitalize on a few outfield sleepers late.
For this list, I looked at players outside the top-250 in ADP on NFBC that I think can vastly outperform their draft slots.
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2021 Outfield Sleepers
Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies
NFBC ADP: 279.5
Listen, it took every ounce of my willpower and self-restraint to not put Garrett Hampson or Sam Hilliard as featured targets in this outfield sleepers article. While I’m still eyeing that duo late in drafts, one I’ve found myself targeting, even more, is Raimel Tapia. While Tapia doesn’t quite have the upside of those two, there’s a lot more to like about him in 2021 drafts. First off, he’s slated to be an everyday player and leadoff for Colorado with Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and Nolan Arenado hitting directly behind him. How can you not be enticed by that? DOn’t answer that, it’s a trick question. Of course it’s enticing. And if you’re thinking to yourself, “Nah, he won’t lead off,” remember that Tapia led off in 35 of Colorado’s 60 games last season which all came from August 20th on.
When looking at his offensive profile, you need to realize what type of player you’re getting. If you need power after pick 250, Tapia isn’t your guy. But with that said, he has enough pop in the bat to run into 10-12 homers over a full season where he gets to play half his games at Coors Field. But really, any power he provides is just icing on the cake. Tapia’s real strengths come in his AVG, speed, and run-scoring potential. He’s hit everywhere he’s been, producing a .319 career average in the minors and .321 last season in 51 games.
Tapia did overperform a bit as his xBA was much lower, but the contact skills are strong. Out of 142 qualified batters in 2020, Tapia posted the 21st best contact rate (83.4%), 28th best Z-Contact rate (89.9%), and 19th best O-Contact rate (72.1%) with a solid 8.3% SwStr. On top of that, Tapia paced at 31 steals per 150 games in the minors and swiped eight last season in 50 games with an 81st percentile sprint speed. If everything breaks right, Tapia could post a .280+/80+/10/50/25 line in 2021. Heck, if he starts hot out of the gate and holds down that leadoff spot for the whole season, 90-100 runs are in play here. Drafting a player like this outside the top-250 are the picks that can really make a difference for your fantasy squad. Tapia tops my outfield sleepers for 2021.
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins
NFBC ADP: 283.9
This usually isn’t an article where I include rookies, but Alex Kirilloff just fits so damn well. When it comes to offensive rookies in 2021, everyone is zoning in on Jarred Kelenic, Wander Franco, and Andrew Vaughn, along with the guys that debuted in 2020 like Dylan Carlson. There’s nothing wrong with going after any of those in your drafts, especially Jarred Kelenic, but Kirilloff might just be the best value pick of the bunch. He’s being taken more than 70 picks after Kelenic on average and three picks ahead of Vaughn. But what’s the one thing Kirilloff has currently that the other two don’t? Playing time. As it stands now, Kirilloff projects to be in Minnesota’s opening day lineup playing either left field or DH, both of which are wide open spots.
And no cheapy: 105.9 mph exit velo pic.twitter.com/VCvqSBdEY7
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 30, 2020
We haven’t really seen Kirilloff dominate since 2018, so let’s have a little refresher on just how good he can be. Kirilloff’s “down” 2019 season when he still hit .283 with a .343 OBP was hampered by an early-season wrist injury that sapped most of his power. It wasn’t until August that Kirilloff was back to his normal self, and in that month, he reminded everyone of his considerable upside at the plate, slashing .311/.351/.500 with five home runs. This comes after his breakout 2018 season where he slashed a robust .348/.392/.578 with 44 doubles and 20 home runs in 130 games across two levels (A/A+).
Kirilloff remains one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors with a plus or better hit tool and close to plus raw power as well. With everyday at-bats, Kirilloff has the skills to produce right away as a four-category contributor capable of hitting north of .280 while pushing 20 home runs. If he gets that flyball rate up, there’s even more power to be had here as well.
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
NFBC ADP: 288.0 – OF 79
The last two years haven’t exactly gone swimmingly for Mitch Haniger. After a breakout 2018 season, Haniger’s AVG plummeted in 2019 and his season ended in June due to a ruptured testicle. Ouch! Haniger hasn’t played since that happened as various back/core issues held him out for all of 2020 as well. That extended layoff has caused Haniger’s 2021 ADP to sit at a very reasonable 288 as draft season really begins to heat up. That’s a price tag I’m very intrigued by, especially given Haniger’s past success.
If you combine Haniger’s 2017 and 2018 seasons, he combined for 42 home runs, 140 RBI, 148 runs, 13 steals, and a .284 average across 1,093 plate appearances. Boil it down and you get a 600 PA pace of 81/23/77/7/.284. That would be pure gold around pick 300 and make Haniger around a top-100 fantasy player at season’s end. Even in 2019 when his AVG dropped, he was still on a 118/38/82/10 pace and sported a walk rate above 10% for the 2nd straight season.
If you’re worried about if that 2018 breakout was a fluke, it wasn’t. Haniger finished in the 75th percentile or better in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, xISO, xOBP, barrel%, exit velocity, and hard-hit rate while also posting a 69th percentile walk rate and sprint speed. Sure, the core/back issues are a bit concerning, but it sounds like Haniger is back to 100% and ready to go for spring training. Even if he produces at 80-90% of his pre-injury production, that is one heck of a value at pick 288.
Josh Naylor, Cleveland Indians
NFBC ADP: 421.5 – OF 102
A whopping 101 outfield-eligible players are being drafted ahead of Josh Naylor. While I understand why it’s happening, I’m going to do my best to capitalize on this value in every single draft that I’m in. One of the main ingredients in any breakout sundae is playing time. Emphatic check. The Cleveland Indians outfield is so barren and lousy right now, they’re going back to the Bradley Zimmer well, several years after he was a hot ticket prospect commodity. Naylor is basically guaranteed everyday at-bats in this lineup and will likely hit high in the order as one of the best hitters that Cleveland currently has. Roster Resource has Naylor hitting 2nd with Andres Gimenez leading off, Jose Ramirez batting 3rd, and Franmil Reyes hitting cleanup. That’s not a bad 1-4 and is a solid spot for Naylor to be in.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) September 30, 2020
Don’t you dare skip past that video! Naylor went 4/4 in this game including three hits off Gerrit Cole, two of which were blasts (one homer, one double).
Now, his limited time in the Majors so far hasn’t been extravagant by any means (.249/.309/.383), but Naylor can hit. In 443 minor league games between the Miami and San Diego systems, Naylor slashed .288/.351/.439 with 100 doubles, 50 home runs, and 27 stolen bases. Yes, that’s only around 18 homers per 162 games, but there’s enough power here to get above 20 dingers annually. Could that happen in 2021? Maybe! As I mentioned, he’s likely going to play regularly, so the opportunity is there. And at his ADP outside the top-400 overall, there’s very minimal risk in drafting a guy that could produce a .275/20 line this season with 80+ runs as well with JoRam and the Franimal hitting directly behind him. This could wind up being a steal and a major ROI opportunity.
Others Outfield Sleepers to Target
Garrett Hampson & Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies (270.8 & 382.3)
Obviously, both players need to actually play full time which hasn’t happened yet, but I’m going to keep them on my radar in 2021 drafts. Hampson showed solid contact and OBP skills in the minors with the potential for 10 homers and 25 steals and Hilliard flashed an intriguing power/speed blend that would look very nice in Coors Field. Roster Resource currently has Hilliard platooning in left field and Hampson in a reserve role, but this could all change if the National League adopts the DH. It would just be nice if MLB would make a decision on that. It’s not like the season is a little over three months away or anything.
Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians (384.1)
Remember when Oscar Mercado was a top-150 pick? What’s that? It was just last year? Oh, that’s right, how could I forget. Joking aside, Mercado is primed for a nice bounceback in 2021 if he can win a spot in Cleveland’s outfield which shouldn’t be too hard. While it’s clear that we definitely overvalued Mercado in 2020 drafts, we definitely shouldn’t be forgetting about him in 2021 either. This is a guy that went .269/15/15 in 115 games in 2019 and has the speed for 25-steals over a full season. Keep an eye on Cleveland’s outfield situation as the season draws closer and give Mercado a look in deeper leagues if he wins a spot.
Franchy Cordero, Kansas City Royals (407.2)
This is more of a deep-league target, but an intriguing one at that. As soon as Franchy Cordero was freed from San Diego, he became a buzzy sleeper pick. That didn’t exactly work out in 2020, but the 15-homer, 25-steal upside remains and it looks like he’ll have a chance to start for Kansas City this season. The AVG/OBP won’t be overly sexy, but you won’t find many players with this type of upside outside pick 400 in drafts.
Robbie Grossman, Detroit Tigers (422.1)
While it’s clear that Robbie Grossman overperformed in 2020 when he was on a 25/25 pace, he does possess a solid ROI possibility going outside pick 400 on average. Grossman has always displayed an aptitude for working walks at a high clip and has a 12.5% walk rate and .351 OBP in his MLB career so far. He’s a longshot to replicate that 25/25 pace from last season, but 15/15 is in play with a strong OBP to go along with it. Signing with Detroit gives him a clear path to playing time as well and maybe even a spot high in the order.
Myles Straw, Houston Astros (501.5)
He won’t provide any power, but Straw was a .305 hitter in the minors and posted a 91st percentile sprint speed in 2020 along with consistently flashing 30+ steal wheels in the minors. He’s currently slated to start in center field for the Astros following George Springer’s departure, so definitely keep him on your radar in deeper leagues.
Media/Link Credit: MLB Pipeline, Cleveland Indians, Fangraphs, Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire
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