Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: OFSporting News — (Matt Lutovsky)
You need at least three OFs for your fantasy baseball team, but realistically, you need five to seven depending on your league settings. Throughout the season, you'll go through many more than that, so having options and taking some chances on potential sleepers and breakout possibilities is a must. There's no offensive position loaded with more lotto tickets than outfield, which is why it's so tough to compile rankings and put together a thorough cheat sheet. Whether it's a top prospect or an undervalued veteran, outfield ADPs are all over the place -- and we know the final stats will be all over the place, too.
Outfield is a unique position because you can just as easily find a power-speed threat as you can a a big power producer or a stolen base artist. Our list has more power-speed guys because they're always good for balancing a roster and more difficult to find at other spots, but you can find sluggers, too.
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Obviously, not all of these players will hit. Some might wind up not even playing much. But it's good to have more names on your radar, even if you're in a shallower league. Baseball is a long season full of injuries, and OF is a position that will see plenty of guys go on two- or three-week hot streaks. If you grab some high-upside options late (or slightly earlier than expected, depending on the player), you'll likely find yourself with at least one surprise contributor.
2019 Fantasy Baseball OF Sleepers
Eligibility based on Yahoo's default settings
Ramon Laureano, A's. A full season of at-bats can yield 20/20 production from the 24-year-old Laureano. Playing time is far from a given in Oakland's crowded outfield, but Laureano posted 19 HRs and 18 SBs in 112 games between Triple-A and the majors last year, which included a solid .288/.358/.474 line during his 48-game MLB stint. The strikeout rate was high (28.4 percent), but his solid defense and ability to draw walks should keep Laureano in the A's lineup most days.
Avisail Garcia, Rays. The past three seasons, the Rays have had a surprise 30-HR hitter. In 2016 it was Brad Miller; in '17 it was Logan Morrison and Steven Souza; last year it was C.J. Cron. If that trend continues, Garcia is a likely candidate after popping 19 homers in 93 games for the White Sox last season. In '17, he cut way down on his Ks and used a ridiculous .392 BABP to post a .330/.380/.506 line, which has to mean something even if the BABIP isn't repeatable. As it stands, the 27-year-old OF/DH is fighting for playing time in what might be a make-or-break season, but if he puts it all together, he'll have major fantasy value.
Harrison Bader, Cardinals. Bader impressed with a 12/15 showing in 138 games last season, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the 24-year-old righty flirted with a 20/20 campaign this year. While he won't help much in batting average or OBP, he should do well to compile stats in the other categories.
Domingo Santana, Mariners. It's easy to forget Santana had a 30/15 season for the Brewers in 2017, especially after the 26-year-old slugger bounced between the bench and Triple-A last year. Now in Seattle, where playing time shouldn't be an issue, Santana is free to do what he does best -- hit homers, take walks, and steal a few bases. Fantasy owners might be scared off after last season and the move to a much worse hitters park, but it's encouraging to note that Santana actually hit for more power on the road than at home during his breakout '16 campaign, slugging .512 on the road and only .382 in Milwaukee. He has the pop to hit homers anywhere, so expect plenty of stats despite a mediocre average.
Steven Souza Jr., Diamondbacks. Pectoral injuries (and poor play) limited Souza to only 72 games last year, so, like Santana, it's easy to forget he had a 30/16 season in 2017 with the Rays. Souza actually struck out less and made more hard contact last season, so even though his stats were down, that's an encouraging sign. Given his home park, Souza is always a threat for solid power-speed production and shouldn't be overlooked.
Eloy Jimenez, White Sox. Jimenez isn't quite Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in terms of rookie hype, but the 22-year-old righty should make his debut relatively early and is expected to produce from Day 1. He hit .337/.384/.577 with 22 HRs in 108 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Jimenez doesn't steal bases, but he can hit for a good average while providing plenty of run production, making him worth the cost of doing business.
Cedric Mullins II, Orioles. The Orioles are rebuilding, so young players like Mullins are going to get every chance to fail while swinging and running with reckless abandon. That isn't necessarily good for wins, but it can be good for fantasy owners. The 24-year-old switch-hitter didn't do much in his 45-game major league stint last year (.235/.312/.359), but his 2018, split almost equally between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors, he produced 15 HRs and 23 SBs. One good sign from his major league debut was that he didn't strike out a ton (19.4-percent strikeout rate). A decent power-speed season is possible at a bargain-basement price.
Leonys Martin, Indians. Martin has long teased fantasy owners, and now at 30, he might have missed his window. Still, there's reason to think he can be a valuable fantasy contributor this year, The Indians OF is full of potential sleepers, though guys like Bradley Zimmer (shoulder) and Greg Allen will need to get healthy and/or get into the lineup before they can start stealing bases for fantasy owners. For now, Martin has a starting job, and after hitting 11 HRs and stealing seven bases in 84 games last year spent mostly in Detroit, he'll be in Cleveland, which is a lefty-hitters' paradise. A 20/20 season might be optimistic, but Martin can provide a little pop, a little speed, and likely some runs if he gets everyday playing time.
Austin Meadows, Rays. Meadows has lost a little of his top-prospect shine, but with a fresh start in Tampa he'll get a chance to make good on his talent. The 23-year-old lefty did well in his first major league action last year, posting a .287/.325/.461 line in 59 games split between the Pirates and Rays. His K-rate (20.9 percent) was manageable, and his six homers and five steals show he can give you a little of everything. Meadows might be a year or two away from a major breakout, but even a small one this year will give him everyday fantasy value.
David Dahl, Rockies. You might remember Dahl from everyone's sleeper list prior to 2017, but rib and back injuries (and crowded Colorado outfields) have limited him to only 77 games the past two seasons (all last year). With the depth chart thinned out, Dahl stands to be an everyday player in ;19 if he can stay on the fiheld, and based on last year's 16-HR, five-SB output in abbreviated playing time, the 24-year-old outfielder could finally have that big breakout we've been waiting for.
Byron Buxton, Twins. Buxton sunk more than a few fantasy teams last season with a truly miserable 28-game campaign that saw him spend much more time on the DL and in the minors than in the Twins lineup. We've seen him produce in stretches, but a full season seems like too tall of a task for the strikeout-prone 25 year old. Still, it's tough to totally turn your back on Buxton's potential, which was on full display during the second half in 2017 (.300/.347/.546, 11 HRs, 13 SBs). At this point, there are more reasons, including injury history and approach at the plate, to avoid Buxton than draft him, but given his cheap price tag, he's a worthwhile lotto ticket who could pay off in a big way.
Victor Robles, Nationals. Robles isn't exactly a secret, but he's still a breakout candidate. The 21-year-old speedster put up a .288/.348/.525 line in 21 major league games last year, and even at his young age, he could pop 15 HRs and steal 30 bases with a full season worth of at-bats. He might not quite hit those benchmarks, but even a 10/20 season has value, especially if Robles is scoring runs and hitting for a decent average.
Delino DeShields, Rangers. After a disappointing 2018, many fantasy owners are off DeShields, but he remrains a major SB threat. DeShields seems to be on an every-other-year plan, hitting .261 with 25 SBs in '15 and .269 with 29 SBs in '17 (in 120 and 121 games, respectively), but in '16 and '18, he combined for 28 steals and hit under .217 both years. Obviously, he's not a sure thing, and even in a good year, he's a mediocre average hitter with very little power and RBI potential, but he can approach or surpass 40 steals if he plays 145 games. He's good on defense and has always been able to draw walks, so that raises his odds of staying in the lineup and getting on base. The other pure speedsters will cost you more, but DeShields could match their production at a reduced cost.
Nomar Mazara, Rangers. Mazara probably seems like the opposite of a sleeper considering he's posted remarkably similar stats in his first three seasons in the majors (outside of an outlier 101 RBIs in 2017). But the important thing to remember is that he's only 23, so a power surge feels likely at some point. The Rangers are reportedly working with Mazara to develop more pop-- something that already was occuring on a per-game basis last year -- and when that comes, look for more overall production. Other fantasy owners might be bored/disappointed with Mazara, so you can likely get him at a discount.
Christin Stewart, Tigers. The 25-year-old lefty has averaged 28.3 HRs at various levels of the minors and majors over the past three seasons, and he didn't look overwhelmed in his 17-game call-up last year, posting 13/10 K/BB ratio. Both of those rates seem likely to get worse this year, but Stewart can still club homers even if he's a drain in average.
Chris Shaw, Giants. Admittedly, Shaw is a low-percentage "sleeper", but the 25-year-old lefty has power, which is shown by the 24 HRs he hit in 101 games at Triple-A last year. His 22-game call-up in the majors last year was largely forgettable, particularly his 37.1-percent K-rate, but he could wind up being a cheap source of power off the waiver wire at some point this season.