Opening Day is less than two weeks away– which means it’s prime time for fantasy baseball drafts.
If you’ve frantically been scavenging for sleepers and undervalued players, your search is over. All of the preparation you could ever need is right here.Granted, not all of these players are true sleepers– it’s hard to put someone like David Ortiz in that category. But all of these players are undervalued in the Yahoo and ESPN rankings. And as you may know, those rankings matter a lot more than they should. These players are listed in no particular order.
- Travis d’Arnaud: While staying healthy has always been an issue for d’Arnaud– he’s never played more than 108 games in a season– producing at the plate has not been. He batted .268/.340/.485 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI in just 67 games last season. If you double the amount of games played that would be 24 home runs and 82 RBI.
- Welington Castillo: Castillo hit 17 home runs in 80 games after being traded to Arizona last season. It’s probably unrealistic to expect similar numbers, but even 20-25 home runs would be spectacular from the catcher’s position. Castillo is very undervalued on most platforms– he’s ranked as the 11th-best catcher on Yahoo and 13th on ESPN.
- Devin Mesoraco: He literally did nothing last season– batting .178/.275/.244 in 23 games. But he had 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 115 games in 2014, making him one of the game’s best offensive catchers. This is totally a wild card pick, but he has a tremendous upside if you can’t find a top-tier catcher.
- David Ortiz: Don’t let his age fool you: David Ortiz can still play. He’s one of the most consistent hitters in the game– he’s had at least 20 home runs every year since 2002. N*SYNC was still a relevant musical act the last time Ortiz didn’t hit 20. Ortiz is ranked only 13th among first basemen on Yahoo and is listed as a DH only on ESPN.
- Mark Teixera: He had 31 home runs in just 111 games last season, and has had at least 20 in 12 of his 13 major league seasons. This consistency plus the added-incentive of a contract year makes him a safe bet for 2016.
- Lucas Duda: Duda is flying under the radar this season, due to several other story lines in Mets camp. He was wildly inconsistent in 2015, but managed to hit 27 home runs and 73 RBI. He had 30 home runs and 92 RBI in 2014, and will play with an improved supporting cast around him this season. Oh, and the fact that it’s his contract year probably won’t hurt his motivation.
- Albert Pujols: He might not be ready for Opening Day, which means if you play in a team with a Disabled List, you can draft him without taking up a roster spot. His contract often blinds people to the fact that he can still hit home runs; he had 40 last season. He’s ranked 14th at first at Yahoo and 12th on ESPN.
- Victor Martinez: Martinez is ranked 24th among Yahoo first basemen and 14th among DH’s on ESPN, but it was just two years ago that he finished second in AL MVP voting. He’s not worthy of a starting spot at 37 years old, but he could suffice as a bench player with an upside.
- Anthony Rendon: Rendon batted .287..351/.473 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI in 2014 before missing the entire first half of last season. Even when he came back, he batted just .264 .344 .363 with five home runs and 25 RBI in 80 games. He is a prime candidate for a bounce-back year and is ranked just ninth on Yahoo and 13th on ESPN.
- Kolten Wong: Wong improved his .249 2014 average to .262 in 2015, and also scored 19 more runs. His 2015 was somewhat disappointing, but he can hit for some power (11 home runs) and has the ability to steal bases (15 last season). He is just 25 and has a high upside.
- Daniel Murphy: After turning into Babe Ruth for a week last October, Murphy will probably be back to his old self this season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing– he’s a lifetime .288/.331/.424 hitter.
- D.J. LeMahieu: LeMahieu had a terrific season last year, batting .301/.358/.388 with 23 steals and 85 runs scored. ESPN ranks him as the eighth-best second-baseman available, but Yahoo ranks him just 14th. He could be hidden gold in Yahoo leagues.
- Joe Panik: Panik has a lifetime .309/.364/.419 slash in 173 games. He isn’t a power-hitter or base-stealer with just eight home runs and three steals in 100 games last year, but he did score 59 runs, and has a tremendous upside as a youngster.
- Addison Russell: Russell still has ways to go until his full potential is realized, but could be a worthy bench player.
- Neil Walker: Walker had 16 home runs, 71 RBI and 69 runs scored last season with the Pirates. He will now take over Daniel Murphy’s old spot with the Mets– and he’s on a contract year.
- Ian Desmond: Desmond was the first shortstop since Barry Larkin to win three consecutive NL Silver Slugger awards when he did so from 2012-2014. But last season was horrendous, as Desmond batted .233/.290/.384. The fact that it came during his contract year did not help either. Desmond will now have a re-do on a contract year now that he’s on a one-year deal with the Rangers, and will be playing in a hitter-friendly park.
- Jean Segura: Segura has lit up this spring training, batting .548. This is encouraging after the .252/.285/.331 slash he put up over the last two seasons. He is still a prolific base-stealer with 89 stolen bases since 2013 and could benefit from a change of scenery.
- Jhonny Peralta: Peralta will be out until at least midseason with a thumb injury. If you are in a league with a disabled list, Peralta is a great stash pick.
- Brandon Crawford: Crawford was an All-Star for the first time last season as he hit 21 home runs and 84 RBI. These are fantastic numbers for a shortstop, and Crawford could become an elite play if he can do this on a consistent basis.
- Starlin Castro: Not the biggest Starlin Castro fan. He’s had a sub-.300 on-base in two of the last three seasons. But a change of scenery could help revitalize his once-promising career. He still has extra-base hit and RBI potential.
- Hector Olivera: Olivera signed a $62 million contract out of Cuba last season with the Dodgers, and was later traded to the Braves. He will be entering his first full season, and has a .323/.407/.505 lifetime slash in Cuba. He won’t have a lot to work with in the Braves’ lineup, but he is a solid late (as in last three rounds in deep leagues late) pick.
- Kyle Seager: Seager has become a consistent presence at the hot corner, with at least 20 home runs in each of his four full seasons. He is ranked just eighth on Yahoo and seventh on ESPN.
- Adrian Beltre: Beltre is the most under-appreciated player of his generation. He is getting old, but has been spectacularly consistent throughout his career– especially since leaving the Mariners before the 2010 season. Over the last six seasons, he has batted no lower than .287 while hitting no fewer than 18 home runs and scoring no fewer than 79 runs. He’s a bona-fide offensive juggernaut and a borderline Hall of Famer.
- Maikel Franco: You forgot about him, didn’t you? Franco was one of the few bright spots for the Phillies last season, batting .280/.343/.497 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 80 games before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. He also leads spring training in home runs.
- Anthony Rendon: Most leagues have him as a second or third baseman, and he works as a sleeper here too.
- David Wright: Wright’s spinal stenosis will scare some owners away (as it should). But he did bat .277/.381/.437 in 30 games after the injury. The Mets captain will also have possibly the best Mets lineup he’s ever had around him.
- A.J. Pollock: If you’re in a categories league, Pollock is without question a first-rounder. He batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 111 runs scored and 39 steals. There is not one category where Pollock lacks.
- Matt Kemp: Kemp quietly put together a solid season last year with 23 home runs, 100 RBI, 80 runs scored and 12 steals. He will likely have fewer RBI chances now that Justin Upton is gone, but he should still have solid power– he’s had at least 23 home runs in six of his last seven seasons.
- Christian Yelich: Despite missing 36 games last year, Yelich had a .300./.366/.416 slash with 16 steals and 63 runs scored. Now that Giancarlo Stanton is healthy again, he should have plenty more opportunities to score runs.
- David Peralta: In his first full season in the majors last season, Peralta batted .300/.366/.416 with 17 home runs and 78 RBI. Any improvement on this could make Peralta an elite offensive player in 2016.
- Randall Grichuk: Grichuk was impressive in 103 games last year; hitting 17 home runs and 30 other extra-base hits. He has tons of potential going forward.
- Dexter Fowler: Fowler scored 102 runs, stole 20 bases and even hit 17 home runs in a potent Cubs lineup last year. That lineup will be even better this year with the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, meaning more opportunities to score runs.
- Jay Bruce: Bruce is a virtual lock to hit 20 home runs– he has done so seven times in eight seasons. He also had 35 doubles and 72 runs scored. The fact that Bruce is playing on his contract year could mean for extra motivation.
- Michael Conforto: Conforto showed All-Star potential in 56 games as a rookie with nine home runs and 26 RBI. He figures to be a big part of the Mets’ future, and that could all start this year.
- Denard Span: Span missed two-thirds of last season but had a spectacular 2014. That year, he led the league in hits with 184, had 39 doubles, eight triples, 94 runs and 31 steals. Spectacular for category leagues.
- Jorge Soler: Soler hit a disappointing .262/.324/.399 last season, but still has potential as a bright young star with the Cubs.
- Carlos Beltran: Beltran, who is on his contract year, still has some pop, as evidenced by his 19 home runs in 133 games last season.
- Yasmany Tomas: The highly touted Cuban prospect disappointed last season, but could be a solid bench play this season.