While the definition of a sleeper is open to debate and opinion, for the sake of this column we’ll define a sleeper simply as a player that will outperform their draft position. Let’s take a look at our top fantasy baseball sleepers 2017 that are safe bets to provide good value for where you will be able to get them on draft day.
I don’t necessarily love the whole package you get with Tim Anderson. But I love the value at which you’re getting him, particularly at an average of 130 picks after guys like Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor.
He’s by no means in that tier of shortstop, but Anderson’s speed should allow him to contribute sufficiently in 2-3 categories in 2017. And that will be enough to return value if you’re getting him in round 14.
Anderson’s numbers weren’t terrible as a 22-year-old rookie in 2016. His strikeout and walk numbers will probably prevent him from ever becoming a superstar, but he’s a worthy shortstop or middle infield option in deeper leagues.
All Cole Hamels has done over the past six seasons is throw 200 innings and maintain K/9 rates right around 9.
In fact, only Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels have thrown at least 200 innings in every season since 2011.
Some trends on his WHIP and xFIP levels are concerning, but he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a reliable to-flight starter. At the very least, he should be going ahead of guys like Kyle Hendricks, Carlos Carrasco, and probably even Stephen Strasburg.
Taillon won’t be able to escape comparisons to Tyler Glasnow, his equally-talented young teammate on the Pirates. But Taillon is a much more polished pitcher than Glasnow. And now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, Taillon appears ready to take the next step this year.
As a 24-year-old rookie in 2016, Taillon posted above average numbers over 104 innings. His 3.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP even appear sustainable when coupled with elite-level ground ball rates and a 3.43 xFIP.
With Taillon, you’re going to pay a premium – his ADP is around 100 picks higher than Glasnow’s. But I’d much rather roll the dice on Taillon and his immense upside than on similar ADP guys like Dallas Keuchel, Steven Matz and John Lackey.
It was a tale of two halves for Piscotty last year, as he slashed .295/.370/.480 before the All Star Break and .247/.310/.430 after. Considering Piscotty had just 250 Major League at bats entering the year, that’s not overly concerning to me.
Piscotty has always profiled as an above-average power hitter. And entering his age 26 season, modest improvements to his contact rate could help Piscotty return top-18 OF value in 2017. Piscotty seems way more appealing to me than guys like Adam Jones, Lorenzo Cain, and Jackie Bradley Jr., who are all going around the same time.
Jose Ramirez was one of the best breakout stories of 2016. And although last year’s numbers are a complete anomaly from the rest of his Big League career, Ramirez still has room to grow entering his age-24 season.
Ramirez’s 2016 strikeout, walk and hard hit rates suggest there’s reason to be optimistic for a repeat in 2017. And he’s always hit in the minors. Regardless, his speed and the deep Indians lineup give Ramirez a solid floor in four out of five offensive categories.
Paxton’s heater and swing-and-miss curveball have always generated buzz. It took until he was 27 to start putting it all together, though, and Paxton can still be had at a discount in 2017 as a result.
Although August and September were his only really good months of 2016, it’s still hard to deny Paxton’s upside, especially as his average fastball velocity reached a career high last year.
In 2017, Paxton’s K rates should exceed 25%, his ERA should dip below 3.50 with some improved luck, and he could be in line for 15+ wins as the No. 3 starter for a competent Seattle team. Buy.
The Athletics showed their faith in Healy when they traded Danny Valencia to the Mariners last November. The 25-year-old slashed .305/.337/.524 in his rookie season, and his numbers extrapolate out to really solid four category production over a full season.
Valencia’s power and average will probably regress a bit in 2017, but he’d have to fall off pretty drastically to not return value at this price. And you’re getting just as much potential as the other young third basemen being taken way before him.
Matt Carpenter is perpetually undervalued in fantasy circles – especially in points leagues. He’s most valuable at second base this year, and right now he’s being drafted well after guys like Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, and Roughned Odor.
Carpenter is about as solid as they come. His batting average always hovers in the .270s, but elite walk rates have kept Carpenter’s OBP right around .375 in every year since 2012.
Plus, his power rates have increased with the rest of the league. Carpenter is a reliable option at the Keystone, and he looks even more appealing this year when you consider the second basemen being taken in front of him.
Diaz is probably being drafted right around where he should be. But he has the upside of a top-5 closer, and I just don’t think everyone realizes what they could be getting with the Mariner reliever.
Diaz had 88 strikeouts in 52 innings in 2016, nailing down 18 saves in 21 chances. The 22-year-old’s 2.6 BB/9 is exactly what you want in a closer. And with Steve Cishek seemingly (finally) out of the picture, the closer gig in Seattle is Diaz’s to lose. Not that I expect he will.
The 26-year-old Lamb fell off considerably in the second half of last year. That’s good news for fantasy owners, because it means you get him at a significant discount in 2017.
Lamb’s power is real, and we haven’t yet seen his full offensive potential over a whole season. His plate discipline is advanced for his age, and with improved contact rates he can feasibly produce as a top-10 offensive third baseman. At a price tag 70 picks after Todd Frazier, that’s a profile I want to bet on.