Revealing one fantasy sleeper to target from all 30 MLB teams

Which of these sleepers do you think will have the best season? (Photo by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
Which of these sleepers do you think will have the best season? (Photo by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

Sleeper is always a tricky term, and everyone’s mileage varies depending on your own league. These are the players from each team I’m targeting whom I’ve found to be undervalued.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Wilmer Flores

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Signed to a one-year deal in Arizona, Flores should finally see regular use for the first time in his career. The humidor decreased homers in Chase Field, but it’s still a hitter’s park, and the multi-eligible Flores has averaged 15 homers in just 343 at-bats over the last three seasons.

Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson

The former first pick continued to be a disappointment last season, although he did go 14/10 in fewer than 500 ABs. Swanson’s strong defense should keep him in Atlanta’s lineup, and there’s sneaky SB upside given his speed if he can make a leap at the plate now that he’s entering his prime.

[Positional Rankings: Top 300 Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | P ]

Baltimore Orioles: Cedric Mullins

Mullins hit 15 homers and stole 23 bags throughout the minors and majors last season, and he’s going to be Baltimore’s leadoff hitter in 2019. Camden Yards will help the switch-hitter with power, as Mullins should provide a nice HR/speed combo at a cheap price (ADP 243.5).

Boston Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi

His 17.8 K-BB% would’ve ranked top-20 among starters had he qualified last year, when the fireballer averaged a career-high 97.2 mph with his fastball (only Luis Severino’s was higher). Eovaldi is a health risk but carries a ton of upside now locked into Boston’s starting rotation. He may not pitch deep into games, but strong run support should help him rack up wins.

Chicago Cubs: Pedro Strop

Undervalued is a better term than sleeper for someone entering the year as a closer, but Strop’s uncertainty in the role long term makes him a bargain. His 16.2 SwStr% ranked top-10 last year, the Cubs should provide a bunch of save opportunities, and Brandon Morrow should be viewed as a long shot to reclaim the closer’s job at this point. There isn’t a cheaper path to 35 saves.

Cincinnati Reds: Nick Senzel

He owns a career .904 OPS in the minors, including a 149 wRC+ in Triple-A last year while battling injuries as a 23-year-old. Senzel has good power/speed upside with the benefit of one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball, and he’s looking at an opportunity to be the Reds’ regular center fielder (while also 3B eligible) in 2019. Go get him.

Cleveland Indians: Jake Bauers

Acquired from the Rays during the offseason, Bauers should enter the year as a regular in the middle of the Indians’ lineup. The 23 year old is the rare first baseman who can chip in 15-plus stolen bases, and he goes from a home park that’s extremely tough on lefty power to one in Cleveland that’s boosted homers for LHB by 17 percent over the last three seasons — third-most in the AL. Slated to hit behind OBP monsters Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana, Bauers is someone to target.

Colorado Rockies: Garrett Hampson

He’s having a big spring, which should help him earn Colorado’s second base job. Coors Field remains the league’s best hitter’s park by a wide margin (it’s increased run scoring by an MLB-high 33 percent over the last three years), and Hampson has elite speed, so there’s legit stolen base potential here.

Chicago White Sox: Welington Castillo

Catcher remains the only scarce position, and Castillo is a sneaky target now starting for the White Sox in a favorable park for power. THE BAT projects 17 homers (only five catchers are forecasted with more) and a respectable .252 BA, yet he’s not being drafted as a top-10 catcher.

Detroit Tigers: Joe Jimenez

He throws gas, posted dominant minor league numbers (1.56 ERA, 13.0 K/9) and more importantly, is behind arguably the shakiest pitcher (Shane Greene) who enters 2019 in a closer’s role. It shouldn’t take long before Jimenez is closing in Detroit, whose staff also has two other sleepers worth mentioning in Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd.

Houston Astros: Collin McHugh

McHugh is back in the starting rotation in a park that’s played extremely pitcher-friendly since removing the centerfield hill, and he finished in the top 5% of the league last year in wOBA (.243) and K% (33.2). Teammate Brad Peacock is another sleeper worth targeting as well.

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler

He struggles to stay healthy, but that’s why he’s so cheap. Soler should be the Royals’ cleanup hitter, and the former prospect is still just 27 years old and just posted a 123 wRC+ last season, so he’s a bargain in deeper leagues.

Los Angeles Angels: Justin Bour

He managed to hit 18 homers in fewer than 300 at-bats versus right-handers last year while playing in Marlins Park, which was the toughest place to hit in baseball. His new digs in Anaheim suddenly became an extremely favorable park for lefties after lowering the right field fences last season, with only Yankee Stadium increasing home runs more. Bour will battle Albert Pujols for at-bats after Shohei Ohtani returns, but over the last two years, Pujols’ -1.9 WAR ranks last in MLB. Bour is a sneaky 30-homer threat who’s practically free at draft tables.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Ross Stripling

He’s coming off an impressive campaign in which he posted a 136:22 K:BB ratio over 122.0 innings, while his xwOBA ranked top-10, sandwiched between Gerrit Cole and Noah Syndergaard. Stripling may not throw enough innings to be considered a true ace, but he’ll pitch like one when he’s on the mound.

Miami Marlins: Caleb Smith

He’ll start the year a little behind while returning from lat surgery, but Smith quietly posted a 16.9 K-BB% last year that would’ve ranked top-25 among starters (tied with everyone’s favorite 2019 pick, Jameson Taillon) had he qualified. No park in baseball has been more pitcher-friendly than the Marlins’ over the last three seasons.

Milwaukee Brewers: Jimmy Nelson

When we last saw Nelson he was emerging as one of baseball’s best pitchers, but fantasy owners have been cautious with him returning from serious shoulder surgery. The upside of him possibly returning to form is well worth his modest draft day price. Teammate Freddy Peralta is another sleeper worth grabbing, as he’d cost a much higher pick if not for his uncertain role.

Minnesota Twins: Michael Pineda

His stuff appears back (reaching 93 mph in spring), yet he remains mostly an afterthought at drafts since he’s been out since 2017. THE BAT projects a 3.70 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 9.3 K/9 rate, so Pineda looks like a steal with an ADP outside 250.

New York Mets: Steven Matz

He’ll likely get hurt again, but Matz finished strong last season (2.44 ERA, 0.95 WHIP with a 10.4 K/9 rate over his final eight starts) after he started throwing his slider a bunch more, and he should be plenty useful in between DL trips in 2019.

New York Yankees: Domingo German

He already looked like an interesting sleeper after recording an 18.4 K-BB% that would’ve ranked top-20 among starters had he qualified last year, and now German’s got a real shot at opening the season in New York’s rotation with Luis Severino injured. He had the fifth-biggest difference between his wOBA (.332) and xwOBA (.293) last season, making him one of the unluckier pitchers in the league, so ignore his ugly ERA and grab German, who’s looked dominant this spring. Teammate Jonathan Loaisiga is also on the radar.

Oakland Athletics: Mike Fiers

For an Opening Day starter who posted a 1.06 WHIP with an 8.8 K/9 rate after getting traded to Oakland last season, Fiers is getting completely overlooked in fantasy drafts (ADP 243.1). His fly ball tendencies fit well in a home park that was among the leaders in decreasing home runs (by 15 percent) over the last three seasons, and Fiers will have the benefit of a terrific Oakland defense as well.

Philadelphia Phillies: Zach Eflin

He enjoyed an increase in FB velocity last season, helping lead to a 15.7 K-BB% and a 10.3 SwStr%. Eflin enters 2019 as an underrated part of Philly’s rotation, and while Citizens Bank Park is a huge boost for homers, it’s neutral in run scoring.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jung Ho Kang

He doesn’t enter the year with a starting spot locked up, but Kang has a 1.035 OPS this spring, and there’s no one of note blocking him in Pittsburgh’s infield. Kang owns a career 129 wRC+ with the Pirates, and no 3B can match his upside at that stage of drafts.

San Diego Padres: Chris Paddack

The big right hander looked strong in his return from TJ surgery last year, recording a 2.10 ERA and 0.82 WHIP with a 120:8 K:BB ratio over 90.0 innings across the minors. Projection systems love him, and he’ll have Petco Park on his side. If you miss out on Paddack, teammate Matt Strahm isn’t a bad fallback option either.

Seattle Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi

The newest import is coming over with a career 2.81 ERA in Japan, although last year’s numbers fell a bit while he battled shoulder soreness. Projection systems are all over the place with him, as THE BAT calls for a 3.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP while Steamer shoots out a much bleaker 4.51 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

Is Yusei Kikuchi the real deal? (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Is Yusei Kikuchi the real deal? (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Both project strong K rates. There’s legit No. 2 starter stuff here and in one of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball, Kikuchi should be treated as a top-40 fantasy starter, even if his workload will be somewhat limited.

San Francisco Giants: Mac Williamson

Last year’s retooled swing resulted in a huge spring followed by a hot start in April, when he posted a 1.105 OPS, recorded the hardest-hit home run by a Giants player in the Statcast era and added another impressive 464-foot opposite field homer before suffering a concussion that effectively ruined the rest of his season. It was all a tiny sample, but Williamson enters 2019 healthy and with a real opportunity (he’s out of options and S.F. fields arguably the worst OF in baseball), so he’s a flier worth targeting late in drafts.

St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew Miller

From 2014-2017, Miller posted a 1.72 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with 421 strikeouts over 261.0 innings before a down season last year that was likely the result of pitching through injuries. He recorded those silly numbers in the A.L. and now rejoins the National League, so he should give you dominant ratios if his knee cooperates. Jordan Hicks has the big fastball but is no lock to close with his extremely shaky control, so don’t be surprised if Miller flirts with 30 saves this season.

Tampa Bay Rays: Tyler Glasnow

He thrived last season after getting traded to Tampa Bay, who straightened out his mechanics and inserted him into its starting rotation, where he flashed a 28% K rate. Glasnow struggles with control, but he has huge strikeout upside. Although the A.L. East isn’t easy, Tropicana Field remains one of the league’s best pitching venues. Teammate Diego Castillo is another sleeper, as he has the stuff to be dominant in a closer’s role should he be given the opportunity.

Texas Rangers: Delino DeShields

He was a major disappointment last season, although injuries were plenty to blame, and DeShields finished the year strong after returning from the DL (batting .300 in September). He’s still just 26 years old, can take a walk, is one of the fastest players in baseball and hits in the best park for offense other than Coors Field.

Toronto Blue Jays: Justin Smoak

He took a step back at the plate last season after his big 2017 (when offense across the league was way up), but he also set a career-high in BB% (14.0) and posted a 121 wRC+ that was superior to Cody Bellinger’s. Smoak is cheap (ADP 198.4) for a No. 3 hitter who’s averaged 31.5 homers and 83.5 RBI over the last two years.

Washington Nationals: Trevor Rosenthal

He didn’t play last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Rosenthal posted a 14.35 K/9 rate when he last pitched, has closer experience and has been hitting triple-digits on the radar gun throughout spring. Incumbent Sean Doolittle is terrific, but he’s also failed to reach 55.0 innings in any of the past four seasons; few if any closers are a better bet to spend time on the DL in 2019.

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