With the 2017 Major League Baseball season quickly approaching, it is time to start talking fantasy. In 2016, we witnessed the most strike outs, as well as the second most home runs ever in a season. After an electric 2016 campaign, it is time to start preparing for a wild 2017. It is too early to release positional rankings, as it is only January. So I intend to inform you about early 2017 fantasy baseball sleepers.
What qualifies a player as a “sleeper”?
First, a player must be undervalued.
To be undervalued, a player’s average draft position, or ADP, must be below the ADP of other players with similar statistics. In 2016, according to ESPN.com, Rick Porcello was selected as the 230th player off the board. He finished as the 6th best starting pitcher in 5X5 ESPN standard leagues. His teammate, David Price, was selected as the 27th player off the board, yet he finished as the 21st overall pitcher. Porcello was tremendously undervalued in 2016, and I intend to help find undervalued players that can help contribute to 2017 fantasy championship.
Second, a player must be overlooked.
Some people argue that players can be considered “sleepers” if they are drafted in the third round, but have first round value. I argue that this makes a player undervalued. To be a sleeper, a player must be overlooked and passed on until later rounds in the draft. In 2016, Jose Ramirez went undrafted in majority of leagues, and managed to finish as a top 50 overall player. Ramirez went overlooked in 2016, and I aim to inform you about players that cannot be overlooked heading into 2017.
David Peralta – OF Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2017, David Peralta will continue his ascension from mediocre minor league pitcher to impact middle of the order bat. Peralta, who was originally signed in 2006 by the St. Louis Cardinals as a relief pitcher, was transformed into a corner outfielder in 2011. He subsequently slashed .392/.429/.661 with 17 home runs, 81 runs batted in and 30 doubles in 85 games in the independent North American League.
Peralta’s first minor league experience came in 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate, where he batted .297 with 17 doubles and 6 home runs in 53 games. He was then called up to the bigs, where Peralta impressed, batting .286 with 12 doubles, 9 triples, 8 home runs, 40 runs, and 36 runs batted in.
In 2015, Peralta’s first full season in the majors, he slashed .312/.371/.522. He also lead the league in triples with 10, along with 26 doubles, 18 home runs, and 78 runs batted in. Peralta dealt with a lingering wrist injury in 2016, which limited him to only 183 plate appearances in 48 games played. When healthy, he has massive upside.
It is only January, but Peralta is currently being severely under-valued. His ADP on couchmanagers.com is currently 221, which means he is being selected as the 63rd outfielder. I believe that Peralta is easily capable of being a top 30 outfielder, as he is expected to rejoin a star-studded Arizona Diamondbacks lineup. He will bat clean up behind four-time all-star and two-time runner-up MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, and 2015 all-star and top 15 MVP candidate, A.J. Pollock. Peralta has shown his ability to hit for power and average and will help contribute to many fantasy championships.
Josh Bell – 1B/OF Pittsburgh Pirates
A former 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates’ second round pick, Bell was called up in early July to see his first major league action in 2016. He batted .273 with 19 runs batted in and 11 extra base hits in a mere 128 at bats. He will be eligible at first base and outfield in fantasy leagues next season.
Bell projects as a first basemen with limited power, although he has an uncanny ability to get on base. He spent two seasons at the Triple-A level, amassing 629 plate appearances, while slashing .306/.396/.476, hitting 16 home runs, 53 extra base hits, and 78 runs batted in.
He is projected to bat second in a star-studded lineup, ahead of former MVP Andrew McCutcheon, all-star Starling Marte, and budding star Gregory Polanco. For Bell, this is an ideal spot in the lineup, as he has excelled at getting on base at all minor-league levels.
According to couchmanagers.com, Bell is currently being selected as the 22nd first basemen off the board, with an average draft position of 202. This places him thirty spots behind unsigned first basemen, Mike Napoli, as well as eighty spots behind aging superstars Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols.
Bell has already dropped his weight from 248 to 225 to start training camp, which shows he is ready to tackle a spot at the top half of the order. Also, Bell could possibly steal a few more bases, as he only stole five bases through two seasons at the AAA level. His power can and will improve as he gains experience at the plate. I believe Bell can contribute across all hitting categories, and is being moderately overlooked and undervalued.
Greg Bird – 1B New York Yankees
Another 2011 draft pick, New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, was called up in August of 2015. He batted .261 with 11 home runs and 31 runs batted in, in only 178 plate appearances.
If this pace were to have continued over 500 plate appearance sample size, Bird would project 30 home runs and 87 runs batted in.
He has impressed in his minor league career, hitting a total of 48 home runs, 192 runs batted in, while slashing .282/.395/.483 over 347 games. Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, exclaimed that Bird is “A patient, power hitter. Best young hitter in organization”.
Bird is recovering from undergoing season ending surgery for a torn labrum in 2016. The twenty-four-year-old will compete with veteran Matt Holiday and youngster Tyler Austin for the starting first base job.
When Bird is awarded the starting job, he will slot in to the middle of the order. This will give him a great opportunity to produce in a Yankees lineup behind the likes of Gary Sanchez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner.
Bird’s current ADP is 260, which means he is currently going undrafted. This means you could take Bird as a flyer, which is a pick at the end of the draft for a player with lower value but possibly high upside. If Bird’s ADP stays stagnant, he will be unforgivingly undervalued and overlooked.
Keon Broxton – OF Milwaukee Brewers
Another player going undrafted in leagues is Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton. Broxton, a 26-year-old former 3rd round pick, will hold down the Brewers center field to start 2017.
He spent two seasons at the AAA level, batting .267 with 15 home runs, 68 runs batted in, and 42 steals over 566 plate appearances. Broxton projects as a five-tool player with plus speed and above average power.
During the 2016 season, Broxton had 244 plate appearances, slashed .242/.354/.426 with 9 home runs, 19 runs batted in, and 24 steals. In a 500 plate appearance sample size, Broxton would have been on pace for 18 home runs and 47 steals.
Broxton’s speed alone gives him value, as he stole 203 bases in 273 attempts during his short career so far. Now with the Milwaukee Brewers, who stole 42 more bases than the next best team, Broxton has an even higher floor, as he will be aggressive on the base paths.
He will be limited by batting at the bottom half of the order, although his above average power upside mixed with his elite speed will make him a reliable fantasy producer and top 50 outfielder.