Players to Keep Your Eye On: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

With the MLB season rapidly approaching, it is time to revisit my 2017 fantasy baseball sleepers.

 

WHAT QUALIFIES A PLAYER AS A “SLEEPER”?

First, a player must be undervalued.

A player’s average draft position, or ADP, must be below the ADP of other players with similar statistics to be undervalued. Rick Porcello was selected as the 230th player off the board last year according to ESPN.com. He finished as the sixth-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 last year, 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. A player must be overlooked and passed on until later rounds in the draft to be a sleeper.

Jose Ramirez went undrafted last year in the majority of leagues, and managed to finish as a top 50 overall player. Ramirez went overlooked, and I aim to inform you about players that cannot be overlooked heading into 2017.

 

Yangervis Solarte, Third Base, San Diego Padres, (277)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Yangervis Solarte will take over as the San Diego Padres everyday third basemen in 2017. (Courtesy of wikipedia.com)

Yangervis Solarte has been creeping up fantasy boards all spring, but has remained my sleeper of the year. The 29-year-old is primed for a breakout season since he will have an everyday role for the first time in his career.

He totaled 15 home runs and 71 RBIs in just 109 games last year, which would have put him on pace for 22 home runs and 105 RBIs. The everyday third basemen will slot in somewhere ahead of young studs Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe, which will positively impact Solarte’s run production.

Solarte’s ADP of 277, according to fantasypros.com, makes him the 28th third basemen taken off the board, which means he is currently going undrafted in majority of leagues. Solarte will make for an incredible late-round pick if you miss early on a third baseman.

 

Austin Hedges, Catcher, San Diego Padres, (305)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Austin Hedges will be the everyday man for the Padres for years to come. (Courtesy of The San Diego Union Tribune)

Austin Hedges has been working his way up the minor league system since 2011. This season will be his first as an everyday catcher.

Hedges made his way into the lineup with his defense and rocket arm, but his hitting progression has been outstanding over the past year. His batting average from 2013-2015 was a mere .235. He batted .312 last year at the AAA and MLB levels.

The 24-year-old will finally have his opportunity. At a price tag of a top 300 pick, he is well worth a draft selection in 2017.

 

Corey Dickerson, Left Field, Tampa Bay Rays, (317)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Corey Dickerson sheds 25 pounds in the offseason, signs of good things to come? (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com)

Corey Dickerson was drafted in 2010 by the Colorado Rockies in the eighth round. He’s enjoyed some early success, along with some nagging injuries.

Owners tend to forget that Dickerson batted .312 and .304 in two consecutive seasons with the Colorado Rockies. That shows he has the potential to be an elite hitter in this league.

The 27-year-old has dropped 25 pounds heading into 2017. That will give him a better chance to find a spot atop the Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup. The weight loss will also help him possibly steal more bases, as he has not stolen double-digit bases since 2012 (24).

Dickerson is a threat for 30 home runs and solid production all around whether it’s at the top or bottom of the order. His current ADP is 317, which is very low for someone with .300/80/30/80/10 potential.

 

 

 

 

 

Mitch Haniger, Center Field, Seattle Mariners, (319)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Mitch Haniger may be sleeper of the year. (Courtesy of Minor League Ball)

Mitch Haniger came over to Seattle along with Jean Segura as a lesser known piece of the Taijuan Walker trade.

Haniger has gotten off to a hot spring, slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats. This has earned him the everyday right fielder spot against American League foes, as well as the starting left field position during interleague play, when Nelson Cruz is forced to move from designated hitter to right.

The 26-year-old’s combination of power and speed makes him a threat to be a serious producer atop one of the most talented lineups in the league. Haniger could explode in 2017. I see a floor of .260/90/20/80/10, and a ceiling of .280/100/25/90/15. I believe this make him well worth the top 300 selection you would have to spend.

 

Tyler Naquin, Center Fielder, Cleveland Indians, (340)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Tyler Naquin is still a highly touted prospect, but is going unnoticed on draft day. (Courtesy of Lets Go Indians)

Tyler Naquin has been regarded as the Cleveland Indians top prospect for the last few years after being drafted in the first-round in 2012.

Naquin played in mainly a platoon roll with Rajai Davis and Abraham Almonte last year. Center field will be all Naquin’s this year. The 25-year-old has a great set of tools and is a career .296 hitter with some speed and pop.

Naqiun will bat toward the bottom of the loaded Indians lineup, although a stat line of .290/70/20/70/15 should not be out of the question. He is well worth the his current price tag of a top 350 pick.

 

 

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

I present to you my 2017 fantasy baseball center field rankings.

The top 25 center fielders have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable Mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Jason Heyward (CHC), Kevin Pillar (TOR), Kevin Kiermaier (TB), Leonys Martin (SEA), Travis Janikowski (SD), Mallex Smith (TB), and Eddie Rosario (MIN).

Exceptions include: Ian Desmond (COL), who is out six to eight weeks after undergoing hand surgery this spring training.  

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Mike Trout or Micky Mantle? (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)

 

  • Mike Trout LAA

 

By this point, everyone should recognize that Mike Trout stands alone as the top player in fantasy baseball.  The two-time MVP is a perennial threat to bat .300, score 100 runs, produce 100 RBIs, and steal 30 bases. In leagues that take OBP or OPS into consideration, Trout’s value is increased even more so, as he has a monster career OBP of .405 and OPS of .963. The 25-year-old will be the first player taken in all 2017 fantasy drafts.

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Will Charlie Blackmon finish the season as a Colorado Rocky? (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

 

  • Charlie Blackmon COL
  • Trea Turner WSN
  • A.J. Pollock ARI
  • Yoenis Cespedes NYM
  • Christian Yelich MIA
  • Andrew McCutchen PIT
  • Lorenzo Cain KC

 

Charlie Blackmon surpassed career highs in nearly every category last season, while only appearing in 143 games. Blackmon had 29 home runs, 111 runs scored, 82 runs driven in, and stole 17 bases, while batting an astounding .324. The 30-year-old will continue to bat atop an incredibly strong Colorado Rockies lineup that is guaranteed to produce in 2017.

There has been talk about the Rockies potentially moving Blackmon out of Coors field if they are struggling at the trade deadline, although Blackmon’s talent is sure to translate to another park, team, and position in the lineup. He is well worth a pick in the top 20 as he has 30/30 potential with a career batting average of .298.

Lorenzo Cain is being severally overlooked and undervalued in 2017. The Kansas City Royals’ three-hitter is batting .300 over his last three seasons, while averaging 30 steals per 162 games. Cain managed to hit 16 home runs in 140 games in 2015, which I believe show that he has the potential for a 20/30 season.

The 30-year-old’s major issue is staying on the field, as he is yet to surpass the 140-game mark, although if he can stay healthy, he is a sure-fire top 20 outfielder in 2017.

 

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Dexter Fowler is headed to the division rival. (Gene J. Puskar, AP Photo)

 

  • Dexter Fowler STL
  • Adam Jones BAL
  • Adam Eaton WSN
  • Odubel Herrera PHI
  • Carlos Gomez TEX
  • Byron Buxton MIN
  • Keon Broxton MIL

 

Dexter Fowler will move from Chicago to the division rival St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. Fowler will bat leadoff for the always productive Cardinals, who are looking to back bounce from missing the playoffs in 2016.

The 31-year-old has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs and steal 10 to 20 bases. Fowler is a safe a selection within the top 150 players, as he is a lock for above average production in three out of the five major categories, while also offering average production in home runs and RBIs. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career.

Keon Broxton has yet to play a full season at the major-league level, although 2017 will be his year to break out. As a career .255 hitter at the minor-league level, Broxton clearly has room to improve, although he is averaging 15 home runs and 31 steals per 162 games.

The 27-year-old will receive his first opportunity to play an everyday role, as he will be the starting center fielder and six-hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broxton’s ADP of 225, according to fantasypros.com, makes him well worth a late round selection if you miss on a more proven commodity.

 

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Brandon Phillips, Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)

 

  • Jose Peraza CIN
  • Billy Hamilton CIN
  • Joc Pederson LAD
  • Randal Grichuck STL
  • Rajai Davis OAK
  • Jarrod Dyson SEA
  • Ender Inciarte ATL
  • Denard Span SFG
  • Tyler Naquin CLE
  • Cameron Maybin LAA

 

Jose Peraza is a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Baseballprospectus.com, and Baseball America. He will primarily play second base, and will presumably start the season batting at the bottom of the order, but a promotion to the leadoff spot could occur if he continues to find success at the plate. He has a career batting average of .312 at all levels and has stolen 244 bases in 611 career games. The 22-year-old offers tremendous value through his speed, contact, and versatility in 2017.

Cameron Maybin will move out west to join the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. Maybin is a career .259 hitter, although he managed to bat .315 last season in 94 games for the Detroit Tigers. He is a threat to steal 20 or more bases as well as provide runs with a solid average.

If Maybin can remain healthy, career highs in RBI’s and home runs could be in order as well, as the 29-year-old will bat primarily sixth to start the season.

 

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Everything You Need to Know About the AL Playoffs

As the one game wild card playoffs are finishing up, now is a good time to look at each American League team and determine what will push them to win it all, or what could end up being each team’s downfall. The Boston Red Sox start their series against the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers will faceoff against the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the wildcard one game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles this past Tuesday. Both series commence on Thursday, October 6th, with the Jays vs. Rangers series at 4:30pm and the Red Sox vs. Indians series at 8pm on TBS.

 

The Boston Red Sox (93-69)

big-papi

David Ortiz has had a phenomenal last season. Will he be able to finish his career with another World Series champions celebration? Photo courtesy of John Tlu Macki of the Boston Globe

The Red Sox come into the playoffs as the AL team with the third best record. Do not let that fool you, however, as the Sox may be the most complete team in the AL. The lineup, top to bottom, may not have as much true power as the Blue Jays, but still contains three hitters with over 30 hr’s during the season (Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and David Ortiz). Betts is a potential regular season MVP (As outlined in one of my articles from last week) and David Ortiz has been Mr. Clutch during the Red Sox last three World Series runs. The true question mark around the lineup is whether the youth that powered the team, aka the Killer B’s (Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley Jr., and Benintendi) will be able to handle the added pressure surrounding the MLB Postseason.

The Red Sox’s biggest question mark entering the season surrounded the pitching rotation. As the season progressed, however, the rotation became one of the Sox’s biggest strengths. Rick Porcello, often considered nothing more than a middle of the rotation starter, has pitched a potential Cy Young season, finishing with 22 wins on the year. David Price is the big money man, brought in to be the ace, may not have lived up to the expectations of years past, but is still a strong number two. The bullpen was a bit of a question mark during much of the season, but the Sox brought in Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks. Since about mid-August, the bullpen has stepped up and dominated competition, turning a concern into a strength as well.

The Red Sox have the pleasure of matching up against the Cleveland Indians in the NLDS, who will provide a difficult matchup for the Sox as the series progresses.

 

Cleveland Indians (94-68)

corey-kluber

Corey Kluber has put together a Cy Young worthy season. Can he rally the injury riddled rotation and carry the Tribe past the Red Sox? Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

The Indians came into a season as a favorite only if you were an Ohioan. The Kansas City Royals were coming off a World Series and the Detroit Tigers had seemingly upgraded their lineup by signing Justin Upton in the offseason. It was the Indians, however who ended up with the division crown on the back of one of the best young pitching rotations in the majors (maybe even better than the New York Mets’ young staff).

Yet, as the final months rolled around, half of the young core hit the disabled list, and leaves question marks as to how the Indians’ three man rotation will matchup with the Red Sox. Corey Kluber put together a ridiculous season pitching, putting himself in line for a potential Cy Young by finishing near the top of every pitching category in the American League. Inconsistency is Trevor Bauer’s, the Indians Game 1 starter, middle name. Josh Tomlin has not given up more than 2 runs in any of his last five starts, but was rather inconsistent leading up to September. The bullpen, much like the rotation, has been pretty strong through the season. Cody Allen is one of the more underrated closers in baseball, as he has just accumulated saves consistently while maintaining an ERA around 2.5. Andrew Miller was brought over at the deadline to give the Indians the best setup man in baseball.

The rotation may be questionable, but the lineup is not. A healthy mix of youngsters and seasoned veterans fill the squad as postseason looms. Mike Napoli, a postseason regular with the Red Sox previously, fills the veteran role for the team and will power the Indians through the series. Tyler Naquin has put together a surprising rookie campaign for the Tribe and just gets on base regularly for a team that is less about hitting homeruns and more about small ball baseball. One of the most underrated trades of the deadline saw Brandon Guyer go to the Indians who just rakes as well, scraping together an OBP of .438 since the deadline for the Tribe. All this talk surrounding the lineup does not even include the stud middle infielders the Tribe have built around of Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis who have Indians fans excited for the team’s postseason potential.

The Indians will put up a good fight against the Red Sox, but despite owning home field advantage, will fall to the Red Sox in 6 games, as Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin do not inspire much hope for the Tribe. If the Tribe had Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar healthy, this would be an entirely different conversation.

 

Texas Rangers (95-67)

The Rangers came into the regular season as the favorites in a weak AL West division. The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners put up a fight for awhile, but the Rangers kept winning and slowly gained ground on both teams as the season progressed. By the time the Rangers were officially crowned division champs, it was a mere formality, as the chance was slim since the beginning of September for either team to challenge the Rangers for the crown. Having the best record in the American League will give the Rangers home field advantage throughout both the ALDS and ALCS rounds, but that is not the only thing the Rangers have going for them.

The Texas Rangers lineup have five players with at least 20 hr’s and most the team have been in the playoffs together multiple times. Adrian Beltre, the ageless wonder at third base, leads the lineup as he has 32 hr’s and a.300 batting average this season. Rougned Odor, the young stud second basemen, has chipped in 33 hr’s of his own (a rare sign for a middle infielder) and has double digit stolen bases as well. He does not walk much, but if Odor puts wood on the ball, he is going for extra bases. Jonathan Lucroy was picked up at the deadline (after Lucroy spurned the Indians) and has provided consistency at the single position the Rangers had issues with throughout the season. The Rangers lineup is in their peak right now, so they will be exciting to watch as the series progresses.

The Rangers also have the pitching to provide support to the lineup. The two headed monster of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish provide two aces at the top of the rotation. Darvish has been pitching better of late, so he will probably get the ball Game 1. The third spot in the playoff rotation leaves the rotation a little shaky, but if Hamels and Darvish can pitch on shortened rest, they may only need Martin Perez to pitch a single game for them in the NLDS. The bullpen is solid, with Sam Dyson closing down games with great success lately, only giving up one earned run in the last ten innings. Dyson was inconsistent midseason, but has come around and looked the part of a closer, despite a lower than usual K rate for a closer. Matt Bush may be one of the best free agency pickups as the former top pick has redeemed his life and career in Texas, performing well in the setup role for the Rangers.

rougned-odor

The animosity is strong between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Will the hate carry over into the ALCS and hurt the Rangers’ chance at a World Series run? Photo courtesy of Richard Rodriguez of the AP.

The Texas Rangers have the best record in the AL because of just how complete the team is. The lineup and rotation have playoff experience and stability throughout. The bullpen, though inexperienced, has looked good of late. If there is one thing holding the Rangers back, it will be the animosity (The link leads to the brawl from earlier in the season between these two teams) between them and the Blue Jays from previous series hurting the team during the series.

 

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)

The Blue Jays were a playoff favorite going into the season. It was unexpected that three AL East teams would be battling for the two wild card spots, along with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, but the Blue Jays came out on top of the pile. The Blue Jays knocked off the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff on the back of Edwin Encarnacion’s three run walkoff homerun in the bottom of the 11th.

Homeruns are what you are going to see when watching this lineup. The Blue Jays have four players in their lineups who could hit 30 homeruns a season if healthy, three of which who could reach forty homers. Jose Bautista, the batflip champion, has provided playoff homerun heroics in the past, but does not have to shoulder the power alone. Bautista, Josh Donaldson (another potential 2016 MVP), and Edwin Encarnacion give the Jays the best 3-4-5 hitter trio in all of baseball. Troy Tulowitzki, though often in the background behind the big three, is still one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball when healthy, along with very strong defense up the middle. Michael Saunders was an underrated pickup from the Mariners as he has hit 24 hr’s from the outfield and as many doubles as Josh Donaldson (32).

The Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves 9-3.

Encarnacion has already hit more than 40 homeruns this season. Does he have enough power in the tank to hit a few more for the Jays this postseason? Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio of the Toronto Star.

The downside of the Jays revolves around the pitching. Aaron Sanchez has pitched phenomenal all season for the Jays and Liriano has been pitching well since coming over from the deadline. The Blue Jays have  actually gotten a couple of strong seasons from journeymen J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, but there is a reason they are journeymen. Marcus Stroman was supposed to be the ace of the rotation by the end of the season, but remained inconsistent through most of it. If the rotation can make it to the bullpen, though, then the Jays have a good shot. Joaquin Benoit came over at the deadline as well, and has only given up one run since the beginning of August (that is a 24 inning span).

The Blue Jays lineup is definitely the strongest in the AL, as the power potential is truly real. The pitching will be the X-factor for the Jays as the Rangers are the more complete team on paper. In the end, the Rangers are the favorite for a reason, and  will prevail over the Blue Jays.

 

AL Central Weekly 4/25-5/1

  1. Chicago White Sox, 18-8

    Jose Abreu had 11 hits this week to lead the first-place White Sox on offesne. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

The White Sox swept the Blue Jays in three games to start the week, then split two of four games against the Orioles. Jose Abreu had 11 hits in 29 at bats on the week, while driving in six RBIs. Chris Sale remained undefeated on the season by picking up two wins with a 1.35 ERA during the past seven games.

Upcoming Games: vs. Boston (3 games), vs. Minnesota (3 games)

2. Detroit Tigers, 14-10

K-Rod has been a fix for a bad Tigers’ bullpen. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

Detroit had a great week of baseball by taking three of four from the A’s and sweeping the Twins in three games. Victor Martinez has been the offensive star for the Tigers, with 14 hits in 27 at bats. He and Miguel Cabrera each had three home runs on the week, which generated a lot of offense for Detroit. Jordan Zimmerman picked up two wins and Francisco Rodriguez got three saves in three opportunities to lead the pitching staff to a memorable week.

Upcoming Games: at Cleveland (3 games), vs. Texas (3 games)

3. Kansas City Royals, 13-11

Eric Hosmer is swinging a continually hot bat for the Royals. Photo courtesy foxsports.com.

The defending World Series Champions struggled mightily this week by getting swept by the Angels, then losing two out of three to the Mariners. They remain in contention, but really need to step up there game going into the next couple of weeks. Eric Hosmer highlighted the offensive production by hitting .391 with 2 home runs, but no one got on base for him to drive in, as he had only 3 RBIs all week. Ian Kennedy won one start out of two, but the best pitcher on the staff continues to be Wade Davis, who picked up one save in his only opportunity of the week.

Upcoming Games: vs. Washington (3 games), at Cleveland (3 games)

4. Cleveland Indians, 10-12

Jose Ramirez heated up this week for the Indians. Photo courtesy of ohio.com.

Cleveland had a rough week by losing two out of three to the Twins and then getting swept by the Phillies. Losing to the Phillies three times in a row is concerning as they are not a very good team. Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin both hit over .400 for the week, but didn’t knock in any runs. The bullpen has been great as a whole, but the starters need to keep the Tribe in the game longer in order for the team to succeed.

Upcoming Games: vs. Detroit (3 games), vs. Kansas City (3 games)

5. Minnesota Twins, 7-18

The Twins won two out of three games from the Indians before getting swept by the red-hot Tigers. Joe Mauer had eight hits and five walks on the week to lead the Twins’ offense. Kevin Jepsen picked up two wins in relief for Minnesota. The Twins are reeling, and need to have a big week to stay within striking distance.

Upcoming Games: at Houston (3 games), at Chicago White Sox (3 games)

Player of the Week: Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez is the player of the week in the AL Central. Photo courtesy athlonsports.com.

Martinez hit over .500 and hit three home runs to get the Tigers into second place in the division.