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Fantasy Baseball 2021: One sleeper from every MLB team to draft

Dalton Del Don
·12-min read

Your definition of sleeper may vary, but the following list contains undervalued players when compared to ADP. Find my deep sleepers here.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Daulton Varsho

Varsho looked likely to open the year in the minors but may get a chance to play right field with Kole Calhoun sidelined. He has real fantasy upside as a “catcher” with 20/20 potential. Varsho had 29 homers and 40 steals over the last two years in the minors (700 ABs), and Chase Field remains a fine place to hit.

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley

Riley is still just 23 years old, had a solid exit velocity last season, and has 26 career homers over 131 major league games. He's a BA risk, but he hit .283 in the minors and quietly made nice improvements in his BB and K percentages last year.

Riley could easily hit 35+ homers this season.

Baltimore Orioles: Tanner Scott

Hunter Harvey was placed on the 60-day IL with a severe oblique strain, suddenly making Scott the favorite to close in Baltimore. Scott has an “80” fastball (he reportedly hit 100 mph during a recent outing) and had an exit velocity and an expected slugging in the top 10% of the league last year. Scott also had the sixth-highest spin rate and should be the Orioles’ best reliever by a wide margin in 2021.

Boston Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec

Dalbec’s high K rate makes him a batting average risk, but few players are offering cheaper power. Even while striking out almost 43% of the time, Dalbec recorded a 152 wRC+ last season that would’ve ranked top-15 had he qualified (just ahead of Bryce Harper, Fernando Tatis, and Mookie Betts). He looks locked in as Boston’s everyday first baseman and enters the year in the proverbial “best shape of his life.”

Chicago Cubs: Jason Adam

Craig Kimbrel has allowed nine earned runs and a .421 BAA over 4.2 innings this spring. Maybe it’s just a mechanics issue like the team claims (his velocity was up during a recent outing), but given his (to put it mildly) shaky performance since joining the Cubs, this is obviously a concern. Adam has quietly emerged as a strong candidate to be next up in Chicago’s pen. His fastball had the third-highest spin rate in MLB last season.

Chicago White Sox: Andrew Vaughn

Vaughn is Chicago’s top prospect and is the favorite to act as the team’s everyday DH after impressing this spring and with Edwin Encarnacion gone. The No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, Vaughn’s capable of quickly moving to the middle of the White Sox’s lineup.

Cincinnati Reds: Nick Senzel

Senzel has been injury prone and a disappointment, but the No. 2 pick has a nice pedigree and has put up big numbers throughout the minors. He has the Reds centerfield job to himself, and a healthy, energized version could easily lead to a 25/25 season.

Only Coors Field has increased run scoring more than Cincinnati over the last three seasons, and no park has boosted homers for righties by as much (30%!) over that span.

Tejay Antone is dealing with a groin injury, but he’s another sleeper in Cincinnati. He has future ace potential.

Cleveland Indians: Andres Gimenez

It appears Gimenez won Cleveland’s starting shortstop job over Ahmed Rosario (like he did with the Mets down the stretch last season). He’ll experience a really nice ballpark boost, going from the best pitcher’s park in baseball in New York to a hitter’s venue in Cleveland. A 10/30-type season could follow.

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron

Cron has graduated past sleeper status in some leagues, but he technically remains in a competition for the Rockies’ first base job. He should quickly prove to be one of Colorado’s best hitters. Cron finished in the top 5% of the league in Barrel% during MLB’s last full season in 2019, and THE BAT X projects him to be a borderline top-five fantasy first baseman in 2021 now that he calls Coors Field home.

Detroit Tigers: Tarik Skubal

Skubal is a hard-throwing lefty who’s one of the game’s best pitching prospects. He fanned 82 batters over 42.1 innings in Double-A during his last work in the minors, revealing legit K potential.

Houston Astros: Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi signed later in the offseason but landed in a favorable spot in Houston. THE BAT projects a 3.95 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP and a 9.9 K rate, and wins should be a strength given his situation. He also wouldn’t be the first pitcher to see a big boost in performance after joining the Astros’ organization.

Kansas City Royals: Brady Singer

Singer was a top-20 pick in the 2018 draft and finished last season strong, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with 30 Ks over 29.2 innings in September. Intriguingly, Singer finished top-15 in CSW, sandwiched between Gerrit Cole and Lucas Giolito, and there’s a chance he makes a further leap in 2021.

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh

Walsh should replace Albert Pujols — whose -3.0 WAR since 2017 ranks 259th out of 260 players — as LA’s primary first baseman this season, and he’s even frequently been batting second in the lineup this spring. Angel Stadium has increased home runs for left-handed batters an AL-high 28% over the last three seasons. LA’s lineup is filled with righties other than Shohei Ohtani and Walsh, who’s a sleeper.

[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Los Angeles Dodgers: Gavin Lux

Lux isn’t being overly hyped because of an underwhelming 42 games in the majors (and possibly playing time concerns), but this is a hitter who posted a 188 wRC+ while batting .392 in Triple-A in 2019. Unlike like last year, Lux is expected to be given the opportunity to be an everyday player in a lineup that projects to score the most runs in the National League. Lux has “70” projected power and once stole 27 bases during a season in the minors, so there’s real upside here.

Miami Marlins: Elieser Hernandez

Hernandez recorded a K-BB% (27.4) that would’ve ranked No. 5 in baseball had he qualified last season, accompanied by a 3.23 expected ERA and a strong CSW (31.3) on par with Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer. It was only a six-start sample, but Hernandez has elite control and will benefit from a home Marlins Park that’s one of the most favorable to pitchers. He’s a fine SP target.

Milwaukee Brewers: Freddy Peralta

Peralta isn’t a lock to open the year in the rotation, but a developing changeup should give him a real chance to start this season. Peralta’s K-BB% (28.0) would’ve ranked top-five had he qualified last year, when he had a better expected ERA than Gerrit Cole and Clayton Kershaw. The addition of Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. should be a big help on defense, while Milwaukee has increased strikeouts by 10% over the last three seasons (third-most in baseball).

There isn’t a pitcher going later in drafts with more upside than Peralta.

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Freddy Peralta
Freddy Peralta looks poised to outplay his ADP. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano

Sano is a batting average risk but is entering his prime at age 27, and he recorded a 137 wRC+ with 34 homers over 105 games during the last full baseball season. Sano has finished in the top 1% of the league in Barrel%, exit velocity, and Hard Hit% each of the last two years. Few players can match his power potential.

New York Mets: Marcus Stroman

Stroman looks fully healthy after opting out of last season, and the ground baller is going to benefit greatly from the Mets’ new shortstop, Francisco Lindor. Stroman has a career 3.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP despite pitching the vast majority of his career in Toronto and the AL East (a tough situation for any hurler). He’ll now be throwing in MLB’s best pitcher’s park and in a league without the DH. He’s also introduced a new changeup while beginning to start trusting analytics. Stroman is a sleeper.

New York Yankees: Aaron Hicks

Hicks is a durability concern, but that’s why his ADP remains so affordable for someone slated to hit third in the Yankees lineup, between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The switch-hitting Hicks should benefit from batting in a righty-heavy lineup as well as Yankee Stadium. He has sneaky 30/15 upside.

Oakland A’s: Sean Manaea

Manaea has a career 1.20 WHIP but is getting dinged at draft tables coming off back-to-back shortened campaigns. The A’s offer a great defense and one of the league’s best pitcher’s parks, and Manaea has flashed increased velocity this spring. He’s a pitcher to target later in drafts.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jean Segura

Segura is a career .285 hitter with the Phillies’ second base job all to himself. Philadelphia has increased homers for righties by 21% over the last three seasons — the third-most in MLB. Segura is 2B/SS/3B eligible, and his ADP sitting outside 200 will look like a downright steal should he start running again.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Gregory Polanco

Polanco is a nice bounce-back candidate with legit 25/25 potential still in his prime. After erroneous reports of him suffering a broken wrist in Winter League, he reported to spring training fully healthy (and is raking). He could quickly find himself hitting in the middle of the Pirates’ lineup during a contract year.

San Diego Padres: Jake Cronenworth

Cronenworth’s ADP remains plenty affordable thanks in part to San Diego signing Ha-seong Kim during the offseason. But Cronenworth appears to have run away with the team’s second base job, while Kim may not even make the team. Cronenworth’s xwOBA (.396) was in the top 6% of the league last season, so this is a real hitter who can add 10+ steals and is eligible at 1B/2B/SS.

San Francisco Giants: Alex Dickerson

Dickerson has durability concerns, but he posted a 150 wRC+ last season and is projected to hit cleanup in San Francisco’s lineup. The team’s park became far friendlier to lefties with the new dimensions last year, so Dickerson is a sleeper.

Seattle Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi

Kikuchi is working regularly at 95-96 mph this spring, making him far more interesting. His 5.17 ERA last season came with a 3.37 expected ERA (and 3.30 FIP), and he’s throwing harder now. Kikuchi was dominant at times in Japan, and Seattle is one of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball. He’s someone to target.

St. Louis Cardinals: Alex Reyes

Jordan Hicks has reportedly been clocked at 102 mph this spring and is the team’s first plan to close, but part of the reason Reyes’ ADP remains so low is his undefined role (along with a lengthy injury history). He’s a former top prospect with elite stuff and, if he’s finally, truly healthy, he’s capable of being dominant as a starter or in relief.

You’ll want Reyes on your fantasy team the year he finally figures it out, and it’s looking increasingly like it’s going to be 2021.

Tampa Bay Rays: Willy Adames

Adames is being overlooked in drafts despite coming off a season in which he just posted a better wRC+ (124) than fellow shortstops Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor. Wander Franco looms, but he could start out at third, and Adames’ strong glove should help keep him in the lineup. He hit .330 with seven homers over 106 ABs on the road last season (1.035 OPS), so a move outside of Tropicana Field (he becomes arb eligible in 2022, making him a trade candidate with Franco around) could make Adames a borderline fantasy star.

Texas Rangers: Dane Dunning

Dunning has a first-round pedigree and struck out 35 batters over his first 34.0 major league innings last season with the White Sox. This year he’ll be pitching in a new home park in Texas, where it’s far more difficult to hit homers, so Dunning’s a sleeper with a Yahoo ADP sitting outside 250.

Toronto Blue Jays: Nate Pearson

Pearson’s ADP remains low despite being MLB.com’s No. 1 right-handed pitching prospect. He’s currently sidelined with a groin injury and will have to deal with the AL East and likely not great home parks in which to pitch, but he has electric stuff that can reach triple digits. The list of similar pitchers based on velocity and movement includes Jack Flaherty, Yu Darvish, and Trevor Bauer.

Alejandro Kirk also suddenly looks like a top-10 fantasy catcher if he makes the Opening Day roster.

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber’s ADP is depressed after struggling mightily during last year’s shortened season. But Wrigley Field oddly played as baseball’s No. 1 pitching park in 2020 (suppressing run scoring an MLB-high 28%), and he slugged 38 homers the last time there was a normal season. Schwarber also now moves to a favorable hitter’s park in Washington that’s among the leaders in boosting run scoring and BA over the last three seasons. In fact, he goes from a home park that’s decreased homers for lefties by 16% over that span to one that’s increased them by 14%. The DH in the NL would’ve been ideal, but Schwarber still has one of the cheaper ADPs for someone with 45+ homer potential.

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