Sleepers. Breakouts. What does it all mean!? For me, sleeper is more synonymous with undervalued. Maybe a sleeper doesn't have league-winning potential the same way a breakout does. Still, if you find enough of these undervalued players, that incremental profit adds up over the course of the season and that's how you dominate your league mates.
Below you'll find my next batch of sleeper candidates. It's mostly filled with boring veterans that nobody seems to want and one former top prospect that people seem to be writing off. As always, if you haven't read my Sleepers 1.0 from back in January, you can find those here. On to the next!
Every year there are just a few players that everybody seems to forget about in Fantasy Baseball. This year, Eddie Rosario is one of those players. Maybe it's because Rosario is still a free agent but he's currently going just outside the top-200 picks in average draft position. Prior to 2021, Rosario finished 53rd overall or better in Roto each season from 2018-2020. Unless you just think Rosario is done, he's criminally undervalued at this draft cost.
Rosario was limited to just 111 games last season due to an abdominal strain. Even with that, he hit 14 homers with 11 steals. That's an 18-homer, 14-steal pace over 150 games. He also finished incredibly strong once he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. In 33 games with the Braves, Rosario hit .271 with seven home runs, two steals and a .903 OPS. During this span, Rosario leaned into a heavy pull/fly ball approach and it clearly worked. He's always made a ton of contact, too, as was the case last season. In case you forgot, Rosario was also a menace in the postseason as well (see below). At 30 years old, I believe Rosario is still squarely in his prime and severely undervalued right now.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for "boring" players in Fantasy but Andrew Benintendi seems a lot like Eddie Rosario in that he's undervalued right now. In his first season with the Royals, Benintendi hit .276 with 17 home runs and eight steals over 134 games. He was one of just 16 players to hit each of those three offensive benchmarks (.276-17-8). As a result, Benintendi finished as the 118th overall player in Roto last season yet, like Rosario, he's being drafted outside the top-200.
Interestingly enough, Benintendi didn't really change much under the hood. He continues to make a good amount of contact, hit a decent amount of line drives and provide modest power and speed. The one thing that stands out most is that he maintained the gains he displayed against left-handed pitching back in 2019. Over Benintendi's last two full seasons, he's actually been slightly better against lefties than righties. This helps assure Benintendi will remain on the field consistently and in a lineup that many are excited about. From standout veterans like Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez to prospects like Bobby Witt and Nick Pratto, there will be plenty of run-scoring opportunities for Benintendi. Take his .270+ batting average, 20+ homers and 10+ steals and thank me later.
As you've likely heard by now, third base is not great for Fantasy Baseball this season. If you miss out on the early-round options, however, there is a trio I like to target late: Matt Chapman, Josh Donaldson and Jeimer Candelario. I want to use this time to focus on Candelario who's going the latest of the three. Surprise, surprise. Candelario might come off as a boring player but there's something there. He has strong plate discipline and hits a bunch of line drives. Since the start of 2020, Candelario's 26.3% line drive rate ranks third among qualified hitters, better than Freddie Freeman and Whit Merrifield.
Candelario also flashed some power upside in the second half last season, hitting .282 with 11 home runs and a .242 isolated power. Those 11 home runs represent a 24-homer pace over 150 games. If he can maintain some of those power gains to go along with strong plate discipline and a bunch of line drives, we have the makings of a really valuable player. Also consider that the Tigers improved their overall team context by adding Javier Baez and major prospects are on the way. At 28 years old, everything is right there for Candelario at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy.
Maybe it's because he signed with the Cubs but it doesn't seem like anybody is excited to draft Marcus Stroman and I can't figure it out. Yes, he can run high with the WHIP but we're talking about a pitcher who has a 3.63 career ERA over 1028.1 innings pitched. He's currently the 53rd starting pitcher off the board, according to ADP. He did some nice things last year, too. I mentioned Stroman usually runs high in the WHIP category but 1.15 was a career-best in 2021.
How'd he manage that? Stroman averaged just 2.2 BB/9, his lowest since his rookie season in 2014. He also posted a career-best strikeout rate and swinging strike rate, thanks to a change in his pitch mix. Stroman lowered his sinker, slider and cutter usage while introducing a new splitter he threw 16% of the time. It helped him post that career-high 11.6% swinging strike rate. Speaking of the whiffs, Stroman finds himself in unique company. He was one of just five qualified starting pitchers that managed a swinging strike rate better than 11.5% and a ground ball rate higher than 50%. Wins might be hard to come by with the Cubs but I trust the ratios and I think more strikeouts could be on the way. Stroman also consistently goes deep into starts for those who play in H2H points leagues.
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It's been a weird start to Jesus Luzardo's career to this point. Formerly a top prospect, Luzardo has posted a 5.36 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP over his first 166.1 innings. The icing on top was a broken pinky he suffered last season while playing video games. I mean, I've had my moments playing video games, too, but I never broke any bones because of it. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the prospect pedigree here but I can't quit the kid, not yet at least.
Luzardo flashed a little something in September. Yes, he posted a 5.28 ERA but his 13.3% swinging strike rate was tied for 11th among starting pitchers with Charlie Morton. He started changing his pitch mix. Over his final three starts, Luzardo threw his breaking ball 40% of the time. That culminated with his final start of the season where he allowed just one run while striking out 11 and walking none. He's got the secondary stuff. Now he just needs to improve his fastball, something he's already acknowledged this offseason. If he does, he could finally take that next step. These are lofty expectations but I see a lot of parallels between Luzardo and Lucas Giolito before he made the leap in 2019. Don't give up on Luzardo just yet.