To win your fantasy ball league, drafting Fernando Tatis or Juan Soto in the first round won’t be enough. You will require pitching, of course, but you will also need to hit the jackpot with some mid-to-late hitting sleepers. Maximizing draft day value is your ticket to success. Luckily, we are here to help you. If you need some hitting sleepers, here are 10 for you to consider when it’s time to draft your winning squad.
Nate Lowe, 1B, Texas Rangers
Lowe, a very well-rounded hitter with the ability to hit for average and power, has been ready for an extended opportunity in the Big Leagues for at least two years, but the Tampa Bay Rays preferred to play Ji-Man Choi ahead of him. Now that he has been traded to the rebuilding Texas Rangers, he will get every opportunity to develop into the excellent hitter he is capable of being. He has a compact swing with few holes that helped him put a .300/.400/.483 line and a .883 OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) in 405 minor league games.
With a full opportunity, he can bat .275 with 20 home runs, and that’s gold at his current 350 average draft position (ADP).
Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Some people are forgetting about Meadows just because he had a .205/.296/.371 line in 2020, with only four home runs in 152 plate appearances. But consider that he contracted COVID-19 in July, just before the start of the season. Freddie Freeman prayed for his life and Zack Britton lost multiple pounds in a two-week span, just to name two MLB players’ experience with the virus. It’s not just another disease, so I’m willing to cut Meadows some slack. Let’s not forget that, in 2019, he hit 33 homers and stole 12 bases in 138 games, with a fantastic .291/.364/.558 line. Invest in him and enjoy the benefits of a five-category stud at a discount price.
Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
After a .243/.356/.368 slash line in 2020, some people are sleeping on the Yankees’ shortstop. However, it will be their loss, as the young slugger is primed for a big rebound season. He reported to summer camp out of shape in 2020, and that together with a quad injury, was too much to overcome at first. After he came back from injury, Torres slowly began to hit his stride, and his season culminated with two playoffs home runs in a couple of series. Even with the ugly slash line, he made some gains last season, cutting his strikeout percentage from 21.4% in 2019 to 17.5% in 2020, and upping his walk rate from 7.9% to 13.8%.
He started training months ago this time, and reported in top shape to spring training. After bopping 38 homers in 2019, he could surpass that number and challenge for the league lead in RBI.
JD Davis, 3B, New York Mets
Mets’ hitting coach Chili Davis opted not to report to the team last season because of COVID. Since he was one of the driving forces behind JD Davis’ 2019 breakout with New York (.307/.369/.527, with 22 homers and a 136 weighted Runs Created Plus mark, or wRC+) it’s fair to say that the slugger missed him dearly in 2020. Last season, Davis was among the league leaders in groundball percentage at 56.3, and you just won’t do damage in the batter’s box if you don’t lift the ball consistently and hit it hard. The worm-killing ways resulted in Davis slashing a disappointing .247/.371/.389 with only six dingers in 56 games.
Now that Chili is back with the team and JD is going through his normal spring training routine, the Davises will surely have a rebound season for us. I expect the third baseman to hit at least .280 with 25 homers if he receives even semi-regular playing time, and there will be plenty of run-scoring chances too to pad his counting stats.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Rodgers is the poster boy for post-hype sleeper prospects. Injuries and underperformances caused the fantasy community to forget about him, but given his minor league numbers (.296 AVG, .855 OPS), tools, and home field (Coors Field), he is an obvious 20-20 candidate if the Rockies give him the playing time. Rodgers has been around forever, but he’s still somehow just 24. He is basically free (484 ADP) so there is no downside on taking a shot!
Alex Dickerson, OF, San Francisco Giants
During 2020 play, Dickerson slashed .298/.371/.576 and hit 10 dingers in 52 games. The season before that, 2019, saw him hit .276/.332/.489. He’s been doing this for a couple of years now: hitting the ball hard consistently and letting his performance speak for himself.
The San Francisco Giants realized last year that they need to find at-bats for Dickerson. He made the best of them and will do so again in 2021. He can hit the ball with authority (114.6 max exit velocity, 42.6 hard-hit rate in 2020), and in the best spot (a career-high 10.7 barrel percentage) to get the best of his considerable raw power. Dickerson should knock at least 20 balls out of the park in a surprisingly respectable lineup in 2021.
Ryan Jeffers, C, Minnesota Twins
The only reason why Jeffers isn’t a well-known fantasy commodity in shallow leagues is the presence of Mitch Garver. The two of them will share catching duties in Minnesota, but the nature of the split will depend on their performance. Yes, Garver had 31 homers in 2019, but struggled mightily last campaign with a .167/.247/.264 line and just a couple of home runs in 81 plate appearances. Jeffers took advantage of his playing time, hit three taters and slashed .273/.355/.436, which is fantastic for a catcher.
Jeffers has minor league numbers to back up his brief 2020 success in MLB. Basically, he was always an above-average offensive performer judging by his wRC+ (always over 100) and he could be an excellent option in two-catcher leagues even in a timeshare with Garver.
Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
During the 2020 campaign, Winker absolutely murdered the ball: he ranked in the 90th percentile in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, in the 93rd percentile in expected weighted On Base Average (xwOBA, a stat used to evaluate offensive production by judging outcomes) and in the 88th percentile in barrel%.
Quietly, Winker hit .255/.388/.544 with a fantastic .932 OPS, but since the Reds’ offense was so bad in 2020, people hardly noticed. In OBP leagues, Winker is absolute gold, but even in standard formats, he can hit 30 homers and be a productive outfielder, but with a relatively low ceiling in runs and RBI.
JD Martinez, OF, Boston Red Sox
Players weren’t allowed to retreat to the video room during games to watch video of their at-bats during the shortened 2020 season, which affected JD Martinez considerably. The Red Sox’s designated hitter was pitiful last year, with a career-low .213 average, seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 54 games. The .680 OPS he had was the lowest in seven years. Martinez, known for analyzing videos of his at-bats with the intention of reviewing and correcting any potential mechanical issues, will have access to iPads in the dugout with in-game video, as will all players in 2021. This will only help a batter that has been so consistently awesome since he overhauled his swing in 2013 that it’s difficult to believe he’ll morph into his 2020 version.
Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners
A .176/.252/.346 line will surely scare people away, not to mention a 41.6 strikeout rate. That 2020 performance is from Evan White, a sweet-swinging first baseman who received a long-term deal and was rushed to the majors. Even so, he is quite the Statcast darling: a 91.7 average exit velocity, a 14.1 barrel percentage, and a 52.5 hard-hit rate suggest that average is on the rise for 2021. It will all depend on the strikeouts, though, but given that he was between 19% and 23% in his minor league career, I believe he will adjust.
White won’t run much, but he can have a respectable average and will hit his home runs. Deeper leaguers should be all over him, especially in dynasty formats.