Fantasy baseball leagues can be lost in the early rounds, but the rightful champion will make his or her mark by stealing sleepers late in the draft.
The term "sleeper" draws different definitions depending on whom you ask. Some say Eric Hosmer and Gerrit Cole qualify since they could vault into the elite tier of players in 2014, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s deal with late-round bargains.
Not to toot my own horn, but last year’s sleeper list included Jean Segura, Matt Harvey, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland and Kenley Jansen. And not to discredit my hubris my presenting the full picture, but Ike Davis, Mike Fiers, Dan Uggla, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Rutledge were also there.
So yeah, you win some and you lose some when hunting for breakout players on the cheap. Some guys in this year’s version will undoubtedly crash and burn, but you’re just scratching lottery tickets in the later rounds hoping to hit the jackpot.
For every Fiers that gets dumped on the waiver wire mid-April, there’s a Cobb who becomes a vital contributor at practically no cost. Just keep scratching until you find that steal.
Assembling sleeper lists are tricky. Some mid-round players are considered too obvious and above the sleeper label, but others may go undrafted in standard mixed leagues. For the most part, these 20 players are all guys to target late in a typical draft with the typical five-by-five categories, but a few may climb up the board.
Don’t reach too high for any of them, or else you risk stripping them of the value that makes them sleepers in the first place. Plenty of the highlighted choices can be snagged as bench players in shallow formats. To provide an idea on their market value, I'll include an aggregate average draft position (ADP) courtesy of FantasyPros, who averaged out ADPs from ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!, Mock Draft Central and NESN's National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC).
Since this list is unveiled shortly before the season begins, a few spring training stars have played their way into relevance. Store these names into your back pocket on draft day and you could finish the season a very happy camper.