Fantasy Baseball 2019 Rankings: Deep Sleepers, Hidden Gems to Target

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

Philadelphia Phillies' Maikel Franco bats against the New York Yankees during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, March 22, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

While fantasy baseball owners should always be wary of Opening Day overreactions, the (very) early portion of the 2019 MLB slate has already highlighted the value of a sleeper.

For instance, if you had the foresight of drafting Tim Beckham—available in 61 percent of Yahoo leagues—you have already banked three homers and five RBI. Owners of Joc Pederson (available in 71 percent), Ryon Healy (89 percent) and Kolten Wong (93 percent) have also yielded multi-homer dividends.

Those may be nothing more than Week 1—or, in the case of the latter trio, Day 1—assets, but each highlights the potential payoff of finding a hidden gem.

That's where we will put our focus here, identifying three deep sleepers—50-plus percent available on Yahoo—who could elevate your club both now and going forward.


Deep Sleepers to Target

Niko Goodrum, 1B/2B/SS/3B/OF, Detroit Tigers (48 Percent Owned)

If you're at all concerned with position scarcity, Niko Goodrum adds insurance everywhere. He can be plugged in across the infield and the outfield, and that kind of versatility gives you a plug-and-play replacement on almost any of your regulars' off days.

Plus, the 27-year-old isn't a bad option in his own right.

He doesn't hit for the highest average (.245 last season), but he offers a power-speed combination seldom seen on the waiver wire. In 131 games last year, he tallied 16 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He also scored 55 runs and knocked in another 53, which aren't great marks, but they are fine for a high-usage reserve.

The hope, though, is that last season was just a stepping stone to bigger numbers. It was his first full year in the big leagues, so there's potential for improvement from the added experience alone. And considering he's moved up to fifth in Detroit's lineup, there's clear upward mobility for both of the runs categories.


Brad Keller, SP/RP, Kansas City Royals

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Starting pitchers who can be slotted in as relievers are invaluable in points leagues. Brad Keller showed why on Opening Day.

The 23-year-old notched the Royals' first win of the season by spinning seven shutout innings with five strikeouts and only two hits and one walk allowed.

Granted, it came against a green Chicago White Sox group of hitters, but guess what—there are plenty of exploitable lineups in the AL, especially in the Central Division. Plus, conditions were less than ideal, as the game's start was delayed for an hour and 46 minutes by heavy rainfall.

To see Keller dominate in that environment was encouraging, particularly with the performance coming on the heels of a solid rookie season. Over 41 appearances (20 starts), he pitched to a 9-6 record with a 3.08 ERA. He hasn't been the best option for ratios (1.304 WHIP, 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings), but maybe his Thursday gem was a step in the right direction.

"Last year, I didn't really have much of a strikeout pitch," Keller told reporters afterward. "To go into camp and work on it and try to get swings and misses and stuff like that, it really paid off for today."


Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (24 Percent Owned)

It's not often that a No. 8 hitter would offer much fantasy upside, but Maikel Franco isn't your typical No. 8 hitter—and the Phillies don't have your typical lineup.

With offseason additions like Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, Philly is built to score early and often. A 10-run eruption on Opening Day—bolstered by a three-run shot from Franco in the sixth inning—proved as much.

"It makes our lineup really deep," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters of Franco hitting eighth. "Here's a guy who can hit 25 homers and has the capability of driving in 80-plus runs every year, batting before the pitcher."

It's refreshing to hear Kapler consider Franco as an annual 25-homer, 80-RBI threat. That theoretically means there's a chance for Franco to climb the lineup ladder, and it might mean he's better protected than some thought from being usurped by top prospect Scott Kingery.

Franco averaged 23.7 homers and 77.3 RBI over the previous three seasons. If he can move up a much improved lineup, a 30-homer, 100-RBI effort hardly seems out of the question.