Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2019: Best Hitting and Pitching Prospects to DraftMarch 31, 2019
To the delight of fantasy baseball managers, MLB teams are listening to the game's marketing slogan and letting the kids play.
Early in the preseason, several top prospects looked poised to start 2019 in the minors. Like Ronald Acuna Jr. last season, they would "work on their defense" in the minors for a few weeks before suddenly morphing into polished players once their clubs gained an extra year of service time. Some teams, however, unexpectedly skirted those formalities.
The Chicago White Sox bought out Eloy Jimenez's arbitration years with a six-year contract before he made a major league appearance. With no financial incentive to delay his debut, the prized slugger made the Opening Day starting lineup.
Injuries to Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier cleared a role for Pete Alonso, who crushed his way on to the New York Mets with a sizzling spring. Perhaps most surprising of all, the San Diego Padres showed they mean business by welcoming shortstop Fernando Tatis and pitcher Chris Paddack to the majors.
Those four neophytes would have made excellent sleeper picks if drafting weeks ago. For those procrastinators assembling rosters after the season commenced, good luck getting any of them at a reasonable rate.
Anyone who wants Jimenez, Alonso, Paddack or Tatis in a late draft likely must reach a round or three. It should also be far too late to snatch any of them off the waiver wire, so they no longer qualify as sleepers.
After ranking the top rookies for 2019 re-draft leagues—the list would look much different for dynasty formats—let's instead highlight two rookie hitters trending in the opposite direction. Whether starting on the bench or in the minors, these exciting prospects could fall through the cracks.
While the other pitcher is on the rise, he may still merely require a bench flier.
Top Fantasy Baseball Rookies (2019 Re-Draft)
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, TOR
2. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CHW
3. Victor Robles, OF, WAS
4. Pete Alonso, 1B, NYM
5. Chris Paddack, SP, SD
6. Garrett Hampson, 2B, COL
7. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, SD
8. Nick Senzel, 2B/3B, CIN
9. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU
10. Kyle Wright, SP, ATL
11. Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU
12. Austin Hays, OF, BAL
13. Jesus Luzardo, SP, OAK
14. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
15. Luis Urias, 2B/SS, SD
Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Nothing thrills the fantasy community more than an incoming prospect with boundless potential. That joy, however, quickly evaporates if he's not immediately awesome.
Last season, everyone giddily awaited Kyle Tucker's debut. They had good reason for excitement, as the outfielder batted .332/.400/.590 in Triple-A.
Promoted in July, he proceeded to go 9-for-64 without a home run in a minuscule sample size. Just like that, 2019 drafters treated MLB.com's No. 8 prospect as yesterday's news.
While Tucker begins the season in the minors, his path back to the majors is far from perilous.
Josh Reddick is a solid starter, but not someone who demands job immunity on a World Series contender. He also hasn't played 135 or more games in any of the past three seasons.
Carlos Correa missed Opening Day with a neck injury. Although he's slated to play on Sunday, a prolonged absence could open up a spot for Tucker.
Michael Brantley played just 101 games in 2016 and 2017 combined, so expect Tucker to work his way back to Houston this season. Don't discount an elite talent with five-category upside because of 72 poor plate appearances.
Garrett Hampson, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Just a few days ago, Garrett Hampson would have joined the rookies from the introduction who carry too much hype to ascertain at a fair cost. Although a recent development may jeopardize this buying opportunity, his price may still drop in light of Ryan McMahon's starts at second base for the Colorado Rockies.
Hampson earned an extended look and fantasy adoration by tallying four home runs and seven steals in spring training. But so did McMahon, who went 25-for-59 with nine doubles and three long balls.
While Hampson also made the Opening Day roster, the 24-year-old middle infielder didn't start until the season's third game. Just like that, an immensely popular sleeper could fall by the wayside.
There's too much upside to give up so soon. A career .315/.389/.457 hitter in three minor league seasons, Hampson swiped 123 of 146 tries. Give him playing time in Coors Field, and he will make a major dent.
"We have a lot of good players, so there is no way I'm bitter," Hampson told the Denver Post's Patrick Saunders on Friday. "I'm not freaking out or worrying about anything. I know my time will come."
The following day, he started at second with McMahon handling first-base duties. It appears his time is now:
If Daniel Murphy is sidelined, Hampson and McMahon should both receive regular reps. Perhaps they both can lock down starting roles after Murphy's return if the Rockies realize Ian Desmond is a sunk cost no longer worth salvaging.
Kyle Wright, SP, Atlanta Braves
Injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman opened up spots in the Atlanta Braves' rotation. Despite allowing 10 runs in 12.2 spring frames, Kyle Wright impressed enough to lock down a chance.
Although a poor final outing derailed his strong spring, the 23-year-old righty also compiled 18 strikeouts. The No. 5 pick in 2017 posted a 3.46 ERA in the minors last season with a 54.5 ground-ball rate in 20 Double-A turns, per FanGraphs.
The Vanderbilt alum brings a polished four-pitch repertoire to the table, and he even reached triple digits on the radar gun earlier in March:
Sam Dykstra @SamDykstraMiLB
#Braves RHP Kyle Wright's first inning: 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 18 pitches, 9 strikes. Fastball sat mostly between 94-96. Topped out at 100 on his second pitch of the game but walked that batter on five pitches. Got more under control as inning went on. Both K's came on breaking stuff.
It's also possible, however, that Wright's big-league stay is short. Gausman and Foltynewicz may both rejoin the squad in early April. Starting with Sunday's season debut over the Philadelphia Phillies, Wright must quickly prove his merit to outlast Max Fried and Bryse Wilson.
Wright is a worthy dart throw in the final rounds. Drafters could enjoy a promising breakout arm, but there's no harm in dropping him otherwise. Such roster flexibility is ideal to pounce on early-season breakouts.