Fantasy Baseball 2021: Sleepers, Busts and Final MLB Mock Draft

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IMarch 25, 2021

Fantasy Baseball 2021: Sleepers, Busts and Final MLB Mock Draft

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    Fantasy baseball managers have especially tough choices to make in 2021.

    The 60-game schedule in 2020 brought about a number of brilliant seasons and breakout performances. But the imperative question becomes whether these players can maintain that level of success over the course of a full campaign. Some players might be going higher than they should, whereas others could be diamonds in the rough.

    Let's take a look at some potential sleepers to consider and busts to avoid. Some guys might be considered busts if their current average draft position (ADP) is too high. 

Full 1st-Round Mock Draft

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    1. OF Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

    2. OF Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

    3. OF Juan Soto, Washington Nationals

    4. SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

    5. OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    6. SP Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

    7. SS Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

    8. SP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

    9. 3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland

    10. SS Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

    11. OF Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

    12. SP Shane Bieber, Cleveland

Potential Sleepers

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    C Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays

    There are not a ton of premium hitting catchers out there. But Kirk is capable of being that guy.

    The 22-year-old made his debut with the Blue Jays in 2020, hitting .375 with a homer in nine games. Small sample size? Absolutely. However, the advanced numbers suggest Kirk has a lot of value.

    Kirk had an average exit velocity of 95 mph and a hard-hit in 20 batted ball events (BBE). That would seem to forecast legitimate slugging upside. Indeed, the Blue Jays backstop has been terrific this spring, hitting .318 with a pair of homers in 10 games.

    It should be noted Toronto has not named Kirk to the big league roster. He has yet to play above High-A aside from last year's time spent in the bigs. But Kirk has an overall ADP of 303 and is being drafted 19th among catchers.

    If nothing else, he is worth stashing on the bench. Even if he does not begin the season in the majors, he has more upside than fellow Jays catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.


    1B Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers

    The Detroit Tigers do not have a ton of big names. One of their biggest names, Miguel Cabrera, is in the twilight of his career.

    Perhaps that is the reason corner infielder Jeimer Candelario is flying under the radar.

    Candelario hit .297 with seven homers and an .872 OPS in 2020. He ranked in the 86th percentile in hard-hit rate and 70th percentile in expected slugging (xSLG). He ranked 42nd in max exit velocity among qualified hitters in 2019 and 77th in 2020. 

    The 27-year-old has the position to be a run-producer in the Tigers lineup as a switch-hitter with some pop from both sides of the dish. His 287 overall ADP and qualification as both a first and third baseman present strong value.


    SP Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees

    Jameson Taillon has not pitched since 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery that August. But he is looking sharp in camp.

    The right-hander has 14 strikeouts in 8.1 innings this spring. Taillon has displayed his full repertoire, with sharp command of the fastball and terrific breaking stuff. He looks like he might well build on the 2018 version that posted a 3.20 ERA in 191.0 innings.

    There is always risk drafting players coming off injury. However, Taillon could well end up being far more valuable than his current ADP. He is being drafted a consensus 196th overall and 77th among pitchers. 

    At 29, the best might be yet to come for Taillon. He could exceed fantasy expectations.

Potential Busts

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    SP Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers

    This blurb will not be all that long.

    Trevor Bauer is coming off a season in which he won the National League Cy Young. He will always have value as a strikeout pitcher. However, the brash right-hander has had a sub-4.00 ERA just twice in his career and once (2018) over the course of a full season.

    Fantasy managers are high on Bauer. He has an overall ADP of 14 and is going fifth among pitchers. But those managers could regret selecting him over the likes of Walker Buehler, Lucas Giolito and Max Scherzer.


    Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals

    Adalberto Mondesi's value comes especially in his ability to steal bases.

    The 25-year-old stole a combined 75 bases between 2018 and 2019. He led baseball with 24 thefts in 2020. But is it worth reaching for Mondesi if that is the extent of his value?

    Mondesi has a career .699 OPS and 91 OPS+. He has also dealt with a number of injuries, including shoulder surgery in 2019. Does that sound like a guy worthy of going 27th overall and seventh among shortstops in terms of ADP, especially when Xander Bogaerts and Corey Seager are being drafted below him?

    Granted, Mondesi had a six homers and a 1.075 OPS in the final month of 2020. But the overall production just hasn't met the upside.


    Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox

    Make no mistake about it: Luis Robert is a five-tool talent. But worthy of a top-40 pick and being in the top 10 among outfielders? Maybe not.

    Robert hit 11 home runs in 2020. He also had a 32.2 percent strikeout rate and ranked in the bottom 2 percent of baseball in whiff rate.

    The strikeouts have still been piling up this spring (13 in 45 plate appearances), which is not terribly encouraging for fantasy owners. Plus, the power numbers could be at least slightly deceptive considering Robert ranked in the 34th percentile in average exit velocity.

    Robert is only 23 and has ample time to make adjustments. But drafting him over more reliable offensive center fielders such as George Springer and center field qualifiers like Michael Conforto is questionable at best.


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted. All fantasy information obtained via FantasyPros