Fantasy Baseball 2021: Sleeper Hitters and Pitchers for MLB Week 4

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Fantasy Baseball 2021: Sleeper Hitters and Pitchers for MLB Week 4

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    As much as fantasy baseball managers don't want to overreact to tiny sample sizes early in the season, things happen quickly on the waiver wire.

    One week, Carlos Rodon is getting slept on in the majority of fantasy leagues. Then, he spins a no-hitter with seven strikeouts, and he's suddenly rostered in all but the shallowest of leagues (86 percent of all Yahoo leagues, per FantasyPros).

    That's an extreme example in terms of result, but the process can play out that quickly.

    Let's not waste any more time, then, and get around to identifying fantasy sleepers—available in 50-plus percent of Yahoo leagues—who can help with the remainder of Week 4 and beyond.

Anthony DeSclafani, SP, San Francisco Giants

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Anthony DeSclafani has never mustered up much excitement in the fantasy community. Only two of his first six seasons produced a sub-4.00 ERA, he never posted double-digit wins, and his career strikeout rate is a forgettable 8.0 per nine innings pitched.

    But waiver-wire shoppers aren't always looking for excitement. Sometimes, you're simply in the market for reliability, and that's where the 31-year-old could be a big help.

    Everything about his 2021 stat line is rock-solid or better. He has two quality starts in three tries and a tiny 1.06 ERA through 17 innings. He has 16 strikeouts with only four walks so far, and three of those free passes came in his first outing.

    The San Francisco Giants have had something of a Midas touch with veteran hurlers—Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly last season—and DeSclafani could be their next success story.

    He draws an inconsistent Philadelphia Phillies lineup on Wednesday, then gets an absolute gem to open next week with a home date against the lightly hitting Colorado Rockies.

Avisail Garcia, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    With the removal of the universal DH, Avisail Garcia didn't have the cleanest path to regular playing time entering the season.

    The injury bug has since taken care of that—temporarily, at least. A once crowded Brewers outfield now has two holes with Christian Yelich (lower back strain) and Lorenzo Cain (quadriceps) both on the injured list.

    Give Garcia consistent at-bats, and he's the kind of fantasy contributor you'll want in your lineup. He may not wow in any single category, but he'll make his presence felt in most. In 2019, he managed 20 homers, 10 steals and 133 combined runs and RBI in only 125 games.

    A similar speed-power blend could be in the works this season. The 29-year-old already has three homers (and 20 combined runs and RBI), and while he has only stolen one base, he's been caught twice.

    Obviously, you'd like to see a better success rate, but the fact that Garcia is willing to run is notable on its own. He could easily be active enough on the basepath for another double-digit stolen base total.

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    No stranger to long-term fantasy players, Joey Votto had fallen off the radar in recent years with declines in all things hitting that seemed easily attributable to his age (37 as of last September).

    It resulted in a midseason benching in 2020, which made him rethink his approach and eventually spawned his return to fantasy relevance. After hitting .191 with three home runs over his first 25 games last season, he closed the campaign with a .258 average and eight homers over his final 29 outings.

    "I'm probably best suited to include more error and get back to my natural approach," Votto told reporters this spring. "And I did last year. That gave me confidence last year and certainly this offseason. I'm as excited as I've been maybe in my major league career to start a major league season."

    That excitement hadn't materialized too much earlier this season, when he batted .162 without an extra-base hit in his first nine games. But entering Tuesday, he raked to the tune of a .435 average with three doubles, three homers and seven RBI over his subsequent six games.

    Votto knows how to hit—lifetime .304 batting average, 298 homers—and if he's finally back on track, he could become a fantasy fixture for the remainder of the season.