Fantasy Baseball 2021: Ranking Sleepers to Track for MLB Week 16July 28, 2021
As the MLB trade deadline looms on Friday, fantasy managers are facing their own roster crunches.
This season has been more brutal than usual with a number of soft tissue injuries across the league raising the number of star players on the injured list. But that has opened the door for even more lesser-known players to take advantage of opportunities.
That's how Gavin Sheets went from being locked on a Triple-A club to hitting bombs in the middle of the Chicago White Sox batting order and how Ross Stripling briefly entered "must-start" territory with the Toronto Blue Jays in early July.
Here's a look at the next wave of sleepers to keep an eye on as fantasy managers close in on the postseason.
1. Spenser Watkins, SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles
Rostered in just 33 percent of Fantrax leagues, Spenser Watkins made a big impression on July 11 when he held the White Sox to four hits and one run over four innings at home.
By keeping one of the league's hottest lineups relatively quiet on the road, the 28-year-old starter gave Baltimore more than enough time to build a lead over Chicago before an eventual 7-5 loss.
On the road at the Tampa Bay Rays in his next game, Watkins proved even more productive, with four hits, one earned run and seven strikeouts over six innings in a 6-1 victory.
The Western Oregon product saw his strong streak ruthlessly snapped in his last start on Tuesday, when he gave up four earned runs on nine hits over four innings to the Miami Marlins, but that appears to be only a blip.
For managers in leagues that don't penalize pitcher losses or care for pitcher wins, Watkins is worth a flier on waivers or a small bid.
Given the rookie is still in his pre-arbitration years, dynasty teams may want to stash him a bit longer just in case he becomes the next John Means.
2. Ronald Torreyes, 2B/3B/SS, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are furiously attempting to catch the New York Mets atop the National League East, and Ronald Torreyes is the latest major contributor to help tighten that division race.
The 28-year-old is batting .333 since the All-Star break and knocked his fourth home run of the season on Sunday. Available in 90 percent of Fantrax leagues, he carries solid position eligibility in the infield and could give fantasy managers an extra utility man to work with.
Torreyes may not be an everyday starter in fantasy, but he's looking more and more like a solid depth piece who can contribute when called up. That certainly makes him matchup-dependent—he's batting .308 against left-handers this seasons versus .261 against righties—and some managers should watch closely before they deploy.
Still, we're talking deep sleepers late in the season. Torreyes spent the first six years of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins before joining the Phillies. If this is the first you're hearing of him, there's a reason for that: The Venezuelan's career slash line sits at .276/.309/.375.
As good as he's played in July, regression is likely coming at some point.
3. Noe Ramirez, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sometimes the player you're looking at is such a sleeper you have to dream a bit yourself. That may be the case with Arizona's Noe Ramirez.
At 31 years old, this is probably what the former Los Angeles Angels reliever offers: a veteran bullpen presence who isn't going to cost you games but isn't going to pick up many wins by himself. MLB managers might not love that, but it's more than serviceable for fantasy managers.
So is this: In 10 of his last outings, he's picked up seven holds. For the time being, the eighth inning belongs to Ramirez, who is doing a fair job setting the table for Arizona closer Joakim Soria. The only issue with that is how rarely the opportunities present themselves to the D-backs.
Arizona (31-71) is last in the National League West and won't be turning that around anytime soon.
A 2.95 ERA, 0.927 WHIP and 15 strikeouts over 18.1 innings pitched isn't exactly stellar, but in leagues where saves and holds count, Ramirez's work is more than notable. He's a legitimate option for fantasy managers who need a boost in those categories.
Those managers will also have to be patient with a D-backs offense that rarely puts its pitchers in a position to seal a win in later innings.