Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers

Boston Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec is a 2021 fantasy baseball draft value. His ADP is undervalued, making him a potential draft bargain and late-round sleeper to target. While the top fantasy baseball assets provide the floor for your team, finding sleepers.

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Sep 3, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) hits a two run home run against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Yankee Stadium.

Over the last three seasons, we've seen 75 starting pitchers drafted in the top 100 in ADP, an average of 25 per season. How many of those have finished as a top-100 overall player that season? 10 in each season, or just 40%. 22 of those 75 finished outside of the top-250, so you were only slightly more likely to get a top-100 player from your early-round pitcher as you were to get a player who wasn't worth rostering in most leagues.

Pitching is always a risky investment, in other words. Of course, there's a big difference between a pitcher drafted in the first two rounds and ones drafted in the eighth or ninth round, right? Well, last season, only two pitchers drafted in the top two rounds ended up finishing inside of the top-100 players, though six out of eight managed it in 2019 and 2018, including five top-36 finishes.

Which is to say, while pitching is a risky investment, that risk doesn't typically rise with the cost. The most expensive are the most expensive because they are the rare pitchers who have both elite production and a track record of health to back it up; outside of the first few rounds is when you start to see the guys who could be aces, but who have one or more question marks around them.

If we consider a top-100 overall finish to be a 'hit' for a starting pitcher, here's the hit rate among pitchers based on NFC ADP round over the last three seasons:

  • Rounds 1-2: 8/14 (57.1%)
  • Rounds 3-4: 7/23 (30.4%)
  • Rounds 5-6: 12/22 (54.5%)
  • Rounds 7-8: 3/17 (17.6%)

And if we consider a top-50 finish a 'smash', here's what it looks like:

  • Rounds 1-2: 7/14 (50.0%)
  • Rounds 3-4: 6/23 (26.1%)
  • Rounds 5-6: 6/22 (27.3%)
  • Rounds 7-8: 2/17 (11.7%)

At least over the last three seasons, you had a worse chance of hitting on a starting pitcher in Rounds 3 and 4 than you did in Rounds 5 and 6, and your chances of getting a good return on your investment was well below 50% for all pitchers outside of the top 24. The hit and smash rate for hitters is higher at every point in the draft, too.

So, does that mean you should buck the trend of pushing pitchers up draft boards and focus on hitting early? Well, not necessarily -- early pitchers are better investments than later pitchers, after all, and you still need good pitchers to contend in Fantasy. However, it's worth remembering that, at least over the last three seasons, SP6-12 in ADP have been about as likely to hit as SP13-20, so it might be smarter to still treat the second tier of starters with more skepticism. That's not to say you should skip the Walker Buehler (18.3 overall) through Luis Castillo (30.8) tier in ADP, but that you should include the Zac Gallen (40.5) through Carlos Carrasco (59.8) group in that same tier.

And this may be more true for 2021 than any season ever, given how many more question marks we have at the position than usual. Pitching is always volatile, but now we're coming off a season where nobody threw more than 100 innings, including the post season, meaning there are significant workload concerns and sample-size issues across the board, in addition to the normal attrition rate at the position?

Was Trevor Bauer's breakout for real? Was Max Scherzer's inflated ERA a sign of the end of his run as a dominant starter? Was Ian Anderson's late-season run for real? What about Corbin Burnes? Those are all questions you'll have to have an answer for fairly early on in your drafts.

My ideal start would probably see me end up with one of the top three pitchers -- Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, and Gerrit Cole -- and then focus on hitter for a few rounds, before dipping back into the pitching pool in Round 4-8. But, you might find pitchers going off the board so fast this season that you can't help but invest early. At least now you know the risk you're taking on.

Starting Pitcher Preview

25. Sonny Gray

26. Dinelson Lamet

27. Kyle Hendricks

28. Max Fried

29. Zack Wheeler

30. Jose Berrios

31. Chris Paddack

32. Framber Valdez

33. Ian Anderson

34. Dylan Bundy

35. Jesus Luzardo

36. Charlie Morton

37. Lance McCullers

38. Sixto Sanchez

39. Julio Urias

40. Patrick Corbin

41. Sandy Alcantara

42. Kevin Gausman

43. Joe Musgrove

44. Pablo Lopez

45. Mike Soroka

46. German Marquez

47. Frankie Montas

48. Marco Gonzales

Don't forget about ..
Starting Pitcher Sleeper, Breakout, & Bust
Starting Pitcher Top Prospects

1. MacKenzie Gore, Padres

Age (on opening day): 22

Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K

The left-hander was suspiciously bypassed for the Padres' postseason push, with some chatter about him possibly underachieving at the alternate training site. But there are no challengers to his top spot among pitching prospects, and with his high leg kick, big extension and deep arsenal of four plus pitches, he's well equipped to dominate.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: fighting this spring

2. Ian Anderson, Braves

Age (on opening day): 22

Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A

2019 minors: 8-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 135 2/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K

2020 majors: 3-2, 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 32 1/3 IP, 14 BB, 42 K

The No. 3 pick back in 2016 had mostly gathered detractors since then, but it all clicked for him at the alternate training site, where he refined his changeup into a true put-away pitch on the level of Luis Castillo. From his one-hit debut against the Yankees to his three scoreless playoff outings, he showed unusual confidence in a three-pitch mix that included a loopy curveball.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: pencil him in

3. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 22

Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 8-6, 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 114 IP, 21 BB, 103 K

2020 majors: 3-2, 3.46 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 39 IP, 11 BB, 33 K

The questions about Sanchez's strikeout potential persist, but he actually had a better swinging-strike rate in his major-league stint than Anderson and dominated the other two legs of the FIP triangle with an elite strike percentage and sinking 98 mph fastball. Those two skills will take him far even if he never fully develops the third.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: pencil him in

4. Michael Kopech, White Sox

Age (on opening day): 24

Where he played in 2019: did not play -- injured

2018 minors: 7-7, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 170 K

2018 majors: 1-1, 5.02 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 14 1/3 IP, 2 BB, 15 K

The prospect hype for Kopech has gone a bit stale because of some uneven minor-league performances followed by Tommy John surgery followed by his decision to opt out last year. His fastball was as breathtaking as ever in spring training, though, and he made huge strides in the control area prior to the 2018 promotion that ended with him hurting his elbow.

Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: fighting this spring

5. Nate Pearson, Blue Jays

Age (on opening day): 24

Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A

2019 minors: 5-4, 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 119 K

2020 majors: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 18 IP, 13 BB, 16 K

Pearson was one of several high-profile pitching prospects who didn't quite pan out in 2020, his big fastball and wipeout slider failing to translate to whiffs as expected, but he ended on a high note, striking out five in two scoreless playoff innings following an IL stint. HIs careful handling to this point may hinder his progression some.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: fighting this spring

6. Tarik Skubal, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 24

Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 6-8, 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 122 2/3 IP, 37 BB, 179 K

2020 majors: 1-4, 5.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 32 IP, 11 BB, 37 K

Skubal's secondary pitches are a little underdeveloped since he was able to dominate using mostly his fastball in the minors, notably averaging 17.4 K/9 in nine Double-A starts. But he gained confidence in changeup during his major-league stint and ended it on a high note. The tools are there.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: pencil him in

7. Casey Mize, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 23

Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 8-3, 2.55 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 106 K

2020 majors: 0-3, 6.99 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 28 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 26 K Sepels sportsbet app.

Mize's debut in 2020 was memorable only because of how unimpressive it was, and despite him being the first pick in 2018, many evaluators aren't extending the same grace to him that they are to, say, Nate Pearson. His pitches are impressive individually, but since they're all variations of a fastball (splitter, cutter, etc.), he may need to go back to the lab for more.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: fighting this spring

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers Printable

8. Matt Manning, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 23

Where he played in 2019: Double-A

2019 minors: 11-5, 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 133 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 148 K

Mlb Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2018

The third of the Tigers' big pitching prospects is the most conventional and the favorite of some evaluators, but a forearm strain prevented him from debuting alongside the other two. Blessed with height and extension as the son of an NBA player, his high-90s fastball and downer curve have made him a consistent bat-misser in the minors.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: midseason hopeful

9. Logan Gilbert, Mariners

Age (on opening day): 23

Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 10-5, 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 135 IP, 33 BB, 165 K

Gilbert dominated across three levels in 2019, which might have positioned him to debut if he had a better team or a longer schedule to work with in 2020. His velocity has picked up since signing and plays up because of the extension on his 6-foot-6 frame, but it's his four pitches and command of each that make him largely foolproof.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: midseason hopeful

10. Spencer Howard, Phillies

Age (on opening day): 24

Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Double-A

2019 minors: 3-1, 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 71 IP, 16 BB, 94 K

2020 majors: 1-2, 5.92 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 24 1/3 IP, 10 BB, 23 K

Howard had barely played above A-ball prior to his debut, and while his velocity was down in 2020, his slider still played up nicely, presenting a path to success even if his development slows from here. He was shut down early with a stiff shoulder, too, so it's likely we weren't even seeing him operate at full capacity.Scott's 2021 Fantasy impact: pencil him in

So which 2021 Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.

The draft is the most exciting date on the fantasy baseball calendar, as the decisions you make during the draft set the table for your season.

Are you prepared to find the hidden gems that will set your team apart? Have you scouted the next superstar waiting to rise to the top of the Player Rater? Can you navigate the player pool and avoid the busts that will leave you with regrets all season long?

Below, our experts predict the players they consider to be sleepers, breakouts and busts for the 2018 season. Here's a quick guide to what we mean by these categories ..

Sleeper: A player set to exceed the value implied by his average draft position. Each analyst has provided an early-round sleeper, a midround sleeper and a sleeper you can find at the end of your drafts.

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers Fantasy Football

Breakout: A player poised to enter the upper echelon of the fantasy game via a big step forward, reaching a new level of play for the first time in his career. Our analysts have picked an early breakout player who could deliver first-round value, a midround sleeper who could return value of a top-50 player and a rookie who could jump straight to fantasy stardom.

Bust: A player who will disappoint relative to his average draft position. Our experts have picked players set to disappoint as expected first-round selections, disappointments in the early to middle rounds and rookies who won't live up to expectations.

Yoan Moncada: Moncada boasts power, speed, plate discipline, a middle-infield starting spot and a place near the top of a potentially interesting lineup, all at age 22. OK, he could have been better last year, but he was still a rookie. This is a 20-homer, 30-steal profile, at least, and even if he hits only .260 or so thanks to the strikeouts, that makes him a top-100 player with the potential for considerably more, considering he can contribute in every offensive category. The breakout is still coming! -- Eric Karabell

Top Mlb Fantasy Sleepers

Manuel Margot: Margot always profiled as a leadoff option with stolen base potential, and then in his rookie season, he swatted 13 home runs in 126 games as well. The Padres should score many more runs than they did in 2017, and Margot at the top is key as a potential five-category option. Margot was not supposed to hit for much power, but the underlying figures show that his rookie power was legit. Margot is certainly capable of more than 30 stolen bases, with expected gains in batting average and runs pending as well. -- Eric Karabell

Bryce Harper: Harper has achieved historic numbers, with 150 home runs before turning 25, but he is a risk in Round 1. Durability is a problem, but the numbers are inconsistent as well. Sure, Harper could hit 50 home runs .. but he has topped 30 once in six seasons. He could win a batting title .. but he has hit .275 twice. Finally, Harper attempted all of six stolen bases last season. It would not be surprising if Harper matches his 2015 MVP campaign and tops Mike Trout in value .. but it is fair to point out that Harper has reached expectations in only one of his six seasons for fantasy. -- Eric Karabell

Byron Buxton: Some might claim he already 'broke out,' as Buxton's .300/.347/.546 slash rates, 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 57 games played after the All-Star break made him a top-40 performer in terms of fantasy baseball earnings, but to this point of his career, including that stretch, he has been a wildly unpredictable performer. One of the reasons I believe in Buxton's strong finish -- and note, I expect him to regress to closer to a .260 batting average but with similar power/speed -- is that a significant tweak to his batting stance fueled much of it. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Willie Calhoun: There's always a rookie who comes from nowhere to put forth near-Rookie of the Year numbers, and the ones I typically draft possess high floors, likely to translate smoothly to the big leagues, and are rarely noticed. Calhoun fits the bill: He's a virtual lock to start -- or at least be on the strong side of a platoon -- in left field for the Texas Rangers, and he was one of three players in pro ball last season with at least 30 home runs and an 85 percent contact rate (along with Francisco Lindor and Joey Votto). -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers Cheat

Alex Reyes: While I like Reyes' skill set a lot -- he'll be someone I acquire in dynasty formats -- his 2018 role is uncertain, as it's his first year following Tommy John surgery, and he has never exceeded 111 1/3 innings in a single pro year. Coming off a year in which the multi-inning reliever was back in vogue, especially during the postseason, Reyes makes a heckuva lot of sense to the St. Louis Cardinals in a Chris Devenski-esque role as he works his way back. That, unfortunately, is a role of limited fantasy appeal. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Matt Duffy: Here's a guy who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 behind Kris Bryant. In 2016, he was traded to the Rays for the stretch drive but almost immediately got hurt and then had to sit out all of last season due to surgery. All signs point to Duffy being 100 percent healthy headed into 2018, and Tampa Bay has doubled-down on the third baseman, having traded Evan Longoria to the Giants. If everything clicks, we could have 20-20 production from a guy who might not even show up on some fantasy draft lists due to the goose egg in stats he had in 2017. That's not too shabby. -- AJ Mass

Luis Castillo: In his final five starts of the 2017 season, Castillo had a 1.86 ERA, a .158 BAA and a 12.1 K/9. He has a fastball that averages 97.5 mph and clearly was able to adjust to the majors after his leap from Double-A in June after a rocky start (4.05 ERA, .243 BAA in his first seven starts of the season). Sure, he could flame out like far too many young arms before him. However, it's also not unrealistic that he'll finish the season in the top five in strikeouts, with an ERA around 3.00 and at least a dozen wins under his belt. I'd call that a breakout. -- AJ Mass

Tyler Chatwood: We always upgrade hitters in a big way when they go to Colorado, so why do we not treat pitchers leaving the thin air with similar levels of excitement? Over the past two seasons, Chatwood's road ERA is lower than that of Max Scherzer and Chris Sale. Heard of those guys? I'm not saying he is on that level, but for those of you who draft an ace to lead your staff and then wait on pitching .. Chatwood should be on your radar. -- Kyle Soppe

Fantasy Baseball 2018 Sleepers 2020

Elvis Andrus: None of his production from last season is going to help you this year, so be careful about how high you draft him. Andrus' stock skyrocketed last season thanks in large part to 20 homers .. or, you know, three more than he hit in the previous three seasons combined. He has been successful on less than 71 percent of his stolen base attempts the past four seasons, so I worry that both his ceiling and his floor aren't as high as most seem to be assuming. -- Kyle Soppe

Top mlb fantasy sleepers

Sleeper Pitchers Fantasy Baseball

Alex Bregman: It's easy to find power in today's fantasy baseball landscape. Everything else seems to come at a premium. As such, a player who can do 'everything else' while essentially keeping up with the power guys is incredibly valuable. Enter Bregman, who was fantastic during the second half of last season, finishing with a post-All-Star break wRC+ on par with names such as Arenado, Judge and Lindor. He's delivering on his prospect promise and should take another step forward in 2018. -- Leo Howell