Bring out the bats! In this fantasy baseball sleeper series, we have gone through part one and part two of the pitchers. It is now time to go through the hitters. As previously stated, the classification as a fantasy baseball sleeper is if they are ranked 100 spots or higher than their ADP on my rankings list. This is part one of the hitting edition of sleepers.
Ryan Braun has been one of the most polarizing figures in recent baseball history. But we aren’t here to talk about Braun’s PED past. We are much more interested in the 2020 version of Ryan Braun. Right now Braun’s Fantrax ADP is 283.65 which makes sense. Braun is now 36 years old and is being limited to a platoon role in what is likely his final season. However, Braun hasn’t seen a major decline in production and will be hitting in the middle of a very good lineup against lefties. In 2019, Braun hit .285/.343/.505 with a .354 wOBA and .32 BB/K. Braun hit 22 home runs, scored 70 runs, and drove in 75 RBIs in 509 plate appearances. While Braun is now a year deeper into his decline, he is still much more valuable than people have been giving him credit for.
According to Fangraphs projections Braun is proj. to hit between .265-.270/.326-.329/.461-.487 while hitting 18-20 home runs, scoring 58-61 runs, and driving in 62-69 RBIs with 8-9 SB in 450-466 PAs. That sort of production is the baseline for Ryan Braun. Here are the three players in each direction surrounding Braun’s current ADP: Tom Murphy, Travis d’Arnaud, Ian Happ, Ryan Braun, Nick Madrigal, Mitch Haniger, and Cesar Hernandez. Ryan Braun is clearly the cream of that crop and deserves to be so much higher in ADP. Especially once you factor in the quality of the lineup he will be hitting in.
There isn’t much to get excited about when it comes to the Baltimore Orioles. Especially when looking at the major league level. However, there is an under the radar outfielder on the Orioles who is only 25 years old and hit 20 home runs in just 93 games last season. Anthony Santander has a couple of things going against him. Being stuck in the middle of a pathetic lineup with no support is one of them. However, Santander gets the benefit of hitting in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards. Santander got his first taste of the show last season where he hit .261/.297/.476 in 93 games. He also hit 20 home runs, scored 46 runs, and drove in 59 RBIs.
The Fangraphs projection systems have Santander regressing due to never showing those numbers before last season. However, even with the regression, Santander is still expected to hit 20-24 home runs, score 60-71 runs, and drive in 63-77 RBIs. That is a quality baseline of production and his age offers an upside that is not represented by his current ADP.
Th Angels should be an exciting team this season. Their acquisition of Anthony Rendon brings a perennial MVP caliber bat into the middle of their lineup that already has Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton. That is an underrated boost to the hitters already in that lineup, players like Andrelton Simmons. While dealing with injuries, Simmons put up a line of .264/.309/.364 with a .290 wOBA, seven home runs, 47 runs scored, 40 RBIs, and ten SB. However, that was in only 424 PAs. Before 2019 Simmons had PA counts of 600 in ’18 and 647 in ’17.
According to the Fangraphs projection systems Simmons should produce a .265-.278/.314-.327/.380-.404 line with 9-11 home runs, 59-65 runs scored, 57-63 RBIs, and 9-12 SB across 528-574 PA. Fangraphs projects a bounce back from Simmons considering he should be healthy and is surrounded by a stronger lineup. Simmons’ current ADP of 327.93 is much too low and he currently sits behind Nick Ahmed, Freddy Galvis, and Willy Adames. Don’t sleep on Andrelton Simmons.
The Boston Red Sox are on a downhill trajectory. In this off-season alone they traded away their most productive hitter in Mookie Betts and lost their most productive pitcher, Chris Sale, to Tommy John surgery. However, the Red Sox still have a quality lineup and we shouldn’t forget about them when it comes to fantasy baseball. One of those sneaky valuable players is Jackie Bradley Jr. JBJ’s value is much easier to quantify in real baseball as an elite defender in the outfielder. However, we don’t care about defense in fantasy baseball. Fortunately, his glove will keep him in the lineup on a regular basis.
JBJ hit to a line of .225/.317/.421 in 2019 and the Fangraphs projections systems expect a similar outcome in 2020. What isn’t seen in these numbers is the counting stats. JBJ managed to hit 21 home runs, scored 69 runs, and drove in 62 RBIs while stealing eight bases as well. These numbers are identical to what he is projected for in 2020. There is something to be said for an outfielder who is going to get 500+ PAs and produce league average stats. Especially at this point in the draft.
Catching is something that is always extremely difficult to find when it comes to fantasy baseball. However, there are some nice value catchers towards the back end of drafts this year. One of them is Kurt Suzuki. Part-time catchers are always tough to draft but Suzuki should be an exception. Why? Because Suzuki is still raking the baseball. Even at 36 years old.
In 2019, Suzuki hit a line of .264/.324/.486 in 85 games. That line produced 17 home runs, 37 runs scored, and 63 RBIs. The Fangraphs projection systems have Suzuki hitting almost the same as last year with the exception that none of the systems have any clue how much Suzuki is going to play. They currently project him to play between 65-86 games. That is a wide range of outcomes. However, finding skills like Suzuki’s at this point in the draft is near impossible. Therefore, drafting the skills and hoping for the playing time is not a bad idea.