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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Sleepers NL Edition

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Valentine’s Day may be over but let’s continue to spread the love with a look at NL sleepers.

Is Jacob deGrom being undervalued in early 2017 rankings? Him and more, including a lot of NL East pitchers.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Top 250
Check out the AL Edition here

Welcome to Part 2 of my sleepers! This time we will look at the National league. Again, my definition of a sleeper is simply a player I would take a round or more earlier than the Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR). Without further delay, let’s dive right in.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks – Brandon Drury, 3B/OF My Rank 239 ECR Rank 391

Drury is projected to open up the season at 2B for the Diamondbacks. I’m not sure why a starting player in a great ballpark is ranked so poorly by experts. There might not be any MVPs or even All-Star games for him, but the 24 year old put up solid numbers at multiple positions last season. The Diamondbacks seem committed to help him grow into a better hitter this year as well. The flexibility he provides helps his case for more AB in 2017 as many of the current Diamondback starters have injury concerns. An end of the draft selection who can hit 20+ HR with a good AVG needs to be looked at more seriously.

Colorado Rockies – DJ LeMahieu, SP My Rank 66 ECR Rank 92

LeMahieu was a top 40 player last season and is probably a better points league grab than roto. That being said, a career .300 hitter who will get half his games at Coors Field is always a strong option. The Rockies offense should improve as well. LeMahieu has proven to be a decent speed option and should get 15-20 SB. That value going as late as the 10th round should be a steal for fantasy owners.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Logan Forsythe, 2B My Rank 163 ECR Rank 198

Let’s take a look at a player comparison. Player A hit .273/.366/.431 with 15HR 66RBI 9SB. Player B hit .273/.347/.444 with 18HR 60RBI 8SB. Pretty similar huh? Player A is Ben Zobrist’s average production over the past five seasons. Player B is Forsythe’s average production over the past two seasons. Zobrist is going about 50 picks sooner than Forsythe in ECR. I have them back-to-back. Forsythe is now playing for a better team than in the past. Forsythe will give the owner who drafts him a positive return.
Bonus Sleeper Yasiel Puig
Top 20 OF upside going outside the top 200. Worst case, you drop him a month into the season. I say, worth the risk that late in the draft.

Yasiel Puig had a disappointing 2016. Will he ever be the MVP candidate many believed?

San Diego Padres – Brandon Maurer, RP My Rank 265 ECR Rank 285

San Diego has one top 250 player (Wil Myers) and then we don’t find anymore Padres until #265 with Maurer. Mauer’s numbers won’t knock any socks off, but the underlying numbers tell us there’s something more. His FIP was 3.46, a full point under his ERA. The 9.3K/9 goes nicely with his 3.13 K/BB ratio. That ratio is better than Craig Kimbrel and Jeurys Familia to name a few. If you wait on saves at your draft, Maurer is one to grab.

San Francisco Giants – Matt Moore, SP My Rank 188 ECR Rank 227

Moving from the AL East to NL West should help Moore. His stats were similar as a Giant to his years in Tampa Bay. His strikeouts went up slightly, but the sample size may be too small to factor in. The upside of Moore has always been there. Fantasy owners have been waiting for a breakout from him since his promising 2012 and 2013 seasons. A full offseason in San Francisco could help him get there. Take Moore late in your draft to round out your pitching staff and hope for him becoming a top 30 SP.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs – Kris Bryant Jason Heyward, OF My Rank 203 ECR Rank 248

Heyward and Puig fall into the same round for me. Both have been far worse than expected in their respective careers. I’m willing to take the risk on one in just about every draft this season. The cost to acquire them is so low you are hardly giving anything up to take a chance on a potential top 30 OF. I’ve owned Heyward in at least one league every season since his debut. He has clear 20-20 upside and would have huge counting stat numbers in the Cubs lineup if he puts up the numbers he’s capable of. Last year was a worst case scenario for Heyward. He will be better in 2017.

Cincinnati Reds – Anthony DeSclafani, SP My Rank 123 ECR Rank 190

A true breakout candidate, DeSclafani is surprisingly low in the ECR. I’m assuming his team and ballpark factor into that. This presents a perfect buying opportunity for those who don’t glace over him for those reasons. He only made 20 starts in 2016 but put up solid numbers. DeSclafani is a young pitcher who should continue to improve. A full season of starts could give him enough counting stats to make him a top 30 SP and he is currently being ranked around SP #50.

Milwaukee Brewers – Zach Davies, SP My Rank 222 ECR Rank 293

Davies was one of the most consistent and easiest to judge streamers of 2016. Once the dust settled however, he pitched himself into the #200 overall player last season. He started to perform much better in June as well. His last 20 starts saw a 3.48ERA 1.17WHIP and 4.61K/BB ratio. Not bad for a Miller Park product. Improvement on his cutter is something to watch this spring. If he develops that pitch, Davies could take a step forward. Being ranked around player 300 seems far too pessimistic. At worst, I see him being just as valuable as he was last season. My hope is he makes improvements to his strikeout totals and ratios and becomes a reliable top 40 SP in fantasy.
Bonus Sleeper Hernan Perez
Perez finished last season a top 100 overall player. Playing time will be his biggest obstacle this year. His positional flexibility should help. An injury or struggle from another player however, could give Perez the playing time he needs to repeat last season’s performance.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Josh Harrison, 2B My Rank 196 ECR Rank 287

This is another example of players being ranked far lower than I would expect. Harrison is not a player I would be specifically targeting, but I don’t understand why the ECR is so low on him. He finished 2016 as the #177 overall player in fantasy. His best stat is one that is hard to come by (SB). I feel guys like him, LeMahieu, and Forsythe are overlooked because of their low ceilings. Each of these players have safe floors and we can reasonable expect them to meet projections. If that means Harrison is going to be around the #200 best player this season, shouldn’t he be ranked as such?

St. Louis Cardinals – Stephen Piscotty, OF My Rank 64 ECR Rank 109

Piscotty is another player who is strangely underrated. The Cardinals outfielder finished last season just outside the top 100 players overall. He’s as safe a bet there is to finish around that spot again this season. Some improvements could see him finishing even higher. Solid production that you can rely on is exactly what you want with a second OF. I’m taking him over high variance players like Trumbo, Hamilton, and Upton.

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves – Julio Teheran, SP My Rank 69 ECR Rank 102

Teheran finished last season as the #25 SP in fantasy. He was the #14 SP in my Pure Starters rankings which eliminate wins from the equation. That was despite a poor finish to 2016. Teheran’s first 20 starts of 2016 (before his lat injury): 2.71ERA 0.96WHIP 7.98K/9 4.11K/BB ratio, just 3 wins. The Braves offense should be far improved in 2017. The new ballpark could be a tad more hitter friendly, but Teheran still benefits from pitching in the NL East. If he continues his production with added run support, Teheran has all the makings of a top 20 SP. I’ll be sure to have as much stock as possible.

Miami Marlins – Dan Straily, SP My Rank 250 ECR Rank 350

This selection probably has the most likelihood of blowing up in my face. That being said, there isn’t much in terms of sleepers on this team. Hell, Straily just joined the team like a month ago. The Pros: From July 2nd on, Straily had only one start where he gave up more than 3 earned runs. That was good for a 3.23ERA over that time period. All the underlying stats will tell you he outperformed in 2016. That factor is included in my ranking of him. He finished last season as the #106 overall player. He now moves to a better ballpark and division. That will help if his peripherals catch up to him. Taking him at the end of your draft in hopes that this isn’t a fluke doesn’t seem absurd to me.

New York Mets – Jacob deGrom, SP My Rank 37 ECR Rank 62

A healthy deGrom is a happy deGrom. Fantasy owners will be just as happy if he stays healthy.

Seems crazy to think a career 2.74ERA pitcher with a K/9 over 9 would be a sleeper, but here we are. We’re just one season removed from deGrom putting up a 2.54ERA 0.98WHIP and close to 10K/9 (hard to believe he finished just 7th in Cy Young voting that year). It’s not like last season was awful either. I understand this is 100% about health. Don’t be surprised to see deGrom skyrocket in drafts once spring training reports churn positive news.
Bonus Sleeper Addison Reed
He’s got the closer role to start the season. He pitched sooooo much better than Familia last season. My bold prediction for the Mets is Reed becomes the Mets full time closer. Regardless, he need to be drafted and on your roster in April.

Philadelphia Phillies – Aaron Altherr, SP My Rank 244 ECR Rank 430

Altherr hit a major slump to finish 2016, a season that started with a torn tendon in his wrist. However, his first 30 games of 2016 resulted in 4HR 19RBI 5SB. That’s a full season pace of 22HR 103RBI 28SB. Sure he hit just .229 over that span, but he’s a young player who should improve his hitting ratios. The 20-20 potential is clear. Unfortunately, playing time might be hard to come by. Drafting him at the tail end of your draft could reap tremendous rewards that no one else seems to be paying attention to. NL only owners should pounce even sooner.
Bonus Sleeper Jeremy Hellickson
He finished the season as the #116 overall player. He still pitches for the Phillies. His numbers seem legit. Boy, it sure is nice to be a pitcher in the NL East.

Washington Nationals – Tanner Roark, SP My Rank 120 ECR Rank 157

The trend of sleepers in the NL East playing the SP position continues. For the record, I do believe Daniel Murphy is being a bit undervalued as well. This season more than any I can remember the magic word has been ‘regression’. I feel rankers are taking this ‘regression’ too far. Sure Roark probably won’t be the #48 overall player again in 2017, but I’m not ranking him that high. Rankings are done with regression in mind. The ECR seems to have taken the regression rank and regressed that even further. I feel this is a mistake. Even if Roark is more of a 3.50ERA guy instead of the 2.83ERA pitcher he was last season, he still should be a top 30-35 SP. He still plays for one of the best teams in the NL. Be smart and don’t over downgrade a guy.

There you have it. That is my rundown of sleepers for the National League, with an extra bonus sleeper! The effort on my part is quite remarkable if I do say so myself.

Feel free to sound off in the comments. Who are some of your sleepers for the National League?

As always, thanks for the read and see you next time!