Whether you call them diamonds in the rough, hidden gems, sleepers, or anything else, we’re all looking for those players who we can grab in late rounds of our drafts who will perform like those high round picks that drive our team. There are plenty more than are on this list, but let’s just stick with one per position.
C: Welington Castillo, BAL
The right handed backstop finds himself in just as hitter friendly a ballpark and division as he left. Castillo offers formidable power numbers for a catcher (19 HR in 2015 and 14 in 2016), and is in a lineup that should play more consistently around him than his former team in Arizona which should lead to a slight increase in peripheral stats like runs and RBI. These slight improvements should help Castillo finish the season in the top 10 for catchers.
1B: Steve Pearce, TOR
Now that he’s out of Chris Davis’ shadow, Pearce should excel for a Blue Jays team that just lost their superstar first baseman via free agency. Granted, Pearce will not put up the same numbers that Encarnacion did, but he is a very serviceable option at corner infielder in most 10 team leagues. With Justin Smoak constantly struggling to stay over the Mendoza line, I would be hard pressed to believe the Blue Jays stay with him for very long, in favor of Pearce who has a career slash line almost 30 points higher at each stop along the line. Pearce should crack the top 20 easily and maybe the top 15 by the end of the season.
2B: Logan Forsythe, LAD
A change of scenery can make all the difference in a player’s career and in Logan Forsythe’s case, his good fortune is your good fortune. A career high in three baggers and round trippers in 2016 helped Forsythe crack the top 15 for second baseman in 2016 and all of that was in a lineup that couldn’t protect him or drive him in in Tampa Bay as well as his new home in Los Angeles can.
3B: Alex Bregman, HOU
Okay, okay, so maybe he’s not a total sleeper because he does have some hype around him but I still like him. If you look at Bregman’s minor league stats as a whole they’re quite good for the 22 year old. They are split up here and there because he kept getting called up (which is not a bad thing) but across 146 minor league games from 2015-2016, Bregman put up a .300/.388/.503 line with 24 HR, 95 HR and 20 SB to go along with that. After his July call up, Bregman got better as the season progressed posting an abysmal .045/.125/.045 line in July followed by better lines of .274/.333/.479 and .323/.344/.692 in August and September. His strikeouts are somewhat worrisome when you look at his 24% strikeout rate in the majors vs his 12% rate in the minors but since he’s such a young hitter it doesn’t bother me enough to pass on the 20/20 potential here.
SS: Jose Peraza, CIN
Part of this pick is Peraza’s versatility, part is his talent and whether you agree with one or the other (or none), Peraza should be on your draft board. With Brandon Phillips now gone, Peraza could see some playing time there this season which could open up his elligibility (on top of his existing OF play) if need be. Peraza only played in 72 games last season, but with the aforementioned departure of Brandon Phillips he should see a rise in number of games played which will help you rack up those stolen bases as he becomes more of an everyday player. Don’t be surprised if he swipes 40 bags while batting around .300, making him a slightly safer speed option than his teammate Billy Hamilton.
OF: Matt Kemp, ATL
Yes he’s still relevant, I was surprised to learn this myself last year. While not a true sleeper by most definitions, this is more so about Kemp being projected much, much lower than he should be. The Braves outfielder finished last season in the top 20 for his position but projections have him in the 30s this year which makes him a prime player to drop to you in your draft. Kemp started the season in San Diego, putting up decent numbers out there but really turned it on after being traded to Atlanta. In 56 games with Atlanta, Kemp put up a .280/.336/.519 slash while drastically improving his K/BB line from 6.25 in San Diego to 2.8 as a Brave. Whether he improved his approach at the plate or if he saw better pitches because of better protection in the lineup is still to be seen but I’d take my chances that he is a top 20 outfielder again this season.
SP: Jose Berrios, MIN
For the late season call up who posted an 8.02 ERA, a career 2.89 ERA in the minors has to give us hope that he just had some stage fright to work through. Berrios’ ground out to air out numbers did not help his cause when he got the call up last year, posting a still respectable .74 GA/AO that was well below his career average of .92. Regression to his career average is the goal for Berrios this season, which should help limit the number of longballs he surrenders (12 in 14 games last year) as long as he keeps the ball down. Also, a FIP mark of 6.20 shows that Berrios should not shoulder then entire blame for his sub-par debut. A full off season and spring training with the Twins should be very beneficial to the young Right hander. I don’t see Berrios going any higher than the top 60-70 but for someone being projected barely inside the top 100 for starters, I’d be more than willing to grab him with a late round pick and reap the benefits.
RP: Ken Giles, HOU
Giles was the recipient of bad luck last year. His 4.11 ERA was not indicative of how well he pitched last season. Giles had a FIP mark of 2.86 which is a much better indication of the season he had on the field behind him. Giles posted a career high 14 K/9 mark, which shows he’s missing more bats than ever. The rest of Giles’ stats are a mirror image to his 2015 season which garnered attention from the Astros who then went out and traded for the hard throwing closer. Don’t let Giles’ high ERA scare you off from a top 10 fantasy closer this season.