In any fantasy baseball draft, there will be situations that call for a swing-for-the-fences pick. A well-selected sleeper who outperforms his preseason projection could potentially be the difference in winning a league championship.
I’ve landed on a few favorites this season I believe could fit the bill. They're not going particularly early in drafts – and a couple are going really late – but they have the best chance to generate significant returns for anyone willing to take a shot on them ... before someone else does.
TARGET BRYCE HARPER: The one strategy I'm using in every fantasy draft this year
Yasmani Grandal, White Sox. He was injured last season (back, knee) but is healthy this spring on what should be a much better offense. Grandal hit at least 20 home runs from 2016 to 2019, then hit 23 in 2021.
Brandon Belt, Blue Jays. Another injury risk, but he had a career-high 29 homers in 2021 and is moving to Toronto, where the fences have been moved in. His barrel rate was in the 94th percentile each of the past two seasons.
Thairo Estrada, Giants. He had his first season playing more than 55 games in 2022 and hit 14 home runs with 21 steals. Now he's the unquestioned starter at age 27.
Jeimer Candelario, Nationals. The former Tiger had 61 extra-base hits 2021 (42 doubles, 16 HR) in pitcher-friendly Detroit. In Washington, he’ll play every day in a much better park.
CJ Abrams, Nationals. The headliner in the Juan Soto trade is just 22. He’s a potential leadoff man and a threat to steal every time he gets on base.
Jesse Winker, Brewers. Moving back to the NL after an injury-riddled season in Seattle (neck, knee). The season before, he hit .305/.394/.556 with the Reds.
Harrison Bader, Yankees. He’ll begin the season on the IL, but there’s potential for a big jump in steals after a career-high 17 last season. Also slugged .460 in 2021.
Oscar Colas, White Sox. The Cuban signee is 24 but has tools to be the starter in right field (.927 OPS at Class AA last year).
Lucas Giolito, White Sox. He had a string of three straight impressive seasons snapped when his ERA ballooned to 4.90. But his strikeout rate was still above 9.00 and he was still missing bats (71st percentile).
Freddy Peralta, Brewers. We saw what he can do in a full season when he posted a 2.81 ERA and 195 K’s in 2021. Fully healthy this spring after only pitching 78 innings last year. Strikeout rate was still near 10 K/9 last year, after being over 12 from 2019-21.
Tyler Mahle, Twins. The veteran right-hander had a shoulder injury end his season early in 2022, but he's fully healthy and has added a slider this spring. Struck out 210 in 180 innings with 3.75 ERA in Cincinnati in 2021.
Tyler Anderson, Angels. He limited hard contact in his breakout 2022 season extremely well, a skill that can carry over to his new home in the O.C. Doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but gets ahead of hitters and had 2.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP … which no one seems to believe happened. Had a 95th percentile chase rate last year (and 94th in 2021).
Jose Leclerc, Rangers. Back a full year after Tommy John surgery and back to throwing 96. The signing of veteran Will Smith might be a bit problematic, but generally righties have the edge over lefties in closing situations.
Many of these picks were inspired by and featured on the March 12 edition of the Fantasy Pros podcast.
— Joe Pisapia (@JoePisapia17) March 12, 2023
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fantasy baseball sleepers for each position: Belt, Winker lead the way