2018 Fantasy Baseball: Spring Training Sleepers

Spring training games have begun (rejoice) so let’s take a quick glance at some fantasy sleepers you might not be eyeing for your upcoming draft.

When doing these evaluations/projections, I’ll use an 8×8 category so as to attempt to cover the majority of statistics the average league will use. Those categories will apply to their ranking (according to Rotowire).

Batters: RBI, HR, SB, BA, R, BB, K, H
Pitchers: ERA, WHIP, W, SV, SO, L, SHO, QS

C- Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Current status- Starter
Competition- Kevin Plawecki
2018 current rank: 364th
d’Arnaud ranked first out of 28 qualifying catchers for wOBA/xwOBA difference (.309/.340). His BABIP in 2017 was nearly 20 points lower than his career average and the lowest since his rookie year in 2013. In general, d’Arnuad swung a lot more in 2017 than he has in any other season. darnaudPlateDisiplineObviously, you’re not going to want to trot him out there every day, especially since you’ll have several chances to grab better options. Yet, he will be undervalued and a steal if he ends up becoming available at the end of your draft or waiver wire. Catcher is one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball and you always want to have a backup plan. d’Arnaud will be an excellent option.

1B- Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Current status- Starter
Competition- Kennys Vargas
2018 current rank: 108th
Mauer had a big bounce-back year in 2017. He saw his BABIP slightly exceed his career norm of .341, his strikeout rate was its lowest since 2012, had the highest OBP and WAR since 2013, along with his lowest whiff rate and O-Swing% since 2007. Mauer currently sits as the 18th-ranked first basemen for 2018. There is a good chance he’ll be hanging around in the late rounds or, if you’re lucky, he’ll be a waiver wire grab. Once you get past the top-tier first basemen, its likely to be a crapshoot; I recommend keeping an eye on Mauer because, despite the fact he’ll turn 35 at the start of the season, he can still hit well and wouldn’t be a bad option for your DH or utility position.

OF- Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Current status- Starter
Competition- Ben Zobrist/Ian Happ
2018 current rank: 258th
This one is pure speculation based upon his past ability, however brief, and his future potential as a slimmed down version of what could be THE definition of coming into camp ‘in the best shape of his life’. I mean, seriously, look at this guy:

While its true that a fitter player doesn’t necessarily mean a better hitter, Schwarber’s new physique demonstrates his commitment to getting better in 2018. Ranked 64th overall outfielder (behind teammates Zobrist and Happ), he’s a high upside/ low-risk option later in your draft. STEAMER projections give him a 115 wRC+, a .246 ISO, and a 1.8 WAR. There are injury concerns but that shouldn’t deter you from taking a flier on the one-time World Series hero who could explode back into prominence at Wrigley.

SP- Jaime Garcia, Toronto Blue Jays
Current status- 5th starter
Competition- every other starter competing for a rotation spot
Current rank: 192nd
Garcia, ranked the 63rd best pitcher, will be on his fourth team in two years. That has to be some kind of record. Anyway, that doesn’t mean he’s nothing more than a re-gifted commodity. Think more than likely a player that teams are willing to take a chance on because they believe in his ability; just like you should if you find yourself thin on pitching this draft. Garcia has experience in the American League East with the Yankees in 2017. He’s got some control issues (2/1 K/BB rate) but he still has a pretty high K/9 rate, so if your league doesn’t count BBs but SOs, he’ll fit in fine. Garcia will likely allow a few too many baserunners but he’ll also benefit from throwing to one of the best catchers in the league as well as a strong defense that’ll have his back. The Blue Jays will score a lot of runs so Garcia could be good for, at best, a dozen wins.

RP- Emilio Pagan, Oakland Athletics
Current status- Bullpen
Competition- Himself
Current rank: 245th
Pagan is a relative unknown going from the Seattle Mariners to the Oakland A’s in the Ryon Healy deal. That status should work to your favor as RP is a convoluted group outside of the top-tier bunch. Not typically sought after until later in drafts, Pagan will be the pick that makes everyone say ‘Huh? Who?’. Here’s all you need to tell them about his 2017; a 10/1 K/BB rate, a sub-1 WHIP, and a 76 -ERA. While his projections might not be as optimistic as his output was last year, Pagan could end up being the best reliever in a thin Athletics bullpen, which could turn out to be an opportunity for plenty of saves for Pagan. If you don’t grab him the first night, I implore you to watch for him as the season progresses. You pick a day-one closer and he loses his job, Pagan might be the grab no one else thinks about.

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