Fantasy baseball sleeper prospects

April 20th, 2020

MLB Pipeline recently released its first ever dynasty league prospect rankings, highlighting the Top 50 prospects based on long-term fantasy value. Beyond that group, however, there is an equally long list of players who could become dynasty assets as multi-category contributors. And because fantasy GMs are always looking for the best bang for their buck, we thought that we would offer a look at some of our favorite dynasty sleepers among players outside the Top 50.

Our picks for the top sleepers, much like our Top 50 list, are based strictly on fantasy production and upside, with things such as age, proximity to the Major Leagues, positional scarcity and injury risk all factoring into our selections.

It’s also important to remember that not all dynasty formats are the same, so be mindful of your league’s specific rules (i.e., auction format; salary cap; rosters spots; contract and keeper terms -- you get the idea).

Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets: One of the more promising young hitters in the Minors yet to reach full-season ball, Alvarez showcased his bright offensive future last year by slashing .312/.407/.510 and reaching the Rookie Appalachian League at age 17 during his pro debut. He has all the ingredients needed to become a plus hitter, with power that should come out in lockstep with his physical gains. Meanwhile, the fact that Alvarez is a strong defender who should be able to stick behind the plate only enhances his dynasty value.  

Shane Baz, RHP, Rays: Baz’s arm is as electric as his stuff. The 20-year-old righty is still learning how to throw quality strikes and harness his arsenal -- including a heater that touches triple digits and a devastating slider in low 90s -- and therefore faces some risk of becoming a reliever. But keep in mind that most of us said the same thing about Tyler Glasnow prior to last year ... and we all know how that has turned out.

Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox: Finding a true power-hitting prospect who also can hit for average is always a challenge for dynasty leaguers. Casas, however, fits that profile to a T with his line-to-line game power, penchant for hard contact and advanced approach from the left side of the plate. In his first full season, the 2018 first-rounder ranked among the Class A South Atlantic League leaders in extra-base hits (49, second), homers (19, third) and slugging (.472, fourth) at age 19. Though he will need to hit a ton to be a big league first baseman, Casas is a relatively safe bet to offer value in several offensive categories (HR, RBI, R).

Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs: Davis was seen as a toolshed athlete who would need considerable time to develop after the Cubs took him in the second round of the 2018 Draft. But the projectable 6-foot-4, 175-pound outfielder has proved a more complete, well-rounded player than initially thought with his collection of 55-grade or better tools translating to on-field production. Multiple injuries to his right index finger limited the 20-year-old to just 50 games at Class A South Bend last season, though he still produced an impressive .305/.381/.525 line in the cold-weather Midwest League. He has the upside of a 30-homer, 30-steal center fielder if it all clicks. 

Jordan Groshans, SS, Blue Jays: One of the more advanced prep hitters in the 2018 Draft class, Groshans’ bat and overall offensive profile should be coveted by fantasy managers. A .337/.427/.482 hitter during an injury-shortened first full season, Groshans’ potential to hit for both average and power to all fields from the middle of a lineup could make him a four-category guy at his peak, and he should still be able to provide dynasty league managers with plenty of value even if he’s forced from shortstop to third base.

DL Hall, LHP, Orioles: Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2017, Hall has superb raw stuff in a fastball that touches 98 mph, a powerful swing-and-miss breaking ball and a very promising changeup -- each of which nets him whiffs. Spending his age-20 season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League last year, the 6-foot-2 southpaw averaged 12.9 K/9 with 14 percent whiff rate and .189 opponents’ average across 80 2/3 frames. He also issued 6.0 BB/9, a figure that’s alarming at face value but also underscores his ultimate fantasy and real-life upside once the control and command improve.

Sam Huff, C, Rangers: While larger-framed catchers historically have struggled to stay behind the plate, Huff (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) could wind up being an exception. He can pulverize the ball from the right side of the plate thanks to enormous raw power that netted him 28 homers, second-most among MiLB catchers, during a breakout 2019 campaign, though he will need to tighten his approach after fanning at a 30 percent clip across his first four seasons. Huff’s peak long-term dynasty value is tied to his position -- who doesn’t love a catcher that hits for power and drives in runs from the middle of a lineup? -- but the overall offensive profile should still appeal to fantasy managers even if he’s forced down the defensive spectrum.

Greg Jones, SS, Rays: The best sophomore-eligible prospect at a four-year college and one of the premier athletes in the 2019 Draft, Jones finished among the New York-Penn League leaders with a .335 average (third), .413 OBP (third) and 19 steals (tied-fourth) in his pro debut after the Rays selected him in the first round. Plus-plus speed is Jones’ carrying tool, and he uses it both to steal hits on the infield and pile up stolen bases. The switch-hitter could become a strong contributor in three categories (AVG, R, SB) if his bat continues to develop, and he’d still offer fantasy value as a second baseman or center fielder if he’s unable to stick at shortstop.

George Kirby, RHP, Mariners: The 6-foot-4 right-hander led all Division I pitchers in strikeout/walk ratio (17.8) and walk rate (0.6 per nine innings) as an Elon junior before going to the Mariners in the first round of last year’s Draft. More than just a gifted strike-thrower, Kirby can run his heater into the upper 90s and generate whiffs with each of his four pitches. Those qualities could enable him to jump on the fast track to the big leagues similar to Mariners 2018 first-rounder Logan Gilbert and point toward an overall future as a potential four-category starter.

Josh Lowe, OF, Rays: The former first-round pick (2016) is still learning about himself as a hitter and may never offer much in the way of batting average, but dynasty league players should take notice of the left-handed power and base-stealing acumen that helped Lowe rank among last year’s Double-A Southern League leaders with 30 steals (third) and 18 home runs (tied-fifth), both career-high totals. His potential to contribute in both categories makes him an intriguing long-term fantasy asset, and he should continue to score his share of runs thanks to his advanced on-base skills (career .336 OBP, 10.9 BB%).

Jared Oliva, OF, Pirates: A plus runner, Oliva swiped the second-most bags (36) in last year’s Double-A Southern League and then led the Arizona Fall League in that department (11). He also batted .312 and finished fifth in the AFL in OBP (.413) after an outstanding second half at Altoona during which he slashed .325/.387/.446 in the second half. While he projects mostly as a three-category fantasy contributor (AVG, R, SB), the 24-year-old outfielder could see an uptick in power in the big leagues given his present knack for making hard contact to the gaps. 

Erick Pena, OF, Royals: Pena, whom the Royals signed for $3,877,500 last July, is the youngest player (17) on this list and yet to appear in a Minor League game, but he made some serious noise with his left-handed bat last fall during instructional league and drew rave reviews for his high offensive ceiling. Though he lacks the sheer fantasy upside of fellow 2019 international signee Jasson Dominguez, Pena’s bat and production could be special for a long time. So, if possible, invest early in the Royals’ promising teenager.

Daulton Varsho, C, D-backs: The Wisconsin-Milwaukee product is a potential fantasy steal as a catcher who offers value in all five offensive categories. He offered a glimpse of his capabilities during a breakout 2019 campaign in the Double-A Southern League during which he paced the circuit in runs (85), slugging (.520) and OPS (.899) and posted the circuit's third-highest average (.301). What’s more, Varsho flirted with a 20-homer, 20-steal season before finishing with 18 and 21, respectively, and he did so while showcasing a unique blend of athleticism, power and speed -- he saw time in center field late in the season -- along with an overall skill sets that continues to improve.