Do you remember when you were young and your parents would tell you how important sleep is when you tried to come up with all the reasons why you should not go to bed? Well, in the fantasy baseball world, sleepers are just as important as the sweet sleep. Just ignore the fact that I have an average of 4-5 hours of sleep per night. When it comes to the outfield, the position is as deep in 2021 as it has ever been. I have found myself taking a few outfield buttons in the first 10 rounds or so, and I have also tried to capitalize on a few outdoor servers late.
For this list, I looked at players outside the top 250 in ADP on NFBC who I think can do far better than their draft.
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2021 Outfield Sleepers
Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies
NFBC ADP: 279.5
Listen, it took every ounce of my willpower and self-control not to put Garrett Hampson or Sam Hilliard as the hallmark of this outdoor sofa. While I’m still watching that duo late in the draft, one I’m targeting is, even more so, Raimel Tapia. Although Tapia does not quite have the upside of these two, there is much more to like him in the 2021 draft. First, he must be an everyday player and leading player for Colorado with Trevor Story, Charlie blackmon, and Nolan Arenado hits right behind him. How can you not be lured by it? Do not answer that, it’s a tricky question. Of course, it’s tempting. And if you think to yourself, “No, he’s not going to lead,” remember that Tapia led in 35 of Colorado’s 60 games last season, all of which came on August 20th.
When you look at his offensive profile, you have to realize what kind of player you are getting. If you need power after choosing 250, Tapia is not your guy. But having said that, he has enough pop in the bat to run into 10-12 homers over an entire season where he gets to play half of his games at Coors Field. But really, any power he gives is just the icing on the cake. Tapia’s real strengths come in his AVG, speed and potential runs. He has hit everywhere he has been, producing a .319 career average for minors and .321 last season in 51 games.
Tapia outperformed a bit when xBA was much lower, but the contact skills are strong. Of the 142 qualified hits in 2020, Tapia had the 21st best contact frequency (83.4%), the 28th best Z-Contact speed (89.9%) and the 19th best O-Contact speed (72.1% ) with a solid 8.3% SwStr. On top of that, Tapia went on 31 steals per 150 fights in minors and swept eight last season in 50 fights with an 81st percentile sprint speed. If all goes well, Tapia could lay out a .280 + / 80 + / 10/50/25 line in 2021. Heck, if he starts hot out of the gate and holds down the leading spot for the entire season, 90-100 races is in play here. Making a player like this outside of the top 250 are the choices that can really make a difference to your fantasy squad. Tapia tops my outfield villas for 2021.
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins
NFBC ADP: 283.9
This is usually not an article where I include rookies, however Alex Kirilloff fits just so damn well. When it comes to offensive rookies in 2021, all zone in on Jarred Kelenic, Wander Franco and Andrew Vaughn, along with the guys who debuted in 2020 as Dylan Carlson. There is nothing wrong with going after any of them in your drafts, especially Jarred Kelenic, but Kirilloff is perhaps just the best choice for the gang. He is taken more than 70 picks after Kelenic on average and three picks ahead of Vaughn. But what is the one thing Kirilloff currently has that the other two do not have? Playing time. As it stands now, Kirilloff plans to be in Minnesota’s opening day playing either left field or DH, both of which are wide open locations.
And not cheap: 105.9 km / h exit bike pic.twitter.com/VCvqSBdEY7
– MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 30, 2020
We have not really seen Kirilloff dominate since 2018, so let’s take a little update on how good he can be. Kirilloff’s “down” 2019 season when he still hit .283 with a .343 OBP was hampered by an early season on the wrist that beat most of his power. It was not until August that Kirilloff returned to his normal self, and in that month he reminded everyone of his significant upside at the plate, hitting .311 / .351 / .500 with five home runs. This comes after his breakout 2018 season where he knocked down a robust .348 / .392 / .578 with 44 doubles and 20 home runs in 130 games over two levels (A / A +).
Kirilloff is still one of the best pure hit prospects for minors with a plus or better hit tool and close to plus raw power as well. With everyday bats, Kirilloff has the skills to produce right away as a contributor in four categories capable of hitting north of .280 while pushing 20 home runs. If he gets that flyball speed up, there’s even more power to get here too.
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
NFBC ADP: 288.0 – AV 79
The last two years have not exactly been swimming for Mitch Haniger. After a breakout 2018 season, Hanigers crashed AVG in 2019, and his season ended in June due to a broken testicle. Oops! Haniger has not played since it happened, as various problems with the back / core kept him going throughout 2020. The extended layoff has made Haniger’s 2021 ADP sit on a very reasonable 288 as the draft season really starts to heat up. It is a price tag I am very fascinated by, especially considering Haniger’s success in the past.
If you combine Haniger’s 2017 and 2018 seasons, he combined 42 home runs, 140 RBIs, 148 runs, 13 steals and an average of .284 on 1093 record appearances. Boil it down and you get a 600 PA tempo of 81/23/77/7 / .284. It would be pure gold around election 300 and make Haniger a top 100 fantasy player at the end of the season. Even in 2019 when his AVG fell, he was still at a pace of 118/38/82/10 and had a migration rate of over 10% for the 2nd season.
If you’re worried about whether that outbreak in 2018 was a power outage, it was not. Haniger finished in 75th percentile or better in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, xISO, xOBP, barrel%, exit velocity and hard hit rate, while also posting a 69th percentile walking speed and sprint speed. Sure, the core / back problems are a little worrying, but it sounds like Haniger is back to 100% and ready to go to spring training. Although he produces 80-90% of the production before the injury, it is a heck of a value by choice 288.
Josh Naylor, Indians of Cleveland
NFBC ADP: 421.5 – AV 102
As many as 101 outfield players are drawn in front of Josh Naylor. Although I understand why it happens, I will do my best to utilize this value in every draft I’m in. One of the main ingredients of any breakout sundae is playing time. Emphasis check. The Cleveland Indians’ outfield is so barren and miserable right now, they’re going back to Bradley Zimmer well, several years after he was a department store for tickets. Naylor is basically guaranteed everyday bats in this lineup and will probably hit high in the rankings as one of the best hitters that Cleveland currently has. Roster Resource has Naylor as number two Andres Gimenez leader of, Jose ramirez batting 3. and Franmil Reyes hits cleanup. It’s not bad 1-4 and is a solid place for Naylor to be in.
– Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 30, 2020
Dare not skip that video! Naylor went 4/4 in this game, including three rejections Gerrit Cole, two of which were explosions (one homer, one double).
Now, his limited time in the Majors so far has not been extravagant in any way (.249 / .309 / .383), but Naylor can beat. In 443 minor league games between Miami and San Diego, Naylor knocked down .288 / .351 / .439 with 100 doubles, 50 home runs and 27 stolen bases. Yes, it’s only around 18 homers per 162 games, but there’s enough power here to get over 20 dingers annually. Can it happen in 2021? May be! As I mentioned, he’s probably going to play regularly, so the opportunity is there. And on the ADP outside of the top 400 overall, there is very minimal risk of drafting a guy who can produce a .275 / 20 line this season with 80+ runs in addition to JoRam and Franimal hitting right behind him. This can end up being a steal and a great opportunity for return.
Other Outfield Sleepers to Target
Garrett Hampson & Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies (270.8 & 382.3)
Obviously, both players have to actually play full time that has not happened yet, but I will keep them on my radar in the 2021 draft. Hampson showed solid contact and OBP skills in minors with the potential for 10 homers and 25 steals, and Hilliard flashed an exciting power / speed mix that would look very good in Coors Field. Roster Resource currently has Hilliard division in the left field and Hampson in a reserve role, but all of that could change if the National League adopts DH. It would only be nice if MLB would make a decision about it. It’s not like the season is a little over three months away or something.
Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians (384.1)
Remember when Oscar Mercado was a top 150 choice? What is it? It was only last year? Oh, that’s right, how could I forget that. When joking aside, Mercado is set for a nice bounceback in 2021 if he can win a spot in Cleveland’s outfield that shouldn’t be too difficult. While it’s clear that we definitely overestimated Mercado in the 2020 draft, we should definitely not forget him in 2021. This is a guy who went .269 / 15/15 in 115 games in 2019 and has the speed of 25 steals over a hel season. Keep an eye on Cleveland’s away situation as the season approaches and give Mercado a look into deeper leagues if he wins a spot.
Franchy Cordero, Kansas City Royals (407.2)
This is more of a deep league goal, but an exciting goal at that. As soon as Franchy Cordero was released from San Diego, he became a buzzing sleeping vault. It didn’t work out exactly in 2020, but upwards of 15-homers, 25-steals, and it looks like he will get the chance to start for Kansas City this season. AVG / OBP will not be too sexy, but you will not find many players with this type of upside outside of 400 in draft.
Robbie grossman, Detroit Tigers (422.1)
Although it is clear that Robbie grossman overperformed in 2020 when he was at 25/25 pace, he has a solid ROI opportunity to go outside the pick 400 on average. Grossman has always shown an ability to walk in a high clip and has a 12.5% times rate and 0.351 OBP in his MLB career so far. He is a long shot to replicate the 25/25 pace from last season, but 15/15 is in play with a strong OBP to go along with it. Signing with Detroit gives him a clear path to playing time as well, and maybe even a place high in the order.
Myles Straw, Houston Astros (501.5)
He gives no power, but Straw was a .305 hitter for minors and released a 91st percentile sprint speed in 2020 along with constantly flashing 30+ stealth wheels in minors. He is currently scheduled to start in the midfield for the Astros after George Springer’s departure, so keep him on your radar in deeper leagues.
Media / Link Credit: MLB Pipeline, Cleveland Indians, Fangraphs, Dustin Bradford / Icon Sportswire
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