The best thing about the start of a new baseball season is that every team has hope. Well, maybe not the Tigers, but every other team can find something positive to focus on heading into the 2020 season. It’s similar for fantasy baseball owners. Prior to the draft, it’s easy to talk yourself into breakout seasons from your favorite sleepers, regardless of what the rankings say. Focus on the good, ignore the bad, and start mentally preparing for the inevitable championship coming your way at the end of the season.
We combined those two sentiments with our annual list of at least one fantasy sleeper from every team. Some teams have multiple worthwhile candidates, while others — like the Tigers — don’t really have any. Doesn’t matter — we still find someone to talk up. Hey, it’s almost opening day — let your inner optimist out. The sun is shining, the bats are cracking, players are in the best shape of their lives, and anything is possible.
Yes, even for the Tigers. (But not really.)
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: One from every team
Position eligibility based on Yahoo’s default settings (10 games played or 5 games started)
Angels: Jo Adell, OF: The 20-year-old slugger ascended to Triple-A last season and figures to be in the majors at some point early this season. His career .298/.361/.518 minor league line is even more impressive when you factor in his age, and he has a little bit of a speed with 30 career steals. Brian Goodwin likely isn’t the long-term answer in right field for the Angels, so Adell is worth drafting.
Astros: Kyle Tucker, OF. Tucker hit 34 HRs and stole 30 bases in 125 games at Triple-A last year and added another four homers and five steals in 22 major league games. He’s proven just about everything he can in the minors, and all he needs is an everyday job to break out in the majors. Heading into the season, he’s slated to share the right field job with Josh Reddick, but Tucker could eventually take over with a hot start. He’ll also be first in line for at-bats if injuries strike someone like Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez, or Michael Brantley. One way or another, there’s a good chance Tucker sees significant at-bats this year, and if he does, he’ll outproduce his average draft position. Houston also has a host of young pitchers (Jose Urquidy, Josh James, Forrest Whitley) who could easily break out if they stick in the rotation.
A’s: Sean Murphy, C. Murphy is everyone’s favorite sleeper catcher this season after he hit .308/.386/.625 in Triple-A and totaled 14 HRs in 51 games between Triple-A and the majors last year. The 25-year-old backstop figures to start four or five games a week, so it’s easy to see why everyone is excited about his prospects. We’ll issue the obligatory “be careful with rookie catchers” warning, but Murphy takes enough walks and hits for enough power that he should post at least semi-decent numbers. He’ll also be catching for some of Oakland’s other top sleeper candidates, pitchers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk.
Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez, OF. Hernandez broke out in the second half last season, clubbing 18 HRs over 60 games and finishing with 26 for the season (122 games). He has some playing time concerns heading into this year, but assuming he gets everyday at-bats, the 27-year-old righty will be a cheap source of power who can also swipe a few bases. His average figures to hurt more than help, but he still has plenty of offensive upside. The same can be said for other undervalued Toronto sluggers Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Rowdy Tellez.
Braves: Will Smith, RP. The Braves have several relievers with closer experience in their bullpen, but Smith is arguably the best of the bunch. He’ll likely open the year as the primary setup man for Mark Melancon, but given the fact Melancon hasn’t been a full-time closer since 2016, Smith could find himself in the ninth-inning role at some point. He excelled in that position for the Giants last year, converting 34 saves with a 2.76/1.03 line and 13.2 K/9 ratio. Those types of peripherals gives Smith value even if he’s not closing, and he’s a great speculative add on the chance he eventually takes over in the ninth.
Brewers: Luis Urias, 2B/SS. Urias struggled in his 83 big-league games with the Padres, hitting just .221 with six homers and a steal. But at just 22, his best years are yet to come. He’s going to be helped this season by playing in a hitter-friendly park, and he showed what he can do in better hitting environments last year at Triple-A (.315/.398/.600 with 19 HRs and seven SBs in 73 games). The tools are there for Urias to make good on his top-prospect status this year. Avisail Garcia is also worth watching on the chance he gets everyday at-bats.
Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill, OF. O’Neill is a proven slugger at the minor league level (140 HRs over 566 games), and he’s popped 14 HRs in two 60-game stints in the majors the past two seasons. The 24-year-old righty is in position to have an everyday job as the Cardinals’ left fielder to open the year, and if he does, he has major power and run-producing upside.
Cubs: Ian Happ, 2B/3B/OF. Happ spent more of last season at Triple-A (99 games) than in the majors (56 games), but he produced at both levels, totaling 27 HRs and 11 SBs. He’s unlikely to ever hit for a good average, but he can quietly give you solid numbers in all of the other categories. Playing time is the biggest worry, but he’s slated to start the season in center field and can fill in at 2B and 3B if needed. One way or another, the 25-year-old switch-hitter should be in the lineup most days, and if he is, he’ll provide a lot of value given his low cost.
Diamondbacks: Luke Weaver, SP. Teammate Zac Gallen seems to be garnering more pub, and while he impressed in his 15 starts last year, his advanced stats and peripherals suggest he’s no sure thing. Even with a down 2018 on his resume, Weaver has more of a track record of success, posting a 2.94/1.07 line with a 9.7 K/9 ratio last year and a 3.88/1.26 line with a 10.7 K/9 ratio as a rookie in ’17. To be fair, Weaver made just 12 starts last year due to an elbow injury, so health is a concern, but if he can stay in one piece, the 26-year-old righty has big upside thanks to an improving BB-rate and solid K-rate.
Dodgers: Will Smith, C. After hitting 15 HRs in just 54 games last year, Smith is ranked as a top-10 catcher on most sites heading into this season, but he still might be undervalued given his upside in the Dodgers’ stacked offense. The one drawback is he’s unlikely to hit for much of an average, but as long as he’s in the lineup, he’ll club homers and drive in runs. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him finish as a top-three catcher this year even though he’s being drafted as the No. 7 or 8 backstop. Teammate Gavin Lux is in a similar position at 2B.
Giants: Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS. Dubon hit 24 HRs and stole 13 bases between Triple-A and the majors last year. He also showed his contact skills, hitting .302 at Triple-A and .274 in 30 major league games. The 25-year-old middle infielder doesn’t excel in any one area — and fantasy owners often ignore those types of players — but with developing power, a decent amount of speed, and the ability to hit for average, Dubon makes for a cheap 2B or SS who can give you a little of everything.
Indians: Zach Plesac, SP. Plesac is yet another low-walk, low-homer pitcher from the Indians organization, though his 21-start stint in the majors last year didn’t totally reflect that (3.1 BB/9 ratio, 1.5 HR/9 ratio). Plesac’s career marks in the minors (2.1 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9) are likely closer to what you can expect this year. His K/9 ratio will likely be in the 8.0-9.0 range, and he should have a decent ERA and very solid WHIP. The main worry for Plesac (and Aaron Civale, another candidate for this spot) is a consistent starting role, but he should open the season in the rotation.
Mariners: Jake Fraley, OF. With Mitch Haniger (back) on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Fraley has a chance to play every day in Seattle’s outfield. The 24-year-old lefty is a career .286/.362/.480 hitter in the minors, and he clubbed 19 HRs and stole 22 bases in 99 games across two levels last season. He likely won’t post huge numbers this season, but anyone who can steal some bases and provide some pop is worth a look in fantasy leagues. First baseman Evan White is has some sleeper appeal, but he’s barely played above Double-A, so an immediate impact seems less likely.
Marlins: Isan Diaz, 2B. Diaz couldn’t carry over his impressive showing in Triple-A (.305/.395/.578, 26 HRs in 102 games) to the majors (.173/.259/.307 in 49 games) last year, but he still showed the type of impressive power that can play at any level. The 23-year-old lefty strikes out too often to have a good average, but he can still fill up the stat sheet in the other categories (even chipping in a few SBs). Playing time could be an issue, but Diaz is still worth a look in the late rounds.
Mets: Dominic Smith, 1B/OF. Smith just needs everyday at-bats to produce. The 24-year-old lefty hit .282/.355/.525 with 11 HRs in 89 games last year, and there’s little doubt his power is for real. However, with Pete Alonso locking down 1B and J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto set in the OF, Smith would appear to be a man without a position. And with Yoenis Cespedes looking healthy in summer camp, even DH at-bats could be tough to come by early on. Even with that said, Smith will be very valuable as soon as there’s an injury (or he’s traded). Perhaps most noteworthy about Smith is that he actually hit lefties (.303/.361/.515) better than righties (.278/.354/.528) last year, so he doesn’t necessarily need to be a platoon player. It’s tough to invest a draft pick in someone like Smith, but he’s worth a pickup if he starts getting consistent playing time.
Nationals: Carter Kieboom, SS/3B. Kieboom struggled in his 11-game MLB stint last year (.128/.209/.282), but he killed it at Triple-A (.303/.409/.493), which still tells us a lot about the 22-year-old infielder. Kieboom has a great shot at winning the Nationals starting 3B job the spring, and if he does, the production will follow. With a career .287/.378/.469 line in the minors, it’s clear Kieboom has the talent to break out once he becomes acclimated to MLB pitching, and he can even throw in a few steals to further raise his value.
Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle, SS. It’s unclear where exactly Mountcastle would play if he makes the big club to start the year, but his bat looks big-league ready. Last year in 127 games at Triple-A, Mountcastle hit 25 HRs and slashed .312/.344/.527. That’s in line with what he did at Double-A the year before. The 23-year-old righty doesn’t walk much, which is a bit of a worry as he prepares for the next step in his professional career, but he shouldn’t have a problem hitting homers in Baltimore’s tiny home park. He could find himself playing any of the infield positions, so his eventual multi-position eligibility will give him additional fantasy value. Outfielder Austin Hays is also worth watching in Baltimore.
Padres: Trent Grisham, OF. Grisham popped 32 homers and stole 13 bases across Double-A, Triple-A and the majors last year in Milwaukee’s organization. Now with a clear path to playing time in San Diego, he should open the season with an everyday job. Grisham has always been a high-OBP guy in the minors (.376) thanks to a high walk rate, and his strikeout rate is relatively low. Last season was really the first time he hit for power, so it’s unclear if that will carry over to a worse hitting environment, but Grisham has a lot of upside in San Diego’s solid lineup, especially in OBP leagues.
Phillies: Scott Kingery, 2B/3B/SS/OF. Kingery was a hot prospect heading into 2018, but a disappointing season hurt his fantasy reputation so much that even after a solid ’19 (19 HRs, 15 SBs in 126 games), he’s not high on anyone’s wishlist this year. Admittedly, Kingery’s K-rate is still too high (29.4 percent last year) and his BB-rate is still too low (6.8 percent), but he hit the ball significantly harder last year, raising his isolated power by over 100 points. Given his versatility and offseason reports that he’s corrected the blurred vision that plagued him last year, it’s a bit odd that the 25-year-old righty isn’t a more coveted fantasy prospect. Take advantage.
Pirates: Mitch Keller, SP. Keller had one of the biggest differences in his ERA (7.13) and FIP (3.19) last year. His 12.2 K/9 ratio, 3.0 BB/9 ratio, and 1.13 HR/9 ratio in 48 innings were all solid for a rookie starter, but he was clearly done in by a .475 BABIP that will regress. The 23-year-old righty has a solid minor league track record (3.12/1.16, 9.4 K/9 ratio) and plays in a solid pitchers park, so even when the K-rate inevitably comes down, Keller should still be effective.
Rangers: Nick Solak, 2B/3B. Solak impressed in his 33-game stint in the majors last year (.293/.393/.491 line), which isn’t a surprise considering he was dominating at Triple-A (.347/.386/.653). It is a bit disappointing he didn’t run much (seven total SBs last year) after swiping 21 bases at Double-A in 2018, but Solak made up for that by hitting 32 homers between Triple-A and the majors. He’ll have to compete for a starting job early on, but if he can prove capable on defense, Solak will be a hot commodity once he starts playing.
Rays: Brendan McKay, SP. Most of the peripherals were good for McKay in his 49-inning MLB stint last year (10.3 K/9 ratio, 2.9 BB/9 ratio), but he gave up too many homers (8) and wound up with mediocre standard stats (5.14 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). Given his pedigree (1.78/0.84, 11.8 K/9 ratio in 172 minor league innings), the 24-year-old lefty has major upside once he gets in Tampa’s rotation. It could be as soon as opening day, but given Tampa’s organizational philosophy concerning starters, McKay could start the season in Triple-A, but he likely won’t stay there long.
Red Sox: Michael Chavis, 1B/2B. Chavis really slowed down after a hot start last year, but he still finished the season with 18 HRs in 95 games. It’s likely he’ll play most days, either at 1B or 2B, but because he doesn’t have a “secure” spot in the Red Sox lineup, he’s falling too far in drafts. Clearly, he has the power to put up solid HR and RBI totals, and he takes enough walks that he should score a decent amount of runs despite a high K-rate (33.2 percent). Chavis isn’t a “sure thing”, but he’s still a solid value given the somewhat unfounded worries about playing time.
Reds: Aristides Aquino, OF. Aquino was a sensation last year after getting called up, hitting 19 HRs in just 56 games. Normally, this type of player would be overvalued the following season, but Aquino is seemingly on the outside looking in for an everyday job after Cincinnati signed Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas in the offseason. Now, with the addition of the DH for NL teams, we have faith Aquino can ascend quickly from the “auxiliary squad” and find near-everyday at-bats once the season begins. Aquino has too much upside to keep on the bench, so he’s well worth drafting and stashing, especially in daily transaction leagues.
Rockies: Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS/OF. Hampson struggled mightily early on last year, hitting just .200/.239/.285 in the first half. He showed signs of life in the second half, though, posting a .284/.348/.462 line and hitting seven HRs with 11 SBs in just 58 games. Hampson doesn’t have a clear path to playing time, but if he can carve out a role as a super-utility player or DH often, he should find himself getting regular at-bats. That’s all he needs to produce, particularly in the stolen base department.
Royals: Ryan O’Hearn, 1B. The Royals don’t have many good sleeper candidates, so we’re dipping back to a popular breakout pick from last year even though O’Hearn’s shine has dimmed quite a bit. Heading into last season, O’Hearn was coming off a campaign that saw him club 12 HRs in just 44 games. This year, he’s coming off a season where he mustered just 14 dingers in 105 games, and he has more competition for playing time, especially if the Royals actually use Salvador Perez at 1B more some this season. At this point, O’Hearn might be nothing more than a platoon player against righthanded pitching, but he has the power to put up solid HR totals if he’s given the opportunity for regular at-bats.
Tigers: Buck Farmer, RP. Good luck finding a true sleeper on the Tigers’ depleted roster. Farmer seems like the most likely candidate to take over in the ninth inning if Joe Jimenez struggles (a very distinct possibility given his HR issues). Farmer struck out over a batter per inning and noticeably improved his BB-rate last year, so he can likely handle the job and be a cheap source of saves if called upon.
Twins: Homer Bailey, SP. The Twins don’t have many sleeper candidates since virtually all of their hitters had big seasons last year, so we really had to reach for this one. Bailey had a decent bounce-back campaign in 2019, splitting time between Kansas City and Oakland and posting a 4.57 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 ratio. Obviously, those aren’t great stats, but his advanced numbers (4.11 FIP) and peripherals (2.9 BB/9 ratio, 1.2 HR/9 ratio) paint a little better picture. After a full season of health, Bailey could find success like Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson did early on with the Twins last year.
White Sox: Dylan Cease, SP. Cease struck out 81 batters in 73 major league innings last year, but his high BB (4.3) and HR (1.9) rates inflated his ERAs and WHIP. Over five minor league seasons, the 24-year-old righty posted a 3.73/1.23 line with an 11.4 K/9, and even that was inflated by a mediocre half-season at Triple-A. Given his age, it’s fair to wonder if Cease can put it all together at the major league level or if he’s more of a “quad-A player”, but if nothing else, he’ll be a cheap source of strikeouts. If he can find his lower-level form, he has breakout potential.
Yankees: Miguel Andujar, UTIL. Andujar missed all but 12 games last year because of a right shoulder injury, but he’s healthy and ready to go this season. The Yankees’ offense has only gotten more crowded since Andujar last played, as Gio Urshela has established himself as the everyday 3B and guys like Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier are looking for places to play. Andujar should still have the inside track on the everyday DH job, though, and we saw his upside in his rookie campaign when he hit .297 with 27 HRs and 92 RBIs. If he can stay in the lineup and replicate that form, he’ll far outpace his ADP, even if he remains only UTIL-eligible.