Studying rankings, putting players in tiers, doing mock drafts to perfect your draft strategy -- all nice, but they pale in comparison to figuring out your favorite fantasy baseball sleepers for 2017. These are must-adds to any cheat sheet or draft kit.
You might not agree with all these picks. Some might seem too obvious ("Andrew Benintendi isn't a sleeper!"), some might be too deep ("I play in a 10-team league -- no one's drafting Tom friggen Murphy."), but either way, it's good to recognize potential breakout players. You never know who is going to be available at various stages of your draft.
The other fun part about this list is that we're picking one from each team. Did we get the right player? We could make an alternate version with Mitch Haniger, Ryan Schimpf, Eric Thames, and Andrew Toles, and Joe Ross, among others.
Don't worry, we'll be trotting out position-by-position sleeper lists as well, so we'll eventually get to all those guys, too. For now, enjoy our favorite sleepers from each major league team.
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2017
Position eligibilitybased on Yahoo standard leagues.
Angels: Tyler Skaggs, SP.Skaggs returned from Tommy John surgery last year and posted a seemingly mediocre 4.17 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 49.2 innings. But keep in mind that he struck out over a batter per inning during that stint and also had a 1.60/0.86 line with a 12.1 K/9 ratio in 39.1 minor league innings. The 25-year-old lefty will likely be on an innings limit, but the talent is there for a breakout campaign.
Astros: Alex Bregman, 3B.The 22-year-old top prospect didn't disappoint during his 49-game introduction to the majors last year, clubbing eight homers. Between the minors and majors, he hit 28 HRs and stole nine bases in 2016, and he has major run production potential in the Astros' potent lineup.
A's: Ryon Healy, 3B/1B.Healy popped 13 homers to go along with a .305 averagein just 72 games last year (plus 14 more HRs in the minors). He credits a swing adjustment to his rise in power, and it's likely that won't change in 2017. His .352 BABIP and poor BB-rate (4.2 percent) are signs that his average will noticeably dip, but if you're looking for cheap power at the corner infield spots, the 25-year-old Healy is a safe bet provided he doesn't have an ice-cold start to the season.
Blue Jays: Devon Travis, 2B.Travis is a classic "risk-reward" sleeper. At 26, he's already flashed plenty of talent, but injuries have limited him throughout his short career. His offseason knee surgery is threatening his availability for opening day, which will undoubtedly scare off some drafters, but if healthy, he'll be a major steal. Think a "lite"version of prime Dustin Pedroia.
Braves: Dansby Swanson, SS.Honestly, Swanson is probably a "year away," but the Braves don't have many other good sleeper candidates (though Tyler Flowers is mildly interesting). Swanson went 12-16 between the minors and majors last year and impressed in his 38-game stint with the big club, posting a .302/.361/.442 line. That was buoyed by an unsustainable .383 BABIP, but the former top overall pick could still have fantasy value at a relatively thin position.
Brewers: Keon Broxton, OF.The Brewers are loaded with potential sleepers, including Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia and Eric Thames, but we're going with Broxton because he at least did something at the major league level last year.The 26-year-old speedster hit nine homers and swiped 23 bases in just 75 games, pushing his totals to 17-41 if you include his 47 games at Triple-A. Broxton has never been a great contact hitter, but his high BB-rate helps him get on base enough to do damage. The Brewers run more than any team (by a wide margin), so Broxton will have the green light all year. Despite his ridiculously high K-rate (36.1 percent), he should provide a good amount of power and speed.
Cardinals: Randal Grichuk, OF.Grichuk was supposed to break out last year, but his high strikeout rate limited his production and contributed to two minor league stints. He still managed to club 24 homers, showcasing his impressive power. If he can stay on the field (which should be a little easier now that Jeremy Hazelbaker is gone), a 30-HR season isn't out of the question.
Cubs: Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B.Baez is only 24 and is coming off a season in which he went 16-14 in 159 games (counting the postseason). Talent has never been an issue, but playing time has. The Cubs are once again loaded at every position, so it's impossible to say what manager Joe Maddon will do on a day-to-day basis, especially now that Kyle Schwarber is back. Baez's defense would seemingly give him a leg up on everyone for the 2B job, but fantasy owners will have to wait and see. The payoff could be huge if Baezhas an everyday job.
Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray, SP.Ray is a favorite of fantasy analysts, largely because of his shiny 11.3K/9 ratio from last year, and while that is impressive, casual fantasy owners are probably more scared off by his 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Ray was undoubtedly hurt by some bad batted-ball luck, shown by his .352 BABIP, but he didn't help himself with a 3.7 BB/9 ratio and 1.2 HR/9. The 25-year-old southpaw clearly has upside, but he might continue to be a drain on your WHIP even as he racks up Ks and lowers his ERA. Still, in the middle-to-late rounds, you can afford that gamble.
Dodgers: Julio Urias, SP.The 20-year-old phenomposted a 3.39 ERA and 9.8 K/9 ratio in 18 games (15 starts) with the Dodgers last year, though walks and a high BABIP plagued him, especially in the playoffs. The batted-ball luck should hopefully even out a little more, so the only real worry with Urias is his walk rate, which wasn't a problem at all in Double- and Triple-A. An innings limit looms after Urias threw just 127.2 between the minors, majors and postseason last year, but he should be stellar when on the mound.
Giants: Eduardo Nunez, 3B/SS.Nunez finally received a full-time gig in 2016 and responded with an All-Star appearance, 16 homers, and 40 stolen bases. It's easy to dismiss the 29-year-old as a one-year wonder, but there's really nothing overtly fluky in his advanced stats. He hit better at AT&T Park (.307/.373/.493) than Target Field (.278/.316/.414) last year (though both were small sample sizes), so a full season by the Bay isn't a real worry either. It would be nice if he walked more, but a 10-30 season is more than doable, and the upside is obviously there for more. Don't write him off just yet.
Indians: Michael Brantley, OF.A shoulder injury limited Brantley to just 11 games last year, and his health is still a concern, but a healthy Bradley has 20-20 upside, as he's shown in the past. At his current ADP, Brantley is worth the risk.
Mariners: James Paxton, SP.Paxton is no stranger to preseason sleeper lists, but the 28-year-old lefty has never been able to put it all together, at least for a full season. He stayed healthy in 2016, starting 31 games between Triple-A and the majors, and despite relatively mediocre standard stats in the majors (3.79/1.31), his advanced numbers hint at a breakout to come (2.80 FIP, 8.7 K/9 ratio, 1.8 BB/9 ratio). At this point, everyone is calling Paxton a sleeper, which is a bit worrisome, but if he stays in one piece, he looks like a good bet for fantasy production.
Marlins: J.T. Realmuto, C.The Marlins are almost bereft of true sleeper candidates unless you want to put your money on Justin Bour or Marcell Ozuna again. Bour's inability to hit lefties and Ozuna'sexpected ceiling of .270-25-80 don't have us too excited, though. Realmutomight not count as a sleeper either since he's a top-10 catcher on most big boards, but he still lacks name recognition to many fantasy owners. Really, his appeal boils down to his ability to steal 10 bases, which isn't all that exciting in the grand scheme of things, but if he has batted-ball luck like last season (.357 BABIP), he could also hit .300 again, making him a solid all-around option at fantasy's thinnest position.
Mets: Robert Gsellman, SP.Gsellmanhad a nice eight-game stint with the Mets last year, posting a 2.42 ERA and 8.5 K/9 ratio. However, his minor league strikeout numbers are far less impressive (6.5), and there's no guarantee he'll stay in the Mets rotation all year. Still, at just 23, there's clearly upside here, and with Zack Wheeler (elbow) expected to start the season in extended spring training, Gsellmanhas a chance to cement his place in the rotation. Even if his Ks go down, his 3.11/1.23 career minor league line suggests he can have success.
Nationals: Shawn Kelley, RP. Kelley is currently the front-runner for the Nats' closer job, but that could change in a hurry if Washington makes a trade for a higher-profile reliever. If Kelley gets the gig, he could be a major fantasy producer. Over the past two seasons, he's posted a 2.55/0.99 line with an 11.8 K/9 ratio, and he even picked up seven saves last season. Homers were an issue last year, which would be a big threat to his job security, but the numbers suggest he can handle the job if the Nationals give him a chance.(Update: Nats manager Dusty Baker has suggested Koda Glover is the favorite for the closer's job. Glover has a 2.09/0.90 line with a 10.9 K/9 ratio in two minor league seasons. Kelley could still take over the job at some point, especially if Glover struggles leading up to opening day.)
Orioles: Welington Castillo, C.Castillo played in a good hitting environment in Arizona and produced decent numbers for a catcher, but now in a smaller ballpark, he could do even more damage. He could also see some DH opportunities depending on how things shake out in the Orioles outfield. Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith also have some sleeper appeal, but because both are lefties, consistent playing time could be an issue. Consider both prime DFS plays at home againstrighties, though.
Padres: Hunter Renfroe, OF.Renfroe only played in 11 games for the Padres last year, but he crushed four homers. This was on the heels of a .306-30-105 campaign in Triple-A. Renfroe's BB-rate has gone down the past two seasons, perhaps as a sacrifice for more power, but his K-rate has remained fairly steady, which is a good sign. Either way, he has 25-plus homer potential, even playing his home games in Petco Park. The average is a question mark, but if last year's improvements are for real, Renfroeis a big-time breakout candidate. Catcher Austin Hedges and 2B Ryan Schimpfalso have some sleeper potential.
Phillies: Tommy Joseph, 1B.Joseph popped 21 homers in 107 games with the Phillies, and even though he doesn't bring much to the table besides power, that will play with a mid-to-late-round corner infielder. Ticketed for full-time duty this year, Joseph could approach or surpass 30 homers, as Citizen's Bank Park is one of the most homer-friendly for righthanded hitters.
Pirates: Ivan Nova, SP.Could Nova be the new Francisco Liriano? In 11 starts last year after coming over from the Yankees, Nova posted a 3.06/1.10 line. There are reasons to doubt this small sample size, including a unsustainable 0.42 BB/9 ratio. However, the big decrease in home run rate (0.56, down from 1.72 with New York) is a little more believable considering his change in situation. The 30-year-old righty has always had good stuff, but now that he's in a much better environment (and weaker hitting league), he finally could put it all together for a season.
Rangers: Jurickson Profar, 1B/2B/SS/3B/OF.Somehow, Profar is only 24, which seems crazy considering he made his MLB debut in 2012 and missed virtually all of two seasons due to injury. But he returned to the majors in 2016, and while the numbers won't blow you away (.239/.321/.338), it's important to remember his top prospect pedigree. It's also important to remember that he can play every position but catcher -- a major plus in daily leagues. Chances are, Profar will find his way into Texas's lineup most days.
Rays: Blake Snell, SP.Snell's 1.62 WHIP and 5.2 BB/9 ratio in 19 starts last year are unsightly, to say the least, but the 9.9 K/9 ratio and 3.54 ERA are solid marks for the 24-year-old lefty. WHIP was an issue in the minors(1.29), so it's possible Snell will continue to have a high number in that category -- especially pitching in the AL East -- but his low HR rate (0.56) suggests he can continue to limit the damage to his ERA.
Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi, OF.You can talk yourself into Sandy Leon or Mitch Moreland as a sleeper, but, really, there aren't many good choices in Boston. We'll take the easy way out and go with Benintendi, Arguably baseball's top prospect, it's unclear if his power isready for prime time just yet, but he should still be solid in the other four categories, especially steals.
Reds: Jose Peraza, 2B/SS/OF:Peraza stole 21 bases in just 72 games with the Reds last year, and throughout his minor league career, he has a .299/.341/.386 line. While he'll never be a huge home run hitter, it's important to note that Peraza is just 22 and hit five between the minors and majors last year. It's possible he gets to double-digits, but even if he just hits five or six, his solid average, potential for 40 steals, and multi-position eligibility gives him plenty of value.
Rockies: Tom Murphy, C.Everyone knows about David Dahl (who's unfortunately dealing with a rib injury), so we'll go elsewhere for our Colorado sleeper. Murphy will compete with Tony Wolters for playing time, but if the rookie wins out, he has plenty of upside in Denver's thin air. In 80 Triple-A games and 21 major league games last year, he hit 24 homers, and even with a noticeably high K-rate, he batted .327 in the minors and .273 in the majors. Murphy is one to watch in spring training. (Update: Murphy suffered a fractured forearm on March 13 and will miss 4-6 weeks.)
Royals: Jorge Soler, OF.Soler mostly disappointed in Chicago, but he did hit 12 homers and upped his BB-rate to 11.7 percentin just 86 games last season. Now with an everyday gig in Kansas City, the 25-year-old will be free to swing away and get on base in the middle of a solid lineup.
Tigers: Daniel Norris, SP.Like other young pitchers on this list, Norris is a high-K guy (9.2 K/9 last year) whose WHIP is too high (1.40). But the good news is his BB-rate was manageable (2.9) last season, and he saw a noticeable uptick in velocity on his fastball and slider. Homers have been a problem in the majors, but at just 23, Norris still has plenty of room for improvement.
Twins: Byron Buxton, OF.Buxton has been a big disappointment the past two years, but a big September/October last season (.287/.357/.653, nine HRs) has fantasy owners excited. Buxton's strikeout rate is still way too high, but the 23-year-old outfielder remains a 20/20 threat. If he can get on base at any sort of consistent rate like he did in the minors, 30-40steals isn't out of the question.
White Sox: Tim Anderson, SS.If you squint, you can see a little Jonathan Villar in Anderson -- with one big difference. Whereas the former has a high BB-rate, the latter rarely takes a free pass. Anderson walked just 13 times while striking out 117 timesin 99 gameslast year. Those are the kinds of numbers that make a young player very prone to a trip back to the minors. However, Anderson has some pop (13 HRs between the minors and majors in 2016), good speed (21 SBs in 2016; 49 in '15), and always seems to hit for a high average thanks to a remarkably highBABIP (.283 average in the majors; .301 in his minor league career). Anderson will never steal bases like Villar did last season, but a 10-30 campaign with a .280 average isn't out of the question in 2017.
Yankees: Luis Severino, SP.Aaron Judge and Greg Bird might be more popular picks here, but playing time could be an issue for both. After a rough 2016, Severino is being overlooked -- even though he just turned 23. The young righty was decent in 2015 and has been downright dominant throughout his minor league career (2.51/1.06, 9.0 K/9 ratio), so we shouldn't be so quick to write him off. His home park and division are definitely worries, but the upside is there.