While the top fantasy baseball assets provide the floor for your team, finding sleepers in the later rounds is key to determining your ceiling.
Hunting for sleeper candidates, by definition, is a volatile task. For every sleeper that does turn into a great pick, there are two or three that go nowhere. However, this process can be the difference between a first-place finish and stumbling to a losing season. That makes it crucial to hit on your sleeper picks.
With that in mind, here are our top 10 fantasy baseball sleepers for 2021
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2021
10. Frankie Montas, SP, Oakland Athletics
With an ERA skyrocketing from 2.63 in 2019 to 5.60 in 2020, Frankie Montas burned a lot of fantasy baseball managers. It wasn't all bad, though, and the step back he took was far less extreme than that jump in ERA might suggest. Both his batting average on balls in play (BABIP; 3.29) and home run-to-fly-ball ratio (HR/FB; 17.5%) were way up, and both of those stats tend to be pretty variance-heavy. He actually cut his hard-hit rate down from 37.9% to 35.9% and increased his soft-hit rate from 14.8% to 18.3%, while also increasing his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) to 10.19.
9. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bryan Reynolds showed big promise in his first major league campaign in 2019, but the shortened 2020 season saw his production take a dramatic step back, slashing .189/.275/.357. The underlying stats show he was swinging the bat just as well, if not better, in 2020 though. He wasn't chasing pitches outside the zone any more often, his swinging-strike rate remained steady, but he kept up a 37.5% hard-hit rate and cut his soft-hit rate down to 10.9%. Look for a bounce-back year from Reynolds.
8. Christian Walker, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Christian Walker is a bit of a boom-or-bust option. He's got real issues with discipline at the plate (13.2% swinging-strike rate in 2020), but he does real damage when he does make contact. His first two full MLB seasons have seen him post hard-hit rates of 46.1% and 44.4%, with a 10.1% barrel rate and 90.7-mph average exit velocity in his MLB career.
7. Zack Greinke, SP, Houston Astros
The 37-year-old Zack Greinke isn't the sexiest option in fantasy baseball, but he can still get it done. His 4.03 ERA from 2020 seems to be scaring some drafters off, as they worry he's over the hill now. But his 3.72 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) was actually better than the 3.96 he had posted in 2019 (his xFIP improved as well, from 3.74 to 3.51). He also upped his strikeout rate and dropped his walk rate from 2019 to 2020. Greinke is not finished just yet.
6. Tommy Pham, OF, San Diego Padres
Getting pieces of the San Diego Padres' offense is shaping up to be a great way to find runs and RBI in 2021, and Tommy Pham lets you get exposure for a relatively low cost. He really flopped in 2020, but his .284 BABIP was miles below not only his career average (.358), but even his previous career-low of .316. That is very likely to regress in 2021, especially considering he posted the second-highest average exit velocity of his career in 2021.
5. German Marquez, SP, Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies pitchers always get dinged for the Coors Field effect, but German Marquez is the right type of pitcher to succeed in the altitude. He forced a career-high 50.6% ground-ball rate in 2020, bringing his career-average up to 47.9%, compared to just a 26.1% fly-ball rate. FantasyPros' average draft position (ADP) data has him barely going off the board as a top-50 starting pitcher, even though he finished in the top-20 from a fantasy standpoint last season.
4. Kolten Wong, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Kolten Wong disappointed in 2020, but this is still a guy who swiped 24 bags and slashed .285/.361/.423 in 2019. It's fair to be skeptical about the Milwaukee Brewers' offense after the way they fizzled out in last year's shortened season, but Wong can be a solid contributor and is available at a steep discount in fantasy drafts.
3. Manuel Margot, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Manuel Margot was tied for the fourth-most steals (12) in the majors last season, and he was one of only three players to notch double-digit steals while playing fewer than 50 games. The 26-year-old also posted a career-best on-base percentage (.327), and if he can continue to make strides on that front he should have no trouble landing among the MLB's steals leaders in 2021.
2. Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Paul DeJong is one season removed from finishing as a top-20 fantasy baseball shortstop (and finished 27th in 2020), but he's being drafted just 28th at the position in 2021. Taking the kind of step back he did in 2020 at 27 years old while still posting a strong batted-ball profile (38.7% hard-hit rate and 44.3% fly-ball rate) suggests his down year was largely variance-related. That becomes especially clear when you peep his 6.4% HR/FB rate, which was less than half of his previous career-worst of 13.6%. If he bounces back to even just his career-average (15.2%), it won't be long before he makes everyone forget about the fact that he had just 3 homers in 2020.
1. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Minnesota Twins
People seem to be attributing Josh Donaldson's 2020 struggles to age and decline in play, but he's another guy who was dealing with his fair share of bad luck. His BABIP plummeted from .292 in 2019 to .231 in 2020, even though his average exit velocity barely budged (92.9 mph to 92.8 mph). He was a top-25 fantasy third baseman in that 2019 campaign, but he's going as just the 185th player off the board according to FantasyPros' ADP data for 2021.
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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.