Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for the 2023 MLB Season
While building the core of your fantasy baseball team around top players is a good start, finding sleepers in the later rounds is what will put your team over the top and potentially win you a championship.
Identifying which sleepers to target in the later rounds of fantasy drafts is a crucial part of any draft strategy. This is where you'll get the most "value" by hitting on players who significantly outperform their average draft position (ADP), surrounding your early-round stars with critical depth on your fantasy roster.
With that in mind, here are our top 10 fantasy baseball sleepers for 2023.
Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2023
10. MJ Melendez, C/OF, Kansas City Royals
Melendez didn't exactly set the world on fire as a rookie last season, slashing .217/.313/.393 with 18 home runs, 21 doubles and 62 RBIs in 129 games. That said, there are several reasons to expect bigger things in 2023 from the 24-year-old sophomore. He showed good power (.176 ISO) as well as tremendous plate discipline (12.4 BB%) for a rookie while playing multiple positions, giving him extra value in fantasy. Based on his massive minor league numbers, which include 41 home runs and a 1.011 OPS in Double-A and Triple-A combined during 2021, we could see him tap into that potential and put up huge numbers in 2023 now that he has a full big-league season under his belt.
9. Michael Brantley, OF, Houston Astros
Injuries and the pandemic have limited Brantley to an average of just 77 games per season over the last three years. But while various ailments have kept him off the field, they haven't hindered his production. The five-time All-Star has still batted .303/.365/.439 during that stretch, remaining extremely effective despite entering his mid-30s. If the 35-year-old can stay on the field this year for even just 120-130 games, he should put up solid numbers in Houston's loaded lineup.
8. Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox
Sale's body has been ravaged by injuries in recent years, limiting him to just 11 starts over the past three seasons combined. He's still performed like an ace during that time, however, going 5-2 with a 3.17 ERA and a 57:13 K/BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings. Nobody's expecting the 33-year-old southpaw to hold up for a full season at this point, but if he can make 20+ starts that would be huge for both the Red Sox and fantasy managers.
7. Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
The 2015 first-round draft pick hasn't lived up to the hype since his impressive rookie campaign in 2020. After posting a torrid 1.124 OPS in 24 games that year, Hayes has put up a mediocre .671 OPS in the two seasons since. There's still hope for the 26-year-old, however, who stole a career-high 20 bases last year while making small strides in his plate discipline. If he can add a bit of power to his game and reach double-digit home runs for the first time, he'll be a solid fantasy option at the hot corner.
6. Cody Bellinger, OF, Chicago Cubs
Bellinger's career has completely gone off the rails over the past few years. Since winning NL MVP honors in 2019, the slugging outfielder has slashed a paltry .203/.272/.376. The good news is that he's still just 27, so he's squarely in his athletic prime. He's also coming off a healthy season where he played 144 games, so his body should be in good shape. Perhaps a change of scenery from Los Angeles to Chicago will do him some good as well. Even if his numbers don't bounce all the way back, he's still a helpful source of power and speed after finishing last year with 19 homers and 14 steals.
5. Alex Verdugo, OF, Boston Red Sox
Verdugo's performance has steadily declined since he arrived in Boston as part of the Mookie Betts trade before the 2020 season. His conditioning slipped in 2022 as well, causing manager Alex Cora to call him out and be better prepared coming into 2023. The message seems to have worked, as Verdugo appears to be in better shape and now has something to prove. Many around the team are expecting the 26-year-old to take a step forward this year, especially if he can swipe a few more bags and turn some of his career-high 39 doubles from last season into homers.
4. Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Merrifield's fantasy stock has dipped after a down 2022, but he's only one season removed from leading the AL in doubles and steals as an All-Star in 2021. Bigger bases are expected to increase base-stealing this year, which should help Merrifield bounce back in that department after nabbing just 16 steals last year. His power numbers should also get a boost after the Blue Jays moved in their outfield fences this winter, potentially giving him a chance at his first-ever 20/20 season.
3. Michael Conforto, OF, San Francisco Giants
Nobody knows what to expect from Conforto after missing the entire 2022 season with a shoulder injury. All reports out of San Francisco's Spring Training have been positive so far, however, which is a good sign for the former All-Star. Conforto had trouble staying healthy during his seven seasons with the New York Mets as well, appearing in more than 125 games only twice. The injuries rarely limited his production, however, as he enters 2023 with a career .255/.356/.468 batting line. With three seasons of at least 27 home runs under his belt, there's 30-homer potential here if he stays healthy.
2. Lars Nootbaar, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Nootbaar is a popular sleeper pick this year as fantasy players are excited about his power potential and plate discipline. Nootbaar slashed .228/.340/,448 with 14 home runs and a 51:71 BB/K ratio in 108 games last year and still has room to grow heading into his third season. His batting average is due for positive regression as well, as his career .254 BABIP is well below the MLB average of .291 since he debuted. With better luck on balls in play (especially with defensive shifts banned this year) and more consistent at-bats, the 25-year-old appears primed for a breakout.
1. Dustin May, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
It hasn't quite come together yet for May, who's heading into his fifth MLB season and first full year since undergoing Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old former top prospect has flashed tons of promise when he has pitched, however, logging a 3.26 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and a 3.4 K/BB ratio. If he can stay healthy this year, he still has the potential to develop into a fantasy ace. Better late than never!