2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Late-round category sleepers for hitters to target in all roto drafts



In a perfect world, your Fantasy Baseball team has no holes. And, at least for a while when you’re drafting, it’ll seem like it. Through five rounds, you’ve got nothing but superstars, and you’re ready to take on the world; through 10 rounds, you’ve built a well-balanced roster, with star players across the board. Life is good.

But then you have to fill out the rest of your roster, and you inevitably have to make some choices. Maybe you took Anthony Volpe because you like the power-speed potential he brings to the table, and then took Cal Raleigh and his 30-homer upside for your first catcher spot, and suddenly realize your team is looking pretty rough in batting average. Or maybe you passed on some of the true five-category superstars are the top to get a combo of Yordan Alvarez and Matt Olson in the first couple of rounds, leaving you short in stolen bases. Suddenly, that perfect start has a glaring flaw or two, and you’re trending to fall well below your target in a Roto league

Hey, it happens, and you have some ground to make up. What we’re looking for in today’s column is how to fill some of those holes later in your drafts. We’ve got five targets in each of the five Roto categories who can help you make up ground when needed without breaking the bank here. 

Batting average

Yoshida had a solid first season in the majors, hitting .289, and I think it’s fair to wonder if he has room to grow – he’s 30, so he’s probably done physically developing, but it’s also awfully tough to just jump into a new league, featuring pitchers you’ve mostly never faced, and thrive. Could he hit .300? It’s absolutely within the realm of possibility, given Yoshida’s contact-heavy approach.

And Lee might be very similar to Yoshida. He’s probably a better athlete, though it didn’t manifest in double-digit steals in either of his last two seasons in Korea. However, he struck out just 304 times in 3,947 PA – a 7.7% rate. He probably isn’t the next Luis Arraez, but he should be a good bet for a well-below-average strikeout rate even accounting for the jump in degree of difficulty from the KBO to MLB. ATC projections have Lee down for a .287 average, and his expected spot as the leadoff hitter for the Giants could make him a good source of runs too. 

The last name I want to highlight here is Grissom. Grissom doesn’t rank high up on the exit velocity leaderboards, but he’s consistently hit for good averages at every level as a professional thanks to strong contact skills and an all-fields, line-drive approach as a hitter. That might make it tough for him to take advantage of Fenway’s short left-field porch as often as you might like, but there’s a ton of space in that outfield for him to pepper line drives all over the place. Grissom could hit .290 without being a zero in the HR and SB categories – ATC has him down for .279 with 10 homers and 11 steals. 

Runs

It’s hard to find sleepers for runs, but Crawford and Nimmo both seem like pretty good choices. They’re both going to hit at the top of at least pretty good lineups, and both are excellent OBP guys – Crawford led the AL in walks with 94 (the same number of runs he scored) in 145 games, while Nimmo has scored 191 combined runs over the past two seasons and has averaged 99 per-162 games over the past four seasons. 

Now Schanuel? There’s a true deep sleeper. There are real questions about whether Schanuel has enough oomph in his bat to be a long-term answer at first base, but the Angels don’t exactly have many better options in the immediate future. Schanuel got to the majors just a few months after being drafted 11th overall out of Florida Atlantic University, and while he had just four extra-base hits in 29 games for the Angels, he did walk more than he struck out en route to a .402 on-base percentage. Ron Washington named Schanuel his leadoff hitter at the start of spring training, and while the whole profile is unlikely to make an impact, he could be useful in batting average (excellent in OBP) with 90-plus run potential. A corner infielder who hits 10 homers without much speed isn’t likely to get many of you excited, but if you need to solidify the runs category, he could be helpful there. 

RBI

It’s really hard to find real help in RBI without paying a lot for it, so this is the category that skews to the more expensive side. But I think Castellanos, Naylor, and Santander are all pretty good bets for 95 RBI, with a decent shot from all three for 100-plus, and that’s especially true for Naylor, who has been an RBI standout the past two seasons – he’s driven in 176 runs in 243 games, a 117-RBI pace for 162 games. Naylor is a good hitter – and, as last year showed, potentially a very good one – but he’s upped his game with runners in scoring position: Naylor is a career .727 OPS bat with the bases empty, compared to .865 with runners on. We’re dealing with sample sizes of less than 900 and 500 PA in each case, so it’s probably too early to ascribe much value to that, but I do think there could be something to it. Relative to other players who hit the ball relatively hard, Naylor strikes out very rarely, and it could be a situation, like Jose Abreu in years past, where that combination makes him unusually adept at hitting with runners in scoring position. 

Adames and Suarez are the two truly cheap options, but in both cases, you’re trading batting average for the potential for 90-plus RBI. Adames hit just .217 with 80 RBI last season, so he’ll have to improve in both regards to be worth chasing here; Suarez still drove in 96 runs last season despite just 22 homers and a .232 average, but he’s not guaranteed to have as generous a lineup spot with the Diamondbacks. Still, I think both are pretty good bets for 90-ish RBI if you can stomach the batting average hit – though I do think there’s a chance the bottom falls out for Suarez in another difficult home park. 

Home Runs

Gorman hit 27 homers in just 119 games last season, and while the Cardinals sometimes treated him like a part-time player, there isn’t much in his profile to suggest he needs to be protected from lefties – he hit better against them (.798 OPS vs. RHP, .840 vs. LHP), with a pretty reasonable 28% strikeout rate. He was in the 87th percentile in expected slugging percentage and should be a 35-homer threat if he’s in the everyday lineup for the Cardinals. His ADP makes him an obvious target. 

Stanton and Buxton are, of course, true long shots, though I think they are safer from a performance standpoint than you might think. Both are coming off down seasons, and I think Stanton especially might be a lost cause when it comes to batting average – .219 expected BA last season – but he still hits the ball incredibly hard and has 40-homer upside if he could ever actually play 150 games. I’m not expecting that, obviously, at this point, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could get to 30-plus. 

Buxton has been an underrated power hitter for a while, averaging 39 homers per 162 games since 2019. Again, I don’t expect him to get anywhere near that number, but there is a reason to be optimistic about Buxton’s health, at least relative to where he was a year ago – he had knee surgery this offseason to alleviate the swelling issue that limited him to full-time DH duties, and the Twins are approaching this season with Buxton as their everyday center fielder. I’m fully expecting a bounceback from Buxton’s very poor 2023, and this is another one where 30-ish homers seem like a decent bet even if he misses significant time – he averaged 26 homers and 11 steals per 100 games from 2018-22. 

Stolen Bases

I’m starting to think Duran might just be undervalued, even if you don’t specifically need steals. The Red Sox are viewing Duran as their leadoff hitter at this point, and that’s going to lead to plenty of opportunities for all kinds of counting stats, including steals. He has elite foot speed and swiped 24 bases in just 102 games a year ago. If he can hold his own against left-handed pitchers well enough to remain in the lineup every day, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think Duran could approach 40 steals – he has 36 in just 139 games at Triple-A. He has top 50 upside if he’s hitting first. 

Marte has been largely left for dead after a very poor 2023 season, but it’s worth keeping in mind, he stole 24 bases in just 86 games despite a .301 on-base percentage. He might just be done as an everyday hitter of any kind of upside – Marte is 35, with an injury history as lengthy as any player in baseball – but if there’s anything left in the bat, he’s going to be a heck of a late-round pick in Roto.

Caballero isn’t a player many Fantasy players are excited about, but he did steal 26 bases in just 280 plate appearances last season. That came with a .221/.343/.320 line, which is probably unplayable outside of 15-team Roto leagues. But it seems like he’s got a chance to be the everyday shortstop for the Rays, and showed a knack for contact and getting on base in the minors. If he can hit even .250, he’ll get on base often enough to challenge for 30-plus steals – unless Junior Caminero proves more ready to man the everyday shortstop spot than expected.  





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