Fantasy baseball has a unique quirk to it because there are so many active players that play and contribute compared to fantasy football that even picks made after pick 200 have the opportunity to become valuable contributors to your team. Another oddity to the game is that there are so many positions that you have to count on players well outside of the preseason top-200 to be valuable contributors to your squad in most leagues. One particular challenge is to find these players at every position. Below is a squad comprised entirely of picks outside the top-200 picks. While you shouldn’t rely on all these players, one or more of them will convert their sleeper potential into production for your fantasy squad. The rankings are the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from FantasyPros.com, so they represent an aggregate of the fantasy expert industry. Drafting well after pick number two hundred is key to the success of your fantasy team, and these players will give you a short cut to success in 2015.[Jeff]
Catcher: Welington Castillo, Diamondbacks (ECR: 246)
After letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia go, Welington Castillo, a mid-season acquisition from the Mariners, steps into the role as the primary catcher for the team. In 80 games with the DBacks last season, Castillo knocked 17 home runs but pulled only a .813 OPS. Still, the allure of prorating that 17 home runs into a full season worth of appearances is tempting, but his 21% HR/FB rate was second on the team to Paul Goldschmidt. He became a much better hitter once he arrived at consistent playing time in Arizona, but don’t have visions of 30 home runs in your head. He’s a top-fifteen catcher with top-ten upside if he continues his home run rate. With Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock ahead of him in the lineup, he will have plenty of opportunity to knock in runs.
Honorable Mention: J.T. Realmuto, Marlins (ECR: 263)
First Base: Justin Bour, Marlins (ECR: 257)
Bour kind-of-quietly put up 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 129 games last season, but his .262/.321/.478 slash line will take a hit if he plays all season. He hit poorly against lefties (his OPS dropped nearly .300 points to .573). If you scaled his splits to 650 PAs, then he would hit 40 home runs! But this was only because he was platooned against lefties (371 PA versus RHP compared to just 75 against LHP). He’ll get you a good amount of pop and decent counting stats. If the Marlins play him smart and keep him away from lefties, he’ll do it without hurting your batting average. Luckily, enough players are 1B-eligible to cover for when he’s platooned.
Honorable Mention: C.J. Cron, Angels (ECR: 294)
Second Base: Devon Travis, Blue Jays (ECR: 268)
This one almost feels like cheating because Travis was incredibly productive last season before succumbing to a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and into the beginning of this season. Current timelines have Travis back in late May or early June, so he’s definitely a stash candidate in your draft, but if he can continue his awesome hitting, which would scale up to roughly 20 HR, 90 RBI, 7 SB and 100 runs while hitting .304/.361/.498 over the course of a full season. You’ll need a stop gap, but Travis will start the season on the DL, immediately freeing a roster spot for another deep dive 2B like Joe Panik ( ECR 241) or Josh Harrison (ECR 247).
Honorable Mention: Joe Panik, Giants (ECR: 241)
Third Base: Justin Turner, Dodgers (ECR: 215)
Appropriately nicknamed Giants’ Bane in some circles, Turner has broken out in his time in Los Angeles, posting .800+ OPS in his two seasons in Los Angeles. He already saw some regression last season, as his BABIP normalized and his average shifted from .340 to .294. He has limited speed, but decent pop. A double-double season isn’t out of the question if Justin Turner gets a full season, and if he goes at it in the potent Dodgers lineup, the runs and RBI will follow.
Honorable Mention: Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox (ECR: 258)
Shortstop: Trevor Story, Rockies (ECR: 348)
While Spring Training stats mean next to nothing, Story is hitting the cover off the ball to the tune of a 1.444 OPS, second only to his teammate Nolan Arenado. His walk rate is pretty, drawing walks in five of his 27 plate appearances so far this year. Officially, Story is blocked by Jose Reyes. Unofficially, Jose Reyes is hurt and is currently facing a big domestic violence suspension. He has been placed on leave pending his trial, and his trial does not even start until April 4. It’s entirely possible he doesn’t make it off leave until halfway through the season, and even if he does, he may have a suspension to eat. Story is essentially free at this point, but expect him to rush up draft boards as the season approaches and he continues to rake.
Honorable Mention: Jean Segura, Diamondbacks (ECR: 235)
Outfield: Kevin Kiermaier, Rays (ECR: 233), Denard Span, Giants (ECR: 213), Jarrod Dyson, Royals (ECR: 298)
This trio of outfielders contains one player on the way up (and the best center field defense in baseball) and two older speedsters who switched teams in the offseason. Last season Kiermaier pulled a double-double, smacking ten homers and swiping 18 bags. He strikes out a ton (four times more than he walks), but he still manages a good average. He’ll be 26 in April and his second season playing full-time. He should take a step forward… Span became an afterthought after missing 100 games with injury last year. In 2014, however, he swiped 31 bags and scored nearly 100 runs while managing a .302 average. While the Giants offense won’t be the 2014 Nationals, it will be potent enough to give him production… Jarrod Dyson is the hidden gem of players who are eschewing stolen bases early to get boppers like Edwin Encarnacion and Giancarlo Stanton. Since 2013, he’s stolen the eighth most bases in the majors (96), and he did it in 300 fewer plate appearances than anyone ahead of him (Billy Hamilton has stolen 126 in 300 more PAs). Dyson has stolen at the highest rate per plate appearance in the same time span: one stolen base every 7.85 PAs.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Taylor, Nationals (ECR: 370), Odubel Herrera, Phillies (ECR: 266), Rajai Davis, Indians (ECR: 315)
Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Royals (ECR: 237), Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (ECR: 209), Rich Hill, A’s (ECR: 292)
I outlined the reasons to like Kennedy in my K-BB% sleepers article, but in short, all of his peripherals point to terrible luck in 2015. In 2016, he’ll the fly ball prone pitcher will be playing in front of baseball’s best outfield defense. He should take a step forward in 2016… The truth for 2016 Kyle Hendricks should is somewhere between his 2014 (2.46 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 5.27 K/9) and his 2015 (3.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.35 K/9). He’ll settle in as a 3.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIP starting pitcher. He’ll have good value as a pitcher to round out your staff who should rack up the wins on a great Cubs team… Rich Hill only made four starts last year, but what a four starts they were. He struck out 36 batters in those four starts, one against each of his AL East foes. He’s swapped red socks for green and yellow, and spacious O.co Coliseum can only help him. Still, he’s 36, so he has tremendous bust potential.
Honorable Mentions: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers (ECR: 285), Aaron Nola, Phillies (ECR: 243), Tyler Glasnow, Pirates (ECR: 332)
Since a massive chunk of closers or prospective closers are going after pick 200, instead this section focuses on players who currently do not inhabit the role that are likely to end up in the closer role before the season ends.
Hunter Strickland, Giants (ECR: 403), Arodys Vizcaino, Braves (ECR :261), Joaquin Benoit, Mariners (ECR: 337)
Strickland throws gas and finally has gotten movement on his fastballs to stop grooving them. He has the makeup of a long-term closer and incumbent Santiago Casilla has gotten up there in age and down there in talent… Down in Atlanta, Jason Grilli is officially the closer, but we’ve seen him implode spectacularly before and he’s currently rehabbing an Achilles injury that ended his 2015 campaign. Like Strickland, Vizcaino throws gas (97 MPH fastball)… Always the setup man, and never the closer, Benoit has been the closer-in-waiting for years. He now moves to Seattle where he’s behind the jittery and inconsistent Steve Cishek, who is already banged up. This may just be Benoit’s year, but he’s older than you think at 38 years young.
Honorable Mentions: Carson Smith, Red Sox (ECR: 374), Kevin Jepsen, Twins (ECR: 424), Koji Uehara, Red Sox (ECR: 356)