What are sleepers? Do they really even exist anymore in the information age? The term is definitely bastardized to the point where you might come across a “sleeper list” that is littered with picks inside the top 150. It could just be semantics of defining “sleepers”, but guys taken that high just don’t qualify.
For me, sleepers don’t start until player 300 in 15-team leagues (~200 for 10-teamers, ~240 for 12-teamers). There isn’t a perfect cutoff, but it is fair to tab anyone going after the 20th round as a “sleeper”. We saw the likes of Tyler O’Neill (303 ADP last year), Logan Webb (322), Cedric Mullins (348), and Emmanuel Clase (399) among the biggest sleeper hits last year.
I’m using the NFBC ADP and putting a start date of 1/1/22 for this first version of Sleepers.
Pavin-Smith | Arizona Diamondbacks, 1B-OF | 369 ADP
I understand why one might just pass over Smith in their analysis for fantasy outfielders (or first basemen). Nothing about his 96 wRC+, 11 HR debut jumps off the page as a must-buy. I’m betting on the contact and plate skills profiles. His 19% K rate was a good bit better than average (23%), but I don’t even think we have seen the best he can do there. He had just a 7% swinging strike rate, 17th-best in the league and well below the 11% league average.
In fact, since 2020 Smith’s 7% rate is 22nd-lowest among the 210 batters with at least 500 PA. The group has a 14% K rate while Smith’s 19% mark being 3rd-worst (Brett Gardner 22%, Myles Straw 20%). In the minors, Smith had 12% K and BB rates in 1232 PA. Walking more like he did in the minors could get him back into the leadoff spot and from there I could see a .275 AVG with 12-15 HR and 80+ R. If he can tap into a bit more power, there is a Jake Cronenworth vibe to his upside.
Joseph Barrero | Cincinnati Reds, SS | 427 ADP
I mentioned in the Reds Roster Review that Barrero is my favorite for Cincinnati’s shortstop. Admittedly Barrero has struggled in his scant MLB sample (28 wRC+ in 124 PA), but Kyle Farmer’s breakout yielded 91 wRC+. He is a good fit as their super utilityman but Barrero should be the everyday guy for the bulk of the season. The 24-year-old top prospect dominated in a two-level season with a 135 wRC+ and 6 HR in 180 PA at Double-A and 158 wRC+ and 13 HR in 200 PA at Triple-A and while it would’ve been a nice capper to keep it going in his 56 MLB PA, I’m not bothered by the fact that he didn’t do that. All told, he hit .303/.380/.539 with 19 HR and 16 SB (in 20 tries). With his above average power and speed, I could see a .260/15/15 season from Barrero.
Nate Pearson | Toronto Blue Jays, SP | 445 ADP
A poor showing in 33 IP split between 2020-21 have relegated Pearson to the reserve rounds of drafts despite the 25-year-old flamethrower still having a very high ceiling. OK, it’s not just the bad innings (5.18 ERA, 1.61 WHIP), he was also injured for a lot of 2021, pitching a combined 45.7 IP between Triple-A/MLB thanks to a sports hernia that eventually required surgery. He is slated to be ready to go by Spring Training (whenever the hell that is) and I’m willing to bet on the raw stuff. He throws high-90s with a nasty slider. Pearson definitely has some relief risk to him, but I think the Jays still see him as a starter and will continue to see that as his role. That said, he can still deliver plenty of fantasy goodness as a multi-inning reliever or their closer. I don’t have a firm or even loose projection for Pearson right now, but at this pick range, I’m drafting talent, something Pearson has in abundance.