Every year in December, Grey begins to roll out his sleepers, so I thought I’d take a look back at some staff picks for last year’s sleepers to see if we can gleam anything from looking back before looking forward.
Grey: Blake Snell, Trevor Story, Patrick Corbin, Tim Anderson, Eddie Rosario, Nick Castellanos, Trevor Williams, Nomar Mazara — on the good side. Ian Happ, Michael Wacha, Kevin Gausman, Ben Gamel, Luis Castillo, Manuel Margot, Paul DeJong and Michael Taylor — on the bad side. Since Grey does so many sleeper posts, it’s unfair to single out one guy from him, but, if we’re being unfair, his number one sleeper was Ian Happ. Verdict: Lots of hits, but Happ was a miss.
Stephen Piscotty, Alan: In Piscotty’s first full season in 2016, he gave us a small taste of his solid, yet unspectacular skill set. 86 runs, 22 HRs, 85 RBI, 7 SB and a .273 AVG in 582 ABs is not bad for someone who was probably drafted somewhere in the mid-teen rounds. Only 25 in 2016, he was looking like he had OF2 potential for 2017. We all should’ve seen his rough year coming when he was hit with a baseball three times in one inning in only the second game of the season: once at the plate and two while running the bases. That’s good luck in Haiti, but a sign of disaster in St. Louis. He suffered through three disabled list stints in 2017 and barely mustered out a .235 AVG. Before the 2018 season, the Cardinals traded Piscotty to the Athletics to be closer to his ailing mother who did unfortunately pass in May. With injuries and off-the-field issues behind him and a fresh start in Oakland, Piscotty returned to his pre-2017 form: 78/27/88/2/.267. Verdict: Hit!
Michael Taylor, Viz: “A .271 batting average?! This is it boys! He’s finally figured it out!” we all screamed. “20/20/.275 is a lock! I am a golden God for drafting him!” Well BABIP made fools of us all again. Despite having essentially identical BB% and K% to his career numbers in 2017 — his .363 BABIP was the highest number he’s put up in any season he’s played in over 100 games including the minors. In 2018, Taylor again placed in the bottom-15 in K%, striking-out in 30% of his ABs. That number is survivable when you’re an Aaron Judge, but when you’re Michael Taylor, who hits 51% of his balls into the ground and only gets hard contact on 32% of his balls, you’re gonna have a bad time. Verdict: Miss.
Jose Pirela, Brandon: I see the thought process here. Pirela has always been a high average bat even in the minors (.306 in 1,107 AAA ABs) and started to develop some pop in 2017 with 23 HRs between AAA and the Padres. A 20+ HR bat with a .290ish average with OF/2B eligibility who is going undrafted in many leagues? Smells like a sleeper to me. Unfortunately for Pirela over the first 70 games of the season he had an acceptable average (.277) but had 0 HRs. By this point in the season (June 14th) Pirela was losing second base ABs to Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg and the OF was already clogged up with Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Travis Jankowski. With inconsistent playing time, Pirela never had a chance to get going. Verdict: Miss.
Bradley Zimmer, Dokken: Zimmer was a power/speed threat with big strike-out issues who made up for that with solid walk numbers. He made his debut in 2017 making 332 plate appearances scoring 41 runs, hitting 8 HRs with 39 RBI, 18 SB and a .241 AVG. Not a bad debut for the 24 year old. Unfortunately for Zimmer, the Indians and Dokken, he only played in 34 games barely hitting over .225 before his 2018 season (and part of 2019) was cut short by a torn labrum. Verdict: Miss.
Nick Pivetta, Jimothy: Jimothy was definitely looking at Pivetta’s minor league numbers for signs of a breakout because his 2017 major league debut was a disaster. Pivetta got lit up like the fourth of July in 2017 to the tune of a 6.02 ERA which was 5th worst in the entire league. However, in 10 AAA starts between 2016 and 2017 he had a minuscule 1.91 ERA/1.006 WHIP with a 10.2 K/9. For the most part, I’d say Pivetta had a pretty solid 2018 — except for three complete disaster starts. In these three starts he allowed 19 ER in 6 and a third innings. If you act like these three starts never happened (oh if it were so easy) it brings his 4.77 ERA down to a much more palatable 3.88. It also looked as if Pivetta was tiring as the season went on. By the time September rolled around he was struggling to even reach 5 complete innings. Pivetta is still talented enough and young enough (he turns 26 on Valentine’s Day…ladies) to put together a full productive season. Verdict: Push. He was barely drafted in 2018 and outside of those three starts I think he had an okay season.
Cesar Hernandez, Kerry: I saw an injury stricken 2017 where Hernandez dropped 9 HRs and 15 steals with 85 runs and a .294 AVG and couldn’t help lick but lick my lips. Then I saw the Phillies go out and acquire Carlos Santana and I got even more excited (hindsight being what it is…) Hernandez met my expectations in every area except batting average. After back-to-back identical .294 batting average seasons in 2016 and 2017 I was most confident in that stat remaining the same. However, a 2016 .363 BABIP and a 2017 .353 BABIP was followed up by a 2018 .315 BABIP which dragged his average all the way down to .253. However, he did have the best walk rate of his career. I’m not going to lie, Hernandez is going to be one of my sleeper picks for 2019 as well. It’ll be tough because I’m sure his 2018 279.4 FantasyPros ADP is sure to be a lot lower in 2018. Verdict: Hit!
Yasiel Puig, Lance and Ricky: With a 95.2 ESPN ADP I’m thinking Lance and Ricky were expecting a second round value by the time the 2018 season came to a close. If Puig made improvements on his 72/28/74/15/.263 2017 then yeah, I could definitely see that happening. Unfortunately Puig took step back in three of the five major 5×5 categories and only gained .004 points on his average while tying his SB total. A pair of DL stints lead to Puig barely topping 400 ABs. The further we move away from his 2013 debut, the more it looks like a mirage. I think 2017 is the peak of what we can expect from Puig. His aggressive play style means he’ll always be at risk for injury, but a fully healthy Puig could hit 30 HRs with 20 SBs with a .265 AVG. Verdict: Miss.
Marcus Semien, Laura: Semien’s injury-cursed 2017 was the primary reason his ADP fell to 232. However, Laura saw his breakout potential from his 27 HR/10 SB season in 2016. Unfortunately for Laura, Semien’s power numbers fell to pre-2016 numbers with only 15. And while he did reach a career high in stolen bases it wasn’t exactly a needle-mover with only 14 on the season. I think there is slight room for power and speed growth with Semien — but I don’t think it exceeds 25 for either category. Doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable though — an 18/18 guy is great for a middle infield position, but his career .249 AVG is going to hold him back from reaching the upper echelon of SS. Verdict: Push. He hasn’t really moved up or down the ladder with his 2018 performance.
Josh Bell, Malamoney: I was pretty high on Bell going into the 2018 season as well. He earned that third place Rookie of the Year season after his 75/26/90/.255 line in 2017. I even anticipated some further batting average growth since that was his calling card in the minors (.303 over 1856 ABs.) Unfortunately it was a step backwards for Bell this year. He couldn’t find any consistency month to month. March/April: .614 OPS. May: .845 OPS. June: .703 OPS. July: .884 OPS. August: .752 OPS. September/October: .860 OPS. Hopefully Bell puts in the work this off-season because I think he holds the potential for a 30 HR/.285 season. Verdict: Miss.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Paul: Really any of the non-stars in the Red Sox lineup could be good options for sleeper picks. Just hitting near players like Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, or Andrew Benintendi could result in an uptick in stats. A rising tide can lift all boats. Unfortunately, I don’t really think JBJ made much improvement on his 210 ADP. While the career high 17 SBs were nice, his HR total dipped for the third year in a row (13.) The former first-round pick unfortunately just doesn’t seem that special and should remain undrafted for 2019. Verdict: Miss.
Colin Moran, Ralph: I agreed with Ralph going into 2018 — I even had him as my “Infatuation” prediction. Unfortunately, Moran had a pretty pedestrian 2018. .277 average? Yawn. 49 runs? Yawn. 11 HRs? Yawn. 58 RBI, .340 OBP, .747 OPS? Zzzzzzzz. Despite looking like a 45-year-old woodsman, he’s still only just turned 26, so there’s room for growth next year, but he’ll go even more undrafted in 2019. Verdict: Miss.
Aaron Hicks, Smokey: Now we’re talking, Smokey! Career high in runs, HRs and RBI. Almost an equal number of BBs to Ks (90:111.) All from an ADP of 220. Unlike with Bradley Jr. the rising tide of the Yankees lineup definitely rose this boat. Finally given a regular starting role for the first time in his six year career, Hicks rewarded Aaron Boone and fantasy owners with the best season of his career. Hicks did everything he needed to from a batted ball perspective to have this breakout: He brought his line drive percentage up to 21.6% from 15.7% and had the highest hard contact percentage of his career (39.5%.) while decreasing the percentage of pitches he swung on outside of the zone. Verdict: Hit!
Brett Gardner, Stan: This rising Yankee boat sprung a leak somewhere. After his first 20/20 season in 2017, Gardner followed that up with one of the worst years of his career in 2018. Anyone who bats leadoff for the Yankees is guaranteed at least 90 runs, but Gardner saw his HRs, RBI, and SBs all drop pretty severely while putting up the lowest batting average of his career. He’s going to be 35 in 2019 and as a guy who always gives 110% in the field, at the plate and on the base paths maybe all his years have finally caught up with him. Verdict: Miss.
Kyle Schwarber, Tony: In 2018, Schwarber saw his batting average soar 27 points to….238. However, Schwarber saw his HRs and run total dip and only had 2 additional RBI from 2017. The newly svelte slugger was at the whim of Joe Maddon and his unpredictable lineups causing him to only have 6 more ABs from 2017. As long as the Cubs have a surplus of great players and Joe Maddon keeps experimenting with his lineups we might not see a 500+ AB season from Schwarber which limits his fantasy potential. Verdict: Miss.
Manuel Margot, Yost: I don’t know if anyone had a worst first two months of the season than Margot. In 152 ABs he had only 14 runs, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 6 SB and a .204 AVG. He stepped it up for the rest of the season, but it was far from the prediction Yost made in the article: “I think Margot will heavily outproduce his ~13th round draft day value. He is a full 5-category contributor and 15/30 is well within reach. At that late I’m trying to pick him up everywhere I can.” I still think Margot is capable of improving on this awful sophomore slump to have a great junior jump! Verdict: Miss.
There’s our sleeper predictions from before the 2018 season — how do you think we did? Who were your sleeper predictions and were they more hit or miss? Leave a comment below!