Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - First Base
In the second installment of our fantasy baseball sleeper tour, we’ll take a trip over to first base, after beginning behind the plate in our first edition. In my opinion, first base is the opposite of catcher. Like I’ve previously stated, I’m all in on passing on the big name catchers and looking for value later in the draft. When it comes to the right-side of the infield, I feel like it’s one position that you focus on early in your drafts. For me, it is the corner infielders and outfielders where you really need to strike early. Even when you invest early on positions like first base, you still need to find depth for off-days and what not. That’s where sleepers such as the ones below come into play. Where can you find value late in the draft that will provide production when your big guns are on days off? We have you covered.
During this series of articles, I’m going to provide you with my favorite sleepers position-by-position.
Eric Thames (Washington Nationals)
Positional Rank: 55th
2019 Stats: .247 BA, 25 HR, 61 RBI, 67 R, .346 OBP, .505 SLG
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): .238 BA, 17 HR, 40 RBI, 47 R, .334 OBP, .491 SLG
I’m sitting here scratching my head trying to figure out how Thames’ average draft position is so low and why RotoChamp has his projection where they have it. Last season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Thames hit 25 homers and had an OPS of .851. I see that as his floor in 2020 as he posted those stats in just 396 at-bats. After Anthony Rendon’s departure from the defending champions, Thames was one of the pieces the Nationals brought in to help their title defense. Although he’s not playing third-base, he’s set to replace Rendon in the lineup, as best as he can because we all know, very few players can replace Rendon. Thames hits for power and draws walks on top of that. He’s going to hit early and often in the Nationals’ lineup. This is a guy that is going to start rising draft boards as more and more drafts start taking place. Remember his name and make sure you’re snagging him in as many leagues as possible.
Renato Nunez (Baltimore Orioles)
Positional Rank: 35th
2019 Stats: .244 BA, 31 HR, 90 RBI, 72 R, .311 OBP, .460 SLG
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): .251 BA, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 69 R, .316 OBP, .442 SLG
I get why Renato Nunez is overlooked, he plays for the Baltimore Orioles. Despite playing for the worst team in the league, he still hit 31 home runs and 90 RBIs in his 2019 campaign. If you want to dive deeper into some more non-traditional stats, Nunez has an above-average 40.6 hard-hit ball percentage and was top 50 in the league with 43 “barrels” last year. Barrells refers to hitting pitches with the sweet spot of the bat. It’s hard to assume that he’ll hit 30+ homers again this year and playing for such a poor team, it’s hard to keep up with 90+ RBIs as well. He’s currently going in the 26th round of 12-man leagues. He screams sleeper.
Yandy Diaz (Tampa Bay Rays)
Positional Rank: 33rd
2019 Stats: .267 BA, 14HR, 38 RBI, 53 R, .340 OBP, .476 SLG
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): .274 BA, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 71 R, .359 OBP, .423 SLG
Yandy Diaz is such an intriguing player to me. The Tampa Bay Rays for years have been known for finding that diamond in the rough. When they sent Jake Bauers for Diaz, many were confused. But in 79 games last year, Diaz hit 14 homers, had 35 walks and an OPS of .816. He was in the top eight-percent of the league in exit velocity. He also had a xBA of .283 and a xwOBA of .357. These numbers are comparable to the Chicago White Sox’ Jose Abreu. Diaz isn’t going to light up the stat sheet with homers or RBIs, but he’s going to hit for a good average, get on base a ton and produce a lot of runs for the Rays. If you’re in a categories league, or heck even a points league, this guy could get the steal of your draft.