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Sleepers and Busts

‘Sleeper’ is Overused — So Here are 4 New ‘Fantasy Sleepers’ Classifications

Each year, when we begin our Fantasy research, the first thing most of us do is start compiling our sacred “sleeper” list.

We are looking to find players we can target late in drafts that will produce mid-round results, and on occasion, deliver elite level production.

In January, we all feel like geniuses. However, as we move into February and March, we quickly realize many of our “sleepers” are looking less and less unique.

Why the Evaluation of “Fantasy Sleepers” is Often Flawed

While the concept behind unearthing sleepers is sound, I believe the way most people evaluate this category has become flawed. Let me explain.

Earlier this month, I read about how Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was being considered a sleeper. Since he has yet to sign with any club, his ADP (Average Draft Position) is somewhere in the low 200s.

Given that K-Rod has the ability to produce 40-plus saves this season, I can see why Fantasy players might classify him as a sleeper. Ultimately, he should provide significantly more value than most other players who occupy a similar ADP.

But calling K-Rod a sleeper in my opinion is an incorrect categorization. He is what I would consider a “pre-digital sleeper” — i.e. before the Internet and Twitter. Twenty years ago, when we were still using magazines to set our rankings, his spring signing could have flown under the radar on Draft Day. In 2015, however, the minute K-Rod signs, his ADP will spike and his sleeper status will be no more. This is why I believe we need to better clarify how to use the term “sleeper.”

Developing Better Classifications of “Fantasy Sleepers”

Back when the early settlers of Fantasy Baseball first coined the term “sleeper,” it took only a short time before others were bright enough to come up with the term “deep sleeper.“  What a stretch!

But what does “deep sleeper” really mean? To me, it’s just saying these are players with similar upside, but with more risk. That risk may be worth taking a chance on in dynasty leagues, but don’t offer nearly the same value in non-keeper leagues. There has to be a better way to define “sleepers,” right?

To start, I like the classification “post-hype sleeper.” This is the group of highly touted prospects like Mike Trout, but unlike him, didn’t succeed right away, when they first reached the majors.

Some Examples of 2015 “Post-Hype Sleepers”

  1. Wil Myers, OF, San Diego: Even though he was the 2013 AL Rookie of the year, he has since been traded, and there is talk about him now moving from the outfield to play first base. Lately, there are rumors San Diego may use him as trade bait to improve themselves at other positions. As long as he gets at-bats, however, this could be an opportunity to buy low.
  2. Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston: After struggling for parts of last season, and having to play third base, his name doesn’t carry the same cache it did 12 months ago. Many people forget he still hit double-digit home runs in his first full season, which offers real value for someone who is eligible at shortstop.
  3. Travis Snider, OF, Baltimore: In Toronto and Pittsburgh, Snider was never given the opportunity to play full time. Now with his third team in Baltimore, he might finally have the chance to live up to his minor league pedigree. In the second half of last year, he hit .288 with 9 HR.

While I understand how the “post-hype sleepers” term has become relatively mainstream, I believe it’s an example of how Fantasy Baseball players can bucket their sleepers list into specific categories, and spread out their risk.

Diversify Your “Sleeper Risk” Into Four Categories

Late-to-the-Party Fantasy Sleepers

This category features players like Stephen Souza, who looks to be finally getting his first chance at real playing time in the majors at age 25.

Don’t-Count-Me-Out-Yet Sleepers

Players over 30 who are still thriving. There’s no shortage of this category.

Coming-Off-Injury Sleepers

Take your pick of players coming off Tommy John surgery. Some don’t skip a beat, while others don’t always fair as well. And don’t forget about players who came back midway through last year, but still put up great second-half numbers.

Passport Sleepers

2015 Fantasy Sleepers
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Import players such as Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig have driven up the ADP for arriving Cuban players. Do Yasmany Tomas or Jorge Soler have the same promise? Have their predecessor’s successes, made it impossible to derive value from Cuban players anymore?

In the days leading up to your draft, make sure you take a close look at your sleeper list. Does it feel like every article you have read lately, is mentioning the same players you have on your list? Then they probably aren’t sleepers anymore. Instead they are now simply players with upside, but now they have “hype” tax added to their cost. So treat them that way.

Instead, take a look at your sleepers and group them into categories, so that you don’t overload on players with the same risk factors. It will help make it easier to decide which ones to let go when their price is too high, and which ones you can take a chance on.

Remember, a 20th-round selection delivering 12th-round production is great value. But if you become too focused with drafting a particular player, and end up taking him in the 10th round, all the value of their upside is erased. So Instead, your so-called Fantasy sleepers may turn your season into a lot of sleepless nights.

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