Deep Sleepers 8/5: Ten Sleeper Hitters To Target In Your Deep Leagues

Well here’s the post-trade deadline edition!  I wish I could say that it provided more or better opportunities for hitters that I actually wanted and were available.  Many intriguing prospects...

Well here’s the post-trade deadline edition!  I wish I could say that it provided more or better opportunities for hitters that I actually wanted and were available.  Many intriguing prospects have gotten the call, but with the exception of Kepler (who I am at this moment patting myself on the back with one hand for writing about, making it hard to type) I don’t include most of those guys on my list since they’re usually already owned in deeper leagues.  But here are some non-prospecty guys, (some making a triumphant return to this list) who should give you an opportunity to pat yourself on the back with one hand and type poorly, too.

Pedro Alvarez (1B/3B, Orioles) – I’ll admit, it was more fun touting him when he was still pretty much a backup before his mini-breakout.  I feel like now I’m pretending to be a die-hard fan of a band I saw and forgot about years ago now that they’ve had their big break.  As of tonight Mr. Pedro has 16 dongs, so Alvarez probably isn’t hanging around on any AL-only wires anymore, but he may be around in even deeper mixed leagues since his playing time never seems secure.  But his ISO is actually much better than last year (.250 to .227) with similar plate discipline numbers, and his batted ball velocity on FB/LD is still 2nd best in the league (Avg eV ranks 9th).   Buy buy this birdie.

Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Rangers) – If you want to be the best, like no one ever was, you may want to take a peek at Choo.  At this point he’s likely on a real or imagined trash heap in many leagues where his addiction to disabled lists has been too much to bear.  But alas, he’s back, and now in a texas pit beefed up lineup.  While Choo is no longer the 5-category stud of old, he could produce at an even better rate than he did last year when he hit 22 homers in 653 PA.  Choo’s  2016 .211 ISO is higher than his .187 ’15 mark, and he also has a slightly higher walk rate and slightly lower K rate, and thus far his average eV of 93.7 mph is 17th in the league.  If he can stay on the field, he can pop 7-10 homers with a sexy OBP through the homestretch.  Choo Choo! 

Jefry Marte (OF/1B/3B, Angels) – I really was starting to worry that my early endorsement of Marte wouldn’t pan out and that baseball fans the world over would take to the streets and impale my laptop with pitchforks, but fortunately my faith in the former Tigers prospect has been rewarded with better play as of late!  When I last had written about Marte, I expressed concern about his then-28% K rate, but he has since lowered his season rate all the way down to 22.1%, which means that for the past month it has been well below 20%.  Granted, his previously insane hard-hit rate has also regressed to the more modest-yet-still-excellent 36.5%.  It seems he’s trying to be a more disciplined and complete hitter as he’s hitting to all fields, so while I don’t see him producing pop at this rate (8 HR in 144 PA) expect him to be a multi-position asset, especially in AVG leagues since he still doesn’t walk much.

Mike Zunino (C, Mariners) – Who has a .474 ISO?  Mike Zunino!  Will it last?  Mike ZuniNO!   But he’s still good, guys! Following my tradition of favoring players I tracked and lauded in the minors, I believe Zunino’s 26.1% K rate is mostly legit, which may sound like a terrible thing until you remember that it was 33.2% in 2014 and 34.2% in 2015.  But he’s also nearly tripled his walk rate to 15.2%, and while that’ll fall., his much-needed stint in the minors suggests the newfound plate discipline is real.  Combined with Ianetta stinking on both sides of the ball, Zunino can provide sneaky mid-tier catcher production which speaks to how bad catcher has been this year.

Ji-man Choi (1B, OF, Angels) – Now for my favorite part, the super-deep sleeper!   Most people probably don’t feel good about recommending a guy with a batting average considerably below the Mendoza line, but I do!  ChoiManJi (I’m copyrighting that nickname) may not elephant-charge onto your team unless you’re AL-only, but take a gander at what this rule-5 prospect has done.  In his limited sample, he’s managed a .208 ISO, and a plus eV on 91.5, on par with Carlos Santana, Freese, Story and Posey, and with a 20% LD% and a 26.4% FB%.  But clearly with that average, he must have crap plate discipline, right?  Wrong!  His K% is only 19.3 and padded with a 11.4 BB%, and the culprit is a mostly-unlucky* .175 BABIP.  His * is the 15% IFFB% which is unsavory, but now with an opportunity of playing time, and dual 1B/OF eligibility in most leagues, he could be the next Jefry Marte, who could be the next someone better than Jefry Marte.  CHOIMANJI!

Jung-Ho Kang (SS/3B, Pirates) – To win at fantasy baseball, sometimes you have to separate yourself from off-the-field matters and become a cold, analytical computer.  While the accusations against Kang are certainly concerning, and it’s entirely possible that Kang’s struggles are due to him being stressed or distracted by the situations, some owners may fail to consider the possibility that the timing of his struggles is merely coincidental.   His plate discipline is largely unchanged from 2016, and his ISO has jumped from .173 to .227, but the major hit is his lucky 2015 BABIP of .344 dropping to .262 in 2016, neutralizing his luck and karma.  His IFFB has actually dropped to just 5.4% so it’s not that, and while he has hit more fly balls and fewer grounders, his 41% Hard hit rate and 96.4 mph FB/LD eV suggests that’s not a bad thing.  This may be the lowest you can buy him, and while he’s a risky asset right now, in leagues where you can stream he’s worth the gamble.

Tommy Joseph (1B/C, Phillies) – Now I’ve wanted to write about Joseph for a while but I held myself back saying he’s not deep enough a sleeper.  But hey, I need something to balance out my dumpster diving #5 pick.  Joseph made huge plate discipline improvements since the start of July, which are supported by nearly every plate discipline peripheral.  And he’s not just being passive, as he’s made contact with most pitches in the zone, and still sports a 36.9% Hard Hit rate.  His avg eV is still great though it has regressed some, but he’s a name-brand value without the name-brand price in mixed leagues even just as a 1B.  If he qualifies at C and he’s not taken in your league…Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?

Tommy Pham (OF, Cardinals) – Two Tommys in a row!  Here’s an option for those Phamished for power.  The 28-year-old sophomore has whacked 8 taters in only 118 ABs, which is obviously excellent!  He also has a 36.1 K%, which is obviously not excellent!  So which, if either, is the fluke?  Well, here’s a little secret.  His avg. FB/LD eV is 98.2, 5th in the league (min 30 BBE), and the very best among active players in the NL right above some schlub named Giancarlo Stanton.  Small sample size, sure, but hot diggity dog!  His plate discipline metrics don’t look markedly different from last year, and his plate discipline in the minors was far better, so while he might be selling out for power somewhat, the K rate should regress to something more palatable, which you will be thankful for when the BABIP fairy flies away.  Pick him up and treat him like part of your Pham.

Alex Dickerson (OF, Padres) – As a fan of the AL, every once in a while an NL only guy will evade my attention completely, especially if he has a boring name like this guy.  But sweet sassy molassey do I like what I see here!  He obliterated Triple-A with a .382 AVG and .240 ISO (10 HR in .240 PA) and has maintained the same plate discipline with a 6 BB% and 11.2 K% in 98 major league PA, with a .270 ISO.   Especially this year, it’s been much easier to find sleeper power than sleeper average, and here we may have both.  His BABIP may be depressed by his crazy 41.9% FB, and he needs to fix his sky high 18.2 IFFB%, but the power isn’t a total fluke as he has strong 94.9 avg. FB/LD and a high pull rate of 43.8%.  His floor is among the highest on this list with such a low K rate for the 26-year old, and even though he’ll regress some, he could still provide even deeper mixed-league value the rest of the way.

Scott Schebler (OF, Reds) – Hey, remember this guy?  The one who was supposed to platoon with Adam Duvall at the start of the year.  Haha, oof.  But now he has an opening yet  again, and he’s no slouch in the power department either, with a 95.1 mph FB/LD eV, though his season stats don’t reflect that power, with just 2 HR in 78 PA.  He did have 13 Homers, a .311 AVG a .253 ISO in Triple-A, so there still is some intrigue in the 25-year old.  While I lack any good puns for his weird name, he might be a good bench stash or injury replacement in NL-only leagues.  The Schebler elf?  The redbird is my Schebler, I shall maybe want?  Ugh, I give up.

Ben Pernick is a Brandeis Alumni who has been playing fantasy baseball since he thought Pogs were cool.  He performs as stand-up comic and comedy singer/songwriter in NYC and has an irrational love of puns and dad jokes.  He also sports a .900 OBP and 1.000 FLD% in his recreational softball league and wants you to know about it.


Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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