Everyone who’s done a fantasy baseball draft knows you can almost always find an outfielder worth drafting. This doesn’t mean you should pass on the top-tier OFs in the early rounds, but it does let you know you should have a handy list of sleepers on your cheat sheet. The potential breakouts you find in the outfield can produce in a variety of categories, making it a great position to target to round out your roster.
As always, we try to provide an array of potential sleepers, whether you’re in shallow leagues or deep leagues. Some of the players listed below won’t be considerations in 10-team, three-OF leagues, but if you’re in a 12- or 14-team five-OF league, you know you’ll be digging deep for a bench outfielder or two.
You also know that countless worthwhile outfielders will pop up throughout the season. They might not be anything more than two-week flashes, but riding hot streaks can work as long as you don’t drop decent long-term players. Some of the guys below might not do much early in the season, but keep them in mind as the year goes on.
2021 FANTASY BASEBALL RANKINGS:
Catcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Starter | Reliever | Top 300
Fantasy Baseball OF Sleepers: Breakout outfielders, late-round steals
Position eligibility based on Yahoo’s default settings
Randy Arozarena, Rays. Arozarena is probably more overvalued than undervalued at this point, so it might be a bit of a stretch to call him a “sleeper,” but while many might think of him as a slugger after his torrid postseason, he also has a good amount of speed. Arozarena stole 19 bases between the majors and minors in 2019, and he’s a legit 20/20 candidate (or even 30/20 candidate) heading into this year. It seems likely he’ll get overdrafted, but just keep in mind that he can help in multiple categories.
Ryan Mountcastle, Orioles (also eligible at 1B). Mountcastle impressed in his 35-game MLB debut last year, posting a .333/.386/.492 line with five homers. Ticketed for everyday playing time in the outfield, the 24-year-old slugger broke out at Double-A in 2018 (.297/.341/.464) and continued that in Triple-A in ’19 (.312/.344/.527). Clearly, he’s trending upward, and given his home park, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit close to 25 HRs with a solid average and a good amount of RBIs.
2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS
Catcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Outfield | Pitcher | Each Team
Anthony Santander, Orioles. Santander isn’t a complete unknown after hitting 20 HRs in 93 games in 2019 and 11 HRs in 37 games in ’20, but because he plays on the Orioles and hasn’t had a monster season yet, fantasy owners might not realize just how high his breakout potential is. The 26-year-old switch-hitter surprisingly doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter (just a 15.2-percent strikeout percentage last year, 21.2 the year before), and he won’t kill your average, settling in around .260. He doesn’t run, but given his home park, homers and RBIs seem inevitable.
Alex Verdugo, Red Sox. Verdugo has mostly impressed the past two seasons, hitting .294/.342/.475 with the Dodgers in 2019 and .308/.367/.478 with the Red Sox last year. He hasn’t shown the ability to steal many bases or hit a lot of homers, so it’s easy to overlook him, but he’ll likely hit for a high average. At 24, he could still develop more power, which will likely result in a decent number of runs and RBIs, but the main reason to target Verdugo is if you need average help.
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Leody Taveras, Rangers. Texas has multiple OF and DH options, so Taveras can’t afford a slow start, but the 22-year-old switch-hitter has legit power-speed upside. Right now, he’s more speed than power — and his average will likely disappoint — but fantasy owners are always looking for speed. If he hits leadoff for the Rangers, he could also be a major source of runs, especially if his 10.4-percent BB-rate from last year is legit.
Mitch Haniger, Mariners. Haniger is a major health risk after playing just 63 games the past two years because of a variety of injuries, but in his lone full season in 2018, he posted a .285/.366/.493 line with 26 HRs, 90 runs, 93 RBIs, and eight SBs. At 29, he shouldn’t be washed up, but the odds of him staying healthy seem slim. Still, he’s worth a late middle-round pick on the chance he plays 140-plus games.
DRAFT STRATEGY: Snake Draft | S.M.A.R.T. System | Auction Tips
Victor Reyes, Tigers. Reyes is running out of chances to make good on the promise he showed in the minors (.299/.346/.391 with a decent amount of steals), but if he gets regular playing time, he could hit for a decent average, pop double-digit homers, and steal 20 bases. That has value late in drafts in deeper leagues.
Dylan Carlson, Cardinals. Carlson struggled in his first major league action last year, hitting just .200/.252/.364 in 35 games, but his 2019 numbers spent mostly at Double-A (.292/.372/.542 with 26 HRs and 20 SBs spent) show his upside. His strikeouts are a worry, but tif he holds onto his job and gets everyday playing time in St. Louis’s solid lineup, he’ll be worth a starting spot in five-OF leagues.
MLB PROSPECTS: Top 50 | Top Hitters | Top Pitchers
Cristian Pache. Pache might start the season in the minors, but the 22-year-old defensive whiz could easily find his way into the lineup soon. His bat is still a work in progress, but with solid contact skills, developing power, and good speed, Pache could be a nice all-around contributor once he does get playing time.
Brandon Nimmo, Mets. Nimmo is one of those players who’s better in real life than fantasy because of his high BB-rate, but he quietly showed an improvement in power last year, slugging .484 while cutting down on the strikeouts. If that trend continues, it’s not crazy to think Nimmo can hit close to 25 HRs and steal around 10 bases while producing a high OBP. That’s worth a late-round flier, at least in OBP leagues.
Sam Hilliard, Rockies. The Coors Field factor makes almost every Rockies hitter a potential sleeper, but Hilliard is particularly intriguing because of his power-speed combination. The 27-year-old lefty might wind up being a “Quad-A” player, but he hit 42 HRs and stole 24 bases between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. The average likely won’t be great because of a high strikeout percentage, but Hilliard should get a shot at regular playing time in the majors this year.
Myles Straw, Astros. Straw is a classic no-power speedster who could hit one homer — literally one homer — and swipe 40 bags with regular playing time. It’s unclear if he’ll get everyday bats, but it looks like that’s the plan to start the season. Those types of players still have value, and with Straw’s high BB-rate, he should always produce in steals and runs even if he doesn’t do much else.
Other OF-eligible sleepers written about elsewhere: Daulton Varsho (C), Nick Solak (2B, 3B), Dylan Moore (2B, 3B, SS), Garrett Hampson (SS), Jon Berti (2B, 3B, SS), Yoshi Tsutsugo (3B), Dee Strange-Gordon (SS*, 2B)
*Not eligible to play there on draft day but expected to play there during the season