When many think of sleepers, they think of young players who may break out, players who switched to a more favorable team, or players who underperformed according to sabermetric indicators (e.g. BABIP, Statcast data, HR/FB%, etc). They may even look for anecdotal evidence of a breakout, such as someone who changed his swing.
But those are not the only ways to identify sleepers, and many times those methods can lead us to “sleepers” who have been so hyped that they are overvalued. As a result, I often like to look for older, bargain-bin sleepers whose fantasy value is overlooked for one reason or another.
Last year, two of my targets were Carlos Beltran and Victor Martinez due to expected recoveries from injury. This year, one of my targets is Jose Reyes, who’s value has been dinged by off the field issues, injury, and possible concerns about playing time. He is currently being drafted 306th according to NFBC ADP, which means he is not being drafted in the average standard league (260 players drafted).Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: Jose Reyes
To this analyst, it's not even a question: Reyes should definitely be drafted. He has always been productive when he has played. Last year, he only played 60 games, largely due to a suspension. But, he still slashed .267/8/45/24/9, or a 162 game pace of .267/22/122/65/24. Incredibly, he has not had one unproductive season on a per game basis since he became a full-time player in 2005. Below are his 162 game averages since 2005:
Yes, Reyes will turn 34 in June and his days of stealing 60 bases are over. But last year, he stole at a 90% success rate, so he should continue to run often. With a normal offseason, he could improve on certain areas over last year. He has no reported health concerns.
Despite an infield that contains a lot of veterans, David Wright’s latest injury makes Reyes the primary third baseman to start the season. Further health question marks in the infield (e.g. Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera) make it a good bet that Reyes will find regular playing time if healthy. While it would be shocking to see him hit 22 homers (his 2016 pace), a .275/12/100/55/25 162-game pace is reasonable. Factor in that Reyes qualifies at both SS and 3B in many leagues, and he is more valuable than that line indicates.
Last year, only four players who qualified at SS or 3B had 25 steals and 12 homers: Jonathan Villar, Jean Segura, Eduardo Nunez, and Hernan Perez. According to one ranking system, they finished as the 5th, 6th, 30th, and 95th ranked players, respectively. Only one other player at those positions even had 20 steals and 10 homers (Jose Ramirez), and he ranked 47th.
While Reyes may not be the young breakout star that many covet, he is a clearly useful piece with unique upside. Take advantage of others passing him by, and pick up a great value near the end of your drafts.