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Best Ball Sleepers and Late Round Targets for Fantasy Baseball

Best ball leagues are one of the latest variations of fantasy baseball that are quickly growing in popularity. Draft day is the only day of the year where owners will have control over their roster. There is no waiver wire and there are no trades. Owners won't even set daily lineups, as they will instead be chosen automatically by computer. With this added emphasis on having a successful draft in order to have a chance at winning, finding sleepers who will come through in a big way for your team is absolutely crucial.

As mentioned earlier this week in our Best Ball draft strategy overview, consistency in both health and on-field performance will be key to winning in a Best Ball league. Going down this list, we will take a look at one player from each position who has displayed that consistency over the course of several seasons and can be picked up late in drafts.

While these players may not have as high a ceiling as those ranked and drafted ahead of them, they also don't have as low of a floor, which could mean the difference between first place and tenth place in 2018.

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Best Ball Sleepers and Draft Targets

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal—ADP 225

Let's play a game. Here are the 2017 stat lines for a pair of catchers:

Player A 129 50 22 58 .247 .308 .459
Player B 129 57 27 80 .268 .297 .495

Player A currently has an ADP of 225, while Player B has an ADP of 97. If you want to wait to draft a catcher, then you might want to pass on Player B — Salvador Perez — and instead pick up Player A — Yasmani Grandal. Since becoming a starter in 2014, Grandal has averaged 124 games per year, with 20 home runs, a .234 batting average and a .768 on-base plus slugging percentage. Grandal set career-highs in 2017 with 108 hits, 27 doubles and 201 total bases, and this uptick in production combined with his already established consistency could point to Grandal being one of the bigger steals in Best Ball drafts this season.

First Base: Ian Desmond—ADP 112

A hand injury followed by a lingering hamstring injury derailed Desmond's 2017 season, as he appeared in only 95 games. Despite that, he was still able to put up decent numbers, stealing 15 bases for the seventh time in his last eight seasons while hitting .274 with seven HR and a .701 OPS. Now that he has had the off season to recover, he should rebound and outperform where he is currently being drafted. From 2012 to 2016, Desmond averaged 151 games per season with 80 runs, 22 HR, 78 RBI and 20 stolen bases. In 2017, there were three first basemen who had at least 80 runs, 20 HR, 75 RBI and 10 stolen bases: Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion and Cody Bellinger. Of those three, only Goldschmidt had at least 15 steals.

Desmond won't put up as high of numbers in some categories as Goldschmidt, Encarnacion and Bellinger, but he can put up numbers that are comparable to theirs. With an ADP of 55 or more picks lower than those three, he could be a significant bargain that allows you to focus on other positions early on in your draft.

Second Base: Ian Kinsler—ADP 187

After spending the last four seasons in Detroit, Kinsler makes his return to the AL West in 2018 as he joins an Angels team looking to take the next step towards a postseason run. While he posted a .236 average and .725 OPS in 2017 — both career-worsts — Kinsler was still able to hit 22 HR and scored 90 runs for the fourth straight season. What's impressive about that is that based on advanced metrics, Kinsler was very unlucky at the plate last year. His .244 BABIP was significantly lower than his career mark of .286, and with negligible changes in his batted ball and contact percentages across the board, signs point to Kinsler rebounding back to number closer to his career averages in 2018. Kinsler has averaged 100 runs, 20 HR and 13 steals with a .275 average and .764 OPS since 2014. Returning back to those numbers in 2018 will cause Kinsler to easily provide more value than his current ADP of 187 suggests.

Third Base: Kyle Seager—ADP 139

Out of everyone on this list, Kyle Seager is probably the most consistent player that owners should look at taking late in a Best Ball draft. Since 2012, Seager has played in 155 games every season except last year when he appeared in only 154. Since 2014, Seager has had at least 70 runs, 25 doubles, 25 HR, 74 RBI and an OPS of .770 or higher. 2017 was the first year of his career in which he did not hit at least .250 — he hit .249. Like Kinsler, Seager's .262 BABIP in 2017 was down from his career .285 BABIP, and it was also the lowest of his career. There really isn't much more to say about Seager. His consistency will likely make him the late round pick that contributes the most to a team's success in 2018.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus—ADP 59

Andrus isn't as much of a sleeper as others on this list — his ADP of 59 is the highest of anyone on this list — but he makes this list because he can put up numbers as good or better than the four shortstops being drafted 20 or more picks ahead of him. Andrus has at least 20 steals every year of his career, has never hit below .250 and averaged 81 runs and 60 RBI from 2011 through 2016. These numbers are all reasons to own Andrus, but what is most intriguing is the potential he showed at the plate last season.

After reportedly making some adjustments to his batting stance prior to the 2017 season, Andrus set career-highs across the board with 100 runs, 44 doubles, 20 HR (his first season with double-digit home runs) and 88 RBI, while posting an .800 OPS for the second year in a row. It remains to be seen if he will even come close to matching his 2017 campaign, but based on what is known he can do along with the potential he displayed last year, Andrus is worth waiting on to draft as your starting shortstop.

Outfield: Jay Bruce—ADP 161

Selecting Bruce on draft day will likely not get any attention from your opponents. You probably won't have owners complimenting you on a smart pick or complaining that you sniped him just before they could take him. But what drafting Bruce will do is pad your stats in all the right places for a low cost. This is what he has done in six of the last seven seasons: Hit 25 HR and 25 doubles, drive in 85 runs and record an .800 OPS. In 2017 there were only 10 outfielders besides Bruce to put up those numbers, and Bruce is the only one of those who currently has an ADP placing him outside of the first 10 rounds. Drafting Bruce will give you high-end production at a bargain price, and that is the kind of investment you need to look for in a Best Ball league.

Pitcher: Jose Quintana—ADP 72

With 161 starts, Quintana is one of six pitchers to start at least 160 games since 2013 — only Max Scherzer and Jeff Samardzija have started more games during that time. Quintana has averaged 201 innings and 181 strikeouts with a 3.50 ERA over that span, and has also put together an 8.1 K/9 rate. While Quintana has been consistent with 32 starts, 185 innings and 175 strikeouts in each of the last four seasons, what's intriguing about him is that he could be improving. Starting off last season with the White Sox, Quintana was striking out batters at a higher rate than previously in his career. After his trade to the Cubs, not only did he strike out batters at an even higher rate (10.5 K/9 with the Cubs vs 9.4 K/9 with the White Sox) but both his ERA and FIP dropped more than 70 points. Quintana was already a good pitcher to draft in any league, but with his track record and the potential he showed in the second half, he could be on his way to becoming a borderline top 10 starting pitcher.

Each one of these players has shown that they can put up the same numbers year in and year out. Take advantage of their consistency in your drafts, as all of these players will be more valuable in a Best Ball league than in other leagues, and other owners may not realize that come draft day. Players like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Giancarlo Stanton will carry your team, but it's the players on this list that can make the difference between finishing first or second in your league.


More 2018 MLB Draft Strategy