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Deeper Draft Sleepers - NL Outfielders

We’re confident there will be a 2020 baseball season, but the game might look a little different. For instance, we may not see a 162 game season and the first several weeks may be played in empty baseball stadiums. The game may also feature a universal designated hitter. In attempting to identify deep outfield NL sleepers, adding a DH into NL lineups opens up the landscape a bit.

Players who were locked in preseason position battles like Braves OF eligible Austin Riley will have a better chance at securing regular playing time if the NL uses a DH. Riley’s power bat might look enticing, but strikeouts eventually killed his 2019 season. He batted .356 with seven home runs, 20 RBI in 15 May games, and then batted a lowly .191 with 87 strikeouts in his final 65 games. Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero could also get more at-bats if the NL uses a DH, and might be a better fantasy option than Riley. He’s been a bit injury-prone but provides a power and speed combination coveted by fantasy players.

There are several other fantasy-relevant NL outfielders whose ADPs suggest they’re being selected in the later rounds of typical 12 team mixed league drafts. The following five should see regular playing time, and can potentially outplay preseason ADPs.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks

David Peralta played in just 99 games last season due to a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. Peralta was already expected to be in the Diamondbacks’ opening day lineup, but his surgically repaired shoulder should benefit from the extra healing time gained due to the 2020 season’s delayed start.

Peralta is a career .290 hitter, and while his 30-HR 2018 season is likely an outlier, fantasy owners can expect upper-teen to lower 20-HR production from him in a 162 game season. Based on his NFBC ADP, he’s been a 21st-round pick in 12-team mixed leagues.

Peralta would benefit from an MLB decision to have all teams play a significant portion of their 2020 games in Arizona. He’d likely play half of his games at home, where he’s posted a career .310/.362/.521 triple-slash. By comparison, his away triple-slash has been a more pedestrian .269/.330/.433.

 

Shogo Akiyama, Cincinnati Reds

Once the 2020 season gets underway it will officially be “Sho Time” in Cincinnati! The Reds, who scouted him for three years, made signing Shogo Akiyama a priority this offseason. They felt Akiyama’s ability to make contact and his above-average on-base skills fit in perfectly with their power loaded lineup.

Akiyama averaged 23 HR over the past three seasons in the Japan Pacific League, but with power bats like Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos hitting behind him, he doesn’t need to hit home runs. His focus will be on scoring runs. Akiyama is a professional hitter who compiled a career .301 batting average, a .376 on-base percentage and averaged 106 runs scored over the past five seasons.

Akiyama has won six career Gold Gloves and although the Reds envision Akiyama as their everyday center fielder, his ability to play all three outfield positions ensures his bat will be in the lineup almost every day. Akiyama can also steal bases, averaging 12 per season for his career.

While the Reds have plenty of pop in their lineup, it's also worth noting they had the eighth-most stolen base attempts in 2019. Akiyama’s current NFBC ADP suggests he’s being selected in the 23rd round of 12-team mixed leagues. That’s excellent value for a player who’ll likely provide a batting average approaching .300, an OBP north of .350, and a ton of runs scored.

 

Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals

The 151 games Adam Eaton played last season were the most since 157 in 2016, his last season with the White Sox. The good news is that he provided the type of production the Nats expected when they acquired him in a trade which included their top pitching prospect, Lucas Giolito.

Eaton scored 103 runs last season, just one less than his career 162 game average. He also hit a career-high 15 HR, stole 15 bases, and posted a .363 OBP. He played through an early-season leg injury, but once fully healed, he really turned things around. Eaton posted a .263/.348/.387 triple-slash through June 10. From that date forward his triple-slash jumped to .291/.377/.458.

The Nationals had the fourth-most SB attempts last season, and Eaton will probably hit from the number two slot in their lineup. Those factors should allow Eaton to help fantasy owners in the runs scored and SB categories.

 

Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ opened the 2019 season in the minor leagues following a “Happless” spring training. He was also coming off of a terrible finish to a 2018 season in which he posted a .189/.303/.328 triple-slash in his final 49 games.

Happ didn’t get his first taste of big-league action until last July 26 and while he still had his ups and downs against big-league pitching, there’s hope that his worst days are behind him. One good sign is that Happ reduced his strikeout rate from 36.1 in 2018 to 25 % in 2019. By season's end, he was on a roll, hitting five HR and driving in 12 runs in his final eight games.

Happ was on a tear this spring, batting .481 with two HRs and 11 RBI in 27 at-bats and was on his way to opening the season as the Cubs’ everyday center fielder. Happ spent time at first base, second base, and third base in 2019. Depending on your league rules he might also be multi-position eligible.

 

Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies

Sam Hilliard hit a combined 42 HRs and stole 24 bases between his time in the big leagues and with the Rockies Triple-A affiliate last season. Like many young players, Hilliard struck out at a high rate (26.4) in his first 27 big league games, but also demonstrated patience at the plate as evidenced by his 10.3 percent walk rate. For the long term, Hilliard has 20-HR, 20-SB potential.

In the short term, Hilliard will compete for playing time with Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond. His ability to play all three outfield positions may give him a leg up on the competition. With most of his at-bats expected to come from the middle of the Rockies lineup, Hilliard should have many opportunities to drive in runs this season.

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