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Later-Round Prospects for Fantasy Baseball - Draft Sleepers and Values (2024)

Jackson Chourio - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Prospects

Sleeper is an oft-used phrase in fantasy circles but the value of having one hasn't diminished. When you look back at the end of the season, you'll find the later-round players are more likely to have a larger positive impact than those drafted in the early rounds. And if you identify some before your drafts, they could be the bargain of the draft and even carry you to a fantasy title.

In addition to helping you to fantasy glory, one of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy baseball is finding the hidden gems. Someone that none of your league mates are targeting in drafts. Here, we're going to look at four rookie players who are being drafted in the later rounds and who are set to provide excellent value at their ADP (Average Draft Position).

To be considered, they will need to be rookie-eligible going into 2024 and generally going outside the first 180 picks (according to NFBC drafts). Don't forget to keep up to date with all your preseason fantasy baseball needs by following RotoBaller on X . Without further ado, here are four first-year players who could be fantasy baseball sleepers in 2024.

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Jackson Chourio, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers and Chourio set a record when the outfielder signed an eight-year contract earlier this offseason. And now that he's been confirmed to break camp with the Brewers, we've seen his ADP jump significantly:

Looking at his minor league numbers, you would say he is major-league ready. Chourio spent the majority of 2023 in Double-A, playing 122 games before playing six games at Triple-A to end the season.

At Double-A, Chourio had 22 homers, 89 RBI, 84 runs, and 43 stolen bases along with a .280/.336/.467 slash line. He also had a 7.3% BB% and 18.4% K%. His .186 ISO would've ranked second on the Brewers (among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances) while his 112 wRC+ would've ranked third. Of course, we're talking Double-A and the step-up to the majors is a considerable one. But the Brewers could do with an offensive jolt.

Chourio has shown enough to suggest he can handle MLB pitching. Even if the power takes time to develop at the highest level, Chourio has shown he can hit, get on base, and run. There's a ton of upside if he can handle MLB pitching and the stolen bases offer up a solid floor in fantasy.

 

Yuki Matsui, RP, San Diego Padres

Matsui signed with the Padres and is a very lively option for saves. He was someone you could pick up with the last pick of your drafts before signing with San Diego. Now, he's being taken ~200 in some drafts (depending on league type). Matsui has had great success as a closer in Japan, and with the Padres having an open spot in the ninth inning, he has a clear route to saves.

Given Matsui is a lefty, it will be more likely he shares saves with someone else (Robert Suarez perhaps). Following the departure of Josh Hader, the current Padres' bullpen combined for a total of one save last year. There's a clear hole at the backend of their bullpen and that's something Matsui can help to fill. In leagues that count holds as well, Matsui could end up being a top-12 reliever in fantasy if he can replicate his 2023 season in Japan.

 

Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Caminero is another hitter who is considered a top prospect, but is seeing his ADP (~230) suppressed due to concerns he is not start the season in the majors. But he may not be down in the minors for long. He's the only player on this list that has MLB experience, albeit just 36 plate appearances. The Rays aren't afraid to play their youngsters and even included Caminero on their postseason roster.

Caminero can play third base and shortstop. Given the Rays have been listening to offers for Isaac Paredes and will want to upgrade offensively on Tyler Wells (and his 85 wRC+) at shortstop, Caminero has a couple of routes to regular playing time. And he will certainly be an offensive upgrade at shortstop should the Rays play him there. In 81 games at Double-A, Caminero hit .309/.373/.548 with 20 homers, 62 RBI, 55 runs, and three stolen bases.

It's worth noting that the Rays hit Caminero first (twice) and second (twice) in the lineup when they called him up, so they appear to value his hitting ability. Third base lacks some depth in fantasy, so you can stash Caminero if roster space allows for it.

 

Shota Imanaga, SP, Chicago Cubs

Shota Imanaga signed with the Cubs on January 9th, 2024

With Yoshinobu Yamamoto the real headline free agent from Japan, there hasn't been much fanfare around Imanaga. After signing with the Cubs in January, he now seems to be garnering plenty of interest. If we take a look at his arsenal and his numbers in NPB, it's easy to see why.

Year G IP W L ERA K BB
2016 22 135.1 8 9 2.93 136 38
2017 24 148.0 11 7 2.98 140 52
2018 23 84.2 4 11 6.80 80 38
2019 25 170.0 13 7 2.91 186 56
2020 9 53.0 5 3 3.23 63 17
2021 19 120.0 5 5 3.08 110 26
2022 21 143.2 11 4 2.26 132 29
2023 22 148.0 7 4 2.80 174 24
Career 165 1,002.2 64 50 3.18 1021 280

The lefty throws a fastball that sits around 94-95 mph, a splitter, a slider, and a curveball. Providing they all play as well in the US as they have done in Japan, he shouldn't have issues getting out right-handed hitters. His fastball also has a decent spin rate, averaging ~2,500 RPM. The MLB left-handed starters averaged ~2,200 RPM (credit to David Adler for those numbers).

Imanaga is 30 years old, so he still has a few years ahead of him. He hasn't been heavily worked considering some MLB workloads and there are plenty of positives from the last couple of seasons. His 174 Ks in 148.0 IP this past season certainly stands out. And walking only 24 hitters is equally impressive. With an ADP of ~246, Imanaga is going late enough that even with quite a bit of regression, he can still prove to be a fantasy valuable pitcher.



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