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NL-Only Sleepers for 2023 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Lars Nootbar - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB News

The “Only” league is one of the more challenging fantasy baseball formats. The format forces players to reach into the depths of NL rosters to create the best team possible.

The only problem with the “Only” league format? It is extremely difficult. With such a limited player pool, the drafts are critical. If you make a mistake during the draft, you put yourself in a dangerous position; a position where you’ll have to find out who the backup CF for the Rocket City Trash Pandas is to survive (if you were wondering, the answer is BJ Boyd).

I’m mostly joking, but “Only” fantasy baseball leagues really do require dedication and heavy research, a lot of things most people just don’t have the time for. But guess who has time for such things, me! There are a couple of diamonds in the rough that could help you on your quest to win your NL-only league. Look here if you’re in need of a similar service for your AL-only league.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Keibert Ruiz, C, Washington Nationals

Keibert Ruiz was recently handed a monster eight-year/$50 million contract. I’m kidding, of course, and I hope this tongue-in-cheek intro was not too shocking.

For such a low amount of money, one could assume that Keibert Ruiz is merely a serviceable player who isn’t worth any fantasy baseball consideration.

However, Ruiz is one of the best contact hitters in the game. In his first season with significant playing time, Ruiz slashed .251/.313/.360. That may not scream “best contact hitter in the game,” but Ruiz’s expected batting average was in the league’s 91st percentile. He will seriously benefit from the shift as Ruiz’s wOBA fell 55 points in shift situations.

With good hitting and scarcity at the catching position, Ruiz should be on your radar. And hopefully, you’ll realize that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo pulled off a heist with the contract he handed to the 24-year-old.


Lars Nootbaar, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Lars Nootbaar has been making himself quite the name in this year’s WBC. Mr. Japan has been batting .368/.500/.368 while making his pepper-grinding celebration a sensation across the world.

While Nootbaar has made himself a surprise star at the WBC, it is likely just a preface to a rise to MLB superstardom in 2023.

In 2022, Nootbaar batted .228/.340/.448 with an OPS+ of 126. It was an up-and-down season, as he had two months above an OPS of .900, but also two months under .700 OPS. Nootbaar may look unreliable as a hitter, but a bad turn of luck in those two low-OPS months (BABIP under the Mendoza line in those two months) and an amazing set of hitting peripherals should ease concerns.

Nootbaar smacked the ball with an average exit velocity of 91.7 mph and a hard-hit rate of 46% in 2022. But he isn’t just a hard hitter; Nootbaar had a walk rate in the 98th percentile and a barrel rate of 12.1%.

Those advanced numbers didn’t translate into counting stats because of the shift. Nootbaar was shifted on half his at-bats, with a .378 wOBA on non-shifts. With the shift gone, Nootbaar should see an increase in traditional statistics to the point of award contention.

While there is increased competition in the Cardinals’ outfield from Jordan Walker and Juan Yepez, Nootbaar is the least threatened. His defensive savviness and impressive offensive tools will keep him on the field. All signs point to a massive season for Lars Nootbaar.


Avisail Garcia, OF, Miami Marlins

MLB veteran Avisail Garcia should have a huge 2023 season. Why? Garcia has an unusual -- and seemingly ordained -- every-other-year streak.

Of course, a nutty statistical pattern isn’t enough to warrant an investment, but Garcia is legitimately due for a good season.

The outfielder had an abysmal 2022 season. He batted .224/.266/.317 with a wOBA in the league’s third percentile. All of this came just a year after Garcia hit 29 HRs with an OPS of .820. So what happened to the 31-year-old?

Garcia likely just got too comfortable in 2022. Fresh off a four-year contract, he might’ve thought there was nothing serious to play for. But with the talented Bryan De La Cruz nipping at his heels, Garcia should have his nose back to the grindstone. If he doesn’t, Garcia is at risk of losing his starting spot, and maybe even his place on this Marlins team.


James Outman, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

James Outman snuck in four games of MLB playing time last season as the Dodgers gave rest to their starters. The top-100 prospect made the most of that opportunity with an OPS of 1.409, and an average exit velocity of 99.6 mph.

Outman has seemingly carried those four games into 2023 Spring training. In 31 at-bats, Outman has nine hits with an OPS of .959 and two HRs.

The LA outfield is crowded, but Outman is talented enough to outplay his outfield competition.

Trayce Thompson (a.k.a Klay’s brother, a.k.a Baseball’s Benedict Arnold) has a concerning 30% K rate and was buoyed in 2022 by an unsustainable .389 BABIP. Chris Taylor was one of the league’s worst hitters, with a league-worst K rate of 35.6% and an xBA of .193. Jason Heyward hasn’t been good since last decade and sports a Spring training K rate of 28.5%.

Sure, there are a lot of guys who got playing time in the Dodgers’ outfield, but none of them are consistently good enough to be concerned about Outman’s 2023 season. Outman is “big-league ready” – a quote straight from the mouth of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts – and should make the Dodgers' Opening Day lineup.


J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Many would like you to believe that J.D. Martinez is a decrepit husk of his former self and therefore brings nothing of value to you in any fantasy baseball format.

It's time to pull back the curtains. That was just a simple technique on the part of fantasy baseball writers. I really do believe J.D. Martinez will be a very productive fantasy hitter in 2023, though.

Martinez was still a good hitter in 2022, with a barrel rate of 12.2% and a wOBA of .342, but he did seem to take a step back. Martinez had a three-mph decrease in average exit velocity in 2022 with only 16 HRs as well (he had 28 in the season before). However, there are several confounding variables that many have overlooked.

Martinez had a terrible second half, with a .233 BA in the second half compared to a .303 BA in the first half. Bad second halves tend to carry over into the following year, but Martinez’s regression was mostly due to locker room issues. The Red Sox clubhouse became entirely dysfunctional after the Christian Vazquez trade, as many veterans on the team saw it as the front office throwing in the towel on the 2022 season. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Nathan Eovaldi all showed serious statistical declines after the Vazquez trade.

Now a member of the Dodgers -- and back with former teammate Mookie Betts -- J.D. Martinez should return to the version of him we’re used to seeing. You should be further encouraged by Dave Roberts explicitly saying that Martinez is the Dodgers’ everyday DH. With playing time and a track record of offensive success, pull the trigger on J.D. Martinez.


Hayden Wesneski, SP, Chicago Cubs

Hayden Wesneski, the main return piece in the Scott Effross trade, made his Major League debut for the Chicago Cubs last year. In six games, the starting pitcher would hold a 3-2 record with an ERA of 2.18.

Entering Spring training, Wesneski was in competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. In four Spring training starts, the pitcher has a K/9 rate of 12.75 with an opponent OPS of just .598. He notably pitched four perfect innings in a March 11 start against the Dodgers.

Wesneski’s stuff is what makes him such an enticing fantasy option. His slider sports an incredible 18.1 inches of horizontal break (7.9 inches above league average) and his fastball has an opponent wOBA of .105. Wesneski has reliever stuff in a starting role.

With very little name recognition outside of Chicago, Wesneski is a good name to look out for in the later rounds.


Drey Jameson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Drey Jameson was one of the MLB's more successful September call-ups, winning three games for the Diamondbacks with an ERA of 1.48.

However, Jameson wasn't expected to hold onto that spot going into the 2023 season. The Diamondbacks had a host of talented starting pitchers fighting for a spot behind Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Madison Bumgarner, and Zach Davies. While Jameson was in the running, so were fellow Diamondbacks system top 10 prospects Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson.

But Jameson outlasted both and is now the Diamondbacks' anticipated fifth starter.

Jameson’s stuff is likely what separated him from Pfaadt and Nelson. His plus pitches are his fastball and slider. His fastball regularly tops 97 mph and has an opponent BA of .235 while his slider has an opponent BA of .105 and a K rate of 50%.

The main question surrounding Jameson was if he could get the opportunity as a starter. Now that he has passed that checkpoint, you should draft Jameson in later rounds of NL-only leagues.

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