Nick Mariano's 2018 Dynasty Sleepers List (Premium Content)

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The term "sleeper" remains a volatile one, but when you add the dynasty-league wrinkle to it then you really open yourself up to a can of worms. Some people are in 12-team dynasties with a rather healthy stable of prospects available for the picking, and others are fighting for scraps in 30-teamers where each Amateur Draft has people digging for pixelated footage of 15-year-old prospects just to get ahead of the competition.

We're here today to look at some lesser-known names, as well as some undervalued folks, as we attempt to help folks ready to compete in one or three years. I'm going to try to take a middle-road approach to the player pool here, with some folks who were just drafted last year and others who are creeping beyond Single-A ball. Are you ready?

Let's get down to business!


Dynasty Sleepers - Hitters

Catcher: Daulton Varsho (ARI)

This one isn’t entirely fair because I don’t think many are “sleeping” on Varsho, but he needs more love. Varsho was the 68th overall pick in the 2017 Draft and went on to post a .902 OPS with seven homers and seven steals in 50 games (212 PAs) for the Short-Season Hillsboro Hops. He may not stick at catcher depending on how effective his arm proves at cutting down baserunners as he progresses through the system, but his .989 fielding percentage, ability to call a game and the 32 percent caught-stealing rate is enough to work with for now. Even if he does get moved, his ceiling is that of a 20/20 player and when you have a shot at a talent like that to plug in behind the plate, you take it.

First Base: Tyreque Reed (TEX)

Reed may not be at the top of the power leaderboards, but he’s not far off. Mr. Tyreque blasted 20 extra-base hits to fuel a 1.072 OPS in 145 PAs. Unlike the typical “all-power bat”, Reed had just an 18 percent strikeout rate at the Rookie level, but he did have the solid 15.2 percent walk rate that one associates with a big bopper. He’s listed at 260 pounds, so he’s either going to be a first baseman or designated hitter, but we’ll be okay with his limits in the field so long as he capitalizes on even 75 percent of the raw power generated by his massive frame. Maybe you end up with a Chris Carter flameout, but it’s worth a late pick.

Second Base: Vidal Brujan (TB)

There might be some who gloss over Brujan on draft boards because of his 5’9” stature in this brave new world of insane power strokes. We’re not here to project statistical trends for 3-5 years from now, but there’s zero doubt that speed and average are sliding to the rarer side of things. Well, Brujan is a switch-hitting speedster who dropped his swinging-strike rate from 14 percent last season to 6.9 percent in ‘17 alongside a hearty .285/.378/.415 line with 16 steals on 24 attempts. His 34 walks to 36 strikeouts

Third Base: Sherten Apostel (PIT)

Apostel didn’t do much in his first 48 games of pro ball in 2016, rocking a .205/.308/.275 slash line with a wild 30.3 percent strikeout rate in 201 plate appearances. He was just 17, mind you, but that’s tough to stomach no matter what. His 2017 saw him raise his average, grow into his 6’4” frame with some pop, and most of all, greatly increase his plate discipline. His .258/.422/.495 line in 259 PAs in rookie ball was driven by an incredible 21.6 percent walk rate, which exceeded his 18.9 percent K rate. His 56 walks were second-most in the Dominican League, but he was the only one in the top-10 BB leaderboard there to jack more than four homers. His ISO leaped from .070 to .237 in a year. He’s also got a Howitzer attached to his shoulder, so he could stick at third base as long as he doesn’t get too big and powerful for the position, in which case he’d likely go across the diamond to first. He’ll need to mind growing into a swing that’s too long given his size, but the power grades out above 50, closer to 60.

Shortstop: Kevin Merrell (OAK)

We do have to note that Merrell is 22, but it still impresses to post a 25 percent line-drive rate with a .320/.362/.424 line over your first 140 plate appearances of pro ball at Low-A. You’re buying into the hit tool as well as his plus wheels -- he went 10-of-13 on swipe attempts in those 31 games. The 15.7 percent K rate (5.7 percent swinging-strike rate) is also a solid stepping stone, though his 6.4 percent walk rate was nothing special. Of course, if I could run that fast and see the ball that well then I’d probably want to get my hacks in too.

Outfield: Lolo Sanchez (PIT)

Sanchez showed some solid plate discipline in 2016, but not much else -- he was caught stealing on 8-of-12 attempts and hit zero homers in 190 plate appearances for a whopping .275 slugging percentage. But he was just 17 years old and his age-18 campaign in ‘17 was a different story. He still doesn’t have much by way of power, but his compact swing does afford him more pop and uppercut than meets the eye (his fly-ball rate went from 27.5 percent in ‘16 to 37.1 percent). He hit four homers and upped his ISO from .039 to .132 in the process, stealing 14 bags (against seven CS) and once again walking more than he struck out.

Outfield: Jhailyn Ortiz (PHI)

Ortiz boasts incredible raw power and a strong arm that could see him hold up in the outfield, with the kind of ceiling that had Joe Jordan, the director of player development for the Phillies, saying he thinks Ortiz could be better than any of the prospects that hit the majors for Philly in 2017. The 19-year-old posted a warm .258 ISO with an 18.6 percent HR/FB rate and a sneaky 37.2 percent opposite-field hit percentage. In other words, he demolished Low-A pitchers. He’s a big guy, standing with 215 pounds on his 6’3” frame, but should chip in modest speed alongside the enormous power if he maintains his current trajectory. My personal worry about guys like this is that they get overly-enamored with the longball and overcommit their swing as they advance, but you can’t teach the kind of power he generates.

Outfield: Akil Baddoo (MIN)

Baddoo is gaining some buzz as the 2018 season nears as his impressive ‘17 campaign (.323/.436/.527) has everyone forgetting about his lousy .178/.299/.271 line from 127 PAs in ‘16. The lefty-swinging prospect has shown plus speed from the jump but had struck out 36 times and drawn just 18 walks in ‘16. Well, he turned those marks around by drawing 36 walks against only 32 K’s alongside a healthy jump in extra-base hits (4 in ‘16, 28 in 243 PAs in ‘17). His age-19 season could be gigantic if he continues to increase his power, as his plate discipline and speed are already in place.


Dynasty Sleepers - Pitchers

Jairo Solis (HOU)

Across three levels of rookie ball, Solis delivered with a stout 2.64 ERA with 69 K’s against 21 BB’s in 61 ⅓ innings. Perhaps even better, he allowed just three homers across that entire campaign! He turned 18 just before the calendar turned over (December 22, 1999 -- Y2K baby) and has time to grow into his 6’2” frame, considering he currently weighs in at just 160. His fastball can reach 95-96 MPH and his changeup and breaking pitches are both viable, though not consistently reliable, options already. You’re banking on a projectable arm panning out, but that’s what it’s all about here. Not to mention, Houston should still be a strong unit when this youngster is ready to join the MLB ranks.

Jay Groome (BOS)

Not a sleeper in the traditional sense given his being a first rounder in the 2016 draft, but Groome’s ugly injury-marred 2017 does present him as a solid buy-low type for those with shorter windows that can take a gamble on his 2018. The southpaw lasted just 1 ⅓ innings in his ‘17 debut before losing over two months to a left lat strain, and then a left forearm strain ended his season in late August. Groome’s fastball and curveball remain fantastic, hence the 72 K’s across 55 ⅓ innings last year, but he really didn’t advance his changeup and dealt with the aforementioned injury bug. Between Low- and Class-A, he combined for a mere 3-9 record with a 5.69 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, with the 4.9 BB/9 really standing out as an eyesore.

So, this all explains why he’s tumbled down prospect lists from the No. 30-40 range entering 2017, to the 75-85 range entering ‘18. He’s gone on record saying how he loves to pepper his fastball high to set up his beautiful 12-6 curveball, running his two-seamer into lefties and his four-seamer away from righties. But he’s still toying with his four-seam circle change and he really could use that third pitch if he’s to be a starter. Hopefully, he’ll have a full, healthy season to develop his arsenal and take the leap into being the top prospect many dreamed of back in 2016.

Hans Crouse (TEX)

Crouse was the 66th overall pick in the 2017 June Amateur Draft, and all he proceeded to do was allow one earned run over his 20 innings of rookie ball. Now, those numbers were inflated by a 95.9 percent strand rate and .177 BABIP, but his 30-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 60 percent groundball rate in an admittedly small sample is still encouraging. 2018 could vault Crouse into top prospect ranks if he can sharpen his changeup and slider to bring them closer to his electrifying fastball that scouts put on a level with Hunter Greene’s. A competitive guy through and through, he could soon become the next Max Scherzer, talking to himself on the mound as he mows down hitters left and right.

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