2021 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: One potential breakout player from every team

Spring training is the ultimate time for optimism as a baseball fan and fantasy baseball owner. Every team is a contender (not really, but go with it), and every player is a potential breakout (again, not really, but embrace the spirit). We combine those two ideas and do our best to find one potential sleeper from each MLB club. 

Some teams have a seemingly endless supply of potential sleepers; others really make us work, either because all of their worthwhile fantasy options are established or they simply don’t have (m)any good players. Either way, we plow ahead and do our best to hype at least one potential contributor, though at least a few players on this list are only options in deep leagues (and a couple others are only suited for waiver wire watchlists). 

Now’s the time to dream big, so open your mind and check out our list of 30 potential fantasy sleepers. If nothing else else, let this list give you a reason to pay attention to all 30 teams…at least for a week or two before reality sets in.

  • Varsho isn’t a lock to have everyday playing time when the season opens (or even be on the major league roster), but he’s the rare catcher-eligible player who might not necessarily be behind the plate. The 24-year-old lefty also has experience in the outfield, which increases his likelihood of playing time. Once he does play, he can be an elite-hitting, catcher-eligible fantasy contributor, shown by his career .301/.372/.507 line in the minors. Even more noteworthy, he stole 21 bases in 108 games at Double-A in 2019

  • Pache is another player who might start the season in the minors, but the 22-year-old defensive whiz could easily find his way into the lineup soon. His bat is still a work in progress, but with solid contact skills, developing power, and good speed, Pache could be a nice all-around contributor once he does get playing time.

  • Santander isn’t a complete unknown after hitting 20 HRs in 93 games in 2019 and 11 HRs in 37 games in ’20, but because he plays on the Orioles and hasn’t had a monster season yet, fantasy owners might not realize just how high his breakout potential is. The 26-year-old switch-hitter surprisingly doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter (just a 15.2-percent strikeout percentage last year, 21.2 the year before), and he won’t kill your average, settling in around .260. He doesn’t run, but given his home park, homers and RBIs seem inevitable.

  • Dalbec hit eight homers in just 23 major league games last year after hitting at least 27 in the minors in both 2018 and ’19. The 25-year-old slugger is a classic high-strikeout, high-walk, big-power hitter. That type of player can seem like a dime-a-dozen in shallow leagues, but depending on just how many homers Dalbechits, he’ll likely be a worthwhile contributor in deeper formats, especially those with a CI spot.

  • Alzolay has had an up-and-down minor league career, but something seemed to click in 2019 when he dialed up his K/9 ratio to 12.5 in 15 starts. Last year, in six major league appearances (four starts), he struck out 29 and gave up only one HR in 21.1 innings. The 26-year-old righty could pitch in a variety of roles throughout the season , but he figures to rack up Ks either way. If he can keep his walks at a semi-reasonable level and continue to keep the ball in the yard, he should settle in as a nice mid-rotation fantasy contributor.

  • Vaughn has a good chance of breaking camp as Chicago’s everyday DH, and the 22-year-old slugger is likely to produce at least decent numbers in that role. An elite college hitter who’s played just 55 professional games (plus spent time in the expanded player pool last year), Vaughn can also man first base and potentially third base. Either way, his bat will likely make an impact, and given his above-average contact skills and role in Chicago’s stacked lineup, the fantasy numbers are sure to follow.

  • Most fantasy owners have probably streamed Mahle in favorable spots over the past couple years, but the 26-year-old righty might be due for a full-fledged breakout. We hate his home park, but Mahle raised his K-rate (11.3) to an elite level last year while significantly cutting down on the HRs (1.13 HR/9 ratio). Obviously, last year’s numbers came in limited appearances (10 total, nine starts), so we’re taking those with a grain of salt, but Mahlehas the stuff to be more consistent and post steady numbers at a bargain price.

  • While many are focused on fellow SS-eligible player Andres Gimenez (and for good reason), his youth (22) and all-around hitting profile leaves a little to be desired, at least at this point in his career. Rosario has his warts, too, but the 25-year-old infielder has legit 20/20 upside while playing multiple infield spots. Rosario will likely be an afterthought in many drafts, but given his experience and move to a better hitters park, he can be a cheap source of at least a little power and speed.

  • The Coors Field factor makes almost every Rockies hitter a potential sleeper, but Hilliard is particularly intriguing because of his power-speed combination. The 27-year-old lefty might wind up being a “Quad-A” player, but he hit 42 HRs and stole 24 bases between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. The average likely won’t be great because of a high strikeout percentage, but Hilliardshould get a spot at regular playing time in the majors this year.

  • Castro impressed during his 36-game stint in the majors last year, hitting .349/.381/.550, but a ridiculous .448 BABIP is a clue that his average won’t be nearly as good this year. Nonetheless, the 23-year-old switch-hitter has a decent amount of power and speed. Given his versatility, that has value in deeper leagues.

  • In 377 career minor league innings, Javier posted a 2.22 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 12.2 K/9 ratio. In 12 appearances (10 starts) last year with the Astros, he posted a 3.48/0.99 line with an 8.9 K/9 ratio. His advanced numbers suggested he was fairly lucky last season, but clearly the 24-year-old righty has elite stuff. Regardless of his role, he’ll have fantasy value, and he could be an upper-tier starter as soon as this season.

  • Singer was steady in his 12 starts last year, posting a 4.06/1.17 line with an 8.5 K/9 ratio, which was in line with his one year in the minors (2.85/1.19, 8.4 K/9 ratio). The 24-year-old righty is unlikely to be an upper-tier pitcher, at least this year, but he can be a solid back-of-the-rotation guy for fantasy owners, especially in favorable matchups.

  • Playing time could be an issue, as the 27-year-old lefty could easily fall into a platoon with Albert Pujols, but Walsh had a mini breakout last year, clubbing nine homers in 32 games. Perhaps even more significant, he significantly cut down on his strikeout percentage (13.9), which seems unsustainable. Either way, Walsh, who hit 36 HRs at Triple-A in 2019, has big-time power and RBI upside.

  • Over the past two years, Gonsolin has posted a 2.60/0.92 line with an 8.6 K/9 ratio in 20 major league appearances (14 starts). Despite having a low ground-ball rate (37.7 percent), Gonsolin doesn’t give up many homers (0.62 HR/9 ratio), which bodes well for his future outlook. His role is certainly up in the air heading into this season, but he’ll have value one way or another.

  • Sanchez made good on all of his promise in seven starts last year, posting a 3.46/1.21 line with 33 Ks in 39 innings. Perhaps surprisingly, the 22-year-old righty was never a high-strikeout guy in the minors (7.9 K/9 ratio) despite a 97.6-mph average fastball, so that’s still something that could develop, but even as is, Sanchez has major breakout potential this year.

  • In his first season back from pitching overseas, Lindblom posted a 5.16/1.28 line with a 10.3 K/9 ratio in 12 appearances (10 starts). That doesn’t sound great, but it’s worth noting he had a 3.88 FIP, and his K-rate certainly suggests he has more upside. His ground-ball rate (26.9 percent) is a concern, but Lindblom should be a steady, high-K, back-end producer.

  • Jeffers held his own in his 26-game major league debut last year, hitting .273/.355/.436, which is in line with his two-year minor league career (.296/.383/.453). After Mitch Garver’s no-show last year, Jeffers has a path to consistent playing time if Garver starts slow again, and he could produce a steady average and decent power at fantasy’s thinnest position.

  • Nimmo is one of those players who’s better in real life than fantasy because of his high BB-rate, but he quietly showed an improvement in power last year, slugging .484 while cutting down on the strikeouts. If that trend continues, it’s not crazy to think Nimmo can hit close to 25 HRs and steal around 10 bases while producing a high OBP. That’s worth a late-round flier, at least in OBP leagues.

  • Garcia has electric stuff despite a small frame, but he’s yet another young pitcher whose role is undefined heading into the season. Regardless of when he pitches, he’s going to strike out hitters. His career minor league line of 3.77/1.14 with a 12.7 K/9 ratio is even more impressive when you realize he’s still just 21.

  • Romo is ticketed for setup duty this year, but with Trevor Rosenthal’s recent issues (didn’t pitch in 2018, struggled badly in ’19), he’s not a lock to stay in the closer’s role all season. Romo would likely have a good chance to pick up some saves if something happens to Rosenthal. At the very least, Romo will get a decent amount of holds if you’re in a saves + holds league, so he’s someone to keep on your watchlist.

  • Bohm impressed with a .338/.400/.481 line in 44 games last year, and while his .410 BABIP figures noticeably drop, the talented 24-year-old infielder can hit for a solid average and decent power. In Philadelphia’s lineup, run-producing opportunities will follow, giving Bohm plenty of potential value in deeper leagues.

  • Hayes is another BABIP darling from last year (.450) who ended his debut stint in the majors with a .376/.442/.682 line in 24 games. Those numbers are going to jump out to anyone, and while they might not represent Hayes’s true upside, they still show the 24-year-old righty has plenty of talent. If his bat continues to develop, he should post a solid average, moderate power, and around 10-15 steals. That’s worth something in deep leagues, but be careful not to overdraft.

  • The Padres have multiple infield options, but Cronenworth projects to have an everyday role when the season opens. The versatile 27-year-old lefty hit .285/.354/.477 in 54 games last year, building off a 2019 Triple-A campaign when he hit .334/.429/.520 with 10 HRs and 12 SBs in 88 games. Cronenworth’s lefty splits are a worry, as he could find himself in a platoon, but his multi-position eligibility, decent power-speed combination, and solid contact skills make him a nice bench player.

  • Bart will start the season in the minors, but with Buster Posey getting up there in years, it might not be long before Bart is getting regular playing time behind the plate in San Francisco. The 24-year-old backstop has hit .284/.343/.532 in the minors, and he could be one of the rare catchers who hits for a solid average with decent power.

  • Moore is “everyone’s sleeper” this year, so he might be getting overvalued at this point. That said, even with all the hype, Moore has the tools to really pay off, especially with his multi-position eligible. The 28-year-old righty hit eight HRs and stole 12 bases in just 33 games last year, and getting that 20-HR, 30-SB potential is always going to be extremely valuable, even if it comes with a mediocre average. Chances are, he won’t steal quite that many bases, but Moore will be a worthwhile fantasy contributor.

  • Carlson struggled in his first major league action last year, hitting just .200/.252/.364 in 35 games, but his 2019 numbers spent mostly at Double-A (.292/.372/.542 with 26 HRs and 20 SBs spent) show his upside. His strikeouts are a worry, if he holds onto his job and gets everyday playing time in St. Louis’s solid lineup, he’ll be worth a starting spot in five-OF leagues.

  • Brosseau doesn’t have a set place to play, but given his versatility, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him find his way into Tampa’s lineup most days. He impressed last year with a .302/.378/.558 line (though it did come with a .412 BABIP), and that followed a season where he hit 22 HRs in 124 games between Triple-A and the majors. At 27, a full-fledged breakout seems a bit unlikely, but with his multi-position eligibility, solid power, and decent average potential, Brosseau is a worthwhile bench option in deep leagues.

  • Texas has multiple OF and DH options, so Taveras can’t afford a slow start, but the 22-year-old switch-hitter has legit power-speed upside. Right now, he’s more speed than power — and his average will likely disappoint — but fantasy owners are always looking for speed. If he hits leadoff for the Rangers, he could also be a major source of runs, especially if his 10.4-percent BB-rate from last year is legit.

  • Kirk doesn’t figure to start the year with everyday playing time, but with Danny Jansen showing little, Kirk could eventually take over as Toronto’s starter. The 22-year-old backstop has impressed against lower-level pitching in the minors, hitting .315/.418/.500 in 151 games, and his initial nine games in the majors last year resulted in a .375 average. Obviously, that small of a sample size doesn’t mean much, but Kirk is a solid contact hitter who rarely strikes out and takes a decent amount of walks. That’s plenty valuable at catcher.

  • Kieboom hasn’t shown much in his 44 games in the majors (.181/.309/.232), but at just 23, he still has time to find his swing. His minor league numbers (.287/.378/.469) portend to eventual major league success, and he should get every chance to succeed (or fail) this year.

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