Regardless of the league you play in, one of the most critical parts of draft prep is identifying top fantasy sleepers to target.
Picking undervalued players with breakout or rebound potential who outperform their average draft position (ADP) — especially in later rounds — is key to having a successful season.
With that in mind, here are The Game Day’s best fantasy baseball sleepers for the 2023 season.
In addition to choosing our top sleeper at every position, we’ve also highlighted our best fantasy hitter sleeper and best fantasy pitcher sleeper below.
Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleepers 2024
Our staff’s favorite fantasy baseball preseason sleeper targets for 2023 leagues:
Bryan de La Cruz|
Bryan De La Cruz|
While you prepare for your draft, see which MLB futures you can bet on for these fantasy sleepers:
Fantasy Draft Sleeper Picks: Hitters
Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants
The fact that San Francisco got rid of Austin Wynns, and the team did not bring in any significant competition for Joey Bart illustrates that the organization has confidence that he can finally realize his potential this season.
We all know Bart needs to cut down on the strikeouts, which means he and the coaching staff will be working on that as well to ensure that he is a better hitter in 2023. —Scott Engel
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Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Washington Nationals
Jeimer Candelario led all of MLB in doubles in 2021. Honestly, that seems like a good enough reason to believe in a possible comeback for the 29-year-old.
The third baseman now escapes the massive confines of Comerica Park, where his 11 expected home runs in 2021 (10 in 2022) would have been 25 in Washington (17 in 2022).
Sure, 2022 was a bad season for Candelario. However, with third base being a wasteland in fantasy this season, why not give him a chance with an ADP of 575? —Matt Williams
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Colorado Rockies
Ezequiel Tovar has already proven he can hit for average with pop and steals at the Double-A level, and when a top youngster shows he can succeed at that level, he will often skip Triple-A ball.
That should be the path for Tovar this year as he will push to be Colorado’s starting SS, and even if he struggles early against MLB pitching, his talent and the ballpark should lead to eventual quality production this season. —Scott Engel
See how many of these names are in our 2023 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Top 350.
Bryan De La Cruz, OF, Miami Marlins
When you first hear “barrel percentage," it sounds like it may be measuring how many times a hitter makes contact with the barrel of the bat. Instead, the metric measures a specific combination of exit velocity and launch angle.
However, there is a statistic that tells us how often a batter makes contact with the barrel, kind of. It is called the “sweet spot" percentage. The actual definition is how often a hitter produces a batted ball event with a launch angle between 8-32 degrees.
Marlins outfielder Bryan De La Cruz led all of baseball in sweet spot percentage (43.6%), just ahead of Freddie Freeman (42.9%). In addition, the 26-year-old posted 8.2% barrels per plate appearance (tied for 32nd) while carrying an impressive .287 expected batting average (top 4% in MLB) and .498 expected slugging percentage (top 6% in MLB)).
De La Cruz should get plenty of run this season in the Marlins’ outfield and could make a significant jump if he is able to turn his expected statistics into reality. —Matt Williams
Esteury Ruiz, OF, Oakland Athletics
Ruiz is a speedster who is slated to be the everyday centerfielder for the A’s. He has huge stolen base upside, swiping 48 bags in 309 plate appearances at Triple-A last year.
Oakland is a rebuilding team, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Ruiz. There’s also a chance that he emerges as the leadoff hitter, which would provide more at-bats with chances to rack up runs and steals. —Frank Ammirante
Fantasy Draft Sleeper Picks: Pitchers
Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox
Stuff has never been a problem for Michael Kopech, but health and a consistent role have been. Kopech lost two full seasons to Tommy John surgery and by opting out of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, and he has still only pitched 203 MLB innings despite making his debut in 2018.
Kopech should be the White Sox’s No. 3/4 starter and could be poised for a larger role if there’s an injury or he cleans up his command. Kopech had a 102/57 strikeout-to-walk rate in 119 innings, and his 11.5% walk rate was in the bottom 8% in baseball.
The White Sox were 16th in MBL and eighth in the AL in team ERA (3.92) last season, and will need more from all their starters if they’re going to get back to the playoffs in 2023.
Kopech should have plus-matchups as the No. 4 starter, especially early in the year. With Chicago’s dominant bullpen, a breakout season with 10-15 wins shouldn’t be out of the question. —Pat Pickens
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Detroit Tigers
Wins are nice, but we know they don’t matter when we are discussing how good a pitcher is. Eduardo Rodríguez parlayed his high-win totals in Boston to a five-year deal with Detroit last offseason, and while we expected some regression, we still drafted him as an SP3 inside the top 200.
Then, 2022 happened. Rodríguez made just 17 starts for the Tigers and posted just five wins and a much lower K%. But outside of that – which could be explained by an extended mid-season absence – not much has changed skills-wise from E-Rod.
Rodríguez won’t lead your staff, but he can give you those SP3 numbers that you want, especially with his NFBC ADP upwards of 300. —Michael Waterloo
Trevor May, RP, Oakland Athletics
I follow the Chad Cordero rule when it comes to closers.
In 2005, Cordero led MLB in saves for the last-place Washington Nationals.
Why? Because bad teams tend to win their games by fewer runs, which can lead to plenty of save opportunities.
Granted, the Nationals went 81-81 that season, and the Athletics will be lucky to win 65. However, the philosophy still stands.
Trevor May is a year removed from having an xERA, xBA, and xwOBA in the top 10% of all pitchers while posting a 31.2% strikeout rate. If the veteran right-hander can stay healthy, he could be a solid value at the end of drafts. Even in deep formats.
Just be sure to trade him before the A’s do. —Matt Williams
What is a Fantasy Baseball Sleeper?
The difference between a sleeper and a breakout is somewhat subjective, but for the most part, the difference between the two has to do with perceived value.
Most “sleepers" are undervalued. They are good targets to outperform their average draft position to auction value.
Sleepers can be found at any point during the draft, but are usually mid-to-late-round targets.
How to Identify a Fantasy Baseball Sleeper
There are several ways to identify a sleeper for the upcoming season.
Second-half breakouts that are suppressed by an unimpressive season-long stat line.
Players coming off injury or who may have played their previous season with a lingering injury but are healthy now.
Targets from undervalued teams that are due to receive opportunity (top of the lineup, rotation spot, save chances).
Bad luck. Look for outliers from career norms in BABIP, HR/FB%, LOB%, or other various statistics. This is also a great way to identify “busts."