Despite fireworks and a grown man eating 70 hot dogs, This is thet time when the season seems to just slog on, with everyone longing for the brief respite of the All-Star game. For the savvy owner, this is an opportune time to pounce on players your leaguemates may have been sleeping on and stealthily upgrade your team. I’m going to expand the pool of sleepers to include some shallower mixed-league sleepers, and returning to a few familiar names mixed with the new ones.
1. Justin Upton (OF, DET) – Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, isn’t he a little high-profile to be a sleeper? Well, the season’s halfway done, and after it seemed he was finally primed to bust out, he’s gone .204 with no homers and a 13/3 K/BB ratio over the past two weeks. For a frustrated leaguemate, that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. But the fact remains that his power and strikeout rate have improved every month since his terrible April, and all his peripherals are in line with his career norms. Strike now and things will be looking Upton.
2. Joe Mauer (1B, MIN) – The past month, the Head and Shoulder spokesman has flaked on owners, failing to hit a single homer in weeks since that hot streak. But the power will return… His batted ball profile is among AL’s 1st baseman’s best this year, with more FBs and LDs than years past. His exit velocity has also been surging in recent weeks and well above average all season. If only he wouldn’t keep going oppo and would pull the ball a bit more, I could see 8-10 HR in the second half with an AVG over .275. He might need more rest days though than your typical 1B/Corner guy.
3. Dae-Ho Lee (1B, SEA) – Oh Ho Lee Dae! By the stat line alone, it’d be hard to call Dae-Ho a sleeper. I mean, the guy has produced like a top tier slugger, if you cut their ABs in half. But it is that lack of reliable playing time, and cooldown on HR rate, that has made him waiver wire fodder in shallower leagues. But fear not, he’s actually been improving all year. Each of his 1st 6 homers were “Just Enoughs” according to HitTracker, but the last 4 were absolute blasts, and he’s 7th on the Golden Sledgehammer leaderboard between Cruz and Story. With Aoki down and Lind establishing himself as the inferior 1B, look for Dae-Ho to mash and be the Korean phenom Byung-Ho Park was supposed to be.
4. Hyun-Soo Kim (OF, BAL) – Speaking of Korean phenoms that Bunghole Park was supposed to be, many owners point to an unsustainable BABIP when looking at Kim and assume it will regress to the mean. BUT! A look at his spray charts shows a mega-cluster of hard grounders hit to the opposite field… the best kind of grounder you can hit. And he hits them harder than anyone in the league, at a flatter angle more like a ground-liner. Line-grounder? But his flyballs and liners are mostly pulled. So he’s hitting optimal batted balls and should continue to post a high BABIP with some more dingers in the Camden Sauna.
5. Max Kepler (MIN) – In deeper leagues, hope you nabbed the German youngster after his lousy debut where some owners overreacted due to his lack of elite pedigree combined with small samples of major league ugliness. But Kepler has been launching off in July, with three home runs already and improving plate discipline. Presseason projections of middling power didn’t account for that he’s huge and filling out, and his very high exit velocity supports that he has real bat speed. Don’t let him be a satellite on your waiver wire and watch him become a star.
6. Randall Grichuk (OF, STL) – Heeeee’s back! Really, he didn’t deserve his demotion in the first place, as he was struggling a bit but not as bad as the surface numbers indicated. He sacrificed power for plate discipline, and it only looked like such a bad idea because of a fluky low BABIP running contrary to his fluky high one from last year. He has a top-40 exit velo so the power is still there, and I’d expect it to come soon.
7. Rickie Weeks, Jr. (2B, ARZ) – Average exit velocity leaders: Stanton, Cruz, Holliday, Trumbo,… Weeks Jr.? No, that’s not a typo. And since I last wrote about him, his average exit velocity has been over 100. What. His spray charts shows he hits a lot of liners and fbs to centerfield, which is not as good as pulled, but it also shows a ton of fly balls and liners JUUUUST short of homers. It’s a good thing he’s hitting fewer grounders, as his grounders are all pulled which stinks. If you need sneaky power and aren’t to worried to take a hit in AVG, steal a super sneaky Weeks.
8. Tyler Flowers (C, ATL) – He’s a flower, not a shower. Behind the weak 6 HR is a crazy exit velocity good for 8th in the league. He has a 44.2% Hard Hit rate, and is hitting more FBs at a 41% clip with fewer infield flies aka semi-automatic outs. He should be spraying to all-fields less and pulling more like he has in the past, but at the putrid catcher position, that’s all more than enough for me to bank for the power numbers to blossom.
9. Jorge Soler (OF, CHC) – Yeah, I think it’s alright to invest on a player not currently on the active roster. At this point, Soler’s 5 HR look like itty-bitty-baby power, and his .223 AVG this year after a disappointing 2015 campaign makes some lose hope. But he’ll show his true Soul when he returns (though he hasn’t yet started his rehab assignment) as his walks are up, Ks are down, both by large margins, and his exit velocity is top-50. If you have many or unlimited stash spots, now’s the time to get him, as his rehab assignment could be a short one.
10. Cole Gillespie (OF, MIA) – Okay, we’re getting deeper here than the last dream level of inception. Gillespie is sadly not related to Nat King Cole or Dizzy Gillespie, OR Conor Gillaspie. Happily, in a mere 50 PA he has offered a glimmer of hope to the 32-year-old’s career. While his plate discipline is off to a bad start, he’s sporting excellent exit velocity for a center fielder, and a 44.1% Hard hit Rate and a ridiculously low 8.8% soft hit rate. Not only that, but his fb rate is at a crazy-go-nuts 58.8%. I love small samples. Problem is he keeps hitting them oppo. With his eV and fb%, all he needs to do is pull some for some pop from a punchless position. Peace.