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2023 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Carlos Correa, Bryan De La Cruz Lead The Way!

Matt Brandon Feb 8th 10:50 AM EST.

Every single season, there are a few players who become phenoms after breaking out of nowhere. These players are often integral to championship fantasy baseball rosters. With that in mind, let’s examine a few potential league-winning sleepers who could provide you with a significant edge this season. Everyone in the industry has an opinion about sleepers. For the purposes of this article, a sleeper is a player who is expected to significantly outperform his Average Draft Position (ADP). Check out five players with immense value as we gear up for the 2023 MLB season. 

Top Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

SS Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins

Correa has been one of the biggest storylines this offseason after signing three different deals with three different teams. Injuries have a big role to play in Correa’s 2023 season and it’s quite likely that those injury concerns are preventing fantasy baseball managers from drafting the talented shortstop. However, since missing time with an injury back in 2019, Correa has suited up for 89% of his games and has topped at least 136 games in each of the previous two seasons. He’s had at least 522 at-bats the last two years with a combined slash line of .285/.366/.476 and 48 total homers, 174 R, and 154 RBI. Correa has been a top-five shortstop and there is no reason to expect he won’t continue that trend this year. So why is he being drafted just inside the top 10 shortstops? The injury that made it a risk of a long-term signing in real life won’t affect his 2023 season, so don’t pretend it changes his value in 2023 fantasy baseball.

SP Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Kelly might not be as sexy as some of the other names on this list, but there’s value here. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings over the last two years, Kelly’s fWAR ranks him 39th out of 114 pitchers. The Diamondbacks’ righty had a pretty balanced year in terms of first and second-half splits across ERA and ratios like BAA and OBP and wOBA. However, what should catch your eye is the K-rate improvement in the last 90 innings of the year. He struck out 88 over those innings compared to 89 over the first 110 innings. While it’s still less than a K per IP, it did jump his K% from 19.1% in the first half to 24.5% in the second half. Kelly pitches in a good pitcher's park and most of the NL West is pitcher-friendly which helps keep his ratios down to begin with. Now he’s adding in a bit more strikeout upside which ups his profile. He should come in as a top-70 pitcher by the season’s end but is being drafted outside the top 90 in most leagues.

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3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

Hayes may be getting more respect than he once was but he’s still not getting the love he deserves. He barely even classifies as a sleeper but he’s being drafted far too low at the third base position. Somehow, he is currently the 22nd third basemen off the board. People tend to think that he’s only good for stolen bases but this guy is a very good hitter. No, he doesn’t have a ton of power but Hayes makes a ton of hard contact, evidenced by the fact that he’s in the 85th percentile in average exit velocity, 89th percentile in max exit velocity, and 84th percentile in hard hit rate. Hayes needs to work on launching the ball more and not hitting so many grounders but he has an excellent opportunity in 2023. The Pirates should be much better offensively and Hayes provides excellent speed given his position. In 136 games last season, Hayes managed 34 XBH (7 HRs). If he can turn half of those into long balls, Hayes could be one of the most improved players at a corner infield position. 

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OF Bryan De La Cruz, Miami Marlins

There has been a fair amount of offseason buzz around the Marlins but most of it is swirling around their young pitchers, budding star Jazz Chisholm Jr., and Luis Arraez after the team acquired him in mid-January. However, people aren’t talking enough about Bryan De La Cruz. De La Cruz is looking at a full-time role in 2023 and the trade for Arraez simply adds another high-octane hitter to the top half of the order. This will benefit the young outfielder when he moves up the order later in the season. De La Cruz should see a ton of great opportunities given the lineup around him. He posted a 96th percentile xBA, 94th percentile xSLG, and 86th percentile hard-hit rate last season. Here were the players last year to have also posted the above marks: Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, and Bryce Harper

De La Cruz finished the 2022 campaign on an absolute tare. From September to the end of the season, he slashed .388/.419/.718 with six home runs, 10 doubles, and 22 RBI. Of the players with at least 50 plate appearances during the same span, De La Cruz only trailed Aaron Judge and Julio Rodriguez" data-toggle="modal" data-target="#player-pop-up" href="/mlb_player_news/Julio_Rodriguez/">Julio Rodriguez in wOBA. Even if he starts the year in the lower half of the lineup, it’s only a matter of time before he works his way up the order, and the fact that he’s being drafted outside of the top 50 outfielders and 225 picks overall is crazy. There’s so much value to be had here with De La Cruz, who is not getting nearly the fantasy attention he deserves.

Eduardo Rodriguez, SP Detroit Tigers

E-Rod didn’t pitch in 2020, but across 2018, 2019, and 2021 seasons, he posted a 4.11 ERA (3.63 FIP) with a 1.33 WHIP and a 26.1% strikeout rate. Rodriguez signed a big deal with Detroit but was awful in 2022, as he missed time due to a rib cage sprain, and then spent some time away from the team for personal reasons. In the nine starts he made with the team upon returning, he posted a 3.81 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP and 47.5 % ground ball rate. The strikeouts were way down upon his return, but this is the first season since 2015 where he didn’t post a strikeout rate north of 21 percent, so one would figure there’s to be some bounce back here for Rodriguez in 2023, which is instrumental to rewarding fantasy managers. In Spring Training, we need to see a return to more normal levels with his velocity and see if his complimentary offerings have more bite to them. Rodriguez is someone I want to watch closely in Spring Training, but at his current price, he’s worth the flier. 

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