Mookie Betts | 2015 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

Coming up with a list of potential sleepers each year can be done in a number of ways but I choose to use statistical benchmarks that I’ve set based on my research to generate my list of Narco sleepers each year. Those benchmarks highlight a player as a potential sleeper but it still requires a bit of extra analysis to see whether those players will truly be worth the investment. The benchmarks are merely the first step. The first player we’ll analyze for 2015 to see how truly “sleepy” they are is Mookie Betts (BOS, OF).

Why He’s Here

Mookie Betts was drafted in the 5th round out of high school back in 2011. While he wasn’t initially at the top of many prospect lists, he started proving his worth with a breakout year in 2013 and shooting up those rankings. Mostly in Single-A ball that year, he hit .324 with 16 HR and 44 SB. Proving that it wasn’t a fluke, he continued that trend in 2014 in both Double-A and Triple-A ball. Those strong performances at every level quickly led to his MLB promotion at the young age of 21. When all was said and done, he hit .328 with 16 HR and 39 SB during his various stints in 2014.

 

Age ’15 ADP ’14 AB ’14 AVG ’14 xAVG ’14 HR ’14 SB ’14 R ’14 RBI
22 123 189 .291 .274 5 7 34 18

Betts is the type of player who has a high ceiling of potential as a leadoff hitter. In such a role, you could easily see him eclipse 100 Runs with 30+ SB plus a decent mix of power and average too. What’s not to like about that? For that reason, he’s on sleeper lists such as this.

 

Why He Might Fail

The biggest reason why he might not be worth a draft pick in the middle rounds of your drafts this year is because, well, he might not make the field. While it seemed like he would be in the Boston outfield in 2015, they then made moves to acquire Hanley Ramirez and Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo (while already having Shane Victorino) so it’s suddenly no longer a sure thing that Betts will be getting playing time this year in the majors. At 22, they don’t need to rush him so maybe they’ll let their new outfield pieces work their magic for a year or two while Betts gets more seasoning in the minors. If that’s the case then you’re sitting there with an expensive waste of a draft pick.

The other worry is that he does earn a starting job but slumps for a couple of weeks. If that’s the case, they have so much depth that they can easily just pull the plug on that experiment and demote him. They aren’t forced to stick with him.

Aside from playing time, there are a few other concerns. His batting average was pretty amazing in both the minors and the majors but his xAVG indicates that he might be due for a bit of drop there. Also, in the majors, we saw his success rate for stolen bases drop a bit (70% versus 85% in the minors) so there could be a chance that he’s held back a bit in the majors and won’t get the chance to steal 40+ bases at this level (the Red Sox had among the least amount of SB attempts in the league last year so stealing a lot may not be in their gameplan).

Why He Might Come Through

Projection systems can be somewhat pessimistic about younger players sometimes but even ZiPS projects Betts for 13 HR, 30 SB and 88 Runs in 2015 which certainly seems legitimate and achievable for Mookie. He’s a young player that had a quick ascent to the majors and is seemingly getting better every year very quickly.

The main concern noted above was playing time but there’s reason to be optimistic here. First, he’s already been getting a taste of batting leadoff in Spring Training games this year and that’s a good sign. If he can maintain that spot then he’s due for a huge number of plate appearances and that’s great for his counting stats. Secondly, beyond the stats related to fantasy baseball, he’s shown great plate discipline and defensive skills and those are huge factors for someone fighting to get a starting spot on a team. Even if he may struggle offensively, he’s shown he can earn his keep with his defense and his eye. The Red Sox will value that and find a way to get him in the lineup.

From a fantasy point of view, Betts could give you numbers like a young Carl Crawford if he gets a full year of leadoff plate appearances. There was a reason why Crawford used to be a top fantasy pick and that’s because you don’t find many guys who can give you respectable power, top speed and good batting average in one package. The fact that Betts even maybe possibly could give you that sort of value makes him worth a risk in the middle rounds.

Oh, and outside of his physical gifts, there’s even reason to like Mookie’s brain. He apparently scores sky-high on these neuroscouting tests that the Red Sox use. Really, to me, that’s just evidence that the Red Sox must like hm a lot and will want to find a way to utilize him this year.

Conclusion

His value is evident for roto leagues given that he could be a five category contributor in 5×5 leagues but he also has great value point scoring leagues (or roto leagues that use Doubles as a stat) because he’s shown the ability to rack up 2B’s as well.

The main thing you need to gauge is whether you are comfortable gambling on his playing time. If you’re drafting this weekend, there’s still more questions than answers but the early signs are pointing towards the fact that he will be starting for Boston this season. If you’re drafting later in the month, you’ll have an even better idea of how Boston has used him in Spring Training. Regardless, at the 120th pick, you’re not risking a ton and the potential is very high here for Betts.

There’s a good possibility that you might be seeing him as an early round draft pick in 2016 so take advantage of him being available in the middle rounds while you can.

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  • AJ
    March 9, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Still not a fan of guys like this being called 'sleepers.' If everybody and their mother know of them and have been buzzing about them since last June at the latest, can they really be a sleeper? Maybe if the drastically outperform their ADP, but still… Oh w3ll, I probably sound like a broken record so I'll shut up. Just a pet peeve of mine.

  • Chauncey St. John
    March 9, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Sleeper means they are being slept on. Being slept on means you are undervalued. It is not intended to mean "player no one has heard of", it is intended to mean "player most of the market is valuing lower than whoever is labeling them a sleeper believes they will likely perform". Not sure if that helps calm the pet peeve, but those would be my 2 cents.

  • Luke
    March 9, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I totally hear ya and there's unfortunately not a wide range of recognizable fantasy terms to choose from. The two terms I use most for these types of players are Undervalued or Sleeper. However, I tend to use Undervalued for a guy that we already know his value (an older veteran perhaps) but the public is underestimating his value. For Sleeper, I use it for players who have a risk to them but could very well end up being a bargain… They're currently sleeping at a lower draft point than their potential and this is the year that we'll find out which direction they'll go. I understand that you kind of think of Sleeper as someone that is completely unheard of. Just a matter of semantics but I do hear ya.

  • AJ
    March 28, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I appreciate the response Luke. I don't think a sleeper is someone no one has heard of per se. I could technically label Mike Morse a sleeper (just for the record, I'm just using him as an example). Now that doesn't mean no one has heard of him, but just that he's being drafted as a top 25 1B when I think he will be top 10. And at least in my fantasy circles – which are keeper/dynasty and could be pretty different from the regular 10 or 12 team redraft leagues – guys like Bryant, Betts and Castillo are being drafted as if they will already produce at a high level right out of the gate. Maybe there's a little room for being slept on if any of them pull a Jose Abreu and become a top 10 fantasy stud. But I guess we can just chalk up our differences of opinion to being aimed at different kinds of leagues with different kinds of owners.