2024 Fantasy Baseball: Sleeper hitters to consider in the second half of drafts

Fantasy baseball league winners are almost always the managers who correctly predict a handful of sleepers. Every hitter listed below fits two criteria; they are being selected in the second half of Yahoo drafts, and they could greatly outperform their draft slot.

Bo Naylor (C, Cleveland Guardians)

Most fantasy managers must be oblivious to how well Naylor played in the second half of last season. Otherwise, there is no way that he would rank 16th in Yahoo ADP among catchers. The 24-year-old hit .252 with 10 homers and five steals in 174 plate appearances after the All-Star break and logged an .893 OPS that ranked fifth among catchers with at least 150 plate appearances during that time frame.

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Naylor received all his 2023 plate appearances from the bottom-third of the lineup, but it’s easy to envision him finding a more substantial role on a team that is in search of impact hitters.

Luis Campusano (C, San Diego Padres)

Looking for a catcher who could hit .300? Campusano might be your man. The 25-year-old accomplished the feat last season, albeit across just 174 plate appearances. A thumb injury derailed Campusano for much of the first half, but he hit .331 with six homers and an .875 OPS after the All-Star break, which prompted the organization to enter 2024 with Kyle Higashioka as a true No. 2 catcher. Campusano rarely strikes out (12.1% in '23), which makes him one of the safest catcher options in the late rounds of drafts.

Tyler O’Neill (OF, Boston Red Sox)

In this writer’s opinion, O’Neill is the perfect boom-or-bust player to target in the late rounds of drafts. The 28-year-old is the 47th outfielder off the board in Yahoo drafts after tallying just 23 long balls and 19 swipes across the past two seasons. Of course, injuries that held O’Neill to 168 games across that time span are a major reason for his struggles; in 2021, he was one of the top fantasy assets when he hit .286 with 34 homers and 15 steals. An offseason trade to Boston provides an uptick in terms of a home hitting environment, and a fresh start in a new organization could be just what the doctor ordered for someone who had fallen out of favor with the Cardinals.

Lars Nootbar (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)

Speaking of the Cardinals, Nootbar is one of the players who gave the organization the confidence to move on from O’Neill. Nootbar endured three separate IL stints and played in just 117 games last year, but he received almost all his plate appearances from the top three spots in the lineup. The 26-year-old took advantage of the new baserunning rules to compile 11 swipes, and his .261 average and .367 OBP were career highs. Improved health and a slight uptick in his average exit velocity (which dropped 2.6 mph last year) could lead to a season with 25 homers, 15 steals and 90 runs scored. That’s pretty impressive for someone with a Yahoo ADP of 234.4.

Nelson Velázquez (OF, Kansas City Royals)

Velázquez is my favorite late-round power source this year. The slugger flashed eye-popping power skills with the Cubs and Royals last year when he went deep 17 times in 162 at-bats. He is now set to serve as the DH on a team with an improving lineup but no bench players who will be a threat to steal his role. Wise managers will not be surprised when Velázquez blows past the 30-homer plateau in his first full season.

Zach Neto (SS, Los Angeles Angels)

Several popular projection systems love Neto, and I can see why. The infielder was having a solid rookie year, which included a .769 OPS in the first half before multiple core and back injuries led to ineffective and interrupted play after the All-Star break.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

The 23-year-old projects as someone who can already produce 20 homers and 10 steals across a healthy season, with the potential for more if he earns a premium spot in a lackluster Angels lineup. Currently rostered in just 3% of Yahoo leagues, Neto is worth a final-round pick in 12-team formats.

Christopher Morel (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs)

Morel is the perfect example of someone who is more valuable in fantasy baseball than in the real game. The 24-year-old is not a competent fielder, which causes him to get plenty of his starts at DH. And his plentiful strikeouts have led to a mediocre lifetime .311 OBP. But Morel can stuff the stat sheet in a hurry, as is evidenced by the 26 homers and 70 RBI he produced in just 388 at-bats last year. With enough speed to log a double-digit steals total and the power skills to surpass the 30-homer plateau, Morel is a premium lineup spot away from being a major four-category contributor.