- A later round draft pick, generally a prospect, that most other fantasy players were unaware of. A hidden gem that you would draft and potentially could provide a tremendous return on investment.
While this is a generalization and others might have a slightly different definition, the overall idea is accepted by most... or at least was. I would argue this is no longer an applicable definition. The way fantasy baseball enthusiasts play the game and gather our information in today's world is vastly different than a decade ago. The internet is now essentially the only way the game is played and almost everyone is connected to some sort of social media outlet to get the latest and greatest news on popular prospects. It's almost impossible not to know who the June call-ups will be and which high-profile prospects will have an impact at the MLB level.
Lets take last year for example: Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Joc Pederson were essentially household names by opening day without ever having a major league at bat. There are many more besides these four, however this small sample quickly shows how easy it is to recognize high level young prospects with just a little research now a days. Because they were so well known, it was very tough to get them at a bargain in most drafts last season. If anything, they were over-hyped and overvalued in many drafts I saw.
I would argue that the following players were much better bargains last year: Brandon Phillips, Kendrys Morales, Alex Rodriguez, and John Lackey. What do these players have in common? They are older and boring. Last year this group all had an ADP over 200, but provided a significantly greater return on investment.
In today's game, there are many bias's, however one of them that I feel are more prevalent than others. I strongly feel that most fantasy players overvalue young talent. Everyone wants to get the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but in reality, that happens so rarely it is usually more of a detriment than positive for your team. With the over-valuing of youth come under-valuing of the older player pool. Everyone expects that players in their mid-late 30's will always be hurt and skills will regress to an unproductive level. While there usually is a bell curve in a players production through his career, that does not at all mean that they should be undervalued at a certain age. More-so, they should be valued exactly at what you feel their projected stats would be. It may be difficult to rank them with a lot of upside, however they shouldn't be undervalued either simply because of age. I strongly feel that this perception (which is more and more common now a days) is leading to a changing of the guard with the term sleeper. I would re-define it as this:
- A later round draft pick, that can produce a much higher return on investment than the round he was drafted. Generally a player than other fantasy players are down on, however one that you think has the potential to greatly exceed draft day value.
While this statement indicates nothing about age, it's almost natural for this type of player to be a old and boring. Those are the types of players that get under-valued, however those are the types I'm happy to target. At the end of the day, I'm only concerned with statistical production of a player. When i do my projections, i try to be as objective and realistic with every player and let the chips fall where they may. I often find if I then compare my ranks to others or ADP data, it's easy to find who I feel this year's sleepers may be.