Franco, Nola, Norris headline 12 fantasy sleepers

Matt Lowe

March 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm.

Daniel Norris (44) could be in line for a big year in Detroit. Photo Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Norris (44) could be in line for a big year in Detroit. Photo Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Year after year new players emerge in fantasy circles. And to win a fantasy league, you have to get guys on your team that your opponents miss out on. It’s that simple.

With that said, below is a list of 12 fantasy sleepers that could really help your make-believe team thrive in 2016. And although there are some proven guys mentioned, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be valued as high as they should be.

Now some of that could be attributed to injuries or an off year. But I feel the guys listed below will be able to help any fantasy team win … and at a great price. So enjoy! And hopefully you’ll thank me later.

To the sleepers we go…

Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati: The right-handed hitting Mesoraco missed most of last season due to a hip ailment, which eventually led to surgery, so he may be flying under the radar entering 2016. Two years ago, Mesoraco, hit .273 with 25 doubles, 25 homers and 80 RBIs in 384 at-bats and was ranked as the third-best fantasy backstop in the game. Mesoraco made his spring debut on March 17, so the Reds have been proceeding with caution with their talented catcher. But he should be ready to roll by the start of the season. Snatch him up when the time is right and don’t look back.

Matt Adams, 1B, St Louis: A quadriceps injury limited Adams to only 60 games last season but don’t sleep on this power-hitting lefty. Just two seasons ago, Adams was a fixture in the middle of the Cardinals lineup and hit .288 with 34 doubles, five triples, 15 homers and 68 RBIs in 527 at-bats. It will be interesting to see how St. Louis chooses to use Adams with Brandon Moss also in the mix at first base and in the outfield, but if he can regain his 2014 form, he could be a nice find later in drafts.

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco: Panik isn’t necessarily a true sleeper, but he could end up as one of the top fantasy second sackers in the game if he plays a full season. In his first two years as a pro, he has hit above .300 and his power numbers have steadily climbed. He missed the final two months of last season due to a back injury, but he still hit eight homers and drove in 37 runs in 328 at-bats. Look for those numbers to increase drastically this year hitting in a tough Giants lineup. Panik is especially good in the clutch.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City: Moustakas set career highs in average (.284), hits (156), homers (22), RBIs (82) and runs (73) last year and is entering the prime of his career. Sure, “Moose” has been inconsistent in his first five years in the pros, but he’s only 26 and is a mainstay in one of the best hitting lineups I’ve ever seen. Moustakas likely won’t be a hot commodity on draft day in fantasy circles, but he could become a top-10 player at the position with a repeat performance of 2015.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia: Before Franco’s spring training power surge it was doubtful that many a fantasy player knew about the switch-hitting Phillies third baseman. But that’s changed now considering the 23-year-old leads the majors in spring homers. Franco has power to all fields and he’ll likely hit third — sometimes fourth — in a Philadelphia lineup that can hit the baseball. Make this guy a priority and enjoy the benefits.

Eugenio Suarez, SS, Cincinnati: Suarez took over the Reds shortstop position after Zack Cozart’s season-ending injury last year and played like an All-Star. In 372 at-bats, the 24-year-old hit .280 with 19 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 48 RBIs. He also contributed four stolen bases. Great American Ball Park is a hitters dream and the Reds should be in a lot of 9-8-type games due to their lack of pitching, so don’t be afraid to grab Suarez in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft. The ball really jumps off his bat and he could produce a big return on investment.

Michael Taylor, OF, Washington: Taylor didn’t have the batting average you desire from a stud fantasy outfielder a year ago (.229), but he has the potential to improve in that area and hit 20-30 doubles, a few triples, 20 home runs and steal 30-35 bags. He’ll also hit at the top of good National lineup a lot, which will make him a candidate to score and score often. You don’t want to snag Taylor in the early rounds of your draft by any means, but don’t be afraid to snatch up this talented athlete when looking to round out your outfield.

Hector Olivera, OF, Atlanta: The Braves front office made acquiring Olivera a priority last offseason and a number of Atlanta’s top personnel folks tend to think he will be a major part of the team’s ongoing rebuilding process moving forward. Throw in the fact that he’ll probably hit cleanup in the Braves left-handed-heavy lineup, and you are looking at a big upside on this guy. It’s still unknown what type of power numbers Olivera is going to produce, but he’s a good hitter with a great understanding of the strike zone. Don’t be surprised to see the former Cuban product hit in the .290 to .300 range with 10-15 homers and nearly 100 RBIs.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit: Acquired in the trade that sent David Price to Toronto, Norris, a cancer survivor and a humble dude who gained notoriety by living out of his 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia van, nicknamed “Shaggy,” in Toronto’s spring camp a year ago, really came on late last season and could be poised for a breakout. He’s got a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a good curveball and slider, but he’s adept at keeping the ball down and inducing ground ball outs, a major plus pitching in the American League. The Tigers are going to score runs in bunches so Norris won’t have to be perfect every time he pitches, but he’s a competitor who could hit double-digit wins in his second season in the big leagues.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia: Nola likely won’t approach 20 wins this season due to the Phillies ongoing rebuilding project, but don’t be surprised if he’s a Cy Young candidate in the near future. He won’t wow with overpowering stuff, but he locates his fastball well and has a devastating curveball that can make even the best MLB hitters look foolish. In 13 starts last year, the former LSU product finished 6-2 with an ERA of 3.59 and 68 strikeouts in 77.2 innings pitched — with only 19 walks.

Wei-Yin Chen, LHP, Miami: Making the move from the American League to the National League will help Chen tremendously, but so will pitching in a spacious stadium like Marlins Park for home games. Throw in the fact that not a lot of NL hitters will be familiar with Chen’s pitching tactics, and the former Oriole makes for an intriguing fantasy pitcher. He was named the Opening Day starter for Miami, so get Chen on your squad when the time is right and enjoy the ride with one of the most underrated hurlers in the game.

Roberto Osuna, RP, Toronto: I recommend that you have at least two quality stoppers in any fantasy format due to their consistent point value, especially in daily formats, but don’t jump the gun on a proven guy too early in your draft. It’s more beneficial to your team to target position players and starters rather than reach for a “name” closer. With that said, keep Osuna, 21, on your must-have list when it’s time to jump on a ninth-inning guy. His mid-90s fastball and devastating slider baffled American League hitters last year (righties hit .169; lefties hit .206), and the team he plays on should allow him to save at least 40 games.