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Fred Zinkie

Happily ever drafter: Sweet '16 fantasy finds

MLB.com identifies underrated options to consider

Happily ever drafter: Sweet '16 fantasy finds

Oh, fantasy sleepers. They're the golden tickets of draft day. The difference between "fantasy gold" and "fantasy go home."

The search for sleepers can be exhaustive (and exhausting), which is why we at MLB.com/fantasy have put together one simple list. Most of the detective work is done for you, right here. Just make sure no one peeks at this piece when it's your turn to pick.

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J.T. Realmuto, catcher, Marlins

Among the few catchers with the potential to notch a double-digit steals tally, Realmuto has room to be a five-category asset in 2016. After belting 10 homers last year, the now-25-year-old (today is his birthday!) could improve on that figure by lofting a few more fly balls. And with slightly better batted-ball fortune -- his .285 BABIP last year was more than 10 points below the Major League average (.299) -- he could see an uptick in the batting-average department, as well.

Zinkie's bold fantasy forecasts

Fantasy takeaway: A likely late-round pick in one-catcher leagues, Realmuto could hit .270 with a homers-plus-steals total in the mid-20s.

Mark Trumbo, first baseman, Orioles
Trumbo recorded only 36 long balls over the past two seasons combined after averaging 32 per year from 2011-13. But with a chance to play home games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the native Californian could return to the 30-homer mark. And with a spot in the middle of a powerful O's lineup, he could drive in 85 runs.

Fantasy takeaway: Available in the middle of most mixed-league drafts, Trumbo is a terrific target for those who bypass the elite first basemen.

Outlook: Trumbo, 1B, BAL

Jonathan Schoop, second baseman, Orioles
After missing most of last year's first half with an injury, Schoop gained little attention in fantasy circles for an impressive campaign in which he hit .279 with 15 homers across 305 at-bats. If he can avoid the disabled list this time around, the 24-year-old could hit for a solid average and lead all second basemen in round-trippers.

Fantasy takeaway: Schoop is the perfect target for those who leave the first half of their drafts without enough power.

Starlin Castro, shortstop, Yankees
The sky once appeared to be the limit for Castro, who hit .295 with 24 homers and 47 steals from 2011-12. His production has been uneven over the past three seasons, though, as the infielder recorded an All-Star '14 campaign between down years in '13 and '15. But having joined the Yankees in an offseason trade, the 25-year-old could use a fresh start to return to top form.

Fantasy takeaway: Eligible at second base as well as shortstop, Castro is a fine middle-infield option due to his upside and position flexibility.

Outlook: Castro, 2B, NYY

Justin Turner, third baseman, Dodgers
Simply put, when Turner plays, he hits. The lifetime .284 hitter has posted a .306 mark since the outset of 2013, and he showed improved power by ripping 16 round-trippers in 385 at-bats last season.

Fantasy takeaway: The 31-year-old will need to prove his durability after undergoing offseason knee surgery, but he could offer fantasy owners a high-average, 20-homer option at the cost of a late-round selection.

Michael Conforto, outfielder, Mets
The 10th overall pick of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft impressed out of the big league gate last season, hitting .270 with nine homers across his initial 174 at-bats. He continued to excel on baseball's biggest stage, batting .333 with a pair of long balls in the World Series. If that start is not impressive enough, consider that Conforto logged just 520 Minor League at-bats -- none above Double-A -- before being summoned to the Mets.

Fantasy takeaway: In his first full season, the lefty slugger could combine 25 homers with a high batting average.

Marcell Ozuna, outfielder, Marlins
After seeing his homer total drop from 23 in 2014 to 10 last season, Ozuna needed a fresh start. Several offseason trade rumors did not result in a deal, but the right-handed slugger should get the do-over he needs with a new coaching staff led by manager Don Mattingly.

Mattingly on Ozuna's potential

Fantasy takeaway: With the fences moved in at Marlins Park, Ozuna might be motivated to loft fly balls at a greater rate and use the benefits of his plus power stroke to record his first 25-homer season. His overall production could also benefit from a move to the No. 2 hole in the Marlins' top-heavy lineup.

Drew Smyly, starter, Rays
Smyly has excelled when healthy since being acquired by Tampa Bay at the 2014 Trade Deadline, logging a 2.52 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 rate. He has been hampered by injuries during that span, though, making just 19 starts and generating little fantasy buzz as a result.

Fantasy takeaway: For all his upside, Smyly has relatively low risk in mixed leagues, where spot-starter options often abound on waivers. Given his ability to produce game-changing ratios, the southpaw is worth the risk of a mid-round pick.

Luis Severino, starter, Yankees
Likely to handle a sizable workload during his first full big league campaign, Severino could star in 2016. The owner of a lifetime 2.30 ERA in the Minors and a 2.89 mark in 11 Major League starts, the 22-year-old has the potential to post a high strikeout rate with strong ratios.

Fantasy takeaway: If he can withstand the rigors of a Major League workload, the talented righty will carry a great deal of mixed-league value.

Fantasy Player Preview: Outlooks on more than 800 players

Joaquin Benoit, reliever, Mariners
Steve Cishek has already been anointed Seattle's closer, but the side-winding righty lost the same role -- and was sent to the Minors -- after struggling a great deal with Miami in 2015. Meanwhile, Benoit has been a model of bullpen consistency by posting a 2.35 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP since the outset of the '10 season.

MLB.com's official closer report

Fantasy takeaway: Fantasy owners who stash Benoit on their bench in April may have a second-tier closer to add to their lineup by the time the weather warms up.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.