Making a welcome return to blogging, Mark Blakemore…
As we enter fantasy draft season I thought I may mention some of those value options that you may be able to find at the back end of some drafts. Often it’s easy to get sucked into looking at the front end of the draft and focus on those star names who deliver strong results in many categories. However to some extent the first 5 rounds often pick themselves – simply selecting the next best name available can be a good strategy in those first few rounds and leaves plenty of time in the later rounds to fill in the positional gaps.
To win your league though it’s not necessarily who you pick at the top of the draft but selecting wisely at the middle or back end of the draft that can make a significant difference to your overall chances. So these are some of my choices – one (or more) for each position including starting pitcher and relievers – for some of those not quite star players who can still deliver great value as you draft. Note these are based on a typical 5×5 roto league with average and not on base percentage (OBP) as a category.
Let’s start off with the infield (excluding shortstop) positions for this part and in part 2 I’ll cover shortstop, outfield and pitching.
Yuk. Catcher is a wasteland this season – in early drafts only two are going in the top 100 picks and of those one (Gary Sanchez) hit below the Mendoza line last season. Now catchers aren’t often the cream of the crop in fantasy baseball circles but this season is especially poor.
Better known for his defensive prowess Yadier Molina of the Cardinals represents some decent value as he enters the twilight of his career. He has decent power (18 and 20 homer seasons in 2017 and 2018) at an average that won’t kill you and even the occasional stolen base. Molina doesn’t walk (only 6% walk rate in 2018) but his strikeout rate isn’t high either. He’ll still play at least 75% of the Cardinals games and given the improved lineup the Cardinals will run out this season, notably with the addition of Paul Goldschmidt, the counting stats should be improved. He’s around the 8th ranked catcher on the board but below this it’s a long way down at catcher.
First Base is another position where after some strong notables at the start of the draft – Goldschmidt, Freeman, Rizzo and Bellinger – there is a real gap in quality. As such if you don’t pick up of these big names finding sufficient quality below and at decent value can be a struggle.
One of the surprises towards the end of last season was Luke Voit who was traded to the Yankees just before the trade deadline last year and proceeded to make the first base position his own batting .333 at an OPS of 1.095 and 14 home runs over 148 plate appearances, becoming a real Yankee fan favourite in that time. Granted it was a relatively small sample and with an unsustainable .365 BABIP but the strong likelihood is that Voit will be in prime position to make the position his own this season as Greg Bird, who was at one stage the anointed one, continues to struggle with consistency and injury. Playing in that high octane Yankees offense can only boost his scoring numbers and at a draft position of around 175 he represents some very good value.
Another first base option of note could be Pete Alonso of the Mets who has a real shot at taking the position on opening day. At AA/AAA last season he hit a combined 36 home runs at an OPS of .975 with 119 RBI. He’s currently slated to be drafted at around position 225 though I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts to go earlier.
The standout at second base is Jose Altuve who is in a top tier on his own at the position. Thereafter Javi Baez or Whit Merrifield are likely the next off the board but it’s worthwhile having options at the back end of the draft.
For later round options I like Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies. Going at around 175 in the draft he offers 15 HR / 15 SB potential and last year scored 91 runs. He played in 161 games last season so he’s durable and with the additions made to the Phillies offense this offseason there is a great prospect for a lot of counting stats.
Third is relatively well represented at the top of the draft – names like Ramirez, Arenado, Baez, Bregman could all go in the first round or the early part of the second. And that’s before we get Vlad fever…
Later on the options get more sparse but I’ve a couple of options. Going at around position 120 is Matt Chapman, another player perhaps better known for his defensive work, but who proved to be an offensive asset for the A’s last year hitting 24 home runs at a decent average of .278. His metrics all took a step forward in 2017 and he showed a good propensity to hit the ball to all fields with a low soft contact %.
Even lower down the draft is Kyle Seager who you may be able to find at position 250 or even below. Seager isn’t as exciting as his brother Corey, shortstop for the Dodgers, and his skills are waning, but this is a guy who has hit 20 home runs or more for the last 7 seasons and I see no reason why he can’t do the same again this year and hit around 80 RBI in the process. As a late round power (admittedly low average) option with a high floor he represents great value this low down in the draft.