Mark Blakemore returns!
Rounding off the good value options that I can see in the middle and back end of drafts. As in the previous article these are aimed at typical 5×5 roto leagues. We did most of the infield in my previous article so in this one we’ll cover shortstop, outfield and both starting and relief pitching.
Very probably the most stacked position there is and the options at the front end of the draft are numerous. Francisco Lindor, Alex Bregman, Justin Turner, Trevor Story, and Manny Machado are all first round options and that’s not including Carlos Correa who has already shown in spring training through his exit velocity metrics that last seasons injury problems could be well behind him.
In drafts then you may find that one of your first picks goes on one of these studs. If not then a good later round option is Paul DeJong of the Cardinals. He had his own injury problems last year playing in only 115 games but hitting 19 home runs in the process. In 2017 he hit 25 bombs at an average of .285 in just 108 games so it’s not without the realms of possibility that a full season could easily net 30 home runs. He’s slated to hit at No.4 in a packed Cardinals offense containing Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter so look for some good counting stats. Going at position 200+ he’s a steal.
Another stacked position but one that normally is anyway. Don’t expect to find a Mike Trout lookalike anywhere lower down in the draft – after all Trout is a genuine generational talent – but there’s still some value to be found in various counting stats in later rounds and this is particularly important as most leagues have between 3-5 outfield spots to fill.
One name to watch this season is Max Kepler of the Twins. He’s proved himself to be durable (147 and 156 games in the past two seasons) and his output is consistent putting up an OPS+ of 96, 95 and 96 from 2016 to 2018. On the surface his counting stats took a slight dip last season – average falling from .243 to .224, RBI and steals also falling – but his underlying skills took a significant step up. His plate discipline improved markedly with his strikeout to walk (K:BB) ratio declining from 2.42 to 1.35 and his hard contact rate improved but he suffered from a career low BABIP of just .236 and a HR to flyball rate of under 10%. If those numbers regress anywhere close to the mean then a 25+ home run season at a better average is very possible. He’s currently slated to go at around pick 220 in many drafts and at that price he offers tremendous upside. There’s a reason the Twins gave him a $35m extension in the offseason so don’t miss out on him.
There are few certainties in life – death, taxes and also that the Baltimore Orioles will be terrible this season. Many of their players will be fairly irrelevant for fantasy purposes but one who could contribute is Cedric Mullins who can be found at around pick 250. Mullins is highly likely to lead off for the Orioles and could offer around 80 runs, 10 home runs and 20 steals. As a late source of steals he’s certainly quite valuable and can round off your outfield quite nicely. In the same vein Greg Allen of the Indians can also provide some late steals.
Trying to predict starting pitching is notoriously difficult – in his recent article on this site Ryan Owen referred to it as ‘Stud Flop Bingo’ and I can well understand Ryan’s point. There’s a high chance that the ace you drafted ends up on the Injured List at some point during the season and these injuries and the occasional shelling can wreck your stats. In this sense pitchers further down the draft list can often offer similar risk profiles to those to be found between the 30th and 100th pick and there is a strong case for filling out your rotation towards the end of a draft.
One pitcher who I’m looking at taking late this year is Jimmy Nelson of the Brewers. Don’t bother looking at his stats from last season as you won’t find any – he had Tommy John surgery which kept him out all year. This will scare many people off from taking him and I do accept that he may have his innings restricted so expect him to put up something like 140 or so innings pitched rather than the (now) standard of circa 180. In 2017 prior to TJS he had a 12-6 record with a fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark of 3.05 and over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings, showing vast improvements from his 2016 numbers and finishing 9th in the Cy Young votes. The Brewers will certainly compete this year so look for him to get some decent run support and I personally think Nelson is a potential sleeper at around pick 245.
In a similar vein Marco Gonzales of the Mariners, currently going at pick 280, offers some good value. Slated as the Mariners No.1 starter – not that this is saying much this year – he showed great improvement last year and delivered 13 wins at an ERA of 4.00 at a WHIP of 1.22. The strikeouts let him down slightly so don’t expect more than 8 per 9 innings based on his career so far but as someone to put down as a 4th or 5th slot in your fantasy rotation you could do much worse.
In a standard 5×5 relief pitchers are really only offering value if they can deliver saves and/or rack up some strikeouts along the way. Given that many of the closers operating on opening day won’t be the same ones that end up in that role at season end and also that most of the ‘guaranteed’ closers will probably go prior to pick 100 is there any value to be found lower down the draft?
Well there is some hope. Increasingly teams are spreading saves around far more than they used to as explained by Alex Fast in his excellent article on the pitcher list website.
One team that have shown themselves prone to spreading saves around in this manner is the Brewers and I can foresee each of Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress getting saves. Of these Jeffress, who racked up 15 saves with 89 strikeouts and also managed 8 wins last season, can be snagged at around pick 330 in drafts so depending on how deep your league is you may be able to pick him up with one of your last picks or maybe as a free agent after the draft.
Hopefully this and my previous article have given you some ideas as to the type of value that can be obtained in the later stages of a draft. Good luck in your drafts unless of course you are in one of my leagues!