Fantasy Baseball: Bat Flips and Nerds’ Sleepers

We are in draft prep mode for the forthcoming fantasy baseball season. Now is the time to decide upon which players you want to target late in the draft.

Using the consensus ADP (average draft position) calculated over at FantasyPros, we have eight players who you can get outside of the first 200 picks, who could return exceptional value.

Catcher: Mitch Garver (MIN)

Last year was dreadful for the Twins catching slugger. Coming off a career-year in 2019, he slumped to .167 AVG (.511 OPS) in 2020, but let’s be real – it was only a 23-game stretch.

On a “per game” basis, he was the most productive catcher in 2019 with 31 home runs, 70 runs and 67 RBI.

His ADP of 213 looks a bargain if you think he is more like the player we saw over 359 plate appearances in 2019 than 81 in 2020. And he’s already gone deep in spring training

First base: C.J. Cron (COL)

Accepting the limitations of the small sample size of 2020, Cron posted 139 OPS+ last year. That’s 39% above average.

His ADP of 339 is partly deflated by being team-less for most of the offseason after he was released by the Detroit Tigers, and partly as he has only signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies.

Cron is in a battle with Greg Bird and Josh Fuentes for the first base job in the Mile High City, but the prodigious power that has launched 118 big league homers will be fantasy gold in the thin air of Colorado.

Second base: Nick Madrigal (CWS)

Finding a player who doesn’t hurt your batting average in the second half of the draft is always tricky. With an ADP of 206, Madrigal is likely to hit over .300 and contribute double-digit steals. He knows how to run, in 120 minor league games in 2019, he swiped 35 bags.

Although he is destined to hit at the bottom of the lineup, the second baseman’s elite on-base skills – across all levels, he has twice as many walks as strikeouts – will give him plenty of scoring opportunities ahead of the White Sox firepower.

Shortstop: Ha-Seong Kim (SDP)

Don’t believe anyone if they claim to know how playing time will be allocated in San Diego. Jake Cronenworth, Jurickson Profar, Jorge Mateo and Tommy Pham are competing with Kim for just two positions.

Last year, Kim slashed .306/.397/.523 in a full season in Korea where he played 138 games, hitting 30 homers with 23 stolen bases. It is not often that we get a 25-year-old in his prime join MLB. He could be very, very special.

Third base: Eduardo Escobar (ARI)

Another player who is being downgraded based on the COVID-hit 2020 is the Diamondbacks third baseman. Escobar admitted he struggled to control his weight during the shortened season and has arrived at spring training as a slimmed-down version.

In 2019, Escobar was an elite contributor with 35 homers, 94 runs and 118 RBI. The switch-hitting, clean-up hitter is falling to an ADP of 243. Expect him to out-performed many hitters taken 100 picks earlier.

Outfield: Aaron Hicks (NYY)

There are sooooo many outfield sleepers: Seattle Mariners top prospect, Jarred Kelenic (ADP 218) could be up by mid-April. Mitch Haniger (ADP 313), also of the Mariners, appears fully healthy after 18 horrendous months. And the under-appreciated Miami pairing of Corey Dickerson and Adam Duvall, will both help fantasy teams win leagues this year despite an ADP outside of the Top 300.

However, we are opting for the Yankees’ centre fielder, Aaron Hicks.

Having recovered from Tommy John surgery, Hicks is targeting 30 home runs from the three-hole this season in one of the most dynamic lineups in the game. Players like the Dodgers Corey Seager and Braves Travis d’Arnaud have shown that they can be among the best hitters in the game after the surgery.

Hitting behind DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, but ahead of Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit, Hicks could set career-highs in runs, home runs and RBI in 2021.

Starting pitcher: Marcus Stroman (NYM)

Revitalised by new owners and new teammates, Stroman, who opted out of 2020, has worked on varying his timing and has added a new pitch. The split changeup – a pitch he learned from Robert Gsellman – adds an exciting new dimension to the groundball-inducing pitcher’s repertoire.

He has the strength of 200-inning seasons behind him, and in his last stint with the Blue Jays in 2019, he posted sub-3:00 ERA in 21 starts. The ADP of 210 looks great value.

Relief pitcher: Joakim Soria (ARI)

No closer has job security, but the new Diamondbacks closer doesn’t have that many elite bullpen arms vying for his job. The journeyman is fresh off a 2.82 ERA, 22 appearance stretch with the Oakland A’s last season, when he was striking out batters at a rate of 9.70 SO/9. Undoubtedly there are better pitchers and undoubtedly, some of those going later in the draft will get more saves, but with an ADP of 278, Soria looks like one of the few late picks who can guarantee you saves.

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

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