Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - How To Find Value In Hitters

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Check out my overvalued players posts (part 1 and part 2) and my underrated stars blog. These posts are geared towards points leagues but should be very relevant in roto leagues as well. In this post, I aim to pinpoint a few value picks (at varying levels of availability) for you to pick up in your draft. If you’ve already had your draft, chances are at least a few of these guys are available on the waiver wire so you could grab them there. The (#%) is ownership percent and the source for ownership is ESPN.

At this point in spring training, you have probably already heard about how OF Jay Bruce (146) or OF Joc Pederson (186) can give you cheap power and should see their averages increase closer to the .250 mark as their batting averages on balls in play stabilize. You may have bought into Raisel Iglesias’ strong 2nd half where he had an xFip below 3.00 and struck out more than 10.4 batters per 9 innings. Maybe you know that Shelby Miller (178) is being drafted right in the same neighborhood as former teammate Julio Teheran (177) despite Teheran’s 2015 ERA being a full run higher (and the only difference being Miller’s trade to a hitter’s park in Arizona) or headcase Yordano Ventura (179, also had an ERA more than 1 run higher than Miller’s). You might be willing to take a waiver on 2B/SS Starlin Castro (183) and hope that the 26 year old 3 time all star benefits from a change in scenery, or you might know that Alex Gordon (198) is an excellent value for points leagues. What I will try to do here is go past the typical shallow-league keepers and find a couple of guys who could be real values for the final few picks of your draft or as $1 auction bids. I’ll go position by position, all of these guys have flaws – that’s why they’re being picked in the 200s or 300s of fantasy drafts but I’m trying to find the guys with the most potential to please their owners.

Catcher

In most leagues, you’ll only need 1 catcher but in 2 catcher leagues or leagues with 16 or more teams, being savvy at the catching position is necessary. JT Realmuto is one of the rare catchers with speed and a .265 average with 12 homers, 12 steals and 60 or so RBIs and Runs isn’t out of the question for the Miami backstop. He is owned in more than 50% of leagues so you should be prepared to take him relatively early. Red Sox former top prospect Blake Swihart hit .321/..372/.467 from July 30th on and, while those statistics are inflated by a high BABIP, I’d be willing to take a bet on someone like Swihart (owned in 12% of leagues) towards the end of my draft. Curt Casali projects to be the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting catcher and the 27 year old rookie packed a punch in his short stay in St. Pete last season – Casali hit 10 homers in just 37 games (9 in his last 24) and, though he did hit just .238, his BABIP was .241 indicating that he might hit closer to .260 if he gets a bit luckier. Casali is available in 99.5% of leagues.

1st base

Justin Bour, the Marlins’ 1B, will give his owners some cheap power (He hit 23 homers last year) and decent production against right handed pitchers. Bour is the strong side of a platoon so he won’t be playing much against left handed starters but you could do worse than .270 with 23 homers with your 20th pick. I feel bad for Mitch Moreland, I really believe that if he had a cooler name, he would be a much more popular player. Remember how I said you could do worse than Bour with your 20th pick? Well Moreland is being drafted after Bour and he puts up straight up better statistics: last season, Moreland (owned in fewer than 30% of leagues) hit .278 with 23 homers and 85 RBI in 132 games but he still gets absolutely no respect. Why? because he is named Mitch Moreland. Mike Napoli hit .295/.395/.513 with 5 homers in 35 games with Texas last year and he has continued that success into Spring Training with the Indians. Napoli should be the tea’s starting 1B and he’s owned in just under 4% of leagues so he could be a great value play late in the draft.

Mitch Moreland  looking like a turtle

Mitch Moreland Looking Like a Turtle

2nd Base

Former top prospects CubsJavier Baez (owned in less than 20% of leagues) and RangersJurickson Profar (2%) would be great sleepers if they had any window to regular playing time. Keep an eye on these two guys (and Nats Prospect Trea Turner (13%) who was foolishly demoted) in case of injuries to current starters. Jose Peraza won’t give you much power nor is he very disciplined at the plate but he should be playing rather frequently behind Brandon Phillips and SS Zack Cozart in Cincinnati and could snag 20 bags over the course of the year. Kelby Tomlinson (.3%) is just another Giants batter to come out of nowhere to hit .303 and while most of his production was BABIP-fueled last year, he should be the Giants’ utility guy this season and he does hit a ton of grounders so it makes some sense that his batting average on balls in play would be higher than normal. Tomlinson won’t give you much more than a decent average but he’s available in nearly every league.

3rd Base

Oakland’s Danny Valencia came out of nowhere to hit .290/.345/.519 with 18 homers in 105 games. Its a big bet on a 31 year old career backup to repeat this production but he did increase his walk rate and, for what its worth, he does have 5 homers this spring. Valencia is owned in 57% of leagues so its probably a stretch to call him a sleeper but he is also OF eligible, giving owners some flexibility. Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe hit .244 with 22 homers, 86 RBI, and 74 runs yet he is owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Contrast Plouffe’s season (and career for that matter) with Brett Lawrie (155) and you’ll realize that there shouldn’t be a greater than 100 pick gap between the two 3Bs – Plouffe will give you better counting stats, a similar average, and neither will give you much in the speed department. Phillies’ rule 5 draft pick, Tyler Goeddel (1.6%) obviously has no MLB experience but should be a cheap source of steals. It looks like he’ll get lots of playing time in the outfield and should be eligible there by mid-April. Red Sox’ Travis Shaw (8.9%) could be another good pick once he gets 3B eligibility, Houston’s Tyler White (6.5%) will open the year as the team’s starting 1B, and people forget that Yunel Escobar hit .314 last year (Still not a fan of that trade).

plouffe

Trevor Plouffe Touching His Head

Shortstop

Jose Reyes (25%) might be valuable in Colorado after serving his inevitable suspension but he’s hardly a sleeper (if you do decide to take this route, you might as well draft Trevor Story (44%) too – Colorado’s opening day SS. Jean Segura has had a nice spring and should be a good source for steals, he is also playing in Arizona now so if he gets the playing time, his counting stats may improve. MetsAsdrubal Cabrera (9%) is a solid bet for 14-15 homers and a handful of steals. Finally, settling with Milwaukee’s Jonathan Villar (17%) and his 30 steal potential until prospect Orlando Arcia (3.9%) is called up might work out.

Outfield

In the outfield, I’d love to own someone like Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty (60%), Rockies’ Geraldo Parra (57%), or Cubs’ Jorge Soler (49.8%) but, digging a bit deeper, Indians’ Marlon Byrd (2.5%) has somehow managed to hit 24 homers in 2013, 25 in 2014, and 23 last season – he might not receive a ton of playing time once everyone is healthy but he should be starting on opening day and is an incredibly cheap source of OF power. Fellow Indian Tyler Naquin (5%) has made the team’s opening day roster and the 24 year old could probably hit a dozen homers and swipe 20 bags in a full season. Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. (9%) had an incredible August and should get a lot of playing time – he has more upside than most outfielders at this portion of the draft. Tampa Bay’s former 1st round pick Mikie Mahtook (.2%) (much cooler name than Mitch Moreland, by the way) doesn’t have a clear path to playing time but he did hit .295/.351/.619 with 9 homers and 4 steals in just 41 games last season. I woudn’t expect any time of similar production from Mahtook again but still, that’s one impressive small sample size.

Byron Buxton, a native of rural Georgia, is the #2 prospect in all of baseball and the Twins’ CF job is his yet half of all fantasy leagues don’t have him rostered; at the very least he could be a source of cheap speed but he could also be much much more than that. Nationals’ Michael A Taylor (4%) doesn’t have a starting job right now but let’s be honest with ourselves, Jayson Werth is probably going to get injured. Taylor needs to sure up his swing and make better contact but he did hit 14 homers and steal 16 bags as a rookie; the upside is certainly there with Taylor, its just a matter of when/if he will put it all together. San Diego’s Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash (1.1%) has a sick name and has been turning some heads in spring training, Blash should make the team’s active roster and, if he gets playing time, you can expect lots of homers and plenty of strikeouts.

Byron Buxton bein' Speedy

Byron Buxton bein’ Speedy

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