Fantasy Baseball

Draft Day Specials

We are less than 2 weeks away from the start of the season. I have participated in three drafts so far along with a number of mock drafts; both expert and for fun. While most players went where I anticipated, a number of players are being taken later than I thought and could be a potential bargains.

Our own Tommy Landseadel identified a number of them the other day in his article about beating the default rankings. Default site rankings really do control the flow of the draft, placing those potential sleepers higher than you expected putting them in plain view of your opponents to snag before you get a chance to jump. Instead of reaching, why not wait? There are players with tons of potential being selected after round 10; a time in the draft where most people are filling out their roster with mediocre closers, catchers and middle infielders.

The following are some of my personal favorites, a number of which I own on multiple teams. You may have to reach a round or two to ensure you get one of the following players, but even if you do they should still outperform their ADP and provide a profit.

Lorenzo Cain (Royals): Last season Cain lost at bats to Jarrod Dyson, but 2015 will be different. Ned Yost has stated that Cain could be their number two or three hitter this year. With his new spot in the lineup and more at bats in store, you can expect more than 55 runs and 53 RBIs. Cain stole 21 bases over the final 3 months so you’ll be getting a player that can potentially steal more bases than Leonys Martin, who is being taken before him. The .301 average wasn’t a fluke either, Cain hit .286 or higher in five out of six months making him a four category player.

I have not seen Cain go before round 14 and have seen him slip all the way to round 18; that is a travesty. I realize the world revolves around power hitters and if this were a four category player without speed nobody would hesitate. A four category player is a terrific asset regardless of which four categories he contributes to. When round 13/14 roll around and you’re looking for an outfielder, look no further

Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals): I know many worry about injuries, but why is it that players like Tulowitzki and Cargo do not get downgraded much while players like Zimmerman get the shaft? This is a player who had at least 25 home runs, 79 RBIs, 84 runs scored and a .275 average the previous two seasons. Oh, and he played in 145 and 147 games those two years. How many did Cargo and Tulowitzki play in? This year Zimmerman will play first base so half of the injury factor has been removed. No more long throws to first will ease the pressure on his shoulder which should keep him relatively healthy. In addition he will qualify for three positions, primarily third base which may be deep on players but is shallow on overall established talent.

While I have been taking Zimmerman in round 8 and 9 (because I really believe he will bounce back), he has been slipping to round 11 and 12 in most drafts. Chris Davis, David Wright, Manny Machado and Matt Carpenter are being taken before him on average. Machado is being drafted for his potential and potential alone while Zimmerman is the proven commodity and is not even being taken inside the top 12 for third base. You can probably snag him around the 10th round if you want him but if the end of round 11 rolls around and he is still on the board, don’t let him fall any further.

Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies): He has lost some velocity, the Phillies don’t want him anymore and Ken Giles is waiting in the wings. Diminishing numbers, bad attitude, low strikeouts, blah blah blah, stop knocking the man and look at the facts. Unlike Trevor Rosenthal, Fernando Rodney and Steve Cishek, Papelbon hasn’t produced an ERA over 3.0 in the past four years. Papelbon has had a WHIP of 1.06 or lower in three of the past four years. He has been in the top 10 for saves in two of the past three seasons. Granted Paps has lost some strikeouts, but his K/9 is still above 8.0 so he’s not worthless.

Papelbon is going off the board in round 14 or later. Just like with Lorenzo Cain above with the power, people are dismissing Papelbon because of the lack of K’s. As long as he’s getting saves with a good WHIP and acceptable ERA, do 20 or 30 extra strikeouts really matter that much? Let your opponents reach for Rodney and Cishek along with overpaying for Rosenthal and Uehara; you just happily select Papelbon in round 14 (or 13 if there is a closer run) and reap the rewards. Odds are if he is traded it will be to a team that needs a closer so don’t fret about him losing his job. If you want to hedge your bets, Ken Giles can be had after round 20 in most drafts.

Mat Latos (Marlins):  I mentioned Latos last week when I covered contract year players which you can read later.  I’ll just reiterate the fact that round 14 is way too late for Latos to be going in drafts.  When round 14 rolls around and you’re looking for a starter, don’t go for the risky upside pick; just select the sure and steady product.  That’s all I have to say about that.

A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks): Kole Calhoun is all the rage this year after finishing in the top 10 among outfielders for runs scored leading off for the Angels. He is currently going off the board in round 8 and 9; meanwhile Pollock who was on his way to a breakout year before being derailed by an injury is slipping to the mid to late teens in some drafts. When comparing Pollock to Calhoun, keep in mind Pollock had a better FB%, higher ISO and was within one foot of tying Calhoun for average flyball distance. Most times people would prorate the numbers; extrapolate his final totals and move him up accordingly, but Pollock isn’t a household name and is being overlooked. This is a mistake, one that you can easily take advantage of in the draft room.

Pollock has the wheels to steal 25 bases (maybe a few more) along with enough power to launch 14 or more homers. Leading off for the D’Backs will afford him the opportunity for not only steals but a better than average number of runs. Pollock was also a .300 hitter in AA and AAA so the .300 average he produced last season is something he can come close to.  Basically you’re looking at Kole Calhoun with more speed and a better batting average at a better (and cheaper) price. I’ve reached as high as round 12 from him, but that was in a draft with some savvy owners who know value when you see it. This may be a reach for his ADP and site ranking, but it is not a reach as far as talent goes. Don’t let this one slip too far.

Kennys Vargas (Twins): The late season call-up blasted 9 home runs in just over 200 at bats. You would think that would get someone’s attention, but all that power is being taken in round 20 or later. He’s going after teammate Joe Mauer who has zero power left. He’s going after Ryan Howard who everybody is writing off. He’s going after Mark Teixeira who hasn’t had a full productive season since 2011. He’s even going after Allen Craig who doesn’t even have a spot in the starting lineup. I know first base is deep, but REALLY?

Vargas is a big guy, and I mean big (289 pounds). But, that big body can produce some big swings. The Twins plan on making him their cleanup hitter this year so 80+ RBIs could be in order along with 25+ homers. He does have some holes in his swing, he never played above AA in the minors and could struggle some, but the upside here is easily worth the gamble for the price you’ll pay. I own him in two leagues and the earliest I took him was round 20, odds are though I could have easily waited another round or two. If you are looking for a nice end game pick for your DH or CI slot, roll the dice. Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson have the name brand recognition, but sometimes it is the lesser known guys who produce the big numbers (remember Goldschmidt wasn’t a highly touted prospect).

Marcus Semien (A’s):  I wrote about Semien’s fantasy relevance back in December, Greg Jewett over at Today’s Knuckleball advised taking a leap of faith on him last month and Andrew Gould from the Bleacher Report listed Semien as a breakout candidate just a few days ago.  Obviously fantasy owners didn’t get the memo or decided to ignore it.  Honestly I can blame them given the depth at second base, but it is only a matter of weeks before Semien is eligible at shortstop which is where his value lies.  Surely a player with 15/15 potential is worthy of more than a late round pick in the draft, but that is basically what Semien is this year.  After round 20 we are all just throwing darts at the board hoping one sticks, well this could be your bullseye.  I’ll let you read the above links and form your own opinion.

You may not agree with the few names I have mentioned, you may not even like them.  Guess what, you don’t have to like them.  This isn’t a popularity contest, it is fantasy baseball where the objective is to put together the strongest team possible.  Filling in your team with a few of these players once you have your core unit set will not only strengthen your team, it could win you a championship.  Who are your favorite players that are being taken later than they should?  List them in the comments section below; give the readers some more names to chew on before their draft.

By Jim Finch

The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.