Last week I took a look at the high-end outfield options that most appeal to me. My usual plan is to pay big for a couple of big names like the ones discussed in the article, but since we need five outfielders, a utility spot, and have budget or draft limitations to deal with, we will all be looking for outfield value late.
Last year in a similar column I recommended Curtis Granderson (good!), Khris Davis (pretty good!), and Desmond Jennings (sigh). I don’t expect all of these to hit, but that’s why they are going late in drafts. You will need to find the gems outside of the top 50 outfielders if you want to win. If you see them on the board and you have an open slot, take a look at these guys.
Denard Span – He’s never been a sexy name, but it would be foolish to overlook Span this season. He has hit over .300 for two straight years, is a .287 lifetime hitter, and is always a solid contributor in runs and steals. It has already been announced that Span is leading off for San Francisco. Though the Giants don’t feature any household names in their lineup outside of Buster Posey, they somehow always end up having an above average offense, so this is a nice boost for Span’s value. He dealt with injuries last season, but I wouldn’t call him injury prone just yet. While on the field he was his usual solid self. It feels like Span has been around forever but he’s only 32 years old. As the 64th outfielder off the board, Span represents a big buying opportunity.
Jayson Werth – So what’s less sexy than a vet in his early 30’s coming off an injury-riddled campaign? A vet in his mid-30’s coming off an uglier injury-riddled campaign. When Werth signed for $126 million with Washington, a lot of pundits hemmed and hawed, but Werth had been very strong for 3 of the first 4 years of the deal. Things came crashing down in a big way last year. He dealt with surgery in the offseason, got off to a poor start, and broke his wrist. Wrist injuries are tough to return from, and Werth’s season numbers were ugly – especially his 12 home runs and .221 average.
Lots of people, including some of us on this very site, are down on Werth. The minuses are obvious ones: older, injury prone, and so on. However, as the 70th outfielder off the board he is looking like a decent pick to me. His plate discipline numbers are not what they were in his prime, but they are still strong. It’s unreasonable to expect the average to return to to the .290 range which is where he lived in 2012-2014, but his BABIP was only .253 so a rebound in batting average is likely. Injuries sapped his power last year, but his 7 September home runs tell me he’s not done yet. And while health can be an issue, he is assured of playing time in a key lineup spot on a good Nats team.
Marcel Ozuna – When I’m on the lookout for draft-day value, in recent years I found myself turning to players like Span and Werth; vets who are being overlooked based on very recent performance, but who should earn their keep by coming closer to their career norms. With younger players, especially power hitters, the upside is accounted for in the price. Think about Miguel Sano: If you want him on your team, you will have to spend a fourth or fifth round pick. This based on an admittedly impressive half season, but he strikes out a ton, was lucky to have as a high of an average as he did last year, and has limited speed. The power might make up for it, but those are a lot of warts to ignore.
But in the case of Marcel Ozuna, it seems drafters are seeing warts only. Maybe last year’s banishment to the minors has them spooked, but I see a 25-year-old who regularly hit for power in the minors and has a 23 home run season to his credit. Last year his HR/FB% dropped a good bit, but it certainly has a chance to bounce back – especially considering his home run distance is impressive and he hits the ball hard on a regular basis. The fences are coming in at Marlins Park and the lineup has a chance to be better. This is a rare chance to get power upside in the later rounds, so don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Kevin Kiermaier – Good defense is not a fantasy baseball category, but it does help a player stay on the field. The best defensive outfielder in baseball, Kiermaier’s playing time is assured and that’s the first obstacle toward accruing stats. From a fantasy perspective, Kiermaier doesn’t have a skill that makes him stand out, but that means other owners might overlook him in favor of a power hitter who will flirt with the Mendoza line.
If you have asked me how many home runs Kiermaier hit last year, I probably would have guessed 6. I’m happy to be wrong. For the second straight year, Kiermaier hit 10 home runs, and last year he stole 18 bases. His HR/FB was 8.4% so there may be a little more power in the bat. He’ll only be 26 this season, so the steals should be holding steady at the very least. What more do you want out of a late round flyer than someone who’s a good bet for double-digit homers and steals?
Jarrod Dyson – You may have heard (probably from me) that speed is at a premium, as only 7 players stole 30 or more bases last year. That said, I still hate paying a big price on a player like Billy Hamilton, but I won’t have to with Jarrod Dyson around. Dyson stole 26 bases last year, but he only received 200 at bats in under 100 games. Right now he is expected to be the strong side of a platoon with Paulo Orlando. Even this is a big playing-time upgrade for Dyson and could lead to a big steals total. The Royals are notoriously aggressive, and I have to think that Ned Yost will encourage Dyson to run run run while he is in the lineup.
I’m not going to mince words here: Dyson is not much of a hitter. You will be getting no power and a middling average. He is unlikely to make it to the top of the lineup so he won’t even give you runs. But this is best bet for a late round jump in steals.
How do these late round targets sound to you? Who are you looking for to give your squad a boost after the big and even medium-sized names are gone? Let us hear it in the comments.
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