Third base is loaded with elite talent, headlined by four first round picks. That means there will be plenty of talent left forgotten in the later rounds. Here are two such players that are currently being underrated and should be targeted in drafts this year at their discount price point.
On the field, there isn’t much to complain about in regards to Kang’s performance. His batted ball profile improved in 2016 from his surprising and impressive 2015 MLB debut. The fly ball rate rose from 27% to 37%, and his hard contact rose from 34% to 39%. That combination of skills is good to have for a power hitter, which is the major fantasy contribution of Kang. Those peripherals also translated to improved production as his ISO rose from .173 to .258 and his OPS from .816 to .867. A 23.3% HR/FB seems destined to regress, but even so, Kang proved his swing will continue to produce plenty of pop at the major league level.
It wasn’t a perfect season for Kang, though, as his average did drop from .287 to .255. However, that can be explained by his drop in BABIP due to his increased fly ball rate. It is also important to note that he maintained his plate discipline and improved his contact rate, keeping his on-base percentage steady around the .355 mark.
Kang’s role on the Pirates and his off-field problems make his value a bit more difficult to determine. The easier part of this equation to predict is Kang’s playing time. The Pirates infield is crowded if they head into the season with their current roster John Jaso, Josh Bell, David Freese and Kang fighting for playing time at first and third base. No matter what combination of those players find at-bats, Kang will almost certainly sit against left-handed pitching as he has mustered just a .225 average and a .737 OPS in 151 major league at-bats when facing lefties.
More troublesome and less predictable is potential team and league discipline heading Kang’s way. He was arrested for his third DUI in South Korea this offseason which has garnered plenty of negative attention. This comes on top of sexual assault allegations made against Kang in July. These events have already led to Kang being left off the South Korean World Baseball Classic roster and could lead to discipline in the form of a suspension coming from either the Pirates or MLB.
Given the good and bad that comes with Kang, it’s not entirely surprising that he is currently the 22nd third baseman off the board in NFBC drafts. However, he has shown enough when he is on the field to be drafted at least five to six spots higher at the position. Several of the players being drafted immediately ahead of him, Yoan Moncada, Mike Moustakas, Ryon Healy, Nick Castellanos, and Jake Lamb, all have questions surrounding them in the form of playing time, injury, poor performance, or some combination of all three. That leaves Kang as a relative bargain and one of the most underrated third baseman in early ADP returns for the 2017 season.
Nick Castellanos ranked 27th on the ESPN Player rater among third baseman last season in only 457 plate appearances. Given that, it’s not difficult to understand his current ADP as the 20th third baseman off the board in NFBC drafts. He hasn’t jumped off the page with a splashy rookie campaign in the way that Trea Turner or Carlos Correa have, and he has yet to have a breakout performance in the way that Jonathan Villar did last season. Thus, it has gone basically unnoticed that Castellanos will only be entering his age 25 season, and that in each of his three seasons in the league he has shown steady improvement. Last season, Castellanos increased his flyball rate, HR/FB%, and hard contact to career-best levels.
The only thing that derailed 2016 from bringing Castellanos into the spotlight last season was injury, as he could amass only 83 post All-Star game at-bats. The advantage of drafting him is that he still has plenty of upside as he is entering his age 25 season, but also provides a safe floor and can be had in the late teen rounds of a 12 team draft.
While ambitious, if the Tigers keep their lineup intact, Castellanos could provide numbers in the range of Kyle Seager’s production earlier in his career. Those numbers would enter him into the conversation as a top-10 among third baseman. Based on his performance last season, his floor, and likely a more realistic place to set expectations, is somewhere in the mid-teens in the position. Castellanos has a clear path to full-time at-bats, and if he continues his steady improvement, he will turn out to be a steal as the 20th third baseman off the board.
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