5 Hitting Sleepers to Draft in a Late Round
People love this time of year. Whether it’s March Madness, the first day of Spring, or spending the upcoming holidays with the family, the end of March signifies the start of something great — the next six months of warmer weather and, of course, baseball. But to me, it means one thing and one thing alone — it’s Fantasy Baseball draft season.
The draft is where your season begins and, for some, where it ends. With 1,000 different winning strategies on draft day, I target the best player available but lean towards top-tier pitching in the early rounds, especially in head-to-head leagues. My reasoning: there is so much hitting value available after pick 200.
I love plucking those diamonds in the rough who, for one reason or another, are sitting outside the Top 200 in Average Draft Position (ADP). Whether they’re likely to have a bounce-back year, be a breakout star, or are simply flying under the radar, these hitters can, and will, end up outperforming their 2018 draft slots.
Kipnis Makes a Prime Comeback Candidate
This spring, Jason Kipnis looks very different from the player that batted just .232 with 12 homers last season. Through 48 at-bats in Cactus League play, Kipnis has a .375 batting average with 18 hits, six homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored. His 1.267 OPS won’t be sustainable, considering his career .762 OPS, but it’s encouraging, to say the least, following an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he played just 90 games.
Yes, we all know that Spring Training numbers don’t mean anything, but Kipnis has all the makings of a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. He’s likely to bat second in a stacked Indians lineup and looks more and more like the guy who hit .275 with 23 homers, 15 stolen bases, 91 runs and 82 RBIs in 2016.
By season’s end, I expect to only see a handful of second basemen ranked higher than Kipnis (i.e. Jose Altuve, Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Jonathan Schoop), making his ADP of 212 a treat for savvy Fantasy owners. And his multi-position eligibility in Yahoo! leagues at second base, middle infield, and outfield give him even more value as a 17th-round pick.
Remember, he was injured in 2017 and that’s likely what caused the utterly disappointing season. Take advantage of how far Kipnis has fallen in the Fantasy ranks and snag yourself an eventual Top-5 second baseman who will likely swat 20 homers, and notch 15 steals with 85 runs and 90 RBIs.
Anderson Appeals as a Late Draft 20/20 Option
Similar middle infield value can be had from Tim Anderson. Looking at Anderson’s stats from his first full season in the bigs, the White Sox’ 2013 first-round pick put together a quietly good season. He racked up 17 homers, 72 runs scored, 56 RBIs, and 15 steals in 16 attempts.
The number that stands out is the 17 homers, as Anderson has always been a player known for his wheels. With 94 stolen bases over parts of four Minor League seasons, it looked like the training wheels were finally removed late last season. In September, he not only went 9-for-9 in steal attempts, but also scored 20 runs, hit three homers, and knocked in 11 in 109 at-bats.
If Anderson can keep it up on the basepaths over a full season, he is a shoo-in for his first 20-20 season. Coming off draft boards around pick 225 makes any shortstop with that potential a great value/sleeper pick. But one with the pedigree of Anderson, he reminds me a whole lot like Byron Buxton last season. The hype train may have derailed a bit, but let Anderson flying under the radar benefit you and your squad as a late 18th-round pick in 12-team leagues.
— MLB (@MLB) March 28, 2018
Peraza’s Speed Should Pay Dividends
Another post-hype sleeper is Jose Peraza. After being over-drafted last season (ADP 98), he’s now being under-drafted with an ADP over 250. A player who is likely to steal at least 25 bases (I’m predicting 40) and has no one blocking him from at-bats, Peraza should look more like his rookie version than the one that frustrated Fantasy owners during his 2017 campaign.
As long as he hits around his career .277 average, Peraza’s 34 stolen bases per 162 games played makes him a high-upside stolen base option with little or no risk. Plus, he will be eligible at shortstop and second base, adding even more late-draft intrigue to the speedy infielder’s sleeper value. Steal-needy team owners should jump at the chance to take a flier on Peraza in the 20th round or later in deep 12-team leagues.
O’s Slugger Remains Home Run Source
Now on to an under-valued veteran. Chris Davis can hit home runs. Over the past five seasons, he has averaged 38 jacks. And despite a disappointing 2017 campaign, Davis still managed to hit 26 homers in 128 games. After missing 30 games last year, the slugger can only go up from the .215 he hit with 61 RBIs and 65 runs scored.
With a high of 53 homers in 2013, and 33 or more in every season he’s gotten 500 at-bats in Baltimore, Davis’ upside with an ADP of 214 is immense. Compared to Joey Gallo, who is being drafted 100 picks earlier, smart Fantasy owners will wait on the veteran and nab a season with 35 home runs, 85 runs and 90 RBIs at a fraction of the cost. As long as you can live with his .220 batting average, taking a chance on Davis at the back end of the 17th round is a 35-plus-home run gift.
Potential Platoon Makes Phillies Altherr a Steal
Aaron Altherr surprised lots of Fantasy owners, including myself, last season, when he put up 19 homers, 65 RBIs, and a .272 batting average in just 107 games. With more than half of his at-bats coming from the three-hole last season, Altherr looked to be the Phillies’ three-hole hitter of the future.
Then, the Phillies’ brass decided on a possible right-field platoon between him and Nick Williams this spring. That possibility continues to cause Altherr’s ADP to tumble. He’s now being drafted around pick 300, which means in 12-team leagues with less than 25 roster spots, the outfielder will often end up going undrafted.
If Altherr can stay ahead of Williams (he’s proven to be the better player), and end up being the Phillies’ three-hitter again this season, he’s an absolute steal as a last-round flier. That ANY player who has the potential to bat third is being drafted at or close to the last round of drafts should make you do a double take. A hitter that plays his home games at Citizens Bank Park, a stadium that ranked first in home runs allowed to right-handed hitters last season, is even better.
Even if the dreaded platoon does happen, Altherr should match the 19 homers and 65 RBIs he had in just 372 at-bats last season. You can do a lot worse than that in the last round of a 12-team draft. This possible platoon could be the perfect smokescreen that allows you to draft a Top-100 player 200 picks later. Take advantage of his 300 ADP and make sure you find a roster spot for Altherr, and all of these under-valued assets, on at least one of your Fantasy baseball teams this season.