With spring training underway, it can mean only one thing: your fantasy baseball draft is just around the corner. With that in mind, the Yahoo fantasy baseball expert collective offer up some potential get-rich lottery tickets, those players we’ll be targeting in the late rounds of upcoming drafts:
Q. What infielder being drafted, on average (Yahoo ADP), outside the top 200 players, will you be reaching for in ’17 fantasy drafts?
Brandon Funston: JOSE REYES. The Mets weren’t a good offense last season, which means they can’t afford to not have Reyes’ production (.769 OPS, 8 HR, 9 SB in 255 ABs) in the lineup on a regular basis. And, let’s be real, what are the chances of David Wright staying even remotely healthy at this point in his career?
Andy Behrens: TIM ANDERSON is going outside the top 225 picks in Yahoo drafts thus far, and he should provide an easy 30-plus steals for the White Sox, assuming good health. He’s established as a starter, and blindingly fast. Anderson swiped 49 bags in the minors in 2015.
Scott Pianowski: So far DEVON TRAVIS has about a full season of MLB experience, 163 games. Check what that adds up to: .301/.342/.469, 19 homers, seven steals, 92 runs, 85 RBIs. Give me some of that, please. If he’s healthy in 2017, he’ll be a ridiculous steal at ADP 211.
Q. What outfielder being drafted, on average (Yahoo ADP), outside the top 200 players, will you be reaching for in ’17 fantasy drafts?
Brandon Funston: NOMAR MAZARA. Sure, he wilted a bit in the second half after a torrid start to his rookie campaign last season, but players that can post 20-HR/.739 OPS seasons in their age 21 season are a rare breed. Matt Holliday, Yasiel Puig, Max Kepler and Rajai Davis will also be on my late-round OF short list.
Dalton Del Don: ERIC THAMES. Obviously he’s no sure thing considering he hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2012 (when he wasn’t very successful), but Thames is still just 30 years old and coming off a stretch in the Korean league in which he absolutely tore it up. He’s outfield eligible but will be playing first base (making him more likely to stay healthy) while hitting in the middle of the Brewers’ lineup. Over the last three seasons, Miller Park has increased home runs by 49 percent for left-handed batters, which is easily the highest in MLB, so Thames is in a terrific situation. Steamer is actually projecting 29 homers and 12 steals in fewer than 130 games played (with a 124 wRC+ that would’ve equaled Nolan Arenado’s mark last season), and while that may be a bit bullish, it illustrates the point of Thames clearly being undervalued at draft tables right now.
Scott Pianowski: All the post-hype rules apply to BYRON BUXTON, and for now, you can still land him at the nice price. Did you catch what he did over the final month of the year? Nine homers, an OPS over 1.000. I figure he’ll either start the season as Minnesota’s leadoff man, or ascend to that post quickly. We’re not just talking about prospect pedigree here; we’re talking about someone who was first or second on the primary future-star lists from 2014-2016.
Q. What pitcher being drafted, on average (Yahoo ADP), outside the top 200 players, will you be reaching for in ’17 fantasy drafts?
Brandon Funston: JAHREL COTTON. He’s only being drafted in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, so he’s an easy get right now. Cotton possesses a sensational change-up and three other quality pitches , he has good command of those pitches and pitches for a team that will be willing to extend the leash further for a 25-year-old rookie than most clubs would. An upper 3 ERA, with 8-9 K/9 and 9-11 wins is entirely reasonable, and would represent a steal of a deal based on his current draft price.
Andy Behrens: ROBBIE RAY’s fantasy ratios were horrific last season, but the man struck out a whopping 218 batters in 174.1 innings. He had no luck at all on balls in play last year (.352 BABIP), so we can expect his ERA and WHIP to be … well, less disastrous, at least.
Dalton Del Don: CARLOS RODON. He pitches in the A.L. in an extreme hitter’s park and still needs to greatly improve his control, but Rodon is just 24 years old and was the No. 3 overall pick of the draft not that long ago. He averaged 93.4 mph with his fastball last year, which was the second highest in MLB among left-handed starters, producing a strong 10.1 SwStr%. Rodon posted a 77:22 K:BB ratio over 73.0 innings with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP after the All-Star break, and he’s poised to fully breakout in 2017.