2021 Undervalued Players: Late March Edition

Matthew Pouliot
·13 min read


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Here’s an updated look at my undervalued players for 2021. Most of the original players from last month’s column are back, and there are newcomers at many positions. The rankings are taken from the NBC Sports EDGE+ Draft Guide, and while I’m still calling the big list there the Top 300, it’s really 500 players deep right now.

For ADPs, I’m using only March drafts from the NFBC, though Yahoo’s ADPs are still for the entire year.

Beginning on March 31, you can expect a new Strike Zone each Wednesday. They’ll mostly be notes columns, but I will be doing monthly rankings columns starting on April 28.

Catcher

Francisco Mejia - 232nd in Top 300 - 530th in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

Will Smith - 101st in Top 300 - 100th in NFBC - 108th in Yahoo

Gary Sanchez - 150th in Top 300 - 149th in NFBC - 151st in Yahoo

Jorge Alfaro - 282nd in Top 300 - 253rd in NFBC - 86% undrafted in Yahoo

Smith and Sanchez are the two clear top-10 catchers I’d be willing to pay the price to get, but I’m mostly bottom-feeding here, with Mejia as my serving as my preferred option. He’s going to play behind Mike Zunino initially and it’s possible that he’ll never break out, but I still think the ceiling is there and the Rays have the ability to give him time at DH if he hits.

Daulton Varsho’s ADP was too rich for my blood previously, but he could tumble now that he’s been sent down by the Diamondbacks, making him another intriguing end-game option. In my mind, he’s right there with Mejia as someone who could be a top-five catcher during the final three or four months.

First base

C.J. Cron - 122nd in Top 300 - 191st in NFBC - 240th in Yahoo

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - 36th in Top 300 - 48th in NFBC - 45th in Yahoo

Ryan Mountcastle - 126th in Top 300 - 155th in NFBC - 161st in Yahoo

Eric Hosmer - 132nd in Top 300 - 152nd in NFBC - 171st in Yahoo

I slid Guerrero up my rankings a bit a couple of weeks ago -- besides the encouraging spring performance, it’s also notable that he’s hitting fifth ahead of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in Toronto’s lineup, when I originally guessed he’d open up sixth -- and his ADPs have also moved up in recent weeks.

Cron’s current NFBC ADP takes into account that he landed with the Rockies, but I still don’t think it’s nearly high enough. If anyone was nervous that he wasn’t getting the gig, there’s hardly any reason for concern now; Josh Fuentes is due to see time at third with Brendan Rodgers out and Greg Bird hasn’t been any good this spring. Cron is clearly better than those two anyway, and he’s hit .325/.372/.650 to date.

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Second base

Ryan McMahon - 147th in Top 300 - 226th in NFBC - 254th in Yahoo

Ketel Marte - 57th in Top 300 - 80th in NFBC - 78th in Yahoo

Nick Madrigal - 135th in Top 300 - 199th in NFBC - 222nd in Yahoo

Dylan Moore - 109th in Top 300 - 124th in NFBC - 146th in Yahoo

Nick Solak - 155th in Top 300 - 176th in NFBC - 221st in Yahoo

Brendan Rodgers - 223rd in Top 300 - 455th in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

I was already a bit higher on Marte than the consensus, and I’ve moved him up some this spring based on the way he’s scalded the ball. It’s not just his numbers, but his exit velocities have been great, too.

McMahon remains my favorite pick here. It’s odd to me just how cheap Rockies hitters are this year. Sure, the team is bad, but Coors is still Coors. The players getting regular at-bats are going to prove pretty useful. McMahon was a bust last year, but he hit .250 with 24 homers and 83 RBI in just 480 at-bats in 2019. He’s only 26, and he looks pretty good when he makes contact. He offers plenty of fantasy upside.

Third base

Ke’Bryan Hayes - 72nd in Top 300 - 132nd in NFBC - 147th in Yahoo

Matt Chapman - 96th in Top 300 - 114th in NFBC - 98th in Yahoo

Brian Anderson - 163rd in Top 300 - 260th in NFBC - 244th in Yahoo

Austin Riley - 171st in Top 300 - 216th in NFBC - 239th in Yahoo

There aren’t any real changes here, though Hayes and Chapman have both seen their ADPs climb some since last month’s column. Anderson, on the other hand, has slipped, both in my rankings and his ADPs. The issue there is that Don Mattingly is set to bat him fifth behind Jesus Aguilar and Adam Duvall. That’s just not a good spot at all, but it’s also something that could change very quickly. Having Anderson hit second or third, Aguilar fourth and Duvall fifth would seem to make a whole lot more sense.

Shortstop

Carlos Correa - 47th in Top 300 - 120th in NFBC - 126th in Yahoo

Adalberto Mondesi - 15th in Top 300 - 25th in NFBC - 29th in Yahoo

Corey Seager - 22nd in Top 300 - 30th in NFBC - 41st in Yahoo

Willy Adames - 182nd in Top 300 - 427th in NFBC - 91% undrafted in Yahoo

Willi Castro - 156th in Top 300 - 227th in NFBC - 252nd in Yahoo

Amed Rosario - 190th in Top 300 - 436th in NFBC - 77% undrafted in Yahoo

Newly added to this list is Castro. It originally seemed likely that he’d bat at the bottom of the Tigers order after all of their offseason additions, but now it looks like he’ll hit third, giving him a boost.

The Astros are still experimenting with their lineup, but it currently looks like Correa will open up fourth or fifth. Baffling is that Mondesi seems set to hit third for the Royals. I originally projected him as a No. 2 hitter, but once the team penciled in Andrew Benintendi there, it sounded like Mondesi would probably hit seventh. Manager Mike Matheny, though, has instead put Mondesi third of late. I don’t know if it will last, but it’d be good for his value if it does. I’m still fine with Mondesi even if he hits seventh, though; I don’t have him with strong run and RBI projections anyway, and he could be even more aggressive on the basepaths while batting in front of lesser hitters.

Finally, even though my SS and MI slots are usually long gone at the end of drafts, I’m fond of Adames as an end-gamer. He hasn’t hit for average and he won’t steal bases, so I understand why no one is excited. However, he hit 20 homers two years ago at age 23 and eight (with an .813 OPS) in one-third of a season last year. I expect him to keep improving.

Outfield

Byron Buxton - 26th in Top 300 - 113th in NFBC - 129th in Yahoo

Nick Senzel - 86th in Top 300 - 223rd in NFBC - 255th in Yahoo

Ian Happ - 79th in Top 300 - 158th in NFBC - 154th in Yahoo

Luis Robert - 21st Top 300 - 36th in NFBC - 35th in Yahoo

Yordan Alvarez (DH) - 38th in Top 300 - 81st in NFBC - 60th in Yahoo

Eddie Rosario - 75th in Top 300 - 104th in NFBC - 122nd Yahoo

Teoscar Hernandez - 55th in Top 300 - 83rd in NFBC - 87th in Yahoo

Franmil Reyes (DH) - 95th in Top 300 - 159th in NFBC - 149th in Yahoo

Anthony Santander - 115th in Top 300 - 162nd in NFBC - 167th in Yahoo

Max Kepler - 129th in Top 300 - 189th in NFBC - 211th in Yahoo

Andrew Benintendi - 145th in Top 300 - 217th in NFBC - 228th in Yahoo

Raimel Tapia - 167th in Top 300 - 229th in NFBC - 62% undrafted in Yahoo

Sam Hilliard - 187th in Top 300 - 330th in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

Gregory Polanco - 204th in Top 300 - 417th in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

Franchy Cordero - 209th in Top 300 - 491st in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

I just lost my AL MVP choice in Eloy Jimenez. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of value to be had here. I won’t rehash Buxton for the 100th time, but he’s my very favorite pick at any position. Senzel’s ADP has climbed some after he was announced as the starting center fielder and Shogo Akiyama got hurt, but he remains one of the best bargains out there with the potential to contribute in all five categories (or make greater contributions in four categories if he becomes the Reds’ leadoff man).

Rosario hit .284 with 28 homers per year from 2017-19, is still in his prime at age 29 and is going to hit either second or fourth for the Indians. Hernandez was on a 40-homer pace last year and is due to bat cleanup in what could be the AL’s best offense in Toronto. Kepler didn’t hit as well as hoped last year, but most didn’t in the Central. He hit 36 homers, scored 98 runs and drove in 90 in 2019, and he’s going to lead off against righties (and play against most lefties) for Minnesota.

Tapia and Hilliard are a couple of other disrespected Rockies. I wouldn’t want either starting for my favorite team, but Tapia should keep hitting an empty .300 and steal 15-20 bases from the leadoff spot and Hilliard has ample speed and power and a ballpark that might allow him to hit .240-.250. It’s not like there’s really anyone around to challenge either for playing time.

SP

First the aces:

Max Scherzer - 18th in Top 300 - 27th in NFBC - 28th in Yahoo

Walker Buehler - 16th in Top 300 - 22nd in NFBC - 19th in Yahoo

Jack Flaherty - 24th in Top 300 - 33rd in NFBC - 32nd in Yahoo

Luis Castillo - 25th in Top 300 - 30th in NFBC - 42nd in Yahoo

Tyler Glasnow - 29th in Top 300 - 48th in NFBC - 57th in Yahoo

There aren’t any steals in this group, but I think they rate as the best values among the top 15 SPs.

Jose Urquidy - 43rd in Top 300 - 196th in NFBC - 191st in Yahoo

Chris Paddack - 40th in Top 300 - 102nd in NFBC - 115th in Yahoo

Joe Musgrove - 52nd in Top 300 - 122nd in NFBC - 125th in Yahoo

Dinelson Lamet - 50th in Top 300 - 109th in NFBC - 107th in Yahoo

Kyle Hendricks - 44th in Top 300 - 82nd in NFBC - 86th in Yahoo

Jesus Luzardo - 62nd in Top 300 - 99th in NFBC - 114th in Yahoo

Kevin Gausman - 71st in Top 300 - 138th in NFBC - 146th in Yahoo

Jose Berrios - 64th in Top 300 - 83rd in NFBC - 93rd in Yahoo

Carlos Carrasco - 81st in Top 300 - 105th in NFBC - 94th in Yahoo

These are the pitchers I want in the middle of my mixed-league rotations. Paddack’s velocity is up this spring, making me feel even better about betting on a rebound there. I think the upside easily outweighs the risk with Lamet right now, especially in a year in which only a handful of starters figure to top 180 innings anyway.

Carrasco was on this list a month ago before getting hurt. Since he’ll miss at least the first month with a hamstring tear, his draft positions are all over the place now, but if he can be had outside the top 100, he seems like a really good value.

Drew Smyly - 121st in Top 300 - 243rd in NFBC - 248th in Yahoo

Pablo Lopez - 92nd in Top 300 - 132nd in NFBC - 149th in Yahoo

Julio Urias - 85th in Top 300 - 127th in NFBC - 127th in Yahoo

Elieser Hernandez - 151st in Top 300 - 233rd in NFBC - 232nd in Yahoo

James Paxton - 166th in Top 300 - 228th in NFBC - 220th in Yahoo

David Price - 123rd in Top 300 - 205th in NFBC - 163rd in Yahoo

Yusei Kikuchi - 195th in Top 300 - 288th in NFBC - 87% undrafted in Yahoo

These are my favorite mid- to late-round SP picks. Smyly’s velocity this spring hasn’t been quite what it was in San Francisco last year, but it’s still been better than where he was previously. Durability is an issue there, but he’s one of my favorite picks.

RP

James Karinchak - 51st in Top 300 - 103rd in NFBC - 91st in Yahoo

Edwin Diaz - 58th in Top 300 - 78th in NFBC - 84th in Yahoo

Kenley Jansen - 89th in Top 300 - 121st in NFBC - 98th in Yahoo

Ryan Pressly - 93rd in Top 300 - 109th in NFBC - 111th in Yahoo

Trevor Rosenthal - 100th in Top 300 - 113th in NFBC - 132nd in Yahoo

Karinchak continues to lead my closer rankings, even though there’s been some speculation about Nick Wittgren getting the job so that the Indians can hold down Karinchak’s salaries. Most likely, Karinchak will be traded in a couple of years anyway, so why worry about it? I like Wittgren as a solid arm, but he’s given up 14 homers in 80 innings the last two years. One thing about baseball is that it takes four walks to score a run, but only one homer.

Jordan Romano - 110th in Top 300 - 445th in NFBC - 85% undrafted in Yahoo

Emilio Pagan - 128th in Top 300 - 485th in NFBC - 92% undrafted

Pete Fairbanks - 162nd in Top 300 - 450th in NFBC - 96% undrafted in Yahoo

Will Smith - 142nd in Top 300 - 194th in NFBC - 194th in Yahoo

Diego Castillo - 165th in Top 300 - 335th in NFBC - 227th in Yahoo

Tyler Rogers - 198th in Top 300 - 698th in NFBC - N/A in Yahoo

Joakim Soria - 158th in Top 300 - 292nd in NFBC - 237th in Yahoo

Craig Kimbrel - 136th in Top 300 - 179th in NFBC - 161st in Yahoo

Giovanny Gallegos - 169th in Top 300 - 283rd in NFBC - 64% undrafted in Yahoo

Hector Neris - 193rd in Top 300 - 326th in NFBC - 220th in Yahoo

Amir Garrett - 181st in Top 300 - 242nd in NFBC - 213th in Yahoo

It’s best to ignore the ADPs of many of these relievers; Romano, Pagan, Fairbanks and Castillo are all moving up draft boards at the moment and others will follow. The Jays haven’t confirmed that Romano will pitch the ninth, but he’s my No. 11 RP with Kirby Yates unfortunately out for the year. Pagan appears to be the favorite for saves in San Diego, and Fairbanks and Castillo could divvy up the ninth in Tampa Bay with Nick Anderson out for at least half of the season. Fairbanks would have made this list even without the Anderson injury; I think he’ll be one of the AL’s best relievers this year, though Castillo will likely be the better bet for saves initially.

I believe Rogers will be better than Jake McGee in San Francisco. McGee, though, will likely get most of the save chances early on, and it’s possible Reyes Moronta will outpitch both Rogers and McGee in the long run. I’ve moved Jordan Hicks ahead of Gallegos in the rankings, even though I don’t entirely trust Hicks at the moment. Gallegos still might wind up as the Cardinals’ best option in the ninth. I like Neris over Archie Bradley in Philadelphia, though since things are still uncertain there, he’s just my No. 25 RP.