All fantasy owners should strive to have teams balanced with youth and experience, ceiling and floor. But upside comes in many packages and it’s not only young players who have a ceiling that’s well higher than their ADP.
Here’s my All-Upside Team, one player at every position (except three outfielders). The idea isn’t that you’d get all of these guys. That would be crazy and far too risky. But sprinkle two or three of them onto your roster near their ADP and I believe you likely will be rewarded.
C Tom Murphy (Rockies, ADP: 244): Maybe his defense isn’t good enough to play every day but the bat is good and maybe great when you adjust for him playing half of his games on the moon in Coors. In 371 plate appearances last year, he stroked 59 extra-base hits, including 24 homers (and seven triples). He slashed .273/.347/.659 in his big-league cup of coffee (49 PAs).
1B Kendrys Morales (Blue Jays, ADP: 136): He had 18 road homers last year. If he does that again now that he’s with the Blue Jays and not the Royals, you can project him for 35-to-40 homers. Oddly, few leagues are making you pay for this possibility. Lineups matter, too. The fact that the Blue Jays hit better than the Royals did last year will help all of his counting stats.
2B Jose Peraza (Reds, ADP 187): This is cheap speed. I hate rabbits, generally. They crush your homers. But I can live with them more easily in the middle infield versus the outfield, where ideally I want more power. So rostering Peraza and his projected 40-plus steals isn’t going to cause you to scramble to cover homers and RBIs as much as, say, the far more expensive Billy Hamilton. And Peraza has 70-to-80 speed, depending on the scout.
3B Eduardo Nunez (Giants, ADP: 192): I hate spending premium picks on steals and Nunez swiped 40 bags last year, including 13 in 50 games for the Giants. He’s being discounted too much in the power department given he only hit four bombs with San Francisco. Park effects should only cost him a handful. So project him for 13. That’s likely 50 homers-plus-steals. And given his good contact rate, .280 is likely, too.
SS Danny Espinosa (Angels, ADP: 235): I refer you to this excellent article by Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs. Bottom line, Espinosa’s average exit velocity on fly balls was 94 mph, tied with Mike Trout and slightly better than Yoenis Cespedes. His power projection is way off. He’s going to hit 25 homers and maybe 30. Plus he can add 10 bags. You have to cover the average, of course. Think of him as a poor man’s Chris Carter in power but boosted in value because he can man your middle infield.
OF Randal Grichuk (Cardinals, ADP: 211): The sabermetric crowd hates him because he rarely walks. But he also hits the ball really hard, witness that .240 isolated slugging (slugging average minus batting average), which last year ranked 27th among 203 qualifiers with at least 400 plate appearances. That was right between Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.
OF Michael Conforto (Mets, ADP: 227): Forget about the ADP. Ideally you want to reserve Conforto (or pick him up after he’s waived) because he probably doesn’t have a job to start the year. (Why are you doing this, Mets?) But he has to be on this list because of what Keith Hernandez, who sees him every day, said to me about him last year: “He has physical tools but also an intelligence about hitting. He’s not one of those guys who’s as dumb as a box of rocks…I still love his swing. He has a chance to be one of the really good hitters in quite a while — the classic No. 3 hitter like a [former Minnesota Twin] Tony Olivia, like what Daniel Murphy has become, like myself.”
OF Manuel Margot (Padres, ADP: 245): Rarely strikes out, plays good enough defense in center to keep himself in the lineup, has some projectable power so isn’t a pure rabbit. The 22-year-old Margot is a high-average, line-drive hitter who can add 30-to-45 steals with his above average speed. That’s a nice fantasy package. Monitor his tender knee, which is not believed to be serious.
SP Vince Velasquez (Phillies, ADP: 171): Had a 16 Ks, 0 BB game last year. Full stop. Nothing else really needs to be said. Has fantasy ace potential, clearly.
RP: Matt Bush (Rangers, ADP: 238): He hits 100 mph on the fastball and averages 97. Meanwhile Sam Dyson, who actually throws pretty hard, just can’t miss bats (horrid 7 Ks/9 and 8.3% swinging strikes). Bush’s swinging strike was 13.1%. And even though he’s 31, the former first-overall pick (as a shortstop) returned to the game last year after spending 39 months in prison and is still learning to adjust to the mound. So there’s a very good chance he’s better this year and thus banging on that closer door that has a very mediocre pitcher in Dyson behind it.
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