Let’s look at some hitters that have a reasonable chance at providing attractive surplus value relative to their depressed draft cost. Average draft position (ADP) is current based on Yahoo drafts.
Khris Davis (69.2)
He’s hit 40 homers two years in a row. The past 10 years, the only players to do this are Albert Pujols, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista and Nolan Arenado. He’s hit .247 in each of the last three years, which is crazy. But how big a deal is this batting average hit now when the MLB average is .255? That .247 hardly moves the needle. Many of us are still in 2007 mode when the league-wide average was .268. And it also takes less than it used to cover Davis’ average. You only need one .280 hitter, not a .300 hitter. Davis produced a .214 well-hit of at bats vs. the league average of .155 last year, according to MLB stat provider Inside Edge. He was even better relative to the league average in 2016. Davis also greatly improved his plate discipline last year, becoming a Grade A hitter in not chasing with two strikes and nor non-competitive pitches.
Yoenis Cespedes (86.4)
He’s an injury risk. But according to Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs, there really is no injury risk for hitters, as crazy as that seems. Even if there is, Cespedes’ injury risk seems priced in as a fourth rounder but not dropping all the way to the eighth. Last year seems like the outlier for his health, so why believe that so strongly? A healthy Cespedes at ADP is a league-winner for sure. You know he’s a top-shelf hitter who easily projects at .550 slugging (not the .510 systems are giving him by factoring in his pre-Mets stats).
Yasiel Puig (114)
His homers (28) and steals (15) earned him $21 in 5 x 5 leagues according to Fantasy Baseball innovator Alex Patton, the Bill James of fantasy baseball. That’s fourth-round value. And yet here he sits in Round 10 in 12-team leagues. It feels like Puig has been around forever but he’s just 27 and probably has not had his best season yet. Puig consistently crushes off-speed pitches according to Inside Edge so he’s not an easy out by any stretch.
Travis Shaw (125.9)
We told you to get Shaw last March because of his home park is an insane homer-haven for lefties. Nothing has changed here. Shaw also quietly was 10-for-10 in stolen bases. He also has a solid batting average along with the 30-100-10. When does that ever come so cheap in fantasy for a guy playing the season at age 28? Shaw is free money.
Joey Gallo (126.3)
Okay here you have to invest in some batting average early or even later depending on how your draft is flowing. Gallo has insane power and could easily have an Aaron Judge-type of season. Even counting all the Ks as non-well-hit at bats, Gallo’s rate was a superb .192. Gallo also gets on base at a decent clip and can run a little where 10 steals is clearly within reason. It sounds silly to say the floor with Gallo is 40 homers, but I believe that. And the Rangers have accepted what he is; so when that inevitable massive slump comes calling, I doubt it costs Gallo his job.
Ryan Zimmerman (127.4)
I have never seen a hitter chart as A+ in all six plate location performances until I viewed Zimmerman’s report card from 2017. His well-hit rate was .244, absurdly lethal. Zimmerman hit .303 on off-speed pitches (MLB average is .228, the league leader was perfect Gallo-complement D.J. LeMahieu at .335). Yes, Zimmerman’s been hurt a lot. But 33 isn’t old for a good hitter and Zimmerman’s career adjusted OPS is 117 (100 is exactly average). That’s tied with Adrian Beltre and ahead of Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, Charlie Blackmon and Eric Hosmer.
Justin Bour (167.1)
He even hit lefties okay last year. Bour, playing his age 30 season, has 40 homers in his last 750 plate appearances. Give him 600 this year and that’s 32 dingers. Marlins Park isn’t that bad for lefty power (a 10% tax), according to Rotogrinders, and Bour will probably get traded anyway.
Robinson Chirinos (245.9)
The last two years, Chirinos, 34 this year, has 26 homers in 479 plate appearances. He’s the Rangers starting catcher and 450 plate appearances is a very good bet. So let’s call it 24 homers. This is just a giveaway price for that level of pop. For comparison, Gary Sanchez had a .197 well-hit and .531 slugging and Chirinos was .191 and .506. And in 2016, Chirinos slugged .483. He will fall close to ADP, so plan for it and grab him. While he hit 11 bombs in 192 at bats vs. righties, he just crushed lefties at .366/.451/.662. But, this is catcher — the glass is always half full.
Yonder Alonso (261.2)
Everyone is drafting on the basis of the second half (.774 OPS) and viewing the first half (.934) as a fluke. But Alonso’s isolated slugging was .200+ in both July and September. He really only had a power outage in August. He’s a former seventh overall pick as a first-baseman, which means the hit-tool graded off the charts. He’s playing this year at age 31. Nelson Cruz is not the only hitter ever to figure it all out after age 30. The park and lineup are good — lefties get a 24% projected power bump in Cleveland. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t match last year’s homer total.