When picking players for your fantasy teams, the first half of your draft is arguably the easiest for which to prepare. The top 200 or so players are the ones that are talked about, hyped and analyzed everywhere. Team owners going into drafts should have a very good idea of who they would want to to draft at any time in order to fill out their rosters.
The harder part, however, is filling out those depth pieces that can make or break your team. Looking up and down rosters, owners need to have an idea of who can and should replace their starters should they struggle or get hurt. When you’re on the clock, it can be hard to do research for players you may not be familiar with. Not all drafts are won in the first few rounds, but they can be lost in the last few rounds.
That’s where this article comes into play. Here are some offensive players that have an ADP outside of the top-250 who will not only have an opportunity to play, but will have a good chance to either prove the doubters wrong and/or be more than worth their weight in gold.
For ADP, we will be using NFBC.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Kansas City Royals
2019 stats: .234/.297/.409, 17 home runs, 56 RBIs, 48 R
The above stats look ugly, and they’re complemented by some extremely ugly peripherals, such as an exit velocity in the 49th percentile and a hard-hit rate in the 46th percentile. Franco did, however, finish with a better than league average strikeout rate (14.7%) and walk rate (8.4%) leaving room for hope. All in all, 2019 was still a bad year for Franco, despite an incredibly hot start to the season. What transpired by the end of the year was Franco displaying his inability to make contact on pitches he should swing at, and stay away from those he should have avoided.
So why should you buy back in on Franco in 2020? First off, it’s a brand new start for him. Leaving Philadelphia for Kansas City, which is a smaller market and non-competitive team, could lead to less pressure of being replaced. This ultimately could clear the mind of a formerly hyped prospect and give him the confidence he needs to get back to what made him successful. He’s hit more than 22 home runs in three of his five full seasons with the Phillies, so we know that the power is there. Second, the Royals did their due diligence and noted some holes in Franco’s swing, which were not there from 2016-2018. He’s been making adjustments to the way he’s developing his power.
Lookin' good in blue, Maikel. 💪 pic.twitter.com/UGpC3ttSwv
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) January 9, 2020
As such, they saw the potential for a return to his better Phillies’ years and felt like they were manageable fixes for him. He’s gone on record to say that he felt the pressures last year and seems poised and ready for a bounce back.
Playing in Kansas City, there is a threat that his power gets depleted a bit, as Kaufman Stadium doesn’t play well for home runs. In fact, it was one of the worst ranked for home runs per game in 2019 (0.741), while his old home, Citizens Bank Park was one of the best (1.251). While part of that can be attributed to the surrounding cast that plays their home games at both stadiums, it should be noted that the dimensions in Philadelphia are smaller. However, that’s where I think Franco can improve, because Kaufman Stadium is very conducive to more small ball type baseball, and Franco should be able to play to that. He’ll find the gaps, he’ll pull the ball and he’ll get himself on base following these swing corrections. I believe that the corrections he has made will lead to a higher batting average and better overall contact.
With an ADP of 459, Franco is a starting third baseman with not much competition behind him. He’s made changes to his swing and he’s dropped a few pounds as well. He seems motivated and ready to prove his critics wrong. His Spring Training, though a small sample, showed some promise as well.
CRUSHED. Maikel Franco has left the yard! #Royals
TV: FSKC | Stream: FSGO pic.twitter.com/YCmcbHwTl1
— FOX Sports Kansas City (@FSKansasCity) March 4, 2020
He finished this Spring with batting .267 with one home run and four runs batted in over 30 at-bats. At his price, he is essentially free. In the deepest of leagues, where you want starters and at-bats, getting someone who will play is attractive to owners. I see Franco bouncing back to his old numbers and providing a .260 batting average with 20 home runs over a full season. If the season is half the size it normally is, double digit power is possible and welcomed.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Boston Red Sox
2019 stats: .239/.285/.346, 6 home runs, 33 RBIs, 27 R, 7 stolen bases
Much like Franco up above, Jose Peraza had a miserable 2019 season with his former team. Despite being a great minor league hitter, his final season with the Cincinnati Reds saw him earn inconsistent playing time in a utility role. This subsequently led to a 14.6% strikeout rate and a 4.2% walk rate. In other words, it was a disastrous culmination to his time with the Reds. Nonetheless, he comes to Boston with plenty of promise.
Speed, which is arguably his best asset, is very valuable in the fantasy baseball world. Armed with a sprint speed in the 75th percentile, Peraza should provide owners with double-digit steals, even with a shortened season. With Michael Chavis his only real competition, Peraza looks ready to roll as the starting second baseman for the Red Sox, as Chavis will be platooning at first base with Mitch Moreland as well. He also looks ready to replace Brock Holt and could be their new Mr. Utility as he seems primed for some time in the outfield. Whereas last season that role lost him some at-bats, in Boston, that could actually gain him some, as he has the ability to play shortstop and the outfield as well, giving others days off.
The surrounding cast in 2020 Boston is not as potent as the surrounding cast in 2019 Cincinnati, so he seems destined for consistent time on the field. Finally, his defense is actually pretty solid, which is something that will keep him in the good graces of management, While defensive stats don’t count in the fantasy world, they will help keep him in the lineup and get more at-bats.
At only 25 years old, it’s hard to label the former highly ranked prospect as a bust after one bad season. In 2018, he was able to hit 14 home runs and steal 23 bases while batting .288 over a full season. The two years previous, he averaged 22 stolen bases per season and even hit .324 in 2016.
I love seeing extra-base hits, and Peraza is someone who can make his way around the bases. If he can increase his line drive rate, he should be able to continue to spread the ball all over the field like he’s done in the past (30.6% pull, 40.4% straight, 29.0% opposite). As such, he should then be able to use his speed to his advantage.
Consistent playing time in Boston will allow him to get back on track and out produce his high ADP into a profitable success. Consistency is something one can’t quantify in numbers; that’s the mental state of knowing you’ll be out there on a daily basis, able to correct things and ride the hot streak. He should find his way near the top of the lineup to get on base and have others drive him in. Playing every day will help him remain consistent and regain the confidence he had two years ago.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Detroit Tigers
2019 stats: .256/.304/.473, 23 home runs, 59 RBIs, 61 R, 1 stolen bases
Barely making the cut here is Jonathan Schoop, who has failed to live up to lofty expectations that were set for him after a brilliant 2017 season in Baltimore. It was there where he hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 runs while batting .293 for the Orioles, and opened the eyes of many around the league. Since then, he has struggled to regain that level of success with stints in Milwaukee and Minnesota along the way. Still, he comes to Detroit and brings a sense of veteran leadership to a team in need of some.
The problem with Schoop is that he doesn’t walk much (4.3% in 2019), his batting average isn’t all that sexy (.257 over his career) and his teammates in Detroit may not give him opportunities for runs and runs batted in. That being said, there will be playing time available, giving him plenty of opportunities to gather up counting stats. The last two times that he played a full season were his final two years in Baltimore, where he shined bright. His 8.8% barrel rate last season was well above the MLB average of 6.3% and he’s only 28 years old. Steamer projects him to hit 27 home runs and 81 runs batted over a full season, while maintaining a .262 batting average. But don’t just take my word for it:
A list of hitters going after pick 300 projected to hit 25+ HR with an .250+ AVG:
1. Jonathan Schoop
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) February 21, 2020
All that being said, there is some risk involved. Comerica Park plays significantly deeper in left field (by 15 feet) and for a right-handed hitter, who doesn’t go opposite field a ton, this could be a problem. Schoop is notorious for pulling the ball and hitting it to center field, which are two places where baseballs get lost at Comerica Park. Nonetheless, for around the 300th player off the board, that’s a nice sneaky late value that could help owners looking for power. In deeper leagues, some owners may be drafting Adalberto Mondesi early on as speed is treated like gold. That could leave owners needing power later in the draft. Even in mixed leagues, keep Jonathan Schoop in mind as drafts progress, as he could give you the balance you need if you drafted speed earlier than others. His ADP is rising, so the time to pounce is shrinking.
Mauricio Dubon, 2B/OF, San Francisco Giants
2019 stats: .274/.306/.434, 4 home runs, 9 RBIs, 12 R, 3 stolen bases
Here is arguably the most intriguing player on the list, as Mauricio Dubon is slated to play every day for the San Francisco Giants. The 2019 stats listed above were for only 111 plate appearances, so, while it is a small sample size, it is also something to get excited over. If there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s making contact with the baseball. His minor league track record is impeccable (.343 in 2018 AAA ball), and he impressed the Giants upon debuting for them last season enough to warrant him being an everyday player.
It seems like a safe bet to say that Dubon will hit well in the majors. His lowest batting average at any level of play came when he was playing Rookie Ball in 2013. Since then, he has hit greater than .285 for the majority of his in-season years. Chances are that he will be leading off or near the top of the Giants’ lineup, leading to his run totals to go up a bit too. He’s been able to spread the ball over the field, which helps in the big outfields of Oracle Park.
He doesn’t strike out a lot either (18.0%), which means that he should be able to get on base and probably get you double-digit steals.
There is some risk involved here too, hence the higher ADP. Though he doesn’t strike out a lot, Dubon’s walk rate is also very low at 4.5%. Therefore, his on-base percentage will be affected. That being said, when he does get on base, he should look to use his legs and probably get you double-digit steals, even with the potential for a shortened season. The power he demonstrated in 2019 isn’t necessarily his strength, so don’t draft him expecting him to be a big source of power. Nonetheless, he should play enough for you and reward you with double-digit home runs and steals over a full season, while likewise helping out over a shortened season.
For someone that you can draft pretty late, he should be a consistent source of batting average and runs, which are two hitting categories that are often tough to figure out and can be overlooked. As the everyday second baseman for the Giants, with the potential for outfield eligibility, Dubon can be drafted with confidence and should be a steal for as late as he is going.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, San Francisco Giants
2019 stats: .272/.334/.518, 21 home runs, 55 RBIs, 64 R, 2 stolen bases
Arguably my favorite under-the-radar player for the new season, Mike Yastrzemski enters 2020 as the everyday right fielder for the Giants after a mini breakout of sorts. In only 107 games and 411 plate appearances in 2019, Yastrzemski led his team in home runs despite having far fewer at-bats. His second-half surge was quite extraordinary, though it, unfortunately, didn’t garner the national exposure it deserved. That’s where I come in, to help you get the most you can for your dollar while spending far less than you should.
Yastrzemski’s peripherals indicate that last year’s success was not a fluke, but rather something that should have been expected. He finished with an 11.2% barrel rate, a launch angle of 18.5 degrees, and a hard-hit rate of 42.9%, all of which are much better than their respective league averages. His hard-hit %, xwOBA, and xSLG were all great last year, as he hit most of his home runs post-All-Star Break.
The risk involved with Yastrzemski is that his minor league track record shows no signs of this being a constant. A former Orioles prospect, Yastrzemski’s highest yearly total hit 15 in his six years leading up to this breakout. He also hit 13 of his 21 home runs away from Oracle Park, though, to be fair, his home runs were fairly spread out all over the field.
HR totals since Mike Yastrzemski hit his first home run on May 31:
Bryce Harper: 16
Fernando Tatis Jr.: 16
Javy Baez: 15
Eloy Jimenez: 14
Nolan Arenado: 13
Mookie Betts: 12
Alex Bregman: 12
Kris Bryant: 11
Gary Sanchez: 10
Aaron Judge: 7pic.twitter.com/6J29bVhxfa
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 17, 2019
He will likely hit in the middle of the order and have many opportunities to drive in runs. His season last year suggests that he more or less discovered something in his swing rather than there is a sense of luck for his success. He’s someone I myself have targeted in my own leagues and have him as my first option off the bench. He’s cheap enough to draft where he could be a nice depth piece going forward and give you some security down the road.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, C/2B/3B, Texas Rangers
2019 stats: .238/.299/.322, 1 home run, 21 RBIs, 23 R, 3 stolen bases
Okay, before you yell at me, please hear me out. Kiner-Falefa’s 2019 season was awful, I get it. He drastically got worse last season and he fell out of favor among Rangers’ brass. His multi-eligibility use was one of the only things keeping him up with the big league club and he probably should have been demoted.
However, heading into 2019, he went on record recently to say that his goal was to prepare his body for catching. So, in between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he gained weight….a lot in fact….because he had never caught more than 35 games in his career, but wanted to get better because that was the Rangers’ plan. This offseason, he knew that he had to rework his bat. What has happened since the end of last season was Isiah losing enough fat to drop from 16% body weight fat to 11%.
Manager Chris Woodward said this spring that he was impressed with how he’s looked in the batter’s box and on the field. For his batting stance, he tried to eliminate excessive movement in the batter’s box and smooth it out. Essentially, as hitting instructor Luis Ortiz put it, he learned how to hit while using his power from the ground up. What happened over the remainder of Spring Training was remarkable:
Essentially Isiah Kiner-Falefa led all MLB batters in hits. As such, he finished 4th in batting average, 2nd in slugging, and 2nd in OPS. Needless to say, a transformed, slimmed down and more self-aware Kiner-Falefa, playing in his 25 age year, had himself one hell of a Spring Training, and is someone that I can gravitate to for the price. Stash him late and if he pans out, you’ve got gold. If it doesn’t work out, you drop him for the next piece of the puzzle. His multi-position eligibility is an added bonus that could come in handy for a potentially shortened season in 2020.