In case you haven’t already heard, RotoFanatic recently released their 2021 Fantasy Projections for the upcoming season. Crosby Spencer worked long and hard on these, and the results are incredible. First and foremost, it’s an amazing body of work from Crosby, who has been working tirelessly on these for quite some time. Kudos to him and for RotoFanatic, which continues to continuously bring something new and exciting to the table. Secondly, seeing another set of projections is a great way to analyze one’s own point of view and get a unique perspective that either confirms beliefs that you’ve already had or objectively tells you to reconsider a player or two.
Seeing as it is drafting season, it can become difficult near the end of these drafts to figure out needs over wants. For instance, with your final few picks, you may like a certain player for their projected power output, but you may need speed and instead go in another direction altogether. Having projections such as these make it easier to see those needs in a larger light, and give you the confidence going in that your category totals will be met.
In a standard 5X5 league, all hitters have a chance to offer you numbers and values within the following parameters: home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), runs scored (R), batting average (AVG), and stolen bases (SB). Typically, the earlier they are drafted, the more categories those players will help fill while also doing so at a higher rate. However, late in drafts, you’ll want to know which players can help in those singular categories you’re lacking when putting together your team. Here, I want to dig deeper into those projections and offer some players with an ADP over 200 (since March 1, 2021) that can give you a boost in specific offensive categories.
Multiple Category Fillers
Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Stats: HR, RBI, R
Austin Riley looks to have a stranglehold on the third base spot, making him the everyday third baseman for the Braves. Last season, he made great strides to improve himself behind the plate, which included paying closer attention to laying off sliders outside of the strike zone and exercising patience at the plate. The result was him lowering his K% to 23.8%, which was quite significant, and he even walked a bit more, taking free passes 7.8% of the time. In addition, he was able to finally hit those non-fastball pitches, which was something he worked really hard to improve upon.
With expected stats to back up the gains here, it makes Riley a worthwhile addition to your team later in drafts if you missed out on power earlier in the draft and focused on pitching and/or speed. With a projected 31 home runs, he has eerily similar projected stats to that of fellow third baseman/corner infielder Matt Chapman, who is going 100 picks earlier. He is a part of a very potent lineup, and though he will probably hit near the bottom of it, he should still have a chance to contribute in at least three categories. Why not wait a bit and take a chance that Riley puts it all together this season and breaks through as a reliable, top-15 option at third base?
Eduardo Escobar, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: HR, RBI, R
It’s been a quiet, yet interesting, offseason for the veteran third baseman. In case you hadn’t noticed, the 32-year-old veteran came into camp much slimmer than usual, as he changed up his diet in the off-season. He apparently went with a balanced diet for the first time in his life, resulting in additional sleep and energy, while also dropping almost 20 pounds, bringing his overall weight to 194 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how this translates on the field, but he is one year removed from mashing 35 home runs in 2019. In fact, looking under the hood, a lot of what he did in 2020 is quite similar to his career averages as well.
After the Diamondbacks signed Asdrubal Cabrera this offseason, it looks more and more like Escobar will get chances to play at second base this year, eventually giving him some additional eligibility, only enhancing his value. At almost the 300th pick in drafts, he’s a prime candidate for a bounce back, and the RotoFanatic Projections support this.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Stats: SB, R, AVG
Lorenzo Cain comes into the 2021 season after having opted out of last year, potentially making him fresh and ready to go. While he’s someone you should not forget about, he is someone who looks to be helpful in those tough-to-fill categories. Stolen bases are arguably the hardest stat to find in all of fantasy baseball, and Cain brings about a track record of success. In eight of his eleven seasons in the majors, he has stolen ten or more bases; the three seasons where that wasn’t the case, his playing time was minimally reduced. In fact, ranking 36th all-time with a career 81.4% stolen base success rate, he’s someone who knows when to run and how to do it well.
There is unfortunately some risk involved with taking Cain as your primary source for speed. First, his age, as he will be 35 years old before Memorial Day, making it less likely that he maintains much of the quickness that made him an unheralded and invaluable piece to the Brewers offense. In fact, age may have already played a part in his development as of late.
On top of that, he’s already been experiencing tightness in his quad and has said that it has and will be a challenge to get back into the swing of things. Still, with an ADP of just over 300, if you’re going to need speed, you can do worse than Cain. While it may take a little time to get things going, it’s always nice to draft someone who has done the thing you need him to do before. It gives you confidence going forward and somewhat of an expected floor going forward. At such a small price, you could be drafting the speed you need to compete in your leagues, while also a solid batting average and run total. It’s those three categories that are arguably the hardest of which to fill, and they are on the sale rack. Come try it on, see if it fits, and return it after 30 days if it does not. However, if history has anything to say, it’ll be a purchase you’ll be able to use all season long.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Stats: AVG, SB
I’m cheating, but Nick Madrigal has been a favorite of mine in roto leagues for quite a while this offseason. He’s someone who I have been trying to scoop up later in drafts to help maintain my team’s batting average, which can be difficult to do. He’s got great bat to ball skills (6.4% strikeout rate and an 80% Chase Contact Rate), but little to no power at all. Still, he’s someone who knows when to swing and when to lay off.
That’s an incredible amount of patience and eye coordination for a rookie. He’s someone who has gone on record as to making 3000 career hits not only attainable for himself, but also important, as he wants to be well known as a hitter. What’s important to also note about these projections too is the amount of speed that’s anticipated for the upcoming season, which, really, shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Throughout his six seasons at various professional and collegiate levels, Madrigal has accumulated 124 steals over 387 games played. This includes a 35 stolen base year over three levels in 2019. Don’t forget about Madrigal.
Adam Eaton, OF, Chicago White Sox
Stats: R, AVG, SB
Projected to bat second in the potent lineup of the White Sox, the 32-year-old outfielder had a subpar 2020. That said, a lot of the Nationals did struggle after their World Series win, and some say that a hangover was in place. Putting that year behind him, Eaton looks to get back to his old ways of providing fantasy owners with a high average sprinkled in with some speed to make himself very valuable late in drafts.
Obviously, his production is health dependant, but he does possess a track record of success. The RotoFanatic Projections look to be right on par with his career numbers, with a nice little bump in runs scored. Should he be as effective as the projections say, we will absolutely crush at his current market value.
Deep Sleeper One Stat Category Fillers
Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Last season’s Strikeout King, White has made mechanical changes to his swing this off-season, while also changing the positioning of his hands and working on his mental state of remembering to maintain his approach at the plate. Not everything was a disaster last year, as when he did make contact, the ball was crushed, posting an elite Barrel%, HardHit%, and Exit Velocity. Consider him late in drafts as a bench piece. The Projections love him for 2020, and, at his price, he’s worth at least the last pick in your draft to see if you’ve struck gold.
Luis Arraez, 2B, Minnesota Twins
Arraez comes into 2021 projected to fill the role of the departed Marwin Gonzalez, who once played all over the field for Minnesota. Currently listed as a bench bat on Roster Resource, he should gain positional eligibility all over the field at most infield spots and in the outfield, making him a valuable piece for Minnesota, as well as your fantasy team. Despite a lackluster and injury-riddled 2020 season, Arraez still finished with a .321 batting average with more than a hit per game played. He won’t hit the ball hard, nor will he run, so he’s essentially a much slower Nick Madrigal. However, if you sacrificed average for power earlier in your draft, this everyday player will fit the bill well and give you what you need to help bring balance to your team.
Myles Straw, OF, Houston Astros
Right now, he looks to be the starting center fielder for the Astros and should get everyday at-bats. That being said, this is a “buyer beware” situation, as he is projected to be at the bottom of the order, which says a lot about what they see for Straw when he’s actually at the plate. Still, he holds a 91st percentile sprint speed and actually had a 14.8% walk rate in 2019, meaning, there’s a chance he can still get on base. His projected .250 batting average here is nothing sneeze at either, so there is a chance for some value in return. Just don’t overpay for him since there’s a chance if another (and better) option along (Pedro Leon, anyone), Straw gets the boot.