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Building an Offense After Pick 100 - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values

There are basically three large categories of players you'll draft in a fantasy baseball league:

  • Hitters
  • Pitchers
  • Relief Pitcher

One of the tougher things to nail down in a draft is when to dive into each of those groups. There are good arguments for going heavy at hitting early on, good arguments for quickly grabbing a couple of starters, and there are even some arguments for taking a relief pitcher inside the top-50 or so picks.

In this thought experiment, we'll act as though we have gone outrageously pitching heavy early on, using all of our picks inside the top-100+ pitchers. We're looking to see if we can build a half-decent offense using only players outside of the top-100. Let's have at it.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Catcher

Having a decent hitter in your catcher slot is a luxury we simply cannot afford here. We're heading for the bottom of the list. The average league is a 12-teamer, so we're looking at drafting a catcher outside of the top-10. We'll take someone for cheap and then stream throughout the season.

Pick: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, ADP 255

He's very, very affordable here and provides us with a relatively large supply of homers (his ATC projection of 23 homers is fifth-best in the draft). It's a total crater at batting average, but that's true for all the cheap catchers and a high batting average is probably not something we can hope to accomplish with this kind of team build.

 

First Base

There are two names I really like at first base late, and they are both pretty polarizing names that have some tendency to fall even below their already low ADPs. I would probably be looking to grab both of these guys.

Pick #1: Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies, ADP 135

All Hoskins has done is swatted 118 homers and driven up 326 runs in his first five seasons in the Majors. That's a 35 homer, 96 RBI pace over a 650 plate appearance season. He's also well within his prime at age 28 (he'll be 29 for the season), so there's no real reason to doubt he'll be a worse player this year.

Pick #2: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, ADP 139

Certainly, Joey Votto is not within the years of his "prime" at age 38; however, he did somewhat reinvent himself last season. The approach change was clear, he went to the plate swinging harder and looking to put more balls into the air (career-high 41.% FB%) on the pull-side (non-2020 career-best 43.4% pull%). That resulted in way more whiffs (11.5% SwStr, the worst of his career), but it did overall turn him into a much better fantasy contributor as he launched 36 homers and drove in 99 runs.

The common thread between these first three names is a lack of batting average, but you can do a lot worse than Hoskins and Votto here as they both kept their strikeout rates below 25% last year. If they continue to do that, you should avoid the disaster .230 batting average outcome.

 

Second Base

Pick: Nick Madrigal, Chicago Cubs, ADP 300

In a normal situation, we would not want to give a starting spot to a guy that profiles for three to five homers and less than 50 RBI. Those numbers are really tough to stomach, but fading hitters for 100 picks take a ton of food off the table so we've gotta embrace the suck a bit here.

The nice thing about Madrigal is that he has one of the very few elite batting average skillsets in the later rounds of the draft. He is arguably the league's best contact hitter. For his career, he has made contact with 91.8% of the pitches he has swung at. That has given him a 7.4% career strikeout rate. You cannot post a bad batting average when you're putting a ball in play that frequently. He is very likely to hit .300 and something like .340 is not out of the picture either.

What could possibly really make him a fantasy value is if he finds himself in the lead-off spot for his new team. He is also capable of stealing bases, so the upside here is a very strong contributor in three categories - well worth the shot at pick 300 when we're so desperate here.

 

Shortstop

Pick: Willy Adames, Milwaukee Brewers, ADP 130

This is our third player in the 130-140 range, so we're probably going to reach a bit above there for Adames.

Simply put, Adames was a borderline fantasy stud after being traded to Milwaukee last year. He had 412 PAs with the Brew Crew and he hit .285 with a .521 SLG, popping 20 dingers and stealing four bases. It's probably a bit optimistic to expect those exact numbers to continue, but we're looking at a guy that would profile to hit 30 homers and steal 10 bags with a .275+ batting average over a full season if they do. There aren't many players that can give you that projection, especially after pick 100. This draft strategy is all about drafting category specialists and upside, and Adames certainly checks that second box.

Pick: Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates, ADP 214

Admittedly, this draft price is probably too high. I imagine his cost will come down a bit as we get closer to the season and more drafts are completed, but for this particular team, I am going to try to get Cruz.

The guy made just nine plate appearances last year, so we can't really even look at his big league numbers. It's probably also true that his ADP would be above 300 if not for this one swing:

But this is the nature of things in the Statcast era.

The real reason I'm interested in Cruz is the fact that he hit 17 homers with a .310/.375/.594 slash line in the minors last year with a great 69:28 K:BB rate. His K% in the minors was just 23%, a pretty encouraging number for a guy with this much raw power.

Cruz is undoubtedly the most likely guy on this whole list to go completely bust. I think it's actually pretty likely (10-20% I'd say) that he goes for like a 35% K% in April and gets sent down to do some more work in the minors. It's actually possible that he doesn't even make the Major League team out of the gate.

I don't think I would actually spend on Cruz at this ADP, but if I can get him at 250 or so, I'd be interested in taking a shot. The swing speed is elite, and that's not something you can teach.

 

Third Base

Pick: Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers, ADP 154

There are a few different reasons that good hitters fall outside of the top-100 picks, and one of those reasons is certainly old age. We are taking advantage of that here again and hoping for the best.

Turner showed no signs of being negatively affected by father time last season. He slashed .278/.361/.471 while maintaining his low K% (16%) and posting another league-average barrel rate (7.9%, right on pace with his career 7.5% mark). All of that led him to a year with 87 runs, 87 RBI, and 27 homers. The downside is obvious at age 37, but if he can have one more Justin Turner year, we'll be paid handsomely for selecting him here.

Pick: Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins, ADP 198

What's better than one over the [fantasy] hill third baseman? TWO OVER THE [FANTASY] HILL THIRD BASEMEN!

Donaldson still mashed the ball in 2021 at the age of 35, posting the ninth highest barrel rate in the whole league for qualified hitters. Most of the names above him were the high strikeout rate types (Dalbec, Gallo, O'Neill, Sano), but Donaldson managed the strikeouts quite well with a 21.1% K%. If he can rack up 500 PA this year, you would think he'd manage 25+ homers with a non-awful batting average, which we'll take all day long around pick 200.

 

Outfield

Pick: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers, ADP 101

This is a lottery ticket pick, and we'll need to hit the triple-cherries somewhere in order for this strategy to work. If Yelich's back is healthy this year and he can hit some more fly balls, there is a real 30/30 upside here. He was arguably the top fantasy bat in the league in 2019, and he's only 30 years old here, so it's not impossible that he could get back near that 2019 season. That would mean beating his ADP here by 80+ picks, which is exactly the guys we need to search for in this build.

Pick: Myles Straw, Cleveland Guardians, ADP 127

I don't really see a way around this. With the majority of projected steals going in the top-50 picks, we need to bite the bullet and grab one of these late-round steals specialists. There is not a better option than Straw, who once stole 70 bases in 131 games in the minor leagues. The downside is quite scary here, but the upside is that he keeps our team competitive in steals all by himself.

Pick: Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics, ADP 227

He is suspended for the month of April, so we'll have to struggle through those few weeks. After we're free from that, though, we have a guy that can give us 10 steals and 15 homers with a decent batting average. At different times in 2021, Laureano showed that he could be an elite steals source and also a very good power source (although he did not do these two things at the same time). If not for the suspension, he would probably be going 100 picks earlier, so this is a good buy for us. We will have to find a decent filler for April, though!

Pick: Seth Brown, Oakland Athletics, ADP 490

We can probably just add Brown on the waiver wire after the draft, but for this build, we'll just take him with our final pick and play him while we wait for Laureano to come back. The one thing Brown does offer is incredible pop. His career barrel rate is 13.7%. He hit 20 homers in just 307 plate appearances last year and hit 37 of them in the AAA in 2019. He will not help in steals or batting average, but he should be able to pop a handful of dingers for us while we wait for the return of Laureano.

Pick: Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins, ADP 179

He dealt with injuries last year, limiting his first season in the Majors to just 229 plate appearances. However, in that time, he looked pretty decent, hitting eight homers with a 12.8% barrel rate and a low 23% K%. That's impressive stuff for such a young guy, and with his former top prospect status, the sky is the limit here. This is a priority pick, as he's one of the likelier hitters after pick 100 to really smash his value in 2022.

Pick: Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins, ADP 287

We have been chasing the wind with Kepler for a few years now, but the ADP has fallen so far now after our many failed attempts that it's really tough not to try one more time. He posted a very encouraging 10.8% barrel rate last year with a great 19.7% strikeout rate. He very quietly hit 19 homers and stole 10 bases in 490 plate appearances, a near 25-15 pace. What has caused his draft stock to fall so far was the inability to stay on the field and the anemic .211 batting average. It's fair to say that he is just going to be a low-BABIP player for his career, but 2021 took that to a ridiculous level. He hit just .225 on balls in play. He hit just .482 on line drives, the third-lowest mark in the league. For reference, the league batting average on line drives was .640.

So we're not going to get a .270 batting average out of Kepler, but I do think we'll muster a .240-.260 mark, which is more than fine for what he can do in homers and steals.

 

Other Players Considered

 

Summary

This isn't a viable strategy by any means, but it is a good exercise to see what is possible late in the draft. You are sure to find many more late-round breakouts on the hitting side of things rather than the pitching side, and they turn out to be a bit easier to identify as well as things are unfolding.

In my opinion, you should be looking to get a stud hitter that steals bases in the first round. You should probably also draft another 15+ steals projection with one of your next two picks as well, so I will never start my draft with two starters very quickly. However, I have a fair amount of confidence in a lot of the names we went over in this post, making it a bit more likely that I go SP heavy from picks 4-8 and maybe even grab one of the top closers with it.

Hope this helped, happy drafting everybody!



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