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Insider Report: Top Fantasy Baseball Values on Fantrax From An MLB Scout

ranger suarez fantasy baseball rankings pitchers draft sleepers MLB injury news

Welcome back to our annual Fantasy Baseball Insider series on RotoBaller.com, where we take you inside Major League Baseball clubhouses, press boxes, and front offices for exclusive insights that provide a completely unique edge on the competition. We give you an all-access pass to information and takes that simply won’t be found anywhere else, along with comprehensive Fantasy breakdowns.

These reports contain authentic perspectives from the truest experts on the game: The Fantasy Baseball Insider series won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s award for best Fantasy Baseball Series. Scott was also a finalist for the 2021 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year Award, as the nomination recognized his work on the Insider Series.

In this edition, we consulted with a Major League Baseball Scout who has been observing the game daily from his perch since the early 1980s. We go around the Majors with him as he shares his detailed scouting reports on many notable players that he believes can exceed expectations this season, marking these spotlight selections as top fantasy baseball value targets on Fantrax compared to their ADPs.

These players can be true difference-makers in the RotoBaller Challenge, powered by our friends at Fantrax. You can play for free in 12-team Rotisserie leagues and win cash prizes. You can also compete against RotoBaller’s experts in their showcase leagues.

Register now and you will have a chance to win an autographed Wander Franco jersey! If you enjoy the RotoBaller Challenge experience, consider easily importing your other current league onto the Fantrax platform for the most customizable experience possible.


Insider Report - Draft Value Picks

The scout's takes are in italics. Our final player featured in this Insider Report is a deep post-hype sleeper candidate.

Eduardo Rodriguez (NFBC ADP: 149)

“He will greatly benefit from pitching at Comerica instead of Fenway. He’s got a nice cutter and a great slider. He has been a little susceptible to the long ball but pitching at Fenway can account for some of that. I think he can be a No. 1 starter for this Tigers staff if he has consistent command. Sometimes he gets a little wild. He gets out of his game and does not repeat his delivery. He’s got a young team behind him. I think he can win 13 to 14 games and in Comerica his ERA should come down, maybe to about 4.05.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: The Tigers gave Rodriguez a five-year deal and have named him their Opening Day starter, so he continues to face some expectations that he could rise to greater heights. For several years in Boston, many insider types there raved about his potential, and the advanced statistics point to better possible numbers in 2022. The .363 BABIP and 68.9 strand rate certainly jump out as major indicators of some bad luck. Rodriguez had a 4.74 ERA and 3.43 XFIP last season while he also fashioned a career-best 27.4 K%. The ERA could be even lower than our source projects, at under 3.90 while you get about a 24-plus K%. I will certainly take the shot on Rodriguez in about the 11th round or so in a friendlier park, with better likely returns that the peripherals have indicated.


Dylan Carlson (NFBC ADP: 163)

”I’m high on this guy. He’s a switch-hitter with power. His slugging percentage improved while his strikeout percentage went down, which was a sign of his development. He really came on in the second half. His arrow is pointing up. I could see him hitting in the .265 range, but his numbers will show up more in the power department with about 25 homers.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: I am hearing great things on Carlson from both scouts and opponents, and he should be a prime target in his current draft range. To ensure you land his fantasy rights, be willing to jump for him earlier and spend an extra two or three dollars than others might in a salary cap draft. In 2019, Carlson hit .281 with 21 homers in 108 games at Double-A ball. When a promising player delivers such production at that level, he will often not spend much time at all at Triple-A, which was the case with Carlson. He also increased his Launch Angle from 9.3 to 15.1 last season, another indication of his power profile.

This could be a breakout season for Carlson, who may push past the projections of our source here. You will be very impressed to see who an opposing player compared to Carlson in the next edition of our Fantasy Baseball Insider series. He is one of my top targets in RotoBaller Challenge drafts and I secured his fantasy rights for 15 dollars in the Tout Wars Mixed League salary cap draft.


Jarred Kelenic (NFBC ADP: 128)

“I am very high on Kelenic. I think he went to the “University of Hitting” and he is ready to pass his finals. I have been following his career closely and I think he has pure hitting skills. He is a left-handed hitting version of Mike Trout to a lesser degree. I really believe he can eventually be that.  You have to see him for a whole year being more relaxed, there was a lot of pressure when he came up. Take that into account and look at what he did in the second half last year. He hit 12 of his 14 homers in the second half. His slugging went from .193 to .402. He hasn’t even touched the tip of the iceberg at 22 years old. If he stays healthy I think he will be the real deal. I think he can hit over .250 with 20-plus homers and 15 steals.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: There certainly are advanced indicators from last season that point to skepticism on Kelenic heading into his second season. He had an ISO of .169 and an xBA of .219. He also had a 28.1 K% and the Exit Velocity was just 87.5. But this is a case where our scout sees talent and potential beyond what the numbers indicate, and he believes Kelenic is not going to look overmatched again this season. He urged us to look forward, and not to last season when evaluating Kelenic, who did deal with a .216 BABIP and still stung the ball with a 39.2% Hard Hit Rate.

Fantrax drafting tip: Want to take extra time to consider when to draft a promising, but seemingly risky player such as Kelenic? Fantrax leagues can be customized for slow drafting with multi-hour pick timers. You can set up snake or salary cap drafts, where Kelenic can be landed for sure with the right bid amount.


Ranger Suarez (NFBC ADP: 174)

“I like him a lot. He pitched brilliantly down the stretch last season. He didn’t face any playoff teams after August 24. But he has a track record of giving up fewer hits than innings pitched. So he has good stuff.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: Suarez was impressive as a starter in the second half of 2021, with a 1.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He does not project to be a high strikeout starter, but he generates a lot of soft contact as evidenced by his 31.4 percent Hard Hit Rate. There may be some hesitancy on Suarez, but he should continue to be quite an effective pitcher if he sustains the momentum from his second half of last season. Suarez was a pleasant surprise who can be a very good value if he shows he can deliver similar form over a full season.


Jesus Sanchez (NFBC ADP: 225)

“He played well down the stretch last year with less strikeouts. He continued to improve his knowledge of the strike zone in winter ball. Some other scouts feel if he can get his strikeout percentage down to 21 percent he can be a really good player.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: Sanchez frequently modeled a respectable K% in the minor leagues, with a 20.6 mark in Double-A in 2019 in his most recent larger sample size before he reached the Majors. He had a Hard Hit Rate of 42.7 last season. Sanchez also had a Barrel% of 12.7 in his first true taste of the big leagues. In the Dominican Winter League, Sanchez hit .324 with 15 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. So he is indeed showing the potential to improve his plate discipline,  and it may just be a matter of time and some patience before we see him get more comfortable with experience at the MLB level. The power will come, so draft Sanchez and wait for possible quality results as the season progresses. Even if Sanchez starts slowly, he could finish at .255 with 25 homers.


Triston McKenzie (NFBC ADP: 231)

“This is a big kid with a live arm. He’s got two plus pitches, the curve, and fastball. His slider is still in the developing stage. He can have better command, as he showed in the minors. He’s mechanically sound, but he’s so thin you don’t know how strong he can be later in games, especially if he has to work hard in the early innings. He does have the right demeanor on the mound, as he likes to attack the hitters. But overall I am high on the kid.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: The command is indeed the surface concern, as McKenzie had an 11.7 BB% last season. Yet he consistently kept the number in the seven to eight range in the minors, which can be much more tolerable, and he also significantly cut down on the walks later in the 2021 season, as he had only nine in nine appearances in August and September. We know McKenzie will provide a very good K%, and the 68.3 strand rate has to normalize. At 6-5, 165 there are also concerns about his durability, and the amount of innings he can log, but he looked much better late last season in terms of his biggest problem and McKenzie can be a significant value target at his current ADP.

Fantrax draft tip: If you are concerned about the injury outlooks of certain players such as McKenzie, Fantrax allows you to set injured reserve spots for rosters with no limits. League commissioners can set as many starters, reserves, and IR spots as they want.


Christian Yelich (NFBC ADP: 101)

“I think he will have a bounce-back year. I am still really high on Yelich. He’s better than the last two years. He’s still only 30 years old. If he plays 130 to 140 games he can still hit over 30 homers.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: We have watched Yelich’s ISO dip from .342 to .125 and the slugging percentage tumbled to .373 over the past three seasons. The xSLG was just .392 last year but a lingering back issue should make us not rely too heavily on advanced statistics from 2021.  He also dealt with injuries in 2019 and never quite got on track in 2020, either. Many people I have spoken to this spring in various roles in MLB are expecting a bounce-back campaign from Yelich, and it can just be a matter of avoiding major health issues in 2022. He certainly should get his average back up at least in the .280 range and pop 25-plus homers. Yelich has long been regarded as a natural and outstanding hitting talent who still deserves some faith from fantasy baseball drafters. There should be a solid floor and the potential for a revived statistical ceiling at the current ADP.


Pablo Lopez (NFBC ADP: 134)

”I think he has a promising arm and I noticed his K/9 improved. He’s got a nice fastball. He doesn’t blow you away with his heater but he’s got some good stuff. I think he can win double-digit games with an ERA in the upper 3.00 area. He is inexperienced and in a tough division with a lot of good left-handed hitters, but I think he can exceed some expectations.”

Engel’s Insider Angle: If Lopez stays healthy, he could be a good pick in the 10th round or so and outperform his ADP by a few rounds. His K% leaped to 27.5 in 2021, the xFIP was at 3.32 and he had a 3.49 SIERA. Last season, Lopez started to use his sinker less and incorporated higher usage of his cutter, curveball, and changeup. Opponents had a .206 xBA against the changeup, which became his most utilized pitch at 32.5 percent. Lopez has a good pitch mix and the peripherals indicate he can be a very solid option with a bit of upside.


Clint Frazier (NFBC ADP: 387)

“He’s going to get a chance to win a job. They didn’t bring him in for nothing. If he starts hitting they are not going to put him on the bench like the Yankees did. He does have good hitting skills. Brian Cashman talked about his bat speed, which everyone mocked, but he does have a very quick bat. Once he starts to learn the zone a bit better, he is going to handle that inside pitch and drive it down the left-field line, and he’ll take a ball on the outside and hit it to right field and off or over the wall. He’s got that kind of ability. He can push his way into the lineup. I can see 17 home runs. He won’t get burned in left-center field like he was in Yankee Stadium.”

Engel’s Angle: Frazier is going to have to quickly show his bat can keep him in the lineup, with some likely action in left field and at designated hitter. Getting out of New York may clear his head but he also needs to stay healthy. At his current ADP, he can be a very good post-hype deeper sleeper in mixed leagues and a prime value target in NL-only formats. Those who I have spoken to around the Yankees in recent seasons never doubted Frazier’s talents and still believe in him. One initial step will be cutting down on the career 28.6 K%, and the xBA has never been higher than .246. But Frazier still has that top prospect label not too far behind him, and the old “change of scenery” adage could lead to him modeling a new beginning in his career.

Fantrax draft tip: Frazier is a great final pick in your 2022 Fantrax drafts. The Fantrax player pools go incredibly deep and even include a vast amount of minor leaguers.

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