Hitting The Target: Late Round AVG Sleepers
One of the first steps I take when preparing to draft each fantasy baseball season is defining my standard. In my eyes the “standard” as I call it is the category value for each of the Roto categories that correspond with third place in that category. My goal is to build a team that projects to come in third place in each of the various categories. Aside from truly dominant teams, coming in third across each category will put you in a perfect position to win the league and gives you some wiggle room if you fall behind in one category. Some people define their standard slightly differently, they may look to the 80th percentile value, but the overall goal is the same. Sure it is nice to win a category but if I win steals by 1 or 100 it does not matter as I get the same number of points. It helps to keep me grounded in drafts and focus on roster build properly.
In the next few weeks, I will be going through the standard for all 10 categories using data from the 2019 NFBC seasons provided to us by Tanner Bell.
[Editor’s Note: Tanner Bell and Jeff Zimmerman co-author, “The Process,” an incredible resource for fantasy baseball players of all skill levels.]
I’ll be using the 15-team Main Events and the 12-team Online Championships to develop the targets. Once we determine the target we can build out a per player expectation and this will help us to find some late category sleepers, possibly guys to help build out your bench. It is important to note that both of these league types also have overall components and these target values will likely not be enough to compete in an overall. These are specifically for winning a standalone league.
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Hitting the Target: AVG
First on the list is AVG. Easily one of the more heavily criticized categories in Fantasy Baseball, Average is not going anywhere despite many protests from analysts. While we know that it is not as valuable as once thought in real life, we play a fake game and we still need to take advantage of it.
I have long realized this is one of my biggest weaknesses as an analyst as many players I think to be undervalued in fantasy are big AVG drainers. Their real-life perception does not match their actual value as a result of their poor average. This type of analysis helps me to avoid those average pitfalls that can handcuff my teams. For the Online Championships, the standard in 2019 was .271 while the Main Event rate came in at .269. These are not major differences but over the course of a season, two percentage points can be hard to make back up.
AVG is a tougher one to look to when viewing projections due to the impact of at-bats, but for our purposes, we want all hitters projected to get over 400 ABs. This gives me 233 projected hitters and only 88 of those hitters are projected to hit .270 or higher. For these hitters, the average ADP is 146, however, 45 of them are going in the top 100 picks.
Late-Round AVG Sleepers
Above are the 24 hitters who are currently going outside of the top 200 picks with projections of over .270. These are hitters to target later in your drafts as you try to build a balanced roster.
- Adam Eaton is easily my favorite of the guys on the list as he hits near the top of a good offense and is a cheap source of steals late in drafts. He is one of three members of this list who projects for double-digit homers and steals.
- Yandy Diaz would be a much better option if I had faith that he would get regular playing time. His AVG and power are appealing but the Rays are loaded with similar player types and he could find himself in a part-time role.
- Alex Verdugo is another decent but unspectacular option that I would prefer to avoid in drafts. His biggest skill is his hit tool but average is really the only thing he will bring to the table fantasy-wise.
- Daniel Murphy is a prime bounce-back candidate and regardless of what you think of him, he is still a good hitter who calls Coors home. There may not be enough power anymore but he is still a great guy to own this late in drafts.
- Luis Arreaz could win a batting title one day but that is really all he brings to the table from a fantasy perspective. While the high average is nice I would rather look at others on this list.
- Much like Murphy, David Peralta is an ideal bounce-back candidate and one who can provide more than just a high average. He has 25+ homer power to go along with it as long as he is healthy. I would take the chance on him.
- Buster Posey is no longer an MVP candidate but in a shallow position, he can still be a solid C2.
- Dee Gordon and Nick Madrigal are not all that different as players in terms of fantasy as they will provide steals and little in the form of power. Madrigal should get the call this season at some point and has more power and average upside than Gordon. Gordon will be a guy to watch for late if you need bankable steals but he can lose his job any day.
- Cesar Hernandez continues to be disrespected and while the projections do not have it at the moment he is another guy with a 10/10 chance and should get nearly everyday at-bats.
- Similar to Arraez, David Fletcher does not provide much of anything outside of average but he comes without the same level of upside in terms of a batting title. He is eligible almost everywhere as is a fantastic bench option due to his flexibility.
- Starlin Castro and Corey Dickerson recently signed with teams who should be able to find regular at-bats for them. Both are good average options with 15+ homer power. You could do much worse with reserves at their respective positions.
- Postseason hero Howie Kendrick could be a fantasy asset if the Nationals let him get everyday at-bats at first base but he likely profiles better as a part-timer and his price justifies that. He can help boost your average while adding decent power potential. I’ll have a few shares.
- The second member of the 10/10 club on the list, Andrelton Simmons has been a valuable fantasy commodity recently. His injury impacted 2019 has caused the price to drop but he’s a good MI option in a much-improved offense.
- Robinson Cano had a dreadful first season for the Mets but the end of the year provided some optimism and he is another hitter I will be betting on a bounceback from.
- The final 10/10 member and the true gold mine of this list is Victor Reyes. The former Rule 5 draft pick had an amazing finish to 2019 and while I am skeptical of the aggressive average projection he is essentially free in drafts. The power may never be fully actualized at the MLB level but he has value as a late-round source of steals.
The rest of the list is fairly boring and unspectacular but another name to keep an eye on is Nicky Lopez. Many owners are hesitant to buy back in after blowing FAAB on him, in 2019 but he has some appeal if he continues to go this late in drafts. He is currently projected to start at 2B and could be another guy who sneaks onto the 10/10 list by seasons end.
While it certainly feels like we are scraping the bottom of the barrel with respect to the player pool here, all of these names could provide some sort of value in AVG to your teams. Even if they go undrafted in your leagues they are names to keep an eye on with respect to the waiver wire and in-season management. Next time out we will switch over to the pitching side and take a look at Wins.
Who are your favorite late-round AVG helpers? Let us know in the comments below.
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