2014 Draft Prep: Targeting mid-round bargains
Sometimes, passing up on the elite players can actually work out in your favor. Our Michael Hurcomb details some mid-round (and later) options that could bring big returns in 2014.
Listen, do me a favor. Will you please call up the results from your baseball draft(s) last year and do a search for Matt Harvey? Go ahead. I'll give you a few minutes ... Done?
OK, now it's time to let out a big "D'oh!" when you realize all the players you drafted before Harvey, who finished with 513 Fantasy points in Head-to-Head leagues.
Don't worry -- I'm guilty of making the same mistake. Yes, your dear friend and Fantasy analyst -- Big Hurc -- was part of the crowd that overlooked Harvey on Draft Day last year.
Let me tell you how bad it was in some of my leagues ...
Harvey went in the 12th round in a 12-team Head-to-Head league. My 10th-round pick was Dan Haren. Yeah.
In an 18-team Head-to-Head league, an owner was much wiser and took Harvey in the ninth round. My selections in the two previous rounds were Miguel Montero and Howard. I guess the only saving grace here is that I survived some bad decisions and made it all the way to the semifinals, despite some questionable mid-round picks.
However, don't make it a habit of wasting your mid-round picks -- it's a part of the draft where you don't want to make too many mistakes. The early rounds feature the boom-or-bust players. The late rounds feature the sleepers. But the middle rounds? That's the breakout range, where you can really influence how your season will unfold.
Hey, you might have missed on Harvey last season, but go back and look at some of your mid-round steals.
Some of my best mid-round picks were Shelby Miller (10th) and Domonic Brown (14th) in the 8-team NL-only league; Hunter Pence (11th) in the 12-team Head-to-Head league; Hisashi Iwakuma (10th) and Julio Teheran (12th) in the 18-team Head-to-Head league; and perhaps my best run of mid-round picks came in a 12-team Rotisserie format where I took Aroldis Chapman in the seventh round, David Ortiz in the eighth round, Paul Goldschmidt in the ninth round and Mark Trumbo in the 10th round.
The 2014 draft season is here, so it's time to put away the "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda" regrets of 2013 and prepare for the season ahead. To help you reduce the chances of missing out on this year's Matt Harvey, we go around the horn to highlight the bumper crop of mid-round picks you need to have on your radar right now.
Salvador Perez, C, Royals
2014 CBSSports.com projections: .304/.334/.460, 14 HR, 27 2B, 55
R, 75 RBI, 21 BB, 52 K
ADP: 14th round
Analysis: Catcher used to be a position where if you didn't grab one of the elite options, then you usually punted the position. Not anymore. There are still a few elite options -- Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana -- but there is depth at the position, so you shouldn't feel compelled to reach in the early rounds for a catcher if you want to target elite options at other positions. Perez is a guy who is going to slip into the middle rounds and should deliver Fantasy owners good value. He was up-and-down through the first four months last season, but had a strong finish, batting .318 with a .526 slugging percentage, .872 OPS, seven doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBI in 49 games over the final two months. Even with poor offensive numbers through the first four months, Perez finished as the eighth-highest scoring Fantasy catcher in Head-to-Head leagues and 10th-highest in Rotisserie formats. He's a popular pick for a breakout season in 2014.
Other mid-round bargains: Evan Gattis, Braves; Brian McCann, Yankees; Wilson Ramos, Nationals
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
2014 CBSSports.com projections:.282/.355/.484, 18 HR, 37 2B, 71
RBI, 74 R, 58 BB, 121 K
ADP: 18th round
Analysis: Paul Goldschmidt was the Harvey of first base last season, ending up as one of the greatest Draft Day steals for a player that primarily went in the middle rounds. It's going to be difficult to find another Goldschmidt -- who is now considered the consensus No. 1 Fantasy first baseman heading into 2014 -- this season, but first base is a very deep position. Belt has largely been disappointing since breaking into the majors in 2011, but he might finally be ready for a breakout campaign. Belt made some tweaks to his approach last season, changing his grip on the bat and standing farther back in the box, which provided great results down the stretch. He hit .346 with a .576 slugging percentage, .984 OPS, three triples, seven home runs, 17 doubles and 28 RBI in his last 52 games. He averaged 19.6 Fantasy points in the final eight scoring periods. If he averaged that over 26 scoring periods last season, he would have finished with 510 Fantasy points, which would have made him the fifth-highest scoring Fantasy first baseman ahead of the likes of Prince Fielder, Freddie Freeman and Eric Hosmer.
Other mid-round bargains: Jose Abreu, White Sox; Matt Adams, Cardinals; Mike Napoli, Red Sox; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona
2014 CBSSports.com projections:.277/.333/.466, 22 HR, 36 2B, 79
RBI, 88 R, 47 BB, 80 K
ADP: 11th round
Analysis: Jedd Gyorko is another player with breakout potential who's likely going to fall into the middle rounds, but you will hear a lot more about him from my boy Nando Di Fino, so instead we will highlight Hill, who could be a good value pick -- if he can stay healthy. Hill got hurt early last season, breaking his hand eight games into the 2013 campaign. It was an injury that lingered all season, but he still managed to hit .291 with a .462 slugging percentage in 87 games. Hill has been frustratingly inconsistent throughout his career, but when he's on offensively, he can hang with the top options at second base. In 2012, he was the second-highest scoring Fantasy second baseman in H2H and Roto leagues behind Robinson Cano. I don't actually recommend passing over second base with options like Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Carpenter, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler, Martin Prado and Ben Zobrist available. However, if you miss out in H2H leagues on any of those players or need a middle-infield option in Roto formats, then players like Gyorko and Hill could be Draft Day steals.
Other mid-round bargains: Jose Altuve, Astros; Daniel Murphy, Mets; Jed Lowrie, Athletics; Jurickson Profar, Rangers
Brad Miller, SS, Mariners
2014 CBSSports.com projections:.274/.342/.424, 15 HR, 26 2B, 49
RBI, 84 R, 60 BB, 102 K
ADP: 16th round
Analysis: Shortstop is one of those positions where there is going to be a big gap between the top options and the rest of the bunch. Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez will be gone by the second round. Jose Reyes, Ian Desmond, Jean Segura, Ben Zobrist and Elvis Andrus won't be far behind, but after that it could be a few more rounds before you see another shortstop go off the board. Among the cluster of mid-round shortstops is Miller, who is entering his second season in the majors. Miller has upside (.334/.409/.516/.925 minors slash line) and while his overall stat line from last season doesn't look overly appealing, he had just one of 14 scoring periods with less than 10 Fantasy points. If you stretch out his weekly Fantasy average for the entire 2013 season, he finishes with 394 Fantasy points, which would put him right behind Andrelton Simmons (397 points), who is another popular mid-round pick.
Other mid-round bargains: Starlin Castro, Cubs; Andrelton Simmons, Braves; J.J. Hardy, Orioles; Jed Lowrie, Athletics; Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners
2014 CBSSports.com projections: .267/.330/.435, 24 HR, 30 2B, 81
RBI, 76 R, 58 BB, 111 K
ADP: 10th round
Analysis: Third base is a position you will want to make a priority while you're drafting. It's highly recommended you use an early pick on any of these options: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Matt Carpenter, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado or Josh Donaldson. After that, you are just hoping and praying your pick works out. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of bounceback candidates (Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez) and sleepers (Xander Bogaerts, Nolan Arenado) at third base, but you know the upside you can get with those high-end options. If you do choose to wait, Seager is an intriguing pick. He was a monster in the first half last season, posting a .293/.359/.488/.846 slash line, before enduring a second-half slide (.212/.309/.336/.645). Still, Seager finished as the seventh-highest scoring third baseman in H2H leagues and 10th-highest in Roto formats. Seager is just entering the prime of his career, and the revamped Mariners lineup could provide him the protection and offensive opportunities to help him sustain those good numbers for an entire season.
Other mid-round bargains: Manny Machado, Orioles; Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox; Pablo Sandoval, Giants; Chase Headley, Padres; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Yankees
2014 CBSSports.com projections: .250/.302/.467, 31 HR, 33 2B, 94
RBI, 79 R, 44 BB, 169 K
ADP: 12th round
Analysis: Outfield is a position loaded with high-end Fantasy bats. There's a good chance you could end up with two outfielders through the first five rounds. I've never been hesitant to take that strategy, if an outfielder is the best player available when my turn in the draft comes up, but it's such a deep position that you are going to be happy with the quality of players you get in the middle-to-late rounds. I could talk about all the young, high-upside players in this group (Christian Yelich, Billy Hamilton, Leonys Martin) but you already know about the high-reward prospects. Whereas a player like Soriano, who might no longer outproduce his draft position, has enough power to still be useful in Fantasy. Soriano hit for a low average and struck out a lot after rejoining the Yankees last summer, but he slugged .525 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 58 games. He thrived at Yankee Stadium, slugging .558 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 30 games. Imagine what he might do with a full season at Yankee Stadium.
Other mid-round bargains: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics; Josh Hamilton, Angels; Alex Gordon, Royals; Curtis Granderson, Mets; Shane Victorino, Red Sox; Desmond Jennings, Rays; Leonys Martin, Rangers; Evan Gattis, Braves; Carlos Beltran, Yankees; Billy Hamilton, Reds; Nelson Cruz, Free Agent; Carl Crawford, Dodgers; Austin Jackson, Tigers; Dexter Fowler, Astros; Christian Yelich, Marlins; Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
2014 CBSSports.com projections: 12-8, 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 138 K,
57 BB, 170 innings (26 starts)
ADP: 11th round
Analysis: You are going to want to grab an ace starting pitcher -- or maybe two -- within the first five rounds, but you will find a lot of quality arms throughout the draft, including the late rounds. In some cases, you could even see the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Mike Minor, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields and Jered Weaver start to fall in the mid-rounds. It would have been easy to highlight a player like Michael Wacha or Tony Cingrani here, but their sky-high upside is well-documented. Buchholz is an interesting character because he could fall into the late rounds of some drafts due to his past injury issues, but he really delivered for Fantasy owners when he was healthy last season. Of the 13 scoring periods he was active, he had less than 20 Fantasy points just once, averaging 27.5 Fantasy points per scoring period. If you stretch that out over 26 scoring periods, Buchholz finishes with 715 Fantasy points, which was more than Clayton Kershaw (705). Obviously, we don't know his season would have unfolded quite that way had he remained healthy, but it certainly gives you a glimpse at the kind of campaign he was having before injuries derailed things for him. Injury is still a significant risk, but if he can stay on the mound, could be the steal of your draft.
Other mid-round bargains: Matt Moore, Rays; Michael Wacha, Cardinals; Francisco Liriano, Pirates; Alex Cobb, Rays; Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees; Homer Bailey, Reds; Gerrit Cole, Pirates; Jon Lester, Red Sox; Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks; Shelby Miller, Cardinals; Jeff Samardzija, Cubs; R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays; Justin Masterson, Indians; Taijuan Walker, Mariners; C.J. Wilson, Angels; Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers; Tony Cingrani, Reds; Kris Medlen, Braves; CC Sabathia, Yankees
Grant Balfour, RP, Rays
2014 CBSSports.com projections: 3-3, 2.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 37
saves, 65 K, 25 BB, 64 innings (66 appearances)
ADP: 15th round
Analysis: Essentially, all relievers are mid-round Fantasy picks. Though, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland might creep into the late early rounds in Rotisserie drafts. But the point to make here is that you shouldn't reach for closers or chase saves in Fantasy because this is a position of great value in the mid-to-late rounds. Balfour is arguably one of the more underrated closers in baseball, but the spotlight could turn his way very soon since he's now on a team known for having strong closers. Since 2008, the Rays as a team have finished with less than 40 saves just once (2011). In fact, they had 50 or more saves in 2008, 2010 and 2012, so the opportunities should be there for the veteran right-hander. Balfour has been pretty good the last four years, posting a 2.47 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. He is also striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings in that span.
Other mid-round bargains: Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals; Glen Perkins, Twins; David Robertson, Yankees; Fernando Rodney, Mariners; Rafael Soriano, Nationals; Jason Grilli, Pirates; Steve Cishek, Marlins; Alex Wood, Braves; Drew Smyly, Tigers; Tyson Ross, Padres (The last three are for those of you in Head-to-Head leagues because they are starters with relief-pitcher eligibility, or as we like to call them ... SPARPS!)
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