Drafting in the final days before opening night, much of the risk and suspense inherent in earlier drafts is absent. While some position battles will go down to the wire and injuries can still happen at any time, drafting close to the first games eliminates a lot of the guesswork involved in late-round picks.
The stakes in the later rounds of drafts aren't all that high to begin with. After all, there's usually not much separating the players drafted there and the players who are left on the waiver wire. Still, if you have an opportunity to put an unsung player on your roster who can produce, this is your chance to do it. Even in these final days of drafting, it's possible to botch your selections in these l0w-intensity rounds.
It's always a good idea to have a list of late-round fliers at the ready on Draft Day. After all, the players you want may not be the ones who are at the top of the list in your draft room or the highest-ranked in average draft position (ADP). If you do go by ADP, you could miss out on several players who are getting overlooked.
At any given position, you can find a handful of useful players who are typically going undrafted in standard mixed leagues. Not only are these players useful, but they are likely to be more productive than players who are frequently finding homes in the later rounds. For each position, I have identified a player who is getting bypassed and paired him with a lesser player who boasts a superior ADP.
Already, too many owners unnecessarily have left quality players on the board at the end of the draft. Don't let this happen to you.
Note: ADP data are in parentheses and are from CBSSports.com Rotisserie leagues as of Tuesday, March 29.
Catcher: Draft Wilson Ramos (257) over Yadier Molina (245)
Even though Ramos set a personal best with 504 plate appearances last season, he was still a disappointment, given that he slugged just .358. At age 28, it's still possible Ramos could rediscover the power he showed three seasons ago, when he bashed 16 homers in 303 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Molina's power has evaporated and he doesn't hit for a high enough batting average to compensate for it. Even in a down 2015 season, Ramos finished with just 24 fewer Fantasy points than Molina, and he had more Rotisserie value. Given his greater upside, there is no reason to forego Ramos in favor of his Cardinals counterpart.
First Base: Draft C.J. Cron (268) over Chris Colabello (249)
If you've waited this late to draft a first baseman, your options are going to be a long, long way from even the second-tier types, like Freddie Freeman and Eric Hosmer. However, if that's your fate, or if you're just looking for someone to fill the corner infield or utility slot, you're better off with Cron than Colabello. That didn't appear to be the case last season, but as good as Colabello is at spraying the ball around, he strikes out too much to be a reliable hitter for average. Cron has similar power, and while the Angels don't have the lineup that the Blue Jays do, hitting behind Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun will have its benefits. The Angels' lack of bench depth certainly plays into Cron's favor.
Second Base: Draft Cory Spangenberg (301) over Javier Baez (264)
Now that Baez's sore thumb will land him on the disabled list, his ADP could sink. Then again, Baez's appeal hasn't been about his chances for near-term production. It's all about upside for Baez, but even when he returns, he will be limited to a utility role. He could get traded, but the Cubs could just as easily keep Baez around for depth and flexibility. Spangenberg didn't arrive with much prospect hype, but he has already shown he can hit for average, batting .296 from June forward, with help from his opposite field tendencies and speed. He should play much more than Baez and have better counting stats, along with a higher average and perhaps a surprising amount of doubles power.
Third Base: Draft Adonis Garcia (270) over Yasmany Tomas (265)
Tomas will get another chance to play regularly in a lineup that should score plenty of runs. That is the only advantage that the 25-year-old has over Garcia, who could wind up hitting cleanup for the punchless Braves. Both players have sketchy plate discipline, but both are also capable of using the whole field when they make contact. The difference is that Garcia has power to all fields. Even though he won't get much help from his lineup, Garcia's potential to hit 20 or more home runs with a decent batting average is enough to give him the edge over Tomas. Given that Garcia averaged 298 feet per flyball last season (per BaseballHeatMaps.com), he could be one of this season's most under-the-radar power sources.
Shortstop: Draft Zack Cozart (299) over Brad Miller (265)
Cozart's low ADP could be an artifact of the poor impression he made on Fantasy owners two seasons ago, when he batted .221 with four home runs. He is much better than that, and early last season, it looked as if Cozart was on the verge of a significant breakout before he was shelved with season-ending knee surgery. As a pull hitter with flyball tendencies, there is no point in drafting Cozart if you need to improve in batting average, but he could be one of the bigger power threats at shortstop. Miller has settled into a mediocre level of performance, and he's not likely to be a much better hitter for average, while possessing less upside for power.
Outfield: Draft Jackie Bradley (268) over Melky Cabrera (261)
Cabrera's up-and-down career is in a decidedly down phase again, but at age 31, he could still have another rebound left in him. Getting a bounceback season from Cabrera still isn't especially exciting, and if what you need is an outfielder with a high batting average and doubles power, you could probably get Nick Markakis on waivers. Or pick up Nori Aoki, and substitute some steals for extra bases. Better yet, you could bypass them all and go for Bradley, who showed signs of a breakout in his age-25 season. He won't likely match Cabrera for batting average, but he has a chance to be a far superior power hitter. Bradley just needs to pick up where he left off in 2015, when he hit nine home runs and 17 doubles from August forward.
Starting Pitcher: Draft Phil Hughes (272) over Yovani Gallardo (258)
Hughes relegated himself to afterthought status after a miserable 2015 season, in which he finished with a 4.40 ERA and only 94 strikeouts. He did rebound in September after returning from a back injury, and while he didn't boost his sagging velocity, Hughes got more whiffs on his curveball after he created more movement on it. Maybe Hughes won't regain his former mojo, but if your alternative is Gallardo, he's worth a shot. The former Ranger and Brewer is an even surer bet to allow contact at a high rate, and he doesn't have Hughes' pristine control.
Relief Pitcher: Draft Arodys Vizcaino (260) over Tony Watson (255)
I'm all for drafting closers-in-waiting in the late rounds, and Watson is a fine representative of that niche. He doesn't look especially poised to take over for Mark Melancon as the Pirates' closer anytime soon, and meanwhile, Vizcaino stands a good chance to at least split the Braves' saves with Jason Grilli. Vizcaino showed that he can handle the closer's role late last season, and with Grilli being a candidate to get traded sometime this season, Vizcaino could get the save opportunities all to himself at some point.