I don't like playing catchup in batting average. Of all the hitting categories in standard 5x5 scoring, it's the one I'm most cognizant about filling early.
The stolen base scarcity has reached a level where I have to pay deference to it, but still, the kind of players I can honestly trust to pad my batting average late generally aren't offering much in other areas. Particularly at a time when power is so prevalent, it's the batting average that sets the studs apart in the first place.
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Still, I have a few places I like to go when I do wish to supplement in that area. A couple of my favorites sleepers -- in an overall sense, I mean -- are on this list, and it's a big reason why I like them so much. They strike me as late batting average contributors that won't require me to sacrifice much elsewhere.
But there are others here who will. Please note that only hitters with an ADP of 160 or later, according to FantasyPros, were considered.
J.D. Davis DH
SF San Francisco • #7 • Age: 29
You'll find no shortage of players who can contribute power late in drafts, given the prevalence of home runs in today's game, so the reason I've been hyping J.D. Davis to the hills is because he also has the sort of batting average potential that could elevate him to the elite class of bats. It's reflected in his elite hard-hit rate, line-drive tendency and up-the-middle approach -- skills that led to equally strong numbers against lefties and righties -- and his expected batting average last year, according to Statcast, ranked up there with Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
Amed Rosario SS
CLE Cleveland • #1 • Age: 27
I'm not so high on Amed Rosario generally, but the same tendencies that I think limit his overall ceiling should also make him a bankable source of batting average. He rarely elevates the ball, instead hitting grounders and line drives, and he leaned even harder into those tendencies in the second half ... when he hit .319. Ground balls and line drives generally yield a higher batting average than fly balls, even though they quite obviously don't result in much power, so if it's a tradeoff that continues, then sure, he's a good source of batting average late. Hey, at least he's not a zero for stolen bases.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 28
Though Bryan Reynolds' .314 mark as a rookie may have been a little too good to be true, the .387 BABIP backing it isn't totally outlandish when you look at the batted-ball profile. There's a lot of hard contact, mostly manifesting as line drives and hit to all fields. It's no wonder he hit .312 over his minor-league career and no wonder his .296 xBA, according to Baseball Savant, ranked up there with Ketel Marte and Rafael Devers.
Lorenzo Cain CF
MIL Milwaukee • #6 • Age: 36
Last year's .260 batting average was the exception rather than the rule for Lorenzo Cain, who hit less than .300 only once in the previous five seasons, and while it's reasonable to presume he's on the decline at age 34, the data doesn't really back it up. His strikeout rate remained low, and his line-drive rate was actually the highest it's ever been. His .290 xBA, according to Statcast, was almost identical to his .289 mark in 2018, when he hit .308. It really seems like he suffered from bad luck, and he could bounce back both in batting average and in the steals department.
Jean Segura 2B
MIA Miami • #9 • Age: 33
Much of the controversy surrounding Jean Segura over the years has centered on his home run and steals production, but his ability to put the ball in play has long made him a good source of batting average. Last year's .280 mark, good as it was, was his first below .300 in four years. Still, it came with the seventh-lowest strikeout rate among qualifiers and a career-high line-drive rate. And with the hope of him bouncing back as a base-stealer under new manager Joe Girardi, Segura could meet two possible late-round needs.
Kevin Newman 2B
CIN Cincinnati • #28 • Age: 29
Kevin Newman made some of the weakest contact of any qualifying batter last year, so he probably doesn't have much upside overall. But his approach does prioritize hitting for average rather than power, what with having the fifth-lowest strikeout rate, the 14th-lowest fly-ball rate and the 18th-highest opposite-field rate. His .291 xBA, which placed him in the 90th percentile among all hitters, pretty much sums it up. Like Amed Rosario, he's not a total zero for steals.
PIT Pittsburgh • #26 • Age: 28
Miguel Andujar hit .297 as a rookie in 2018, and his 97 strikeouts in 606 plate appearances mostly tell the story there. That rate was in line with his minor-league profile, too, but we're all waiting to see if he recaptures that form after losing most of 2019 to a torn labrum in his shoulder. There's also a playing time concern, seeing as third base no longer belongs to him, but the Yankees seem motivated to get his bat in the lineup, trying him out at a few different positions this spring. All things considered, the batting average seems like an even safer bet than the power production.
Gio Urshela 3B
LAA L.A. Angels • #10 • Age: 31
Gio Urshela is of course the reason Miguel Andujar no longer has third base on lockdown for the Yankees, one-upping Andujar's 2018 with his own breakout last year. He fits the profile of so many of these batting averarge specialists -- namely, a low strikeout rate and a high line-drive rate -- so it's no wonder his expected batting average of .294 ranked alongside Charlie Blackmon and Freddie Freeman. Those parts of his skill set have long been evident, but if last year's power breakthrough was also legitimate, he might rank up there with the studs at his position.
Alex Verdugo LF
BOS Boston • #99 • Age: 26
Alex Verdugo has been a bit overlooked as a sleeper, probably because he faced an uncertain timetable for a stress fracture in his back. But he has since declared himself fully healthy, which means he should slot right into Mookie Betts' spot after coming over in that same trade with the Dodgers, and batting average is clearly his most bankable skill. The power potential has always been in question because he doesn't elevate that ball like a slugger should, but it also means his balls in play should land at a higher rate. Between that and the 93rd-percentile contact rate, a .300 batting average is basically his birthright.
Luis Arraez 1B
MIA Miami • #3 • Age: 25
There may not be a single player who profiles for batting average better than Luis Arraez, whose 7.9 percent strikeout rate and whose 29.4 percent line-drive rate would have both been a distant first among qualifiers. But that's in a half-season sample, you say? True, but he was only doing the same things that made him a .331 hitter over his minor-league career. It does come with some tradeoffs, though. He sells out for contact, rarely pulling or elevating the ball, and he's not much of a base-stealer either. He would be a true batting average specialist for only those with a desperate need.