The notion of a fantasy “sleeper” has somewhat evaporated over recent years with the rising popularity of fantasy sports and the emergence of internet publications. The most popular breakthrough candidates are now fairly well-known and thus can no longer be considered undervalued. In fact, the hype surrounding young players often has the reverse effect by causing them to become overvalued. However, there will always be value to be found throughout your fantasy draft. Here are 10 players currently being drafted later than they should be who will provide a profit.
10. Victor Martinez (1B)
One year removed from a second place finish in the AL MVP voting ballot, Victor Martinez is currently being drafted after 220 players have gone off the board. Martinez recently turned 37 years old and struggled mightily last year to the tune of a .245 batting average and a hideous .301 OBP. Regardless, at that price, he is a clear bargain that is worth the risk. After undergoing knee surgery to repair his medial meniscus just as spring training was underway, Martinez was slow to recover and never got his timing back. Upon his return, he overcompensated and suffered nagging injuries to his groin, quad and back. 2015 was essentially a lost season for Martinez. Now, with a clean bill of health and little in the way of expectations, Martinez will blow away his average draft position (ADP) and prove to be a great value.
9. Matt Holliday (OF)
Another elder statesman, Matt Holliday is being heavily overlooked in upcoming drafts. Similar to several players on this list, Holliday missed time last season battling a major injury (strained quadriceps). Therefore, it is not surprising to see him slip in drafts. When healthy, Holliday did not have a poor season as is being reflected with his ADP. The owner of a career .386 OBP mark, Holliday got on-base at a .394 clip during 2015. The issue was his power, which all but dried up. Holliday has always been an underrated fantasy commodity due to his solid yet unspectacular play. Even if his power does not return, he is slated to hit in the middle of an imposing lineup, will get on base at an elite clip and will score a healthy dose of runs and RBI.
8. Kyle Schwarber (C/OF)
On the surface, it may seem surprising to see someone being drafted 40th overall viewed as an underrated commodity. This ranking hinges entirely on Schwarber being eligible at catcher in fantasy leagues. The shallowest position in fantasy baseball is even more of a wasteland than usual this season with top-end talent losing their catcher-eligibility (Evan Gattis, Carlos Santana) and mid-tier options recovering from injuries (Devin Mesoraco, Stephen Vogt). That places an unusual amount of value on the top-tier catchers. Here is where things become interesting. Schwarber will not actually be playing catcher on the field for the Chicago Cubs. He is simply eligible there in fantasy leagues. That places less of a health risk on him as he does not undergo the rigorous daily grind of a catcher and allows for more games played, which in turn add up to counting stats. He is a safe selection anywhere in drafts with enormous upside based on positional scarcity.
7. Trevor Story (SS)
Story is a rookie who will shoot up draft boards as the season nears. With Jose Reyes’ future in doubt pending a trial for domestic violence abuse, Story is the opening day shortstop for the Rockies. He was likely ticketed for extended playing time prior to the Reyes saga. An exciting rookie who posted terrific offensive numbers for any position, let alone a shortstop in the minor leagues (.279/.350/.514 with 20 homers, 80 RBI and 22 stolen bases between two high levels in the minor leagues during 2015), Story is the future for the team. A rebuilding team that wants to give their younger assets playing time, Story was going to cut into Reyes’ playing time until an eventual trade arose as Reyes had become a defensive liability and was no longer the base-stealing threat he was during his prime. Now, with Reyes seemingly out of the picture, an offensive-minded SS with a great pedigree gets to call “Coors Field” home.
6. Taijuan Walker (RHP)
Is this the year Walker finally puts his immense potential together for a full healthy season? At a very affordable price, he is worth the investment. As 2015 Bryce Harper owners can attest, generally when a player is lauded for multiple years prior to putting up significant contributions, there is a valid reason for the hype. Early in their careers, the hype causes the player to be overvalued in fantasy leagues wherein they become unlikely to return a profit. However, said player eventually turns into a “post-hype player.” Walker’s average fastball velocity is a blistering 94.1 mph, which places him in third place for average starting pitcher velocity. Is it a guarantee that Walker breaks out this season and becomes an elite-level pitcher? Absolutely not. Is his upside miles ahead of any pitcher being selected in his vicinity? Absolutely. In Walker’s case, the potential return far outweighs the risk at his current ADP.
5. Matt Wieters (C)
An afterthought in fantasy drafts this upcoming season, Matt Wieters is a steady catcher available to serve as a fantasy starter. Despite averaging 22.33 home runs per season between 2011-2013 and providing consistent across-the-board contributions, Wieters was viewed as a fantasy disappointment during his early career due to the immense expectations placed on him. 2014 appeared to be the year he would take the next step as he got off to a scorching start. Alas, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and required Tommy John surgery, a procedure generally reserved for pitchers. Recovery from the surgery lingered into 2015 and his production suffered. Wieters enters 2016 healthy and with something to prove. He was destined for the free agent market but ended up having to settle for a one-year qualifying offer. With power scarce across the MLB, Wieters will at worst provide steady production while potentially rewarding owners with a true breakout.
4. Jason Heyward (OF)
Jason Heyward is a rare five-tool threat that contributes in every category and will be hitting in a hitter’s park for the first time in his career. He will also be playing for a manager who loves to run (see Dexter Fowler’s 27 SB attempts last season). This is excellent news as Heyward is just beginning to enter his prime, a fact often forgotten since he entered the league at such a young age. The reason he tends to slip in fantasy drafts is not terribly surprising. While dynamic in his own right, Heyward’s statistics do not pop off the page and his previous HR totals are modest. However, his contributions in every category add up and he is precisely the type of player who wins fantasy leagues. When accounting for his upside and newly-found favorable ballpark, this consistent performer is a safe selection with the potential for immense profit.
3. David Ortiz (1B)
One of the easier players to turn a profit on, David Ortiz has continued his trend of very modest ADP placements during fantasy drafts. If Ortiz remains healthy (something he has done in six of the past seven seasons), it is nearly impossible for him not to exceed his ADP value. The concern here is clearly his age. The slugger recently turned 40 this offseason and has a body generally not suited for longevity in sports. However, Ortiz continues to be doubted and continues to produce. Ortiz is now 27th on the all-time leaderboard for home runs with a realistic shot at surpassing Mickey Mantle and finishing the season in 17th place. Never pay for stats a player has put up in the past, only for what he will produce. However, this is relevant because it will keep Ortiz motivated. He will play through minor injuries during his final season.
2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
Yet another veteran returning from injury, the trend here is clear. While others seek the hot rookie, the best producers and values are often the forgotten veterans. Dustin Pedroia is a five-tool contributor at a shallow position. He has vowed to run more this season, which has the potential to return him to the top five second base rankings. A sneaky candidate to score 100+ runs, he does not need to do much to return value at his current base ADP of 164.3. Despite injury concerns, his floor is as high as any second baseman in the league, let alone players being drafted around him. He is the perfect choice when choosing to wait on filling middle infield positions in drafts this spring. Ideally, draft selections are made for upside, but at shallow positions there is wiggle room to be safe and take the value.
1. Carlos Carrascao (RHP)
Despite finishing the season with an average fastball velocity of 94.2 last season (good for second place among starting pitchers), and possessing four dominant supporting pitches all graded well throughout the season, Carlos Carrasco posted a mediocre 3.63 ERA last season. Look beyond the surface, however, and you have 2015’s unluckiest starting pitcher. A 1.07 WHIP and 216 strikeouts in 183.2 IP are easy to spot. Where did his ERA go wrong? Eighteen home runs allowed are a main portion of the problem; however, with no prior history suggesting issues giving up the long ball and with 50% of his outs coming on groundballs, Carrasco will contend for the Cy Young this season. His absurd 14 percent swinging strike rate shows he is not a fluke. The secret is mostly out, yet there is still value to be had. Carrasco has the potential to be fantasy’s second best SP behind Clayton Kershaw. That surface ERA will deter many from drafting him as high as he belongs.