Baseball season is right around the corner and it’s time to uncover some late round sleepers for you to consider, or perhaps even push up a few rounds. With draft season in full force, these situations are mostly fluid, but these guys below aren’t getting the love they deserve from fantasy owners this season. Admittedly, one of the players in the list is starting to creep up the board, but the other three guys in this list all have an average draft position (ADP) outside of the top 300!
What speedy Texas outfielder should thrive after being boosted up prior to last season?
What jacked St. Louis outfielder could breakout if he gets enough plate appearances?
Who is the reliever to own in Detroit?
What corner infielder is rather intriguing in the southeast?
Of the players with at least a sprint speed of 30.0 ft/sec in 2018, only three players had at least 20 stolen bases. Those three players are Washington’s Trea Turner , Kansas City’s Billy Hamilton and Texas’ Delino DeShields . Last year was a season to forget for DeShields, who entered the year as a popular value speed choice for fantasy owners, but his average draft position (ADP) skyrocketed over the course of draft season. However, for many of the same reasons entering this season, DeShields has plummeted down draft boards due to his unimpressive 2018 campaign. His BABIP dropped to .280, well below his career mark of .319, which pushed down his batting average (.216) and on-base percentage (.310). He was 20-for-24 on stolen base attempts, which is actually an increase in effectiveness compared to recent years.
In 2018, the hype around DeShields was a guy locked in atop the team’s lineup whom was coming off a 25+ steal season in 120 games, pushing his ADP into the top 150 players or so.
In 2019, DeShields is slated to be an everyday player and he’s coming off a 20 stolen base season in 106 games, yet he’s being drafted outside the top 400 players!
Despite the decreased batting average, DeShields struck out less, walked a bit more and actually made more hard contact than year’s prior. Buy into a bounce back season for DeShields in 2019.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen or heard of the chiseled Tyler O’Neill. Through eight games this spring training, he has five hits, four of which have sailed over the fences, and the other was a double. He’s also walked five times in eight games, so that’s exciting, seeing as he posted a walk rate of just 4.9 percent in 61 games last year with the Cardinals. In those 61 games, O’Neill posted a fly ball and hard contact rates above 45 percent. In all of baseball last season (qualified hitters), there were only four players to do that (Salvador Pérez , Matt Carpenter , Khris Davis , Joey Gallo ). I think we can all agree that it is rather impressive company.
The knock on O’Neill is going to be his immense strikeout rate. He’s in rather impressive company with the fly ball and hard contact rates, but if he had enough at-bats to qualify, his 40.1 percent strikeout rate would have led the league by nearly four percentage points. If he can harness the strikeouts, his raw power is indicative of a 30-homer bat. His 14.4 at-bats per home run equates to 34.7 home runs in 500 at-bats. Impressive, especially when you factor in his current ADP.
Yes, his draft stock is going up with every spring home run, but there’s still ample profit to be had with the dynamic outfielder.
Jimenez locked down just three saves last year, but that’s not what we are too concerned about here. At his current ADP, he should easily return value, because even when he’s the setup man for Shane Greene , which shouldn’t be more than about half of the year max, he can help improve your team’s ratios. The .302 BABIP last year led his batting average against up to .219, which is still solid, and his ERA was north of 4.30. However, his FIP of 2.91 and xFIP of 3.82 indicate that he was a far better pitcher than a 4.00+ ERA guy. The bigger takeaways that the 24-year-old should continue to build on are his increased strikeout rates, while decreasing his walks and home runs allowed. Jimenez is a fly ball pitcher, so be it, but he struck out nearly 30 percent of the batters he faced last season, which is excellent. Per Statcast, his fastball velocity and strikeout percentage rank in the 86th percentile, while the spin rate on his fastball ranks in the 97th percentile.
Shane Greene likely opens the year as the team’s closer, but with him likely being traded or demoted from the role, Jimenez will provide the most value in the Detroit bullpen this season.
There’s a lot of optimism that Diaz can develop into a full-time starter for the Rays, especially cause the other first baseman in Tampa Bay camp are far from surefire starters. In limited major league appearance (88 games), Diaz has hit .283 with one home run and two stolen bases. Not necessarily anything to brag about, but he doesn’t strikeout a lot and makes lots of hard contact. His SwStr% of 6.3 percent is solid and his contact rate of 85.7 percent is exceptional. Furthermore, he made hard contact over 44 percent of the time in 2018, albeit in a small sample size. In fact, his average exit velocity of 92.1 miles per hour would have placed him inside the top 20 of hitters last season, coming in just behind Mookie Betts (92.3). If he can hit the ball in the air more, he could frequently leave the yard, but he has such a high propensity (53.3 GB% in 2018) to drive the baseball into the ground and that eats into potential power production.
Any increase in his launch angle would greatly benefit his power numbers, but at his ADP, Diaz seems like a good source of batting average, assuming he can get regular playing time at first base for the Rays.