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Fantasy Baseball: Draft’s Deepest Sleepers (Part 1)

I’ll be rolling out a three-part series for this particular topic. This edition will be covering catchers, first and second basemen. To follow this edition, there will be “Part 2”, covering third basemen, shortstops, and outfielders; while “Part 3” will cover both starting and relief pitchers.

As we approach our fantasy baseball drafts, we all know who is going first. We also all know who will be going second. The biggest question is who can you find late to fill that all-important hole you left by electing to go best player available early on rather than filling positional needs? That’s generally my philosophy; go best player available with virtually every selection and eventually your roster gets filled out. If not, there are options late in drafts that could provide value to your team.

The catcher position is almost equivalent to the tight end position in fantasy football. The top-tier guys can provide excellent value to your team because there simply isn’t enough to go around for each team in your league. On the other hand, is it worth it to use a 4th/5th round selection on a guy that isn’t going to out-perform the alternative by all that much. In reality, there’s Gary Sanchez; there’s J.T. Realmuto; then there’s everyone else. Those guys have an ADP in that 4th/5th round range. However, let’s take a look at Wilson Ramos for instance. Ramos’ projections for 2019 are: .277 average with 20 home runs and 82 RBI. His ADP is currently 144.8, so right around the 12th round. Gary Sanchez, who is the top-ranked catcher for this season with an ADP of 60.9 (early 5th round), is projected to hit .255 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI. There’s obviously a home run spike, but all in all, for there to be a seven round difference in ADP, you can argue Ramos is more valuable. It’s the little things.

First and second basemen are different. They are both still quite top-heavy, but with the positional eligibility that gets tossed around like gum nowadays (Mike Moustakas declared the starting 2B in Milwaukee; SECOND BASE?!), anyways, it provides a bit of draft relief later on as you’re attempting to fill out your roster. It’s obviously nice to get the stars of the game, but you can only supply your roster with so many of them; so let’s take a look at some guys you can find late that will still provide quality production for your fantasy teams!

Welington Castillo, C, Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are slowly improving and may soon have a pretty competitive team. They added solid players in both Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to mix in with a lineup that already featured Jose Abreu. Castillo missed most of last season after being suspended for 80 games for using a performance-enhancing substance. However, his on-field production has been good throughout his career. He may have some of his innings stolen from backup catcher Omar Narvaez, but with Castillo’s offensive ceiling, it really shouldn’t be too much of a factor. Should Castillo get off to a slow start, or get injured, that could obviously change.

Castillo currently has an ADP of 287.2. This means he’s being drafted right around the turn between the 23rd and 24th rounds. This is an excellent spot to grab a productive catcher. As mentioned earlier, you can reach and grab Gary Sanchez in the 4th, but how much more would he really be giving you? Castillo is projected to hit .260 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. He’s even projected for 1, count ’em, ONE, stolen base! Last year was obviously an outlier due to the half-season suspension; but between 2016-2017, he hit 34 home runs while driving in 121 runs. He maintained an average in the low .270s, so it’s not outlandish to think that he can’t get to his projections, at a minimum.

I’m one that loves to wait for catchers, as I think most are in fantasy baseball circles. There’s no reason to rush. If you love where your team is at in round 12 and think it may be necessary to take a Wilson Ramos that may have a higher floor; do it. I’ll be happy waiting until the 23rd round and take Beef Castillo, while getting fairly equal production over the course of the season.

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals

As with most submissions in a sleeper report, this isn’t the ‘sexy’ pick. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. I know, I know, Bryce Harper isn’t on the team anymore, so who’s going to be driving in the runs? Well, Washington has set themselves up very nicely as they begin the post-Harper era. GM Mike Rizzo deserves a lot of credit as one of the league’s most underrated general managers. Zimmerman will be a major cog in what should be a very solid lineup. They still have Trea Turner, Juan Soto and have added the likes of Brian Dozier and Yan Gomes that will provide production up and down the lineup.

Zimmerman currently has an ADP of 324.6, right at the start of the 27th round. Some leagues don’t have 27-man rosters, so it’s possible he’s not even being drafted. It’s understandable; in the “what have you done for me lately” group, he didn’t produce much last season. He spent quite a bit of time rehabbing injuries as he only played 85 games. However, in those 85 games, he still managed to hit 13 home runs, drove in 51 runs and drastically improved his walk rate. Zimmerman’s 9.3% walk rate was his highest since 2013, while is 17.0% strikeout rate was his lowest since 2014. While it appears Father Time may be creeping up on his durability, it’s certainly not affecting his eye.

On top of that, it wasn’t that long ago (2017) where he hit .303 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI. The talent is there. The lineup is strong. Assuming health, it’s easy to see Zim meeting his projections of a .273 average with 19 home runs and 65 RBI, and quite easily exceeding them.

Jason Kipnis, 2B/OF, Cleveland Indians

Jason Kipnis has fallen out of favor in the fantasy baseball community in recent years. However, his ADP is begging for you to draft and stash. There was once a time, albeit a short time, when Kipnis was among the premiere second basemen in baseball. That time is gone, however, he can still bring some value to your squad. If you can look past the average, hard to do but hear me out, he can still provide enough pop to provide 15-20 home runs and 65-75 RBI. Wouldn’t you take that as your last-round bench spot? I would.

His current ADP is 342.1, placing him in the middle of the 28th round. The standard roster size holds 26 players, so he’s not being drafted in most standard leagues. I know he’s not Jose Altuve, but he deserves a roster spot. Second base is one of the thinnest positions in the sport, and he’s projected to hit .262 with 19 home runs and drive in 64 runs, while also stealing five bags. If he comes remotely close to that batting average projection, he’s a steal late in drafts. The stolen base opportunity is also what intrigues me about Kipnis. Five isn’t much, but it’s not out of the realm for him to approach 10 which would greatly increase his fantasy value, especially in roto leagues. Over the last three seasons, he stole 28 bags, so 8-10 isn’t out of the question.

The Indians certainly have a huge question mark surrounding the health of star shortstop Francisco Lindor, but their lineup should still score some runs. As long as Kipnis can keep his walk rate up (10% in 2018, his highest since 2013), he should score enough runs that’ll make him relatively productive in four of the five standard categories.

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Joe Buttgereit View All

Fantasy fanatic. I specialize in football and baseball, but will dabble in basketball as well. I play DFS regularly but I am by no means an expert. I win just enough to keep playing without having to deposit more money. I love talking about everything fantasy so I created this site in the hopes of helping others dominate their own fantasy leagues!

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