Welcome to Part 2 of our deepest sleeper series. This edition will tackle two of the three deepest positions in fantasy baseball: third basemen and outfielders. For the cherry on top, we’ll also take a look at the shortstops. Even though a position may be deep, it’s still possible and sometimes prudent to find the diamond in the rough in the last round that could propel your team to a fantasy championship.
The shortstop position presents as many questions as any other position outside of, perhaps, catcher. The cream of the crop, and consensus top-five overall fantasy player, Francisco Lindor is sidelined with a strained calf muscle. All appears to be progressing nicely for Lindor, but fantasy owners have been more hesitant to take him in the top-5. His ADP hasn’t dropped much, but a full draft slot this late into the draft season shows that he is being taken a few spots later. The next biggest question to me is what can we expect from Nationals’ star Trea Turner? Is he the .342 hitter with 13 home runs in just 307 at-bats like we saw in his rookie 2016 campaign? Or is he the .271 hitter with just 19 home runs in a league-leading 664 at-bats last season? I’d say he’s somewhere in the middle. It’s not crazy to think he can hover around .300 while hitting 20 home runs. The kicker? The potential for 40, 50, even 60 stolen bases. That’s why he’s being taken as high as he is. The five category-stuffing potential.
The outfield, while deep in theory, is the thinnest it’s been in recent memory. There is value late, but it’s as top-heavy as we’ve seen it. With standard leagues starting three outfielders per team, and many custom leagues starting as many as five, there’s not an offensive position even remotely close to what the outfield presents in terms of needing to find late value. I promise you, it’s there; you just need to know where to look.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies vowed to spend in free agency; and spend they did. They didn’t just spend cash, however, they also spent player capital to acquire star players via trades as well. The crown jewel was finally coming to terms to bring Bryce Harper to Philadelphia. We all thought that’s where he’d wind up, but it took awhile. In addition to Harper, they acquired star catcher J.T. Realmuto, SS Jean Segura, OF Andrew McCutchen and closer David Robertson. They have put themselves in a position to win a division this season. Lost in the mix of this bunch is third baseman Maikel Franco.
Franco, at times, has been one of the Phillies’ best players in recent years. At other times, he’s gone on elongated slumps. He’s a hard player to crack, but I like his position this season. He can get lost in the shuffle of a team with newly acquired stars and high expectations. This is ideal; focus on baseball, and let the other guys handle to brunt of the media attention.
After falling under 100 in wRC+ in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he got back above the century mark in 2018 with a wRC+ of 105. With the lineup that has been built around him, I expect this number to jump closer to the 129 he posted in his rookie 2015 season. There will be plenty of opportunities for run production, and frankly, he should see much more pitches to hit as opposing pitchers will look to be more careful against the likes of Harper and Realmuto. I like his average to jump up to the .275 range with his exceptionally low 15.5% strikout rate in today’s baseball.
He currently has an ADP of 282.3, placing him in the middle of the 23rd round. With projections of a .268 average with 23 home runs, 76 RBI, and 59 runs, he provides excellent value at the end of the draft. Frankly, I believe he will exceed the average and the runs total; while at least meeting the home runs and RBI total which makes for a highly productive bench bat and potentially making a case to be the starter at 3B/CI for your fantasy squad this season.
Brandon Crawford, SS, San Francisco Giants
The Giants will likely trot out one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball in 2019. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any players that aren’t worthy of a fantasy roster spot. There aren’t many, but there are a few. We all know Buster Posey; and while he doesn’t present the same fantasy value as his MVP years due to the complete lack of power, he will still get rostered in every fantasy league. Brandon Crawford is another player on this woeful excuse for a baseball team that deserves to be rostered.
He currently has an ADP of 374.8, which would suggest that in most drafts, he’s not being selected at all. This is blasphemous in my opinion. While he’s not flashy, or ‘sexy’, he is productive. He maintains a consistent .250-.260 average each year which isn’t horrific, and steadily plays 150 games per season. This is a stat that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, but it’s important; especially in a late-round draft pick. He plays, every day, and eventually those numbers will add up over the course of a full season.
Crawford will provide 12-15 home runs and 55-65 RBI, while also getting in that same 55-65 range for runs scored. His actual 2019 projections are a .257 average with 15 home runs and 75 RBI. I think these power numbers are Crawford’s ceiling this season, however, even slightly below these totals will provide adequate production from your last selection in the draft. His value will spike a bit more in points league as he’s consistent in totaling roughly 30 doubles, and has had as many as 11 triples in one season. It’s certainly not a flashy pick, but it could pay dividends in such a thin overall position.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
Ah, the present day murderer’s row. The Bronx Bombers. The Twin Towers. The Smash Brothers. Any nickname you want to throw at the muscle-riddled Yankees probably fits nicely. What you don’t see at the face of those nicknames is the little engine that could. The table-setter at the top of the Yankees’ lineup that opposing pitchers always say is one of the peskiest hitters to face across the game.
Brett Gardner is probably the least owned player on the entire Yankees’ starting squad, including rotation and bullpen. I’ll tell you now, that does not mean he’s not a valuable fantasy option. He provides a solid average that routinely sits around .265, with a propensity to spend a lot of time on the basepaths with his keen eye for the strike zone (at least a 10.2% walk rate in seven of the past nine seasons). An on-base percentage that generally hovers in the .350-.375 range provides ample opportunity for stolen bases and runs scored.
Funny I should mention runs scored, because he will be on the basepaths in front of some of the most dominant run-producers the game of baseball has to offer. Also, let’s not forget that Gardner has had a power surge of his own of late, hitting at least 12 home runs in four of the past five years. He has found a knack to run into some classic Yankee Stadium home runs that will only increase his fantasy value. He’s especially productive in OBP-leagues should provide adequate production across the five categories regardless of the settings your league features.
His current ADP is 336.9, and is at risk of not being drafted in some leagues. Don’t let that be you. With outfielders being at such a premium with so many necessary to start each day across your leagues, it’s foolish to leave him on the board when the draft ends. His 2019 projections are a .257 average (.345 OBP) with 12 home runs, 50 RBI, 83 runs scored and 12 stolen bases; production across the board. Be the under-the-radar genius of draft day that all your friends will envy.
As follow me @joebuttgereit and the site @fansportsnerdz on Twitter for news, updates, and new articles!
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!