Fantasy baseball drafts cannot be won in the early rounds, but they can certainly be lost. Drafts are won in the later rounds, as owners draft possible breakout performers who have immense value. Having a sense of which players are undervalued on the draft board is imperative in attempting to win a fantasy baseball league. In the following article, I have highlighted a player at each position that should get your attention on draft day after the big name players are selected.
Catcher: Jason Castro (HOU-C)
Although a 2013 All-Star, some are still probably unfamiliar with Jason Castro. Last year, he totaled 18 homeruns and 56 RBI’s quietly in only 120 games for the Astros. As with some undervalued players, Castro comes with his fair share of risks. For one, RBI opportunities are limited considering the offensive talent of those around him in Houston’s batting order. Furthermore, chronic knee issues for Castro have resulted in only 274 games played in 3 MLB seasons. Fortunately, he is only 26 and can be a potential breakout performer if he can stay healthy. Last season, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was so overwhelmed with Castro’s talent that he elected not to trade him. For the value, I think the reward outweighs the risk here for Castro. In fantasy leagues, Castro is a smart value-play that could pay large dividends if he can stay healthy this season.
First Baseman: Brandon Belt (SF-1B)
Brandon Belt had a quietly productive 2013 campaign, hitting for .289 while slapping 17 homeruns and driving in 67 runs. Belt, only 25 years old, set career highs in multiple offensive categories such as hits, doubles and homeruns, yet still seems completely undervalued in respect to where he has been drafted. Although many owners would like to see a first baseman hit more than 17 homeruns, Belt’s average and runs make up for much of that difference. Obviously the big guns at first base will absorb their rightful attention, but stashing away Belt as a backup first basemen should be strongly considered.
Middle Infielder: Jed Lowrie (OAK-2B,SS)
Jed Lowrie is my sleeper of this year’s draft. Although not the base stealer many fantasy owners expect out of a middle infielder, Lowrie’s versatility makes up for his lack of speed on the bases. Lowrie, one of the few eligible for both second and shortstop, took full advantage of his career high 662 plate appearances last season. In 2013, he displayed decent power, hitting 15 homeruns and 45 doubles. More impressively, he drove in 75 and tallied 80 runs scored. If speed can be found elsewhere in your draft, Lowrie is a feasible option in the other 4 major offensive categories.
Third Baseman: Kyle Seager (SEA-3B)
With a new and improved lineup in Seattle, I expect Kyle Seager to build on his impressive 2013 season. Although he only batted .260, Seager managed 79 runs and 69 RBI’s in an offense that ranked second last in the AL in runs scored. He homered 22 times, making it two years in a row of 20 plus homeruns. Seager’s problem deals with his home field (Safeco) as well as his struggles versus left handed pitching. As the prime of his career will soon arrive, expect Seager to continue to improve on his weaknesses, giving his already solid numbers a chance for even more improvement.
Outfielder: Nelson Cruz (BAL-OF)
After a 2013 campaign that had Cruz suspended for 50 games due to the Biogenesis case, his draft stock has taken a nasty hit. This fall has is not all warranted, and I believe he is an extremely undervalued outfielder. As he heads to Baltimore’s Camden Yards, a clear hitter’s park, Cruz can be expected to hit at least 25 homeruns. Although not expected to hit much above .260, he should finish the upcoming season with about 80 RBI’s and a handful of stolen bases, making him the perfect candidate to round out a fantasy outfield.
Starting Pitcher: Alex Wood (ATL-SP,RP)
Alex Wood comes in with an average draft position of about 223 in Yahoo leagues. This makes sense, as he had been battling with Freddy Garcia for the fifth and final spot since the start of spring training. With the recent injury scares to Brandon Beachy (who had Tommy John surgery in 2012) and Kris Medlen, however, Wood seems to have cemented his spot in the Braves starting rotation. Alex Wood, a ground ball specialist, was dominant at times in his first season in the majors. Wood struck out about one batter per inning and finished the year with an impressive 3.13 ERA. The 6’4” lefty is only 24 years old, and his potential is only just beginning to reveal itself.
Relief Pitcher: Steve Cishek (MIA-RP)
In 2013, Cishek was nearly dominant, blowing only 2 saves in 36 chances for Miami. Certainly owners would be much happier if Cishek played for a better team than the 62 win Marlins, but even the worst team in the NL gave Cishek 36 save opportunities. Last year, he boasted a 2.33 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Don’t let Cishek fall too far in your fantasy draft, because he will once again convert the save opportunities the Marlins give him.
Statistics Provided by Yahoo Sports