2018 Fantasy Baseball: Undervalued Hitters – American League
We’ve covered starting pitchers and who represent the best chance to give us value in drafts so it’s only logical to do the same with hitters. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
As before, we’re looking at a player on each team and their current ADP (Average Draft Position) from their average across ESPN, Yahoo, CBS RT Sports, NFBC and Fantrax draft data. It’s not about who will have the best fantasy season, purely who will provide best value given their draft price.
Without further ado, let’s get cracking.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles – Tim Beckham (ADP 274 – 23rd SS)
Following his trade to the Orioles, Beckham broke out with 10 homers and a .306 average in 50 games. Yes, he struck out a lot but in a hitter’s ballpark even with regression, Beckham can be a .260 with 20 homer guy, which is a pretty miserly prediction. Not many shortstops that late in drafts will produce those numbers.
Boston Red Sox – Eduardo Nunez (ADP 141 – 20th 3B and 17th 2B)
Despite a great season, the Red Sox had a few disappoints fantasy-wise. Nunez was signed in the off season and will replace the injured Pedroia to start the year. His versatility gives him a good shot at paying time throughout the year and getting a speed guy with a good average on a strong offensive team is worthy of more than a 15th round pick.
New York Yankees – Aaron Hicks (ADP 258 – 68th OF)
The lesser known Arron for the Yankees, Hicks will start the season as the everyday centre fielder aided by being a switch hitter. If by the later rounds, you don’t have any glaring shortcomings in your draft, Hicks’ “does a bit of everything” type numbers are ideal as a little boost with a little price.
Tampa Bay Rays – Mallex Smith (ADP 332 – 99th OF)
Pretty much a one trick pony, Smith has 32 steals in 497 plate appearances during his Major League career, with a .256 average. Modest numbers, but if he hits even just decently (batting over .300 this spring) he should play 140+ games and could easily steal 40 bases. A perfect candidate for late speed.
Toronto Blue Jays – Devon Travis (ADP 379 – 41st 2B)
Tabbed as the Blue Jays lead-off hitter for 2018, Travis has flashed power with a good average. In a hitter friendly environment with power behind him, a healthy Travis could put up top 12 second basemen numbers. It’s a big if given his track record but that’s more than built into his current cost.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu (ADP 37 – 6th 1B)
Arguably a victim of his own success; in his four year MLB career, Abreu has averaged 31 homers and 102 RBIs, while hitting .301. Early rounds are for stability not risks and Abreu is about the most risk averse pick there is. If you miss out on one of the top first baseman, grab Abreu in the fourth and feel good about yourself.
Cleveland Indians – Edwin Encarnacion (ADP 49 – 8th 1B)
Speaking of consistent first basemen, Encarnacion is the only current player with six straight seasons of 30+ home runs. On one of the best offenses in the Majors, Encarnacion should have no problem making that 7 straight years, while hitting a decent .260, tabling 100+ RBIs and 90+ runs. How many other guys in the fifth round will do that?
Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera (ADP 90 – 12th 1B)
I dedicated a whole article about drafting Miggy and it appears as though first base value is prevalent in the AL Central. At this point in the draft, you can take Miggy as your corner infielder, back it up with another and just bank on him staying healthy. If he does, the pay-off could be large.
Kansas City Royals – Whit Merrifield (ADP 79 – 9th 2B)
No one truly believes a full repeat of 2017 is on the cards. But even with a slight downtick; 15 homers, 30 stolen bases and a .275 average with 70 runs & RBIs is much more worthy than a late eighth round pick. A near repeat will be a Top-10 hitter again.
Minnesota Twins – Logan Morrison (ADP 273 – 32nd 1B)
Ah yes, another first baseman. This one however is on a new team, in a better ballpark for hitters and is cheaper than his AL Central counterparts. A change in approach and good health saw LoMo hit 38 homers and there’s nothing to suggest similar numbers can’t be reached. If he’s healthy, you might even see similar numbers to those put up by Encarnacion; just a whole lot cheaper.
American League West
Houston Astros – Evan Gattis (ADP 148 – 6th C)
I very rarely draft a catcher before the last few rounds, but Gattis might be the guy to tempt me to change my ways. Expected to be the Astros main DH, Gattis should get more at-bats than most catchers and despite last year, is the best power source at the position outside of the Bronx. With an average that won’t hurt and in such a good lineup, he can certainly provide more than 15th round value.
Los Angeles Angels – Ian Kinsler (ADP 171 – 21st 2B)
How many second basemen hit 20+ homers and 10+ steals in 2017? Seven. How many of those also scored 90+ runs? Three; Kinsler being in that group. Now in Anaheim, hitting in front of Mike Trout, his batting average decline can be contributed in part to bad luck. Many paths to value way more than the 18th round he’s going in.
Oakland Athletics – Matt Chapman (ADP 300 – 28th 1B)
Matt Olson took the plaudits last year, but opposite the diamond was another star in the making. His plus defense will keep Chapman in the lineup and he’s got enough power to provide fantasy help. The batting average needs to be taken into consideration but with the last pick of the draft; plenty of value can be had.
Seattle Mariners – Mitch Haniger (ADP 251 – 65th OF)
Haniger was a “trendy sleeper” in 2017 and showed why early on. Injury cost him a few weeks before he got plunked in the face and missed more time later on. Despite those setbacks, Haniger hit .282 with 16 homers in around two thirds of a season. Now forgotten about, there’s no reason he can’t offer a repeat across a full season.
Texas Rangers – Joey Gallo (ADP 116 – 14th 1B & 3B)
A real threat to take the home run crown away from New York, news of Gallo hitting second in the Rangers’ lineup further boosted his value. In OBP leagues, Gallo is arguably a top-20 pick and in standard leagues it’s only his batting average which holds him back. If you’ve constructed your roster well enough to take a batting average hit, go all in on Gallo.