Fantasy Baseball: Brandon Drury Could Be a League-Winning Late-Round Pick
What's forgotten about the Arizona Diamondbacks trade of Jean Segura for Taijuan Walker in November 2016 was less about the trade itself, but the spot that it opened up for utility player Brandon Drury. In fact, some folks may even be wondering who Drury is.
A 13th-round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 MLB Draft, Drury's first significant action came last season, and he produced in a big way. Drury socked 31 doubles and 16 homers in 499 plate appearances, mostly spelling Jake Lamb at third base and seeing some time in the outfield, as well, on his way to a .282 batting average.
Now with Segura out of the picture, it appears that Drury is set to take over the role. Can he shine in full-time duty?
Major Pop in That Bat
Drury showcased part of his promising future by playing all over the field. He made 62 starts in left, 29 at third, and another 16 at second base. An infielder by trade, Drury adapted to the utility role last year as the team was desperate to get his bat in the lineup.
Despite all of the multi-positional eligibility, Drury is only the 60th outfielder off the board in National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts. His low draft slot is not for a lack of power as he's displayed some serious pop throughout his minor league career, and it carried over to the bigs in 2016.
Drury's power slipped a bit in 2015, but it returned to a very healthy level last season as a member of the big-league club. And at home, Drury was fantastic as he logged a .932 OPS in 232 plate appearances at Chase Field in 2016.
Lineup Position Matters
Assuming Drury sees regular playing time, it's not only the fact that he will be playing that is important, but it's also crucial to attempt to know where he will slot in the lineup. Especially in rotisserie or Ottoneu leagues, where counting stats are of even bigger importance towards season-long totals, the higher up the spot in the order, the better.
Using spring training as one barometer can give us a glimpse into this year's lineup construction. The World Baseball Classic has thrown a wrench in things, as teammate Paul Goldschmidt is off representing Team USA, but it is interesting that Drury has been batting third in Goldschmidt's absence. When Goldschmidt was playing, Drury had been batting second or fifth. If this trend carries over into the regular season, he will have a great spot in the lineup in which to produce.
Improving Upon 2016
Two major factors stick out in potential further development for Drury to build on last season's numbers, which is what general manager Mike Hazen hopes for in 2017.
Drury showed outstanding improvement in his plate discipline between the two halves of last year. He started with a pretty mediocre walk rate of 4.6% in the first half, but Drury ratcheted things up a notch to an 8.1% walk rate in the back half. It's no surprise that Drury's wRC+ jumped up 21 points -- up to 113 -- in those final 213 plate appearances.
The second is a power-to-all-fields approach that Drury showcased last season.
While his homers were primarily of the pulled variety, a look at his batted-ball statistics show that 13 of his doubles were to center or right field.
A Great Option at a Cheap Price
All the stars seem to be aligned for Drury in 2017. He plays in a great park, one that ranked second in ESPN's park factors in 2016, for runs and power. He's at an extremely affordable price as the 250th pick overall. And he appears to be slotted in a perfect slot in a powerful lineup.
Keep in mind that Drury will start the year with third base and outfield eligibility, and he should quickly add second base eligibility to the mix. That roster flexibility is an underrated aspect in today's fantasy baseball world.
While Drury does have only 558 major league plate appearances, his strong power, improving plate discipline and batted-ball profile hint at some major upside. He's a cheap late round flier with big upside.