3 Undervalued Fantasy Baseball Hitters to Target
With Opening Day approaching, season-long fantasy baseball drafts are well under way, and we’re now privy to some juicy information, most specifically Average Draft Positions (ADP).
With our yearly projections available, we can use both sets of data to take advantage of guys going later than they should be.
Let’s get into it.
Carlos Santana, 1B/C, Cleveland Indians
Carlos Santana had the worst season of his Big League career in 2015, slashing .231/.357/.395 in 154 games played and 666 plate appearances. His .331 Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) was the lowest of his career, as was his 110 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). It wasn’t all gloomy, as Santana hit 19 home runs and stole 11 bases, which was well above his previous career best of just 5 swipes.
Despite missing only eight games, Santana battled a bad back for much of 2015, which likely attributed to his poor numbers. Drafters this season are either worried about a repeat performance, or taking the “burn me once, never again” approach with Santana, which is beneficial for us.
According to FantasyPros, Santana is the 118th hitter off of the board, but our projections have him as the 40th best hitter heading into this season. That’s a massive differential of 78 spots.
We project Santana to improve his slash this season to .247/.362/.425 with a .344 wOBA, 132 hits, 80 runs, 20 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases, as you can see in the chart above. He’s expected to bat third for the Cleveland Indians, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to score runs and drive them in. Santana’s low average will hurt his value, but with 25 first baseman going ahead of him, and a 2016 projection that only 8 players accomplished in 2015 -- an on base percentage of .360 or better, at least 20 home runs, and at least 10 stolen bases -- Santana could be a steal in drafts.
Victor Martinez, 1B/C, Detroit Tigers
Next up is another former catcher turned designated hitter/first baseman: Victor Martinez. Speaking of career-worst seasons, V-Mart followed suit and posted his worst year as a Big Leaguer in 2015.
He slashed .245/.301/.366 with a minuscule .286 wOBA and just a 77 wRC+ in 120 games played (485 plate appearances). Injuries also hampered Martinez, as he dealt with a bum knee that he hurt during spring training. His 2015 season was even more disappointing considering his performance during the 2014 season was arguably his best ever (.411 wOBA, 32 home runs).
Similar to Santana, our projections expect Martinez to bounce back in 2016. We forecast a line of .274/.339/.416 in 559 plate appearances, with a .326 wOBA, 137 hits, 55 runs, 14 home runs, and 70 runs batted in. That's not as lofty as Santana’s projection, but Martinez has an ADP of 135, 17 spots after Santana, and a difference of 65 slots when compared to his 70th ranking on our projections.
Martinez is being selected as the 29th first basemen off of the board but is expected to bat in the middle of a powerful Detroit Tigers’ lineup and be sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez. That’s protection that few hitters will have in 2016.
To give an example of how low both Santana and Martinez are being selected, the likes of Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, Stephen Vogt, Mark Trumbo, and Byung-Ho Park are all being taken ahead of them. Our projections like both hitters better than every one of these players.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Colorado Rockies
Last up is Gerardo Parra, and unlike Santana and Martinez, he isn’t coming off of a poor offensive season by his standards.
Parra slashed .291/.328/.452 in 155 games played (598 plate appearances) in 2015, posting a .334 wOBA and a 108 wRC+ with 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases. The home runs, slugging percentage, and wRC+ were all career bests, yet Parra is being selected as the 116th hitter off of the board. Parra is the 65th-best hitter according to our projections, making for a difference of 51 spots.
We forecast a line of .279/.324/.426 with a .326 wOBA, 147 hits, 70 runs, 13 home runs, 59 runs batted in, and 17 stolen bases in 571 plate appearances. Despite a regression in certain spots, Parra’s projection is a solid one, and as the expected five-hitter for the Colorado Rockies this season, playing his home games at Coors Field should help his value.
He’s being selected as the 55th outfielder, and our projections like Parra better than several outfielders going ahead of him including, George Springer, Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Brantley, and Gregory Polanco.
A typical roster in a season-long league includes two utility spots and three outfield spots. This means that even if you select a first baseman or an outfielder early, you won’t hamstring yourself by selecting a player at the same position later in the draft.
Suggesting that Santana and Martinez are value picks doesn’t mean passing on Paul Goldschmidt in the first round -- or similarly with Parra and Bryce Harper. Drafting any of these three hitters is simply a way to ensure you’re getting value out of your later picks.
The key is to outsmart your opponents, without outsmarting yourself. Happy drafting.