With the exception of the singular Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, every elite player has a poor man’s version that can offer comparable fantasy value at a huge discount. In real life, a poor man’s sushi would be something like supermarket-packaged raw salmon—significantly cheaper and a little bit risky, but still gets the job done.
If you are a rich man, you can splurge for the sushi boat, but fantasy baseball is all about squeezing value out of every player. For the purpose of this made up exercise, I have set the cutoff for a poor man’s candidate at below 200 ADP according to fantasypros.com. Projections are all courtesy of Steamer.
Poor man’s: Travis d’Arnaud — 16 HR 54 RBI 2 SB .251 AVG .311 OBP
Rich man’s: Yan Gomes — 17 HR 59 RBI 1 SB .257 AVG .304 OBP
It was not too long ago that d’Arnaud was demolishing AAA to the tune of a 21/.333/.380 line—good enough to land the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey after his Cy Young season for the Mets in 2012. He has the pedigree and the talent to put it all together and become one of the top 10 fantasy catchers this season. Gomes is a quality offensive catcher, but the hype after his breakout 2014 has inflated his value well beyond what he is worth.
Poor man’s: Steve Pearce — 19 HR 62 RBI 4 SB .270 AVG 348 OBP
Rich man’s: Albert Pujols — 24 HR 83 RBI 3 SB .268 AVG .328 OBP
Despite a monster first half last season, Steve Pearce is still criminally underrated going into 2015. Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado are still the stars in Baltimore, but Pearce is actually projected to post the highest wRC+ of any Oriole this season. After last year’s breakout, Buck Showalter will find a way to fit his bat into the heart of a dangerous lineup on a daily basis, so I will take the over on his projected counting stats.
Poor man’s: Marcus Semien — 15 HR 56 RBI 8 SB .239 AVG .311 OBP
Rich man’s: Brian Dozier — 16 HR 64 RBI 16 SB .241 AVG .319 OBP
Brian Dozier was my favorite waiver wire pick-up last year, but if you are looking for a second baseman that can contribute to every category, Marcus Semien is much more affordable. He projects to hit for around the same AVG and OBP, and while the steals might not be as plentiful, I would rather have the guy batting in the revamped White Sox lineup than a guy languishing in the anemic Twins offense.
Poor man’s: Pedro Alvarez — 23 HR 69 RBI 5 SB .241 AVG .314 OBP
Rich man’s: Kyle Seager — 20 HR 76 RBI 7 SB .262 AVG .321 OBP
The burly third baseman they call “El Toro” has the raw power and potential to deliver the first 40+ HR season for the Pirates since the days of Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell. His batting average will always be a liability, but besides that his projected production is eerily similar to fifth round darling Kyle Seager.
His power numbers took a step back last season, but he cut down his strikeout rate by 5% and increased his walk rate by 3%, both encouraging signs for a rebound this season. If he can get regular at-bats in the Pittsburgh lineup, Alvarez will be the cheapest source of home runs in the draft.
Poor man’s: Erick Aybar — 7 HR 54 RBI 14 SB .271 AVG .311 OBP
Rich man’s: Alexei Ramirez — 11 HR 60 RBI 17 SB .266 AVG .300 OBP
Nothing about Erick Aybar is sexy, but when you add up all the little things he does so well you begin to wonder why he is so consistently underrated. He won’t give you power, but he’s a lock to provide above average production in just about every other category. You can draft Alexei Ramirez nine rounds earlier, but after posting an ISO below .100 in 2012 and 2013, I’m not buying his sudden power rebound last season.
Poor man’s: Oswaldo Arcia — 22 HR 66 HR 3 SB .258 AVG .318 OBP
Rich man’s: Nelson Cruz — 26 HR 79 RBI 3 SB .250 AVG .309 OBP
I probably do not have to tell you this, but there is not a hitter in baseball (besides The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton) that could replicate a 40 home run season after moving from Camden Yards to Safeco Park. As a player who derives most of his value from hitting home runs, I would be nervous about buying Nelson Cruz this season.
If you are looking for cheap power and are not worried about the strikeouts, young Twins slugger Oswaldo Arcia is your man. His projected line is comparable to Cruz’s, and he should cut down on his K% after a year of big league experience under his belt.
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Poor man’s: Brandon McCarthy — 11-10 3.42 ERA 3.39 FIP 1.16 WHIP 177 IP 7.24 K/9
Rich man’s: Gerrit Cole — 11-10 3.57 ERA 3.39 FIP 1.22 WHIP 176 IP 8.24 K/9
Gerrit Cole has the electric fastball and the pedigree to be a dark horse Cy Young candidate going into 2015, but aside from the strikeouts, he projects to be around the same—if not worse—than the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy. While McCarthy’s has not posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2012, his FIP has remained consistently in the 3.50-3.70 range over that time frame.
Poor man’s: Brett Cecil — 26 SV 3.12 ERA 3.12 FIP 1.18 WHIP 10.28 K/9
Rich man’s: Cody Allen — 33 SV 3.14 ERA 3.18 FIP 1.17 WHIP 10.66 K/9
With Marcus Stroman out for the season and Aaron Sanchez needed at the back of the Jays’ rotation, Brett Cecil will not have much competition for the closer gig in Toronto. He had posted the best numbers of his career across the board in 2014, and with a stronger infield defense behind him, he should be able to match Cody Allen’s save total with similar ratios.
Mar 25, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Mets catcherTravis d’Arnaud
(7) hits a RBI single during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports