Drafting your fantasy baseball team is all about finding value with each pick. There are value picks for each hitting category you can find in your draft.
Fantasy baseball leagues are constructed so many ways. That’s one of my favorite parts of the game. One of the things commissioners have control over are the scoring categories. You want to draft the best team that will contribute to as many categories as possible.
When drafting, you obviously target the best player available at the time. Even if you are slacking in one area, you don’t pass on the top-rated player at the time. You can make up the difference later, and that’s what this piece is about.
The five main hitting categories are runs, home runs, RBIs, steals and batting average. The league has seen an increase in power over the last couple of seasons. You can find power hitters throughout the draft. Speed is at a premium, though, so finding 30-steal guys will be difficult. What I will provide are a couple of runners that can add another 15 to 20 steals.
Batting average is tough to project. It all depends on playing time and how well the batter makes contact. A batter can go 1-for-3 each week, .333, but that doesn’t help much when he’s getting only three at-bats per week. You want someone with consistent playing time.
RBIs and runs are team-dependent stats. In order for a batter to drive in runs, his teammates need to get on base. If a batter is constantly at the plate with bases empty, his RBIs are going to be low. The same can be said for runs. If your batter gets on base but his teammates leave him stranded at second or third, he’ll score just 30 runs this season.
I chose two players for each category. Each hitter has an ADP of at least 300.0, a 25th round pick in 12-team leagues. That’s where you get your difference makers.
Runs are one of the counting stats that have a couple of different factors. I mentioned one in the intro, well-hitting teammates behind him. It also requires the hitter to get on base and in scoring position. Both hitters listed have good on-base percentages, making them good candidates to score a lot of runs.
Ketel Marte (ARI) – Marte is listed as the seventh hitter in the Diamondbacks batting order. With the hitters he has in front of him, he could be a good source of RBIs, too. However, Marte had a .345 on-base percentage. He scored just 30 runs in 73 games last season. With David Peralta and AJ Pollock hitting atop the order, Marte should score close to 65 runs over a full season. He has a 414.0 ADP, according to FantasyPros.
Brandon Belt (SF) – The Giants added two star hitters to their lineup in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. With Buster Posey still in the lineup, Belt will have a lot of chances to score. He’s hitting fifth in a much-improved lineup. He scored 63 runs in 104 games last year. Belt’s projected to score between 70 and 85 runs. As a 26th round pick, that’s excellent production.
Anyone you draft late in order to help with home runs will likely tank your batting average. So, it’s important to draft your contact hitters first and build a nice buffer early. That allows you to draft those 25 HR/.240 hitters later and still be competitive in both categories. There are a lot of 20-home run hitters, 117 last season to be exact. Guys like Ian Happ and Hunter Renfroe hit at least 24 homers. Who are the Happs and Renfroes of this season?
Scott Schebler (CIN) – Schebler crushed 30 home runs in his first full season with the Reds. He hit just .233, so he’s one of those high-power, low-average hitters that you have to watch out for. Hitting at Great American Ballpark for half of his game benefits Schebler’s power potential. He does strike out a lot, hurting his value in points leagues. Schebler has a 378.0 ADP. With another 30 homers line up, I’ll take the .240 average that late in the draft.
Matt Davidson (CWS) – The White Sox don’t have the best offense by any means but there are some value picks hidden in this lineup. After Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada, you can wait until after pick 200 to draft your next Chicago hitter. In 118 games, Davidson hit 26 home runs with a .220 average. He had a 37.2 strikeout rate, so the front office might want to look elsewhere for their third baseman. But, if you need a couple of home runs per week, Davidson is available after pick 450.
The two players I list as my RBI value picks are apart of offenses that have a chance to surprise a lot of people. The A’s have a few power hitters at the heart of their lineup. The Phillies added Carlos Santana to compliment their young core. With the players around them, the two hitters here will drive in a good amount of runs.
Matt Joyce (OAK) – Joyce had his best RBI season last year with 78. It’s rare for a hitter to drive in that many runs from the first or second spot. The downside is that he has big lefty/righty splits which may affect his playing time. Though, with the hitters batting ahead of him in the order, Joyce can drive in another 70 runs throughout the season. His power and walk rate help keep him in the lineup.
Nick Williams (PHI) – Williams had a hot summer but there were some negatives to his game. He had a 0.21 BB/K rate and a 49.5 percent groundball rate. Those numbers don’t matter when you are solely looking for RBIs. As the Phillies projected No. 5 hitter, he has a few hitters ahead of him he can drive home. Rhys Hoskins was another rookie that exploded onto the scene. They also signed Santana to take over first base. Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera are expected to hit close to .290. As long as Williams has a spot in the lineup, he can drive in another 60 runs as the 343rd pick.
This is a tough category to draft for. Batters go into slumps, tanking their average in the process. If three or four of your hitters have poor averages, it will take a lot to get it back to the top three in your league. That’s why it’s important to draft more high-average hitters early. If not, you can still find these guys at the end of your draft.
Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) – Chisenhall was on pace to have a career year but played just 82 games. He finished with a .288 average in that span. As the Indians starting right fielder, he’ll have the chance to pick up where he left off. The AL Central doesn’t feature the best starting pitching, giving the 29-year-old plenty of matchups he can take advantage of this season. Chisenhall hit .280 just three times in his career. I think he can get close to it again. And, with a 468.0 ADP, drafting a .270 hitter is a great value.
Adam Frazier (PIT) – Even with trading McCutchen, Frazier doesn’t have a starting job. The trade traded for Corey Dickerson last month, taking over left field. Frazier is the Pirates fourth outfield but will carve out a role for himself. He isn’t a power hitter, just six home runs last season, but makes good contact. He hit .276 in 406 at-bats last year. I think the Pirates trade either Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco, making room for Frazier. If so, he’ll get more playing time. If not, he can still hit .280 in 350 at-bats. With a 514.0 ADP, Frazier will be widely available.
Finding stolen bases after pick 250 is the most difficult of the five categories. If you miss out on any of the top base stealers, you might as well punt the category.
However, if you’re looking for a couple of runners to compliment your 20-steal guys, then you can find them late. Instead of wasting, yes I said wasting, an early pick on Billy Hamilton, you can stack a few double-digit runners and get the same production.
Mallex Smith (TB) – The Rays sending Steven Souza to the Diamondbacks gave Smith a starting job this season. In his limited playing time last year, he stole 16 bases. He stole another 21 in Triple-A last year. The Rays will not be competing for much this season, so I would expect the managers to let him run anytime he gets on base. His .329 OBP is a good start. With a full season lined up, Smith can steal 30 bases as a 31st round pick.
Cameron Maybin (MIA) – Maybin signed with the Marlins last month after they traded away all three of their starting outfielders. He has 164 career steals, including 33 between the Angels and Astros last year. Like the Rays, the Marlins don’t have much to play for this season. Maybin will be a cheap source for another 25 to 30 steals. He’s a 32nd round pick in 12-team leagues. The Marlins have a serviceable team, barring any more trades.
When drafting, you want to take all the stars you can get to help with all of the categories. Though, you will fall behind in one or two stats while focusing on another position or stat. Luckily, you can catch up late in the draft or on the waiver wire in the first week. These 10 players are rosterable in deep-league formats. They all provide some value in some form or fashion.