Fantasy football is finally over, and with the frustrations of a losing season finally brushed aside (how is fantasy football so HARD?!), we can start to gear up for Spring Training. As a dynasty die hard, every year I dig through hundreds of players to find the next couple of gems I can snag with late picks. Today, I’ve got five hitters and five pitchers with an average draft position on NFBC north of 350 that, if everything breaks right, can help you win a championship. The ADP’s are from January 1st onwards, so you get the most accurate ADP.
2B,3B,SS,LF,RF – Oakland Athletics – ADP: 435
Chad Pinder might not get steady playing time next year thanks to the Oakland Athletics looking like a contending team, and that could be an issue for him in fantasy circles. Thankfully, he plays almost EVERY position save for catcher (you win this round Texas Ranger Isiah Kiner-Falefa) and more importantly to fantasy, has an exciting emerging bat. Pinder has never been thought of as a particularly useful fantasy hitter, but last year some encouraging signs came to light with him. In limited action, Pinder increased his exit velocity, barrels percentage, and launch angle. He was able to increase these gains thanks to pulling the ball more, which helped him make better contact on the pitches he did hit. He also increased his walk percentage and lowered his strikeout percentages, two good signs he was seeing the ball better. All in all, Pinder showed growth you would want to see, and if playing time presented itself, could become a sneaky utility piece for your squad.
CF, RF – Cleveland Indians – ADP: 357
Leonys Martin is lucky to be alive first and foremost. Last year he was hospitalized after being acquired from the Detroit Tigers with a life-threatening bacterial infection that sidelined him most of the 2nd half, only allowing him to play six total games with the Cleveland Indians. Coming into 2019, Martin feels like he’s recovered 100% and should be part of the starting outfield for the Indians. Over the past couple of years, Leonys Martin has evolved from a slap hitter to someone who could hit for a surprising amount of pop in 2019. He’s increased his fly ball %, xSLG, and hard hit % in his limited time in 2018, showing he has some unleashed power. Much like Pinder, Martin also increased his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate in 2018. So along with the ability to steal 10-15 bases, Martin makes for an intriguing late-round option for someone that could potentially hit 20 home runs.
CF, RF – Minnesota Twins – ADP: 469
As you may have noticed, so far playing time is a big factor with these sleepers and Jake Cave might have the same issue as Chad Pinder. With Byron Buxton getting his 13th chance to prove he deserves to be the everyday center-fielder for the Minnesota Twins, Jake Cave is currently on the outside looking in with Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario firmly locked into the other two outfield spots. All it takes is an injury to Buxton or mediocre play for Cave to get a shot, and he did fairly well last year in limited playing time. What you’re getting with Cave is a lot of power, as he hit 13 home runs in 309 plate appearances, and Statcast says it was no fluke, as he’s got an xSLG of .479, which is right in line with his .473 SLG from 2018. A 33% strikeout rate is pretty rough, but this late Cave is a nice piece to stash for a bit if your benches are large enough.
CF – Cleveland Indians – ADP: 486
The Indians outfield situation is looking like a prime opportunity to snag some sleepers! Bradley Zimmer is another guy I’m looking at, but he won’t be available for opening day. This creates a buying opportunity, however, and I will gladly take advantage at pick 486. Zimmer offers an intriguing power/speed mix that is hard to find. While he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations (.237/.300/.370 slash line), he only has 135 games in the majors, so he still has a chance to adjust to MLB pitching. He also is an incredible defensive outfielder, and thanks to that, once he is back he should get a bulk of the center-field playing time. Speed, I should stress, is a major part of Zimmers game as he was in the 99th percentile in sprint speed according to Statcast last year, so he should be able to utilize this speed to his advantage (and yours).
1B/2B/3B – Arizona Diamondbacks – ADP: 394
Wilmer Flores will FINALLY get his shot in Arizona to prove he deserves steady playing time, after what seems like 10 years of the New York Mets platooning him. And to be fair, he usually deserved it, as he had difficulties hitting righties (.340 AVG vs lefties in ’16, .232 vs righties / .291 vs lefties in ’17, .262 vs righties). But last year was different; he hit righties better than lefties. While it was just a small sample size, he hit .237/.284/.326 vs lefties and .283/338/.436 vs righties which was a vast improvement. While it’s hard to trust the numbers from just last year, he did show improvement three years straight versus righties and his 6.8% walk-rate and 9.8% strikeout-rate show pretty damn good plate discipline numbers. He should have steady playing time for the Diamondbacks and Lovullo, the Diamondbacks Manager, even discussed using him in a super-utility role if needed. It wouldn’t surprise me if Flores ended up hitting 25 home runs and that’s rare to find this late.
SP – Miami Marlins – ADP: 392
WHAT!? A Miami Marlin?! Has the world ended? No, it, in fact, has not, and Richards may quite possibly be a gem the Marlins uncovered in Independent Ball three years ago. He started 25 games for the Marlins in 2018 and showed some promise, thanks to a 70-grade changeup that makes hitters look silly. My colleague Ben Palmer has touched on Richards a couple of times and, echoing what he said, if Richards can work on his fastball or slider, he could be an elite weapon. Looking at 2nd half splits can be a dangerous game but Richards vastly improved in the 2nd half, seeing his K% go up, BB% go down, hard hit % drop each month and just all around look like a better pitcher. The reasoning? After June, he started leaning on his changeup more, raising its usage percentage by over 10%. He plays in the perfect park for his fly-ball tendencies as well, so Richards is a guy I want a ton of late.
SP – Miami Marlins – ADP: 400
ANOTHER MARLIN?! Well color me surprised, maybe the Marlins won’t be so bad after all (just kidding they’re still going to be very, very bad, no matter what Jeter wants). Smith is a perfect high-upside pick, as he’s got great strikeout stuff (76th percentile K% according to Statcast) and elite fastball spin rate (79th percentile according to Statcast). His slider is especially devastating, providing a 36.5 K% with it. He gets a lot of strikeouts with the fastball (thanks to the spin rate) and his changeup is also a decent third offering, with a 16.8% swinging strike percentage in 2018. Last year, his season was cut short thanks to an oblique injury that needed season-ending surgery but he will be healthy for Spring Training.
SP, RP – New York Yankees – ADP: 467
Of course this list would have a New York Yankee on it, and Domingo German is the perfect candidate. Not only does he feature two Money Pitches in his arsenal (changeup and curveball), but he’s also one of the few next in line for innings. Gotta love Big Maple and CC Sabathia, but both guys have proven in recent history that they cannot be relied on for more than 150 innings. Enter Domingo German. German has some command issues that don’t exactly show up in the BB/9 (only 3.47 BB/9, while not great isn’t a killer) but he had a pretty outrageous 15.8% HR/FB rate. This is thanks to his delivery, as he falls off and can cause his pitches to elevate. German is a sneaky good stash on your bench as a last pitcher for the strikeout upside alone.
RP – Cincinnati Reds – ADP: 648
Amir Garrett had an interesting 2018. He seemed to have turned a corner after a pretty disastrous 2017 (7.39 FIP, ouch) and for the first three months of the year was stellar, sporting a 2.59 ERA, 10.58 K/9 and dropped his walks down to a 2.81 BB/9. However, on June 26th he was hit by a line-drive in Atlanta and afterward he didn’t look like the same pitcher when he returned from injury (7.89 ERA, 9.55 K/9, and 4.98 BB/9). While his 2nd half should have been a cause for concern, I DID find one bright spot in the final month of his season: he started throwing his slider more. Like, a lot more. His slider usage went from 29.2% in August to 47.4% in September. His slider is an ELITE pitch. Just look at it. Here it is versus a righty as well. It PLAYS. He allowed a minuscule xwOBA of .160 against it, which put him in elite-slider-company with guys like Jose LeClerc, Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, and Blake Treinen. If he can utilize his slider (a la Andrew Miller) as his main pitch, he could be an intriguing fireman type of pitcher, which would be stellar for your ratios.
RP – San Diego Padres – ADP: 496
It seems like the San Diego Padres find a new relief pitching gem every year, and last year it was Jose Castillo. Castillo last year was stellar, posting a 34.7% strikeout rate along with a 0.91 WHIP in 38.1 innings. He uses two pitches, a four-seamer that averaged 94 MPH (maxed out at 97MPH) and a wipeout slider that had an 18.1% swinging strike percentage, which is elite. Both pitches registered as above-average in pVAL (2.5 for the fastball, 7.3 for the slider) and showcased good control with them. Even with Kirby Yates more than likely having the closer gig, the San Diego Padres have been known to sell their relievers high in the past. Not to mention they view Castillo as a possible closer of the future. Castillo, like Amir Garrett, could be a good late pick for your ratios and possibly a chance at some saves.
EDIT: Well, this is unfortunate. Jose Castillo has been diagnosed with a flexor strain and should be out at minimum two months. I kinda like him as an injury stash in the deepest of leagues, but I can see a scenario where he doesn’t pitch at all this year. CURSE YOU ELBOW LIGAMENTS!
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)