Sure, it’s really hard to draft Kris Bryant, Buster Posey, and Max Scherzer to your fantasy team. Those guys obviously are big pieces but they aren’t the deciding factors to whether or not you win a fantasy title at the end of the year. You were drafting Trevor Story last year before round 10? Were you even contemplating Rick Porcello has a SP1 or SP2? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So what I’m here to help with is those guys that you can find later on. When you get to those middle and late rounds and the easy picks are gone, where do you go? Let me help.
Catcher: Tom Murphy – Rockies
Now listen, you probably have never heard of Murphy and when you go to google him you’ll look at his numbers and ask why I’m even bringing him up, so let me explain. In the last two seasons, Murphy has played in a combined 32 games with a total of 79 at-bats. He’s totaled 21 hits in that time, eight of which have left the park. Murphy is still only 25 and with Nick Hundley gone, Murphy will now get regular playing time. Murphy has legit power and playing half his games at Coors Field, a 30 home run season isn’t completely out of the question. You know how many catchers hit 30 home runs in 2016? One, and it wasn’t Buster Posey, Wilson Contreras, Gary Sanchez, Jonathan LuCroy, or any other catcher you’ll probably draft early on. It was Evan Gattis who isn’t even really a catcher. So if you want a back up catcher you can grab late with legit power, Murphy is your guy.
First Base: Greg Bird – Yankees
Bird came on the scene back in 2015 when he played in 46 games for the Bombers and totaled 11 home runs on 41 hits. Bird then needed shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and missed the entire 2016 season. Out of site and out of mind for most fantasy owners, Bird will hang around awhile. Now not having played baseball in over a year tends to make expectations a little tepid, however with Mark Teixeira retired, Bird will be able to assume his spot back at first base only giving way on occasion to Tyler Austin. Assuming there are no lingering affects from the shoulder injury, Bird is a lock for 20 home runs and the short porch of Yankee Stadiums make 30 not unreasonable to think either.
Second Base: Jonathan Schoop – Orioles
People are starting to come around to Schoop so he won’t last as long as he may have a year or two ago but with the likes of Altuve, Cano, Dozier, Murphy and others, Schoop figures to last a bit on the draft board. Schoop is just another example on this list of a guy who will give you similar production to these other guys at you can draft him later or pay less if you’re doing an auction. Last season, Schoop hit 25 home runs, only five second baseman hit more. His 82 RBIs ranked 7th, the same number Jason Kipnis had, and more than Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, DJ LeMahieu or Starlin Castro. Schoop is another young guy, 25, and coming off his best season, similar numbers can be expected.
Shortstop: Marcus Semien – Athletics
Ok, let me preface this pick by saying that if your league counts defense in any way than steer clear of Semien. However, if we’re purely scoring based off what your guys do with the bat, than Semien is your guy. Last year, Semien hit 27 home runs, more than guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Corey Seager, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa to name a few. Only Trevor Story hit as many (would’ve hit more if not for getting hurt) and as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, you didn’t have him on your radar last year either. Semien will do you no favors in the batting average department and he strikes out a good amount, but it’s hard to be picky when you can get the top five power at a position probably in round 10 or later.
Third Base: Mike Moustakas – Royals
Now Moustakas probably has the biggest name appeal on our list thus far but much like Greg Bird, he may be out of sight out of mind to fantasy owners. Moustakas played in just 27 games last season before going down with a torn ACL. Now Moustakas doesn’t have the greatest track record, just two seasons with 20+ home runs and 70+ RBIs, but there are a few reason why he’s my pick here. First off, Moustakas is a free agent following the season and guys always tend to perform well in their walk year. Secondly, going into last season Moustakas was coming off a career year in which he posted highs in both home runs (22) and RBIs (82) along with a career best .284 average which was .72 points higher than the previous season. Moustakas is the oldest guy in this group so far, 28, but signs of him learning have shown. Following that career year in 2015, Moustakas had started 2016 walking more, striking out less, and hitting for more power than we had seen from him yet. If he can pick up where he left off, he could be a steal once the big guys come off the board.
Outfielder – Carlos Beltran – Astros
Name appeal isn’t lacking when we talk about Carlos Beltran. While he maybe more considered a DH at age 39, he still plays enough outfield to have eligibility and thus he makes our list here. What is there to say about Beltran, the story is the same every year. You draft guys like Stanton, Harper, Upton, Cespedes, etc. early on and then somewhere in the middle rounds you’re looking to just fill a spot and Beltran’s name is on your screen and you grab him cause it’s name notoriety. Then you look up at the end of the season like last year and Beltran has given you 29 home runs and 93 RBIs which is better than Adam Jones, George Springer, Bryce Harper, Carlos Gonzalez, and Andrew McCutchen to name a few. Beltran is Mr. Consistency and he now goes to Houston in a lineup where driving in runs will be at a premium. He won’t get drafted early cause he’s 39, but you can draft him later on and get the production of a 29 year old.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Harvey – Mets, Lance Lynn – Cardinals, Garrett Richards – Angels
It was really hard for me to pin this to one name and all three of these guys are in the same situation so figured let’s not just use them all. Harvey is the one guy on this list I’m not sure how fantasy owners feel yet. He’s a huge name and the upside is tantalizing yet well the down year and injury be enough to have owners shy away? I’m guessing it will be and hence he’s on this list. Listen, Sonny Gray and Chris Archer both had miserable years last year and because of their upsides and age will still be taken early this year because they both stayed healthy for the most part. Harvey, on the other hand, supposedly fully recovered from Tommy John with no restrictions made just 17 starts in which he went 4-10 before going down for the year with thoracic outlet syndrome. I don’t think I need to go into what Harvey was or can be, the guy was the starting pitcher at the all-star game just a few years ago. He’s risk/reward but the further he falls the reward becomes just that much greater.
Lance Lynn is coming off Tommy John surgery so some restriction may come with him and the first year back is always a little sketchy as far as results. However, Lynn is on a Cardinals team that needs rotation help and lacking a true ace, Lynn once was and could return to that spot. Let’s not forget, before the surgery, Lynn had four straight double-digit win seasons and won as many as 18 games. His ERA the two years before the surgery were 2.74 and 3.03 and he’s close to a K per inning guy. Again it’s risk/reward but Lynn should get every opportunity to show he can regain his form in that Cardinals rotation.
Lastly we get to Garrett Richards. In 2014, Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA and then he followed it up in 2015 going 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA. He was pitching well to start 2016 until he partially tore his elbow ligament after making just a half dozen starts. He didn’t need surgery on his elbow and he’s back for spring training and ready to reassume his spot as ace of the Angels rotation. Richards again follows the out of sight, out of mind theory but assuming he’s healthy there’s no reason to think Richards won’t give you double digit wins and somewhere between 160-180 strikeouts.
Reliever – Hector Neris – Phillies
Relievers are the most volatile position in fantasy. Typically, there is always at least one guy who ends up as a top end fantasy reliever who was on no one’s radar at the beginning of the year. Neris could be that guy this year and let me explain why. Most people won’t look to draft Neris because he’s not the closer. Jenmar Gomez did a great job as the Phils closer last season and now with Joaquin Benoit in the mix, it would seem Neris is pushed down even further from the closer’s role. However, Neris has the best stuff of the group and there is already talk of a closer competition in spring training. He struck out 11 per nine last season and 102 in 80 1/3 overall. Gomez stumbled down the stretch and doesn’t have overpowering stuff and while Benoit may have the strikeout stuff to match Neris, he’s only saved double digit games in a season twice. I fully expect Neris to be the Phillies closer come opening day and his elite fantasy status only to rise once he takes off with it.