At this point everyone knows who they want to target in the early rounds, but the middle/late round picks to fill out your roster can help make or break your team. Last article I explored some undervalued middle infielders that I think could be solid value picks in upcoming drafts. It felt natural to work my way inside out and cover some corner infielders that could provide a great return on investment this season. You won’t be getting much speed from these guys, but they are all capable of helping you out in various other categories.
Using Fantrax draft data again, I am looking at corner infielders with an ADP> 150.
Alright, I know what you are thinking. Mancini is currently pegged to be the Orioles left fielder this year so he shouldn’t belong on this list. That is true, but since he played 45 games at first base last year he retains 1B eligibility in all leagues and should see some action there again this year. Call him an outfielder if you please, but he is someone I am eyeing to plug in at my corner infield spot this season. Mancini put together a very strong rookie season last year, but Aaron Judge is the only AL rookie anyone seemed to care about. Not complaining, as this has allowed Mancini to remain relatively under the radar. Mancini put up an impressive .293 average to go with a .338 OBP and .488 SLG in 586 PA in just his first season. He also belted 24 home runs, while driving in 78 runs and scoring 65. Some are weary that his high ground ball tendency (51%) and strikeout rate (23.7%) combined with his .352 BABIP could mean some regression is in store. While possible, I think it is equally likely that Mancini improves aspects of his game as well. If he can sustain his 19.7% HR/FB rate, there is no reason he can’t hit 20-25 bombs this season. Hitting in the middle of the Orioles lineup should mean his counting numbers will be similar to last year. A safe average, solid amount of homers, and modest counting numbers make Mancini a great value pick for your CI slot.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .274/.325/.457, 68 R, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 2 SB in 586 PA
An NL Rookie of the Year finalist, Josh Bell also had his year overshadowed by another historic first-year performance. Cody Bellinger may have unanimously won the NL ROY, but Bell put together a season that would have given him a decent shot at winning in most years. He led NL rookies in hits and walks, while finishing second in doubles. Bell also set the NL record for most home runs by a switch-hitting rookie. He played in 159 games, putting forth a .255/.334/.466 slash to go along with 75 runs scored, 26 HR, and 90 RBI. He finished the season strong, hitting .274 in the second half while driving in 46 runs and hitting 10 home runs. His 10.6% BB rate from last year helps offset his average, giving him a boost in leagues that factor in OBP. His 51.1% ground ball rate isn’t optimal by any means, but he has shown that won’t stop him from hitting 25+ homers. His 19.1% HR/FB rate and .211 ISO are promising signs that if he can elevate the ball more, there is more potential to be tapped. He figures to be the clean-up hitter for the Pirates this season, providing him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs again. Nearly replicating his numbers from last year would make his 175.4 ADP a bargain.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .273/.354/.461, 74 R, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 5 SB in 610 PA
Some of you may want nothing to do with Bour because of the massive overhaul the Marlins roster saw this offseason. While this is a legitimate concern and puts a cap on his counting numbers, Bour fits the mold of a dependable CI this year. Bour had the best season of his career, and his final numbers are suppressed by an oblique injury that caused him to miss significant time. I see this as an opportunity to get Bour at great value, as he is capable of hitting 25-30 homers this season. After all, he hit 25 in just 108 games while driving in 83 runs and scoring 52 last season. His wRC+ of 133 shows that Bour was on pace for a monstrous season before being slowed down by that oblique injury. It is true that teams will be able to pitch around him more in a depleted Marlins lineup but I think people are putting too much weight into that. His healthy 11% walk rate gives a boost in OBP leagues and his 22% K rate didn’t keep him from putting up a solid average (.289). The average should fall slightly over a full season, but Bour should make up for that difference with his power. He makes a lot of hard contact (39%) and his increased 26% HR/FB rate mean more homers in store for Bour. His floor is safer than perceived, especially for where he is going.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .264/.342/.480, 64 R, 25 HR, 74 RBI, 1 SB in 519 PA
Suarez was already one of my favorite later round targets, even with the presence of top prospect Nick Senzel in the mix. However, Cincinnati extending Suarez with a sweet 7-year deal means they are committed to having him in their lineup. This is encouraging news as the 26-year old had a great season last year, further improving his plate discipline tremendously. His walk rate, which sat at a lowly 4.3% in 2015, drastically improved to a 13.3% mark last year. His patience and power made for a great combination last year, belting 26 home runs and getting on base at a .367 clip. He drove in 82 runs while coming around to score 87 times, hitting .260 in 156 games at third base. He is projected to hit clean up behind Joey Votto this year, which would ensure that Suarez has ample opportunities to drive in runs. The average isn’t amazing, but he has shown he has been steadily improving his offensive game. Notching 80+ RBI/runs again seems like a good bet for Suarez. Given his current draft price, he remains one of my favorite under the radar picks for this upcoming season.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .251/.337/.438, 72 R, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB in 598 PA
Typically I try to avoid guys who strikeout as much as Chapman (28.2% in 84 games in ’17), but the enticing power outweighs that concern. His .238 ISO and 14 home runs in 326 plate appearances last year is a sign of things to come for Chapman. His great defense and rebuilding A’s roster will allow him to get enough at-bats to make a big impact. Hitting 30+ bombs with a full season is very possible, as Chapman’s power ceiling is high. His 13.9% HR/FB rate may not seem like that of an elite slugger, but the reason it isn’t higher is because just over half of his batted ball events were fly balls. Lots of fly balls and strikeouts will limit his batting average (.234), but there are plenty of valuable power hitters that are a burden in average. There are concerns, but his power potential and ability to walk (9.8%) will allow Chapman to be a successful hitter at this level. At an ADP of 266, Chapman is one of my favorite late round picks if you are in need of some power and represents tons of upside.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .226/.303/.444, 68 R, 26 HR, 76 RBI, 6 SB in 566 PA
Unfortunately, the one factor that is holding Martinez back from being a fantasy baseball stud is perhaps the most important- playing time. In just 307 plate appearances last year, Martinez slashed .309/.379/.518 while adding 14 home runs, 46 RBI, and 47 runs. He is currently slotted as the teams backup first baseman behind Matt Carpenter and listed as the fourth outfielder. While not a starter, one can only assume that the Cards will be forced to give him more playing time if he continues to be a force at the plate. His 90.1 MPH average exit velocity and 37.2% hard contact rate show that Martinez’s showing last year was legit. His .379 wOBA and 135 wRC+ in ’17 are impressive, and further encouragement that his success can be sustained if given regular at-bats. His situation is one of the biggest teases in fantasy baseball. Were he a starter he would be going ~100 picks sooner. Baseball is a long season, and an injury to one of their starters would surely open the floodgates for Martinez. Even without, it will be tough for the Cardinals to keep his bat out of the lineup.
Steamer/Razzball projections: .283/.348/.435, 41 R, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 4 SB in 360 PA