Once upon a time in March, while ramping up to the previous start to the regular season, I put out this article on late-round hitters to target for specific categories. While some of it still applies to our shortened season, *cough* Adam Eaton *cough*, there are some players who have emerged as contenders. Next week, I’ll attempt to wade through the sh!t-show that is pitching categories. As more and more news emerges that indicates most starters will be throwing about 60 pitches per start to start the year, things will certainly be hairy. Let’s get to the hitters!

 

Homer Heroics

The top of the mountain for home runs in our shortened season is just 16. Homers aren’t as hard to find as stolen bases, but if you find yourself in a place where you spent an early pick on Adalberto Mondesi or Jonathan Villar, here are a couple of later options to take a look at.

Paul DeJong, SS – ADP 186, 11 HR – I feel like my entire 2020 fantasy season will live and die on a handful of players and DeJong is one of them. He shows up as an above-average performer in homers, runs, and RBIs.

C.J. Cron, 1B – ADP 197, 11 HR – Who doesn’t want the projected cleanup hitter for the Tigers?? In all seriousness, 1B falls off a cliff hard, so if you miss out on the position or are looking for a quality MI, Cron’s your man.

Rougned Odor, 2B – ADP 234, 10 HR – I’m not sure any single player benefits more from a shortened season than Odor. He was on a short leash coming into the year, but now that we’ve only got 60 games, I’d expect him to get the full run. Yes, the average is going to be what it is, but he’ll chip in with the power and a handful of steals.

Justin Smoak, 1B – ADP 260, 10 HR – I dove into Smoak two weeks ago as a super-duper post-hype sleeper. He’s also an NL batter that should benefit from extra plate appearances from the DH.

 

Run Creators

Mike Trout leads the way of the projections in runs scored with 45. When looking to catch up in runs, I’m looking for guys that are hitting towards the top of their lineup and have good plate skills. Getting on base is the first step into crossing home plate. Two guys not named below that I like a lot for this category are Adam Eaton and Kolten Wong. Eaton is expected to bat second for the Nats, while Wong will leadoff for the Cardinals. Let’s take a look at a couple of other options to help catch you up in runs scored.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF – ADP 228, 32 R – Choo’s been overlooked for a couple of years now, but he’s managed to hold an OBP of above .370 each of the last two years. He’s projected to bat leadoff for the Rangers. Choo won’t kill you in any category either, as he’ll chip in a handful of steals and homers along the way.

Andrew McCutchen, OF – ADP 178, 31 R – McCutchen was killing it out of the leadoff spot for the Phillies last year when a torn ACL in early June ended his 2019 campaign. Maybe it’s fate, but in 59 games last year he put up a .378 OBP (thanks to a 16.4% BB%) and scored 45 runs. That number would tie him with projected league leader, Mike Trout. McCutchen is back in the leadoff spot for the Phils, making him a target for me once we get into those mid-to-late rounds.

Joey Votto, 1B – ADP 204, 32 R – I know Votto is boring, but his skill set fits our requirements. The power is gone, but the plate discipline skills are still somewhat there despite a down 2019. Votto acknowledged his down 2019 and has the baseball IQ to adjust back to success.

Brandon Lowe, 2B – ADP 206, 29 R – The latest in my cheap leadoff hitter, Lowe fits my targets. Lowe had his 2019 season cut short, but in 76 games before the All-Star Break, he batted .276 with 16 homers. That’s no one-trick pony.

 

RBI Machines

RBIs are a tough category to predict, so I  like to target cheap batters hitting in the middle of lineups. The following fit that category.

Paul DeJong, SS – ADP 186, 33 RBI – DeJong makes his second appearance. Don’t ignore the value. With a 60-game season, if he catches fire as he did in April of last year, he could be a league winner that you get in the later rounds.

C.J. Cron, 1B – ADP 197, 32 RBI – Still don’t want the Tigers’ cleanup hitter?

Kyle Seager, 3B – ADP 246, 29 RBI – Oh, here’s a blast from the past! Seager is penciled in to bat third for the Mariners and while the team isn’t projected to be a world-beater, hitting third should provide Seager with a decent opportunity to knock in runs.

Eric Hosmer, 1B – ADP 222, 29 RBI – Hosmer is so boring, but he comes with a safety blanket. He won’t kill you in any category.

 

Master Thieves

With just six batters projected to reach double-digits in steals, stolen bases become an even more attractive stat to punt in head-to-head categories leagues. However, when I choose to punt a stat, I like to take some big hacks on players that could fill that need later in drafts.

Kolten Wong, 2B – ADP 235, 6 SB – Wong has been one of my favorite later-round targets and that continues into our shortened season. He’s slated to lead off for the Cardinals and his six steals are tied for the 22nd best projection. He should provide you with decent run production as well and won’t kill you in batting average.

Cameron Maybin, OF – ADP UD, 5 SB – You might see a pattern here of cheap leadoff hitters that will chip in a handful of stolen bases. Maybin is slated to bat leadoff for the Tigers and let’s call a spade a spade, the Tigers have nothing to lose. Maybin’s sprint speed lands him in the 87th percentile, which gives him some upside on that five stolen base projection. The fact that Maybin is going undrafted is just the cherry on top for me.

Harrison Bader, OF – ADP UD, 4 SB – Bader’s slated to bat ninth in the new DH filled National League, which breaks my trend. Cardinals HC Mike Shildt was very aggressive on the basepaths, which is another reason I’m targeting Wong and Bader. On top of having an aggressive head coach, Bader’s sprint speed lands him in the top 2 percentile in the league. Bader’s defense will keep him in the lineup, making him a super late target of mine to grab a handful of steals.

Shogo Akiyama, OF – ADP 255, 4 SB – The Reds are another team that greatly benefits from the new NL DH. Their once crowded outfield now has an extra option for filling. Akiyama is kind of an unknown, but Roster Resource has him slated to leadoff for the Reds. He’s also projected to get on base at a .350 clip, which should provide for A) lots of stolen base opportunities and B) plenty of opportunities to score runs.

 

Average Boosters

Finding batting average boosters later in drafts is a tough deed, but there are a handful. The tricky part is finding batters that aren’t just an empty batting average. The following do a decent job of providing amble average while chipping into the other categories.

Luis Arraez, 2B/OF – ADP 198, .312 AVG – While Arraez doesn’t add much in the power and speed categories, he’s a game-changer when it comes to batting average. The part of his projection that I’m not sure I agree with is the runs and RBIs being at just 21 and 22, respectively. If Arraez gets on base at a .370 clip, I have a hard time seeing him only crossing the plate 21 times in that potent Minnesota lineup.

Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B – ADP 251, .308 AVG – Kendrick has gone on a roller coaster ride this year. His draft stock fell following the Nats adding Asdrubal Cabrera and Starlin Castro. However, now that the NL has the DH and Ryan Zimmerman has decided to sit out the year, Kendrick is back baby!

Alex Verdugo, OF – ADP 219, .307 AVG – Verdugo is another who’s draft stock should be heading in the other direction. He was expected to miss a big chunk of the year with a stress fracture in his back, but thanks to the delay, is expected to be back once the season starts up.

Have any other late-round category targets that are flying under the radar? Throw them in the comments section and we’ll keep this conversation going until baseball actually returns!

 

 
  1. Ellis says:
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    Gregory Polanco

    • Richardo

      Richardo says:
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      I was catching up on Jeff Zimmerman’s articles over on Fangraphs and this note stood out –

      “Josh Bell came away from Saturday’s workout raving about Gregory Polanco, saying the right fielder had “the most impressive workday that I’ve seen Polanco have since last year.”

      Polanco launched batting-practice homers to all fields, splashed a few in the Allegheny River and then — perhaps most importantly, given the lingering uncertainty about his surgically repaired shoulder — fired throws from right field to third base.

      “That was the best I’ve seen his arm since surgery,” Bell said. “As long as he can backspin the ball, it’s going to be right on target. So I’m excited for the player. I’m excited to watch him this year. I’m excited to hit in front of or behind him. There’s going to be a lot of runs to be scored.”

      I hope he can stay heathy for the short season run.

      • Ellis says:
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        That’s what I saw too!

        • Richardo

          Richardo says:
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          Polanco tested positive for COVID. Why can’t we have nice things???

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