Seth Trachtman

Draft Strategy

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2018 Category Sleepers - BA

Thursday, December 14, 2017


It’s never too early to prepare for your draft, and some of us draft fiends are already setting our draft dates for 2018 or even drafting now. The hot stove league is just taking shape, but it’s still a fun time to look toward the 2018 fantasy baseball season.

 

For the fourth year in a row, I’ll be breaking down category sleepers at each of the 5x5 roto categories. In the first installment of the series we’ll be reviewing hitters who could be sleepers for batting average. Over 10 weeks, I will be providing a list of sleepers for each 5x5 roto category (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).  Since the hot stove league still has a long way to go this offseason, for the next few weeks we will focus on players in categories that are less based on opportunity and more based on skill.  Other roto categories that are more dependent on opportunity, supporting cast, and batting order spot (R, RBI, SB) or team and manager (W, SV) will be discussed in the latter half of the 10-week series.

 

Before reading any further, it’s important to note the definition of a sleeper. In this case, it’s a player who will exceed draft day ADP AND projections in a particular category. The players are broken down by mixed league sleepers and single league sleepers.

 

Editor’s Note: FanDuel is hosting their Super Duel for a Difference contest this Sunday, where you can win tickets to the Big Game in Minneapolis! Support a good cause and compete for an unforgettable grand prize.

 

 

Mixed League Sleepers

 

Yandy Diaz, 3B, Indians

 

Full disclosure: This isn’t the first time I’ve listed Diaz as a batting average sleeper. The last time was prior to the 2016 season as a single league sleeper, and he delivered with…zero plate appearances. But he did get a taste of the majors last year due to Jason Kipnis’ inability to stay healthy, as the Indians shifted Jose Ramirez to second base. Diaz hit just .263 in 156 at-bats, but the attraction here, as it was two years ago, is his minor league performance and splendid eye. Diaz is a career .315 minor league hitter with more walks than strikeouts, and for his career at Triple-A he’s hit .331, including .350 in 309 at-bats last season. He also has more walks than strikeouts for his minor league career, including 60/56 BB/K last season.

 

With Kipnis being mentioned in trade rumors and Carlos Santana potentially gone, Diaz could be in a position to see more playing time in 2018. He grades extremely well defensively at the hot corner, and also has experience at second base and the outfield corners. Diaz has yet to hit for much power in the minors, but there’s also reason to think his power will develop based on his frame.

 

 

Raimel Tapia, OF, COL

 

Even my five-year-old niece could forecast a strong batting average for a Rockies hitter, but Tapia’s skillset goes beyond Coors Field. A .322 minor league hitter, Tapia grades extremely well defensively and showed vast improvement in his base stealing success rate last season. Now entering his age 24 season, Tapia has hit above .300 in every minor league season since he was 18 in 2012 at the Dominican Summer League, and he also hit .288 in 171 plate appearances for the Rockies during his official rookie campaign. Tapia’s contact rate wasn’t great in the majors last season, but for his career he has a strikeout percentage that maxed out at 15 percent at Triple-A last season.

 

Obviously, the big task for Tapia will be carving out at-bats. While Carlos Gonzalez could sign elsewhere, the Rockies still have to find playing time for Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra, David Dahl, and Tapia. That’s a lot of very capable mouths to feed, but the batting average and speed upside here is worthy of a flier.

 

 

Luis Urias, SS/2B, SD

 

Urias almost certainly won’t break camp with San Diego, but arguably the team’s top position prospect will make himself known in 2018. Simply put, the 20-year-old is a sabermetrics dream. He hit .296 with 68/65 BB/K in 526 plate appearances against more advanced competition at Double-A San Antonio last season after hitting .333 with 45/37 BB/K in 545 plate appearances mostly in the High-A California League in 2016. Unbelievably, Urias has finished with more walks than strikeouts in all four of his pro seasons. He also just finished playing at the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .315 with 14/5 BB/K.

 

The rebuilding Padres have no reason to rush Urias this season, though his bat could be ready now. To save money, San Diego is likely to give Urias a midseason ETA in any case. For mixed leagues, there isn’t big upside considering that Urias had just three home runs and seven stolen bases last season. Still, the batting average could be enough to make Urias valuable at a premium position late in the summer, especially if he gets a chance to use his tremendous on-base skills at the top of the lineup.

 

 

Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers

 

Prospect fiends know all about Verdugo, a prospect the Dodgers refused to trade when they were scouring for playoff talent last season. The former second-round pick has hit .305 for his minor league career, including .314 with 52/50 BB/K in 495 plate appearances at the Triple-A Pacific Coast League last season at age 21. It was a great bounce back season after hitting .273 at Double-A Tulsa in 2016.

 

Verdugo struggled during his cup of coffee with LA in September, but that’s no reason to dock his potential. The bigger question is how the outfield-ridden Dodgers are going to find Verdugo playing time, though that’s nothing we should worry about this early in the offseason. Even with power that has still yet to develop significantly, Verdugo looks ready for the next challenge soon after a full year at Triple-A. He could be a batting average asset in 2018 with a highly advanced eye and strong batting average history.

 

 

Single League Sleepers

 

Zack Granite, OF, MIN

 

If you’re looking for a player who can make contact, there aren’t many better options than Granite. The Twins outfielder fanned only 36 times in 334 plate appearances between High-A and Triple-A last season, and his excellent contact rate carried over to the majors with only nine strikeouts in 107 plate appearances. Of course, there was a stark contrast in his on-field results, as Granite hit .340 in the minors and just .237 with the Twins. The former 14th round pick out of Seton Hall is an intriguing leadoff candidate if he gets the opportunity, with a career .293 batting average and .357 on-base percentage in the minors, along with an elite 10.2 strikeout rate. He also has speed to offer, swiping 56 bases at Double-A Chattanooga in 2016 and 18 in 76 games in the minors last year.

 

The reason Granite qualifies as only a single league sleeper is lack of opportunity. With MLB now in the juiced ball era, Granite’s complete lack of power will likely prevent him from seeing playing time regardless of his team’s depth (of which Minnesota has plenty). Still, the track record and skillset is there, resembling that of Ben Revere, another high contact, slap-hitting leadoff-type the Twins organization produced.

 

 

Ryan McMahon, 1B, COL

 

The versatile McMahon got a taste of the majors in August and September after a huge rebound season between Double- and Triple-A, hitting .355-20-88 with 11 stolen bases. The former second-round pick is no stranger to top prospect lists, but his star dimmed after hitting just .242 at Double-A Hartford in 2016. Last season we saw significant skill improvement, with McMahon’s strikeout rate declining from 30 percent in 2016 to just 18 percent in 2017. That goes a long way in explaining his big year, and provides optimism for McMahon going forward.

 

A natural third baseman, there are rightfully questions about how McMahon will find playing time this year. He saw significant time at first, second, and third base last year, and projects to be at least adequate at those spots. The Rockies don’t seem inclined to hand over the first base job to McMahon, if we can believe the free agency rumors, and second and third are held down by DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado. The versatility still increases McMahon’s chances of finding playing time somehow, and Coors Field should create greater optimism for the career .298 minor league hitter.

 

 

Jurickson Profar, OF, Rangers

 

The No. 1 prospect in baseball prior to the 2013 season, it’s hard to believe Profar will just be turning 25 in February. That age context is certainly worth remembering despite the frustration that prospect gurus have had with him over the last few years. Profar lost nearly two full years in 2014-15 due to shoulder problems, and he’s struggled in his major league opportunities over the last two seasons. Given the shoulder woes, it’s not shocking that Profar’s power hasn’t developed as hoped, but his great eye is certainly still intact. Profar has hit .286 with 59/59 BB/K in 572 plate appearances over the last two years at Triple-A Round Rock.

 

Profar has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors over the last year, with the Rangers failing to give him another significant shot in the majors. It’s easy to see why teams are interested given the prospect history, great eye, and versatility to play the infield or the outfield. At worst, the batting average skillset remains intriguing, and we’ll have to see how the rest of the offseason plays out for Profar either in Texas or elsewhere.

 

 

Tomas Telis, 1B, Marlins

 

Hey, did you hear that the Marlins are having a firesale? In situations like these, minor league veterans like Telis are usually some of the biggest beneficiaries. A natural catcher, Telis saw significant playing time at first base for Miami last season when Justin Bour was injured and hit just .240 in 104 at-bats. The reason that Don Mattingly gave Telis a chance at first base, aside from lack of alternatives, was Telis’ history as a hitter in the minors. The Venezuela native is a career .292 hitter in the minors and has hit .302 in nearly 1,200 career plate appearances at Triple-A. He has prototypically solid contact-hitting ability for a catcher, with an elite 10.2 strikeout rate at Triple-A for his career.

 

The 26-year-old could have a great opportunity for playing time in 2018 if the Marlins firesale continues. Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto have been mentioned in trade rumors, though it remains to be seen if the Marlins will pull the trigger on either player. If they do make a move, Telis is in a great position to benefit, as alternatives Austin Nola and Chad Wallach have yet to show the ability to hit at catcher, and Garrett Cooper is the only other major alternative at first base for the moment.



You can find Seth Trachtman on Twitter @sethroto.
Email :Seth Trachtman



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