Finding a few late-round gems in your 2017 fantasy baseball draft can make the difference between winning and losing your league. Let’s take a look at a several deep sleepers that you may want to take a gamble on late in your draft.
One of the game’s best power prospects gets to pay half his games at Coors Field. So why isn’t Tom Murphy being talked about more? Rockies manager Bud Black said that Murphy and Tony Wolters will have “shared duties” at catcher in 2017, but Murphy could secure the majority of time behind the plate with some slight improvements to his defense.
Murphy slashed .327/.361/.647 in the Pacific Coast League last year, but he also held his own in Denver as a September call up. Murphy is one of the few catchers with legitimate upside in 2017. And with an ADP at 224, he’s usually worth the gamble in deep or two-catcher leagues.
Broxton’s value is boosted by the scarcity of speed in baseball today. And although his ceiling is limited by outrageously high strikeout rates, Broxton is a legitimate 20-20 threat as he enters his age 27 season.
Broxton attempted a steal in one out of every nine plate appearances last year. That’s not sustainable, but his speed and Milwaukee’s willingness to let him use it (the Brewers finished 42 steals ahead of the second place team last year), gives Broxton a floor of around 30 stolen bases in 2017.
Broxton hit .294 with 8 home runs and 16 steals after the All Star break in 2016. This year, Manager Craig Counsell wants Broxton hitting in the top of the lineup – and there’s even a chance he’ll lead off. If that holds over the course of the season, Broxton could return top 30 OF value, particularly in OBP leagues.
Velasquez’s ace potential was on full display in his second career start last April, when he struck out 16 in a dominate performance over the Padres. He battled injuries and an innings cap the rest of the way, but Velazquez was one of the National League’s better pitchers on a per-game and per-inning basis in 2016.
Last year’s 3.67 xFIP and 10.44 K/9 rate suggest Velazquez is ready to enter the conversation as one of the game’s best young pitchers. Marginally improved control is the last piece. And at age 25, Velazquez is a cheap option who could easily return top 40 SP value if he stays healthy for 180 innings.
Jharel Cotton’s stuff is nasty. His 12.5% swinging strike rate is elite. But it’s hard to take away much else from his 30 MLB innings in 2016.
His .198 opponent BABIP was ridiculously low, but that 7.06 K/9 just doesn’t line up with everything else we see from Cotton’s peripherals and minor league numbers.
Ultimately, there’s no reason to think Cotton can’t return to 9.0 K/9 rates this year, and you have to give an extra boost to any pitcher making half his starts in Oakland. With 165 innings under his belt in 2016, Cotton is a pretty safe option this year considering the price tag.
Like with Cotton, it’s easy to be mesmerized by Renfroe’s flashy skill set. In this case, it’s prodigious power. Power that made San Diego use its 13th overall pick on Renfroe in 2013, and power that he’s maintained throughout much of his minor league career.
Renfroe will likely start the season as the Padres’ starting right fielder, and that will be his spot to lose in 2017 and beyond.
Know what you’re getting with Renfroe, though: a Jay Bruce-type masher who strikes out a ton and still doesn’t walk enough, but he has the kind of power that should keep him in the lineup for the perpetually rebuilding Padres. Renfroe is worthy of a late-round gamble at his current price tag, particularly for owners looking for a cheap source of power.
There’s a bit of post-hype sleeper value with Conforto, as he’s not that far removed from being one of the game’s most highly touted offense prospects. The main problem for Conforto this year is opportunity.
As it stands now, he’ll probably begin the season in AAA, as the Mets want Conforto to get regular at bats while Juan Lagares competently fills the role of fourth outfielder.
But all of New York’s starting outfielders will be on the wrong side of 30 in April. And if Bruce Curtis Granderson, or Yoenis Cespedes is forced to miss time, Conforto has the skill set to quickly prove he’s worthy of a full-time spot in the Mets’ lineup.
Lucas Duda’s lingering back problems could also force Bruce to shift to first base, so it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Conforto gets 135+ starts for New York this year. His hard hit rates are elite, hovering around 40% the last two years, and a little bit of plate discipline could go a long way. I’m taking a chance on Conforto in the reserve rounds of deep leagues, and I love his upside potential at that price.
Sandy Leon’s ADP has been falling for much of the winter. His numbers last year were inconsistent and point to at least some regression in 2016, but you could do a lot worse than Leon in a two catcher league.
As the 19th catcher off the board, Leon doesn’t need to repeat last year’s .845 OPS to return value. At the very least, he proved himself as a favorite of the Red Sox coaching and pitching staffs, and in a lineup that figures to remain one of the very best in baseball, Leon is an intriguing option in deep leagues. Just temper your expectations.
Adam Ottavino is slated to begin the year as Colorado’s closer, but he has just 11 saves across six seasons of work in the Bigs. He’s been effective in his opportunities, but I don’t think the Rockies will hesitate to turn to an experienced closer like Holland when Ottavino scuttles.
Holland missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but he’ll be 18 months removed from the procedure by Opening Day.
He was virtually lights out from 2011-2014. A significant decrease in fastball velocity led to diminished productivity in 2015, but that elbow injury was probably to blame, right? With a price tag around pick 325, I’m more than happy to take a gamble on Holland to find out.
Gone are the days when you can pencil in Huston Street for 30+ saves and 60ish appearances. He’s 33 now, and will not be on Los Angeles’ opening day roster after being shut down for 4 weeks with an arm issue in early March.
Enter Cam Bedrosian. The former first round pick posted a 1.12 ERA and 11.4 K/9 over 40 innings last year, and his sub-3 xFIP suggests the success is sustainable. The Angels will probably not win more than 85 games, but Bedrosian could feasibly nail down 30-35 saves if he gets off to a hot start in Street’s absence.
Andrew Miller is about as dominate as middle relievers get in Major League Baseball in the 21st century. In some formats, the ADP reflects that, but in others he’s going as low as pick 140.
There are few players with larger ranges of perceived value than Miller. In leagues that reward both holds and saves, it’s legitimate to consider Miller as one of the top 3 relievers off the board. In others, his value is more dependent on Terry Francona’s usage plans and on Cody Allen’s success as closer in front of him.
Miller’s value also depends on your approach toward building a pitching staff. He gives you elite ratios and can contribute to your strikeout category, but he’s no guarantee to help in wins or saves in any significant way. Andrew Miller is a much better real life option than a fantasy option at this point, but if something happens to Cody Allen he immediately becomes elite in both contexts, and would look like a steal at his current 107 NFBC ADP.