2023 Early Draft Bargain Hitters

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

A quick little lineup of hitters with some upside given their current draft price (Oct thru mid-Nov):

CATCHER

Jonah Heim | TEX | 286th ADP; 18th C

Finished as 14th C on Auction Calculator

Heim was pacing toward a helluva season (18 HR, .263 AVG) before the bottom absolutely fell out in the final two months. Sure, some of it was regression from his .785 OPS through July but this was egregious. He hit .157/.244/.286 from August on with a comically low .167 BABIP. Even as a flyball pull hitter (a rough combo for BABIP), this is just absurd. This feels like small sample bad luck as both his K% and BB% rates were incrementally better in the ugly stretch. The fall-off paired with a catching boom has pushed Heim down to the 18th C off the board, a price I’m more than willing to pay as I think he’s a top 15 C with top 10 upside.

FIRST BASE

Brandon Drury | FA, 1B/2B/3B elig. | 182nd ADP; 18th 1B

Finished as 5th 1B on Auction Calculator

Drury had a huge season, propped up by his work in Cincinnati (20 HR, .855 OPS) and while he was a good bit worse in San Diego (8 HR, .724 OPS), he was still 15th in wRC+ among 1B and had 26 HR and 92 RBI paces over 600 PA. Obviously his landing spot will play a role in overall interest, but even in a neutral park, he is a triple-eligible infielder (1B/2B/3B) with legit power. Unless he lands somewhere super-friendly like Colorado, I don’t see a major price spike. I don’t usually buy high on these out of nowhere breakouts, but I think his price is pretty fair.

Bonus: If you’re a Joey Meneses fan (I’m a bit more skeptical myself), you are thrilled with his Steamer projection (.264 AVG, 29 HR, 91 RBI – 6th at 1B), especially considering his 222nd ADP, good for the 25th 1B off the board.

SECOND BASE

Luis Rengifo | LAA, 2B/3B elig. | 263rd ADP; 31st 2B

Finished as 25th 2B on Auction Calculator

Look, it’s a frigid StatCast profile with seven categories in the blue, but all that really says is he doesn’t smash the ball, not that he’s inherently bad. He puts the bat to ball and has enough pop & speed to be useful in 15-team formats. He hit 12 HR from August 1st on (tied for 5th-most) making him a 2nd half waiver gem. He took advantage of spending most of his time in the top 4 spots in the order, but I wouldn’t count on that as a guarantee for next year. The key will be playing time. If they commit to him, he can get a nice double-double with a solid AVG. The potential drop-off in HRs could be easily countered by AVG and SB improvements.

SHORTSTOP

Carlos Correa | FA | 123rd ADP; 15th SS

Finished as 12th SS on Auction Calculator

Part of this is the depth of the position and part of this is him being a free agent. His price will rise when he lands, especially if it’s a hitter friendly venue. Steamer’s projection for a .273 AVG, 25 HR, 83 RBI, and 85 R puts him 9th among shortstops for 2023. Correa has kinda felt forgotten in the shortstop pool dating back to last draft season so don’t be afraid to take advantage.

THIRD BASE

Anthony Rendon | LAA | 216th ADP; 20th 3B

Finished as 69th 3B on Auction Calculator

I’m so weak. I can’t quit Rendon, especially at a post-200 pick price. He could wind up inside the Top 200 by draft season in March if he’s healthy and playing in Spring Training so now is the time to scoop up some Rendon shares if you’re a sucker believer like me! He has dropped to just a 98 wRC+ in 2021-22 across 442 PA, but I still think a healthy Rendon (should that ever be a thing again) is good. His plate skills remain strong so he should remain a positive for AVG. We will have to see if full health brings back the power (.146 ISO in 2021-22) and I’m thinking more his career .195 ISO, not the .279 spike from the Rabbit Ball 2019 season. The price will play the biggest role here. I like him in this early-to-mid 200s range but I’m not sure I’ve got him over any of that next quartet up the board: Josh Jung (211), DJ LeMahieu (209), Ryan McMahon (207), Brandon Drury (184).

OUTFIELD

Seiya Suzuki | CHC | 145th ADP; 32nd OF

Finished at 49th OF on Auction Calculator

Suzuki was in Justin’s Values column earlier this week and he highlights a fair point about a potential price rise as the Hype Train gets going this offseason. However, we aren’t there yet. He is projected to be the 17th-best OF by Steamer and is going much later than that at 32nd. He started fast with a .934 OPS in April but was up and down month-to-month from then on including a monthlong finger injury. He struck the ball well all season long and his 8% SwStr rate suggests that 25% K rate can definitely come down and push the AVG up.

I’m not sure even a 50+ pick jump would necessarily push me off Suzuki. That would place him around Bryan Reynolds (100) with Tyler O’Neill (103), Kris Bryant (112), Nick Castellanos (120), and Christian Yelich (128) going across the next two rounds. If you just follow the Steamer Projection and want to take Suzuki around pick 55 as his projected dollar value would dictate, that puts him with Randy Arozarena (45), Cedric Mullins (51), Teoscar Hernandez (60), and Corbin Carroll (66). If you’re willing to take Carroll that high, I think there’s a great case for Suzuki around there, too. I still favor Arozarena and Mullins over him for now (I haven’t done my deep-dive in OF yet).





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

4 Comments
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LightenUpFGmember
11 days ago

Given how much 3B stung me last year, Rendon is definitely on the Hail Mary radar for 2023. Still dreaming of 2019…

Last edited 11 days ago by LightenUpFG
nab0610
11 days ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

Rendon should not be on any list for a sleeper he’s toast as far as im concerned. He had a couple nice seasons when the rabbit ball was around and he was a top pick, but even when he was in his mid twenties injuries were always a concern…