In most drafts, I hit a point where I look at my queue and the remaining player pool, and I’m not excited about any of my options. I am currently participating in one of Justin Mason’s 2EarlyMock drafts, and as we enter the final rounds, I have yet to have that feeling. A number of players went in the middle rounds whom I had stashed in my queue several rounds before they were taken. The ones that I drafted felt like tremendous bargains, and the ones that I missed left me envious.
The following four players in particular stood out to me. While there is still a weekend left to this season, and most of our drafts are just shy of six months away, here are a few names to tuck away for the offseason. I did manage to draft two of these players in the 2EarlyMock, and a third one was on my radar. The remaining player, David Peralta, should have been one of my targets. As Paul Sporer noted in his 30 Hitting Seasons You Might’ve Missed piece, Peralta’s season was sneaky-good.
David Peralta (102.8 ADP)
The emergence of Christian Yelich as a fantasy elite has been one of the biggest developments this season. If we were to try to find “the next Yelich,” our search should begin with Peralta (even though he lacks the steals). Like Yelich, Peralta had shown the potential to hit for power in the past, but his home run production had been thwarted by a high ground ball rate and an all-fields approach. While Peralta has not enjoyed a favorable change of venue like Yelich did this season, over the final four months of his current campaign, he has become slightly less of a ground ball hitter and more of a pull hitter. Since the beginning of August, he has taken his power game to a new level, putting up a 59.6 percent hard contact rate.
These changes have helped to place Peralta among the top fantasy outfielders. Since June 1, he has the fourth-highest hard contact rate (50.7 percent) and fourth longest average flyball distance (344 feet, min. 50 flyballs, per Baseball Savant) among all hitters, and the eighth-highest Roto value among outfielders (per CBS rankings).
The samples are small enough that owners should go into 2019 having some skepticism about Peralta’s staying power as a top 10 outfielder, especially since his breakout has occurred in his age-31 season. Yet the samples are sufficiently large that he is worth gambling on as a No. 2 outfielder. Marcell Ozuna and A.J. Pollock are similarly risky, yet they have been typically drafted in the 2EarlyMocks roughly 30 picks earlier.
German Marquez (115.1 ADP)
Last season, Marquez was one of only four starting pitchers under 23 who threw at least 40 innings, and he was the only one in this group to exceed a 20 percent strikeout rate. He also posted a sub-100 ERA- and xFIP-, but despite this promising debut, he was ignored in 12-team mixed leagues on draft day. After compiling a 2.41 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 108.1 innings over his last 16 starts, Marquez has worked his way into the top 30 of starting pitchers in Roto value and onto rosters in the vast majority of leagues across all of the major platforms.
Let’s not fret anymore about Marquez being a Rockies pitcher. Over his last 47.1 home innings, he has a 36.8 percent strikeout rate. Even if you don’t trust the 0.8 HR/9 ratio over that period, we should expect Marquez to miss enough bats to not be a threat to our ERAs and WHIPs. If the 2EarlyMocks are going to be an indication of where pitchers go next March, we can expect Marquez to be drafted nearly 20 picks later than Mike Foltynewicz. I’d rather take the chance on Marquez, with half of his starts at Coors Field, than on the Braves’ righty, who has relied on an above-average called strike rate to compensate for a pedestrian 10.0 percent swinging strike rate.
Elvis Andrus (139.9 ADP)
We did not lack for Andrus skeptics heading into this season, as many fantasy owners did not look for him to replicate his 2017 breakout. Between his lack of production upon returning from a broken bone in his elbow in June and a difficult month of September, it would be easy for skeptics and believers alike to start doubting his production from last season.
Let’s not forget, though, that between the beginning of the second half until Sept. 4, Andrus batted .287 with a 40.3 percent hard contact rate. Even though his ground ball (47.2 percent) and pull (42.4 percent) rates during this period were consistent with his rates from the previous three seasons, he hit only four home runs. Andrus recently acknowledged he tried to come back from his injury too soon, which would explain why he struggled through the final month of the first half. It’s harder to understand why his power has evaporated over the last three weeks (26.1 percent hard contact rate over his last 65 plate appearances), but once healthy, he did show signs of maintaining the gains in power that he realized last year. He just may have encountered some bad luck earlier in the second half.
Shortstop has become a deeper position, but if you miss out on the elites or are worried about overpaying for strong finishers Adalberto Mondesi, Jose Peraza or Amed Rosario, Andrus could be a fantastic fallback option.
Eric Hosmer (156.3 ADP)
Hosmer’s disappointing first season as a Padre can’t be explained by an injury, but like Andrus, much of his skill set from 2017 remains intact. Considering Hosmer finished last year with the third-highest Roto value among first basemen, that’s good news. He has been hitting ground balls at a 60.2 percent rate, but that’s not a radical departure from last season’s 55.6 percent mark. Hosmer is still averse to pulling and his average flyball distance of 335 feet puts him in top 15 percent of hitters with at least 50 flyballs.
His biggest problem has been making contact, and his 21.3 percent strikeout rate is the highest of his career. However, it’s not that much higher than the 19.8 percent rate he registered in 2016. He rebounded from that last season and hit a career-high .318. With Hosmer in the midst of his age-28 season, we should have expected some increase in his strikeout rate, but a jump of nearly six percentage points is indicative of more than age-related decline. He is too young for us to assume he has “lost it,” and he appears to be due for another rebound season, if not quite as dramatic as the one he had in 2017. While we can’t expect him to be a top-three first baseman in 2019, he might turn out to be a top 10 option who is still available once the first 150 players are off the board.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.