The 2017 Lottery Ticket Team: Hitter’s Edition

This is not a “sleeper” list.

Sleepers tend to be guys that are undervalued and really in this day and age of fantasy baseball, the term is often overused and somewhat abused. This is a list of lottery ticket guys. They are all guys that are being drafted outside the top 450 in NFBC according to their ADPs. They cost virtually nothing, but if they hit, you could score fantasy riches.

Jorge Alfaro, C, PHI (NFBC ADP: 461.91): Alfaro was a top prospect that dynasty owners waited on for what seemed like forever. Now seven years later, (that is why you don’t draft catching prospects in dynasty leagues) Alfaro is close to being ready to make an impact at the Major League level. In AA last year he hit 15 home runs while slashing .285/.325/.458 in 435 plate appearances and reportedly took major steps forward in terms of his defense, framing, and accuracy in terms of throwing players out all of which are the main reasons he has taken so long to get to the Majors. He should start the year in AAA, but if Rupp struggles, Alfaro could be showing off that 60+ grade power in an NL park near you.

Honorable Mentions: Jett Bandy, Tony Wolters, Andrew Susac, Bruce Maxwell, Miguel Montero, Blake Swihart, Austin Barnes, Chris Iannetta, Kevin Plawecki.

Kennys Vargas, 1B, MIN (NFBC ADP: 472.75): After winning the battle for the Twins DH slot against recently DFA’d KBO slugger Byung Ho Park, Vargas is currently slated to hit out of the six-hole according to roster resource. (On a side note, I would pay good money to see a Park v. Vargas cage match. Let’s make this happen.) He hit 25 home runs between the Major League clubs and AAA last season and while it didn’t come with a good average (.232), he did walk 13.6% of the time while at the Major League level which is something he has not been able to do while in the Majors previously, but has shown the ability to all throughout his Minor League career. Steamer currently projects him for 17 home runs, but our Depth Charts has him locked in for 24. I might take the over on both of those numbers, but going as late as he is, anything more than 17 is just icing on the very robust cake.

Honorable Mentions: Byung Ho Park, AJ Reed, Cody Bellinger, Logan Morrison.

Cory Spangenberg, 2B, SD (NFBC ADP: 532.36): Last season, I thought Spangenburg was an interesting sleeper. Unfortunately, injuries kept him from ever getting going. Now he has a clean bill of health, but no real spot to play in San Diego. Good news for him is that the Padres lineup is pretty awful and it won’t take much for him to break into it. Even better new is that last year the Padres ran, a lot. They stole 125 bases in 2016, which was fifth in all of baseball and attempted the third most steals behind the Brewers and the Reds. If he can find regular plate appearance due to injuries or starters underperforming, Spangenberg is a candidate to swipe 20+ bags with little to no cost on draft day.

Honorable Mentions: Derek Dietrich, Adam Frazier, Joey Wendle, Micah Johnson, Arismendy Alcantara.

Trevor Plouffe, 3B, OAK (NFBC ADP: 464.91): Aside from being named one of the 11 Sexiest Baseball Players of 2016, Plouffe signed a deal with the A’s to be their primary third baseman this season. While he struggled last season with injuries, in 2015, he hit 22 home runs and has at least 12 long balls in the Majors since 2012. While, I don’t expect the A’s to have a great team, their lineup is not punchless and Plouffe figures to hit in the middle of it.

Honorable Mentions: David Freese, JaCoby Jones

Jhonny Peralta, SS, STL (NFBC ADP: 451.91): The beginning of last season was derailed for Peralta when he tore a thumb ligament in Spring Training. He then reinjured the same thumb in July. However, once he returned on August 2nd, he slashed .284/.337/.403 with three home runs. If the power we saw in his previous two season returns, like it should, then there is no reason to think he won’t be a bargain at this spot. While he is not currently slated for everyday at bats according to Roster Resource’s projected lineup, all three of Aledmys Diaz, Jedd Gyorko, and Kolten Wong are candidates for to be replacement if they struggle. I am much more likely to buy into our Depth Charts projections of 525 PAs than Steamer’s 366. He is a sneaky target in one of the shallowest positions in fantasy.

Honorable Mentions: Franklin Barreto, J.P. Crawford, Alen Hanson

Bradley Zimmer, OF, CLE (NFBC ADP: 551.64): If you have read my stuff before, you may have seen me talk up Zimmer previously. Last year, he hit 15 home runs and stole 38 bases between AA and AAA. Yes, he strikes out too much, but he also walks at 13-14% clip. He is also the best center fielder option defensively in the organization. He probably won’t start the year in the Majors, but Tyler Naquin and Austin Jackson will not be holding him down for long. The Indians should have brought him up last year. This is a difference maker and a future fantasy super star! While Andrew Benintendi is the front runner for Rookie of the Year, Zimmer is a real dark horse contender. All he needs is the opportunity.

Ben Gamel, OF, SEA (NFBC ADP: 583.11): Gamel has gone from fantasy sleeper to afterthought due to the Mariners moves this offseason. The additions of Mitch Haniger and Jarrod Dyson definitely put a damper on his potential for at bats. However, Dyson has never handled a full time role and Haniger could easily struggle. Gamel’s ability to handle all three outfield positions works to his advantage. If he was able to get regular at bats, Gamel would be a 10/25 threat with decent ratios. He is worth owning in deeeeeep formats as a handcuff to either Dyson or Haniger.

Jarrett Parker, OF, SF (NFBC ADP: 583.21): If the season started today, Parker would be the opening day left fielder and possibly the odds on favorite to lead the team in home runs. He isn’t strong against lefties, but his supposed platoon partner, Mac Williamson, hasn’t been good in spite of having the higher overall ceiling. Parker isn’t as good as Williamson defensively, but this is a team notorious for running out awful defenders in left field (i.e. Michael Morse and Brandon Belt) and he is a step above them. 25 home runs with a .240-.250 average and a 10% walk rate aren’t out of the question if he can do well enough against left-handed pitching not to get platooned.

We hoped you liked reading The 2017 Lottery Ticket Team: Hitter’s Edition by Justin Mason!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.

newest oldest most voted
Anonymous
Member
Anonymous

“…don’t draft catching prospects in dynasty leagues…”

Is this a thing? I’ve not heard this advice before. Is there a long history of disappointing catching prospects taking a long time to get to the majors?

scotman144
Member
Member
scotman144

Not sure if you’re being sarcastic….

Matt Wieters
Devin Mesoraco
Blake Swihart
Mike Zunino
JP Arencibia
Travis d’Arnaud

All were big-time / pretty big-time prospects (easily BA top 100 iirc).

All have been middling at best fantasy players if they even reached that status. I am sure I forgot a half dozen more. Even Gary Sanchez took ages to make it to the show and had lost a lot of prospect hype before exploding in 2016.

King Donko of Punchstania
Member
Member
King Donko of Punchstania

You could add Jesus Montero to that list

jfree
Member
jfree

You could also add Buster Posey and Carlos Santana and Jayson Werth and Craig Biggio and Pablo Sandoval and Joey Votto (and even Josh Donaldson) if you want to include catcher prospects with pretty good outcomes even if they had to take off the tools of ignorance in order to get to the majors faster.

The key is a prospect who can actually hit – not a prospect who is valued as a ‘catcher’.

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

Were all of those guys considered top prospects?

DirtyWater
Member
DirtyWater

Josh Donaldson and Pablo Sandoval were never thought of as high end prospects. Votto played 9 games at catcher in his first minor league assignment. Long before he became a decent prospect, though not great. Werth was ranked as #42 at his highest on prospect lists and wasn’t catching much at that point. Oddly enough some lists, at points, had Santana rated higher than Posey.

Graves
Member
Graves

I agree with this theory (looking at you Travis F’artnaud) but I grabbed Gary Sanchez at the end of the auction last year, put him on my farm and reaped the rewards late last year. This offseason I traded him for David Dahl sooooooo It is not always true.

Robert
Member
Member
Robert

But you picked him up right before he broke out! Sanchez was drafted in my initial dynasty draft in 2011 (SIX YEARS AGO!) and he was on and off the waiver wire until I grabbed him in May. That strategy of waiting for a prospect to be close also paid off since I grabbed Dahl in April (he was an off-season drop after a disappointing 2015).

Unfortunately, I’ve also been on the other side of the C prospect limbo (had and dropped Alfaro in 2014 and dropped Contreras for Dahl in 2016).

Rainja182
Member
Rainja182

Yea it’s a thing. Even high end guys have had some progression issues upon getting called up. It just typically takes too long for them to pan out (even if they even do) and the immediate returns tend to be comparitvely lackluster to other positions.

bigriggs42
Member
bigriggs42

Catcher is a wasteland in the MLB. Ignoring how long it takes for them to develop, what are the probabilities a catching prospect is ever even a top-100 asset in a dynasty league? In recent years it has basically been just Posey and now that he appears to be declining you are never going to have more than 1 or 2 MLB catchers at a given time who are difference makers in fantasy leagues, even 2 catcher leagues. I have also personally found that they tend to have less trade value than non-catching prospects of similar prospect rank.

NDfan
Member
NDfan

Aslo, once they do get to the majors, the position causes a quicker decline obviously. Ya, IMO catchers are the Kickers of Fantasy Baseball.