Oftentimes, the picks fantasy managers make at the end of drafts can be just as crucial as the ones they make at the beginning of the drafting proceedings.
Finding late-round steals and diamonds in the rough later on in drafts is oftentimes an essential ingredient of a league-winning roster. Whether it’s a prospect not yet ready for the Majors who contributes later in the season or a reliever who steps into a closing role sometime after Opening Day, these picks have the potential to pay off significantly.
With that in mind, here are 10 players you should be considering at the end of your fantasy baseball draft – 10 players who could also help you bring home a fantasy championship later this year.
*All ADP data per NFBC.
Alex Cobb– 236.04* ADP
Prior to last season, Cobb looked poised to build on his 2021 success with the Angels in a new, much more pitcher-friendly environment in San Francisco with the Giants.
And while his ERA was nearly the same, dropping from 3.76 to 3.73, the stats below the surface level suggest an even better campaign and potentially foreshadow even more success this coming season.
The veteran once again limited barrels at an elite rate, with a career-low 3.7% barrel rate. Elsewhere, opponents managed just a .329 xSLG against the starter. Both metrics were in the 83rd percentile or better.
Cobb will also continue to pitch at Oracle Park, which certainly helps his ability to limit home runs. The veteran pitched to a 2.68 ERA and a 2.54 FIP in 87.1 innings at home last season.
And while his surface-level road splits, which included a 5.20 ERA away from San Francisco, weren’t nearly as eye-catching they did include a 3.16 FIP metric on the road.
At worst, he’s someone to utilize primarily in home starts. At best, he could significantly outperform his ADP.
Tylor Megill – 485.44 ADP*
Megill could step in as the Mets’ fifth starter to open the year, what with six strikeouts and just one earned run allowed in his first 8.1 innings this spring, and with José Quintana reportedly out for a significant period of time.
Per a tweet from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo on Tuesday:
“Quintana has a lesion on his rib, according to Mets GM Billy Eppler. He was seen by a tumor specialist, and the results of the biopsy came back benign. However, Quintana isn going to undergo bone graft surgery. The Mets aren’t expecting him back until at least July.”
DiComo also wrote the following in an article on Tuesday:
“After Quintana departed a March 5 gme due to discomfort in his midsection, the Mets diagnosed him with a stress fracture in the fifth rib on his left side. A team orthopedist subsequently discovered a lesion in the area, prompting the Mets to send Quintana to New York for a biopsy and further testing. Although the biopsy revealed nothing malignant, the medical reccomendation shifted to surgery rather than amore conservative approach of rest and treatment.”
Megill could seize the job while Quintana is out and remain in the rotation once the veteran returns. He has that type of ceiling.
Digging past his 5.13 ERA from last season, you’ll find a 3.77 FIP in 47.1 innings of work, not to mention an 11.6% swinging strike percentage and four different pitches with a whiff rate of at least 24%.
In his first six starts of last season, the right-hander allowed just nine earned runs in 33.1 innings of work with 34 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. Overall, his 5.13 ERA was heavily impacted by an outing against the Nationals in which Megill recorded just four outs and allowed eight hits and eight earned runs.
Perhaps most crucially for fantasy managers, Megill recorded a win in four of his nine starts. Pitching regularly for a Mets team that should once again be one of the league’s best should give the 27-year-old plenty of fantasy upside, with his pitcher-win potential and bat-missing ability.
In fact, all four of New York’s pitchers who made at least 23 starts last year won a minimum of 11 games. With a potentially extended run in the rotation, Megill has a chance to match that type of win total.
Evan Phillips – 273.63 ADP*
Along with fellow sleeper Brusdar Graterol, Phillips has the potential to have a breakout season in the Dodgers bullpen, at least fantasy-wise in standard-scoring leagues, if he can step into a full-time closing role.
Of course, Phillips’ actual breakout year from a real-life baseball standpoint happened this past season. That’ll happen when you log a 1.14 ERA and a 1.94 FIP in 63 innings of work. The reliever also added 77 strikeouts compared to just 15 walks and registered a pair of saves and 19 holds.
He was an impact player in saves+holds leagues and could be poised for similar success in those types of leagues. However, if Phillips can earn the lion’s share of the save chances for the Dodgers, he’d be a potential league winner in nearly all fantasy formats.
The 28-year-old was elite almost across the board from an advanced metrics standpoint last year, finishing in the 92nd percentile or better in barrel rate, strikeout rate, xSLG, xBA, average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and xwOBA, showcasing the ability to both miss bats and limit barrels at a high rate.
Last season, Craig Kimbrel notched 22 saves for Los Angeles, with five other Dodgers registering multiple saves and 11 relievers not named Kimbrel combining for 21 saves. Even if Phillips is able to rattle off somewhere between 10 and 20 saves he’ll be a massive steal this late in drafts.
Jarred Kelenic – 284.61 ADP*
Kelenic has so far struggled mightily in the Majors. He owns a -2.0 bWAR and a -0.6 fWAR to go along with a .168 batting average in his first 500 Major League plate appearances. And while he’s logged a solid 9.3% walk rate to go along with 21 home runs in that span, he’s also struck out 29.9% of the time – including a 33.7% strikeout rate in 181 plate appearances with the Mariners last season.
Is a Kelenic bounce-back season upon us?
Well, perhaps. The former top prospect has thrived in Cactus League action so far, hitting .448 with a 1.484 OPS, four home runs, a double, and a triple in 31 Spring Training plate appearances for the American League West club.
And while the Mariners added Teoscar Hernández in the offseason to pair with Julio Rodríguez in the outfield at T-Mobile Park, they didn’t directly address the third outfield spot, leaving the door open for Kelenic to claim the starting gig, something he could be well on his way to doing with his (so far) strong spring.
With his upside as a prospect things potentially starting to click and a regular role in a solid lineup, there are few players with Kelenic’s fantasy ceiling this late in drafts.
Ross Stripling – 314.93 ADP*
Stripling was quietly very good for the Blue Jays, to put it plainly, last season. In 32 appearances, which included 24 starts, spanning 134.1 innings, the right-hander logged a 3.01 ERA and a 3.11 FIP while registering 10 pitcher wins and a save in the process. He was particularly effective as a starter, where most of his work came innings-wise.
Much of Stripling’s success came from limiting walks and home runs. The former Blue Jay’s 3.7% walk rate finished in the 98th percentile league-wide and he allowed just 0.80 home runs per nine innings overall with Toronto last season. He could be in a position to replicate that success this season.
The walks, in theory, shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain. The 2022 season marked the third time in the last five years that Stripling has finished with a walk rate below 6.0%.
The lack of home runs allowed should, in theory, also remain a constant.
After signing with the Giants this offseason, the 33-year-old will now get to make half his starts at Oracle Park, which had the fourth-lowest park factor where home runs were concerned last year per Statcast.
Bryan Abreu (584.83 ADP) and Rafael Montero (395.72 ADP)
Houston’s bullpen should once again be amongst the league’s best on paper. Ryan Pressly is still in place as the team’s closer, with a strong set of setup relievers that include Abreu, Montero, Ryne Stanek, and Héctor Neris.
However, it’s Bryan Abreu and Rafael Montero who are the most fantasy relevant in standard-scoring leagues.
Abreu enjoyed a breakout year in 2022, pitching to a 1.94 ERA, a 2.12 FIP, and 88 strikeouts in 60.1 innings of work. He also tacked on a pair of saves. The right-hander isn’t likely the next in line for saves after Pressly – more on that in a bit – but he can help lower weekly ERA and WHIP totals for fantasy managers while tacking on to their strikeout totals.
In the right scenarios, think Collin McHugh and Michael King in years past, these non-closer relievers can be incredibly helpful for fantasy managers.
Abreu did struggle with walks a bit, with a 10.5% walk rate. Still, he more than made up for it with his strikeouts, thanks in large part to a slider that sported a 51.3% whiff rate and a curveball that finished with a 42.9% whiff rate.
Switching to Montero, he too could provide fantasy value as a non-closer who can help lower weekly ERA and WHIP numbers after posting a 2.37 ERA, a 2.70 FIP, and a 1.02 WHIP last season.
Where he differs from Abreu, at least based on last year’s usage patterns, is that he appears to be Dusty Baker’s preferred option for ninth-inning work after Pressly.
If that usage continues, it’d make him arguably the best relief pitcher stash option for saves, to say nothing of the ancillary save opportunities on days in which Pressly needs a day off.
Hunter Brown – 238.26* ADP
Sticking in Houston, we move to Hunter Brown, who looks poised to step into the rotation with Lance McCullers Jr. reportedly set to start the season on the injured list per an article from MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart on Tuesday.
It might not be an incredibly long stint on the injured list for McCullers, though. McTaggart also wrote the following in his article:
“Lance McCullers Jr. provided an update Tuesday on his return from a strained right forearm muscle, saying he’s pain-free and able to lift weights and throw a baseball McCullers began throwing Saturday and will play catch every other day for a while.”
Still, Brown has too much upside to ignore, even if he’s only in the rotation initially for a short period of time.
The right-hander made an instant impact for Houston last year, logging a 0.89 ERA and a 1.98 FIP in 20.1 innings down the stretch. Overall he made seven appearances, two of which were starts.
One of the game’s best pitching prospects, Brown struck out 134 batters in 106 innings at Triple-A and boasts two promising bat-missing offspeed pitches. FanGraphs gave his slider a present and future grade of 60 each. His curveball? The publication gave that a 70 grade for both present and future.
Like with Megill, he’s good enough to stick in the rotation even when McCullers returns. Whether that happens obviously remains to be seen given Houston’s other quality rotation options, but this late in the draft the upside is too significant to ignore.
Isaac Paredes – 354.96* ADP
Isaac Paredes does a number of things that you like to see in a draft candidate. He’s incredibly selective at the plate with a chase rate (20.5%), whiff rate (16.5%), and walk rate (11.5%) in the 89th percentile or better. His 17.6% strikeout rate finished in the 73rd percentile among all batters.
He also hits a reasonable amount of home runs, with 20 last year, and plays a number of positions, most notably third base, second base, and first base. That versatility should continue to pay dividends for both the Rays and fantasy managers alike.
And while he didn’t make an abundance of loud contact last year – Paredes logged a 38.7% hard-hit rate and a 6.4% barrel rate – while hitting just .205, he also was a tad unlucky. The infielder finished with a .195 BABIP, which was the lowest in the league among all hitters with at least 350 plate appearances.
The former Tiger’s batting average, and ADP, would likely look a whole lot different now if that BABIP was even halfway closer to the .290 league average from last year.
Gabriel Moreno – 235.26* ADP
One of baseball’s best catching prospects, Moreno has hit pretty much everywhere he’s gone. He hit .373 in 145 plate appearances at Double-A in 2021. He then proceeded to hit .315 in 267 Triple-A plate appearances last season while also hitting .319 in 73 plate appearances with the Blue Jays.
Now no longer with Toronto after an offseason trade to Arizona, Moreno no longer has to compete with Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk for playing time.
Opportunity is the name of the game here, so even if Moreno is only playing half the time in a timeshare with Carson Kelly, he’ll be someone to roster in fantasy leagues, especially for managers who miss out on some of the elite catching options at the top of the draft.
The former Blue Jay could also be a sleeper candidate where counting stats are concerned if he’s able to hit in the top half of a Diamondbacks lineup that’ll also feature Corbin Carroll, Christian Walker, Evan Longoria, and Kyle Lewis.
Most importantly, however, is that Moreno has the potential to finish as a top-10 fantasy option at his position with his ability to hit for average. If he continues to hit, as he has done for his entire career there’s also the chance he could receive the bulk of the starts at catcher for Arizona. If that’s the case, it’ll only underscore his elite fantasy ceiling.