Fantasy leagues are won in the late rounds on draft day. These hail marry picks are often roster cuts after a couple of weeks, but every once in a while, you catch lightning in a bottle. The opportunity cost is near zero and there’s profit to be had. When your leaguemates go on auto-pick in round 20, don’t. Pay attention and take advantage. Here are a handful of my targets that you can find after pick 300 in your drafts.
ADP based on NFCB data since February 1, 2021
Andrew Vaughn (ADP 316)
The third overall pick from 2019 just needs a chance. White Sox GM Rick Hahn told the media that Vaughn is in the mix to make the opening day roster. It’s likely that he is held in the minors for a couple weeks but he’s worth a bench spot. José Abreu is the first baseman in Chicago, but Vaughn has the opportunity to play everyday at DH and fill in at first. The White Sox lineup is loaded so Vaughn unfortunately may find himself hitting in the seven or eight spot to start. That said, he’s an IL stint or COVID-19 contact tracing quarantine away from moving up. I’m not putting a ton of stock into projected lineup slot in 2021 given the elevated likelihood or players missing time. The White Sox scored the fifth most runs per game in 2020 (5.1) which will only increase this year. Everyone in this lineup will collect counting stats.
Vaughn possesses a future 70 grade hit tool and 60 grade power suggesting a potential .300 batting average and 35 home-run peak season. Considering the elite lineup and 13% walk rate in the minors, a peak of 200+ runs and RBIs is in play. Will Vaughn reach his peak in his rookie season? No, don’t expect that. But look at Tatís Jr., Soto and Acuña Jr.; top prospects are finding success younger and younger these days. Vaughn already turns 23 in April and spent three years in college. If any prospect in 2021 is ready to hit the ground running, it’s him. This is the last year he’ll be available after pick 150.
Nate Lowe (ADP 358)
Being traded to the Rangers could be a defining moment in Nate Lowe’s baseball career. Lowe is finally slated for a full-time role. Through two seasons, Lowe’s 600 PA pace puts up a .251 batting average with 27 HR, 83 R and 73 RBI. Without a chance to play everyday, it’s been tough for Lowe to get into a groove. Lowe’s splits are solid posting a career 110 wRC+ against lefties and 105 wRC+ versus righties, helping avoid a platoon situation. Don’t forget, in 2018 across high A, double A and triple A, Lowe hit. 330 and launched 27 homeruns, driving in 91 runs and scoring 93 more. Lowe graded out at a future 55 hit tool and 65 raw power as a top prospect. In 600 PA, Lowe has the capacity to hit .275 with 30 homers with 170 runs plus RBI. He’s a must grab at the end of your draft and may end up a top-12 first baseman.
Hunter Renfroe (ADP 419)
Hunter Renfroe is the best shot after pick 375 to hit 35 bombs. In 2019, Renfroe blasted 33 home runs in 494 plate appearances in San Diego. That’s a 40 HR pace over 600 plate appearances. Last season, Renfroe reduced his strikeout rate to 26.6% from 31.2% This change in approach caused quality of contact to suffer with his barrel rate reducing to 9% from 13%. Renfroe was just plain terrible in 2020, batting .156 with a 77 wRC+ over 42 games. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and look past the small sample COVID season. I expect Renfroe to revert back to pre-2020 form, a .230 average and 30% K-rate but the potential to hit 40 bombs in 600 PA.
The green monster in Boston will help Renfroe significantly. Renfroe’s 2020 home runs jump to 11 from 8 given Boston’s ballpark factors. The recent signing of Marwin Gonzalez may pressure Renfroe’s playing time but Benintendi is gone and RosterResource per FanGraphs has Renfroe batting sixth in Boston’s potent lineup. You can safely project 450 plate appearances, with the upside for 550. The average won’t exceed .250 but Renfroe is a source of 30/60/70 with the upside for 35/75/85.
Josh Naylor (ADP 465)
I have been waiting to write up Naylor as a 2021 target ever since I watched him torment my Yankees last September. I’m starting to see his name tossed around as a deep sleeper, but for now he’s still going around pick 465. Naylor’s just 23 and came to Cleveland from the stacked Padres’ farm system. A former first-round draft pick, Naylor hovered around the 100th overall prospect. He wasn’t an uber prospect, and that’s why he’s flying under the radar. Scouts gave Naylor a future 55 hit tool, 65 game power and 70 raw power, suggesting immense power potential. Between double A and triple A in 2018 and 2019, Naylor played 182 games racking up 27 homers, 123 runs and 116 RBI while hitting .302. Also in 2018, Naylor slashed his strikeout rate to 12% from 21% and boosted his walk rate to 11% from 9%.
In 134 games in the majors, Naylor has struggled hitting just .249 with nine homeruns. However, I have the image of Naylor mashing a 424 footer off of Gerrit Cole in the AL Wild Card Series burnt into my brain. While only two games, he mashed .714 with three doubles, a home run, and six runs plus RBIs in the playoffs. He was absolutely on another planet. Does this mean something? Probably not, but it could. Naylor single handedly terrorized a Yankees pitching staff that was fighting for their season. Consider the post-season production, plus good prospect pedigree. and add in batting 5th in the Indians’ order, Naylor could be a dude. He won’t run much, but .280/25/85/85 wouldn’t shock me. Let’s hope the walk rate bounces back from 4.8% in 2020, but Naylor’s free and will be on all of my teams.
I am looking for upside, upside and more upside. Everyday playing time isn’t guaranteed, but always target players with top-100 upside. You can leave Tommy La Stella and Cesar Hernandez for everyone else to draft. You win your league drafting for ceiling in the late rounds.
Photos by Scott Winters & Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)