Baseball’s flyball revolution has made finding solid batting average contributors harder and harder.
In 2022, the league collectively posted a .243 batting average, down over 10 points from just 10 years ago and the lowest mark we’ve seen since 1968 – the notorious “Year of the Pitcher.”
Batting average may have lost prevalence in the modern game, but it remains one of the core offensive categories in fantasy baseball, meaning we have to dig deeper and deeper to find meaningful contributors. Identifying those late-round batting average boons can go a long way in giving your fantasy team those extra few standings points needed to push you over the top.
Before we dig into the players, let’s address the elephant in the room: what “late-round pick” means is pretty dang subjective.
Are you playing in a 10-team points league with three outfield spots? Maybe a 15-team roto league with two starting catchers? Or are you taking on a Draft Champions league and trying to build a 50-player roster in a format that sees 750 total players drafted?
With so many great ways of playing fantasy baseball, it’s hard to come up with a standard definition of what constitutes a “late-round” pick. For this article’s purposes, I’m going to be honing in on players being drafted around pick #200 or later, albeit with a notable exception or two.
For ADP, I’m using NFBC data as of January 30th, giving us three weeks of the most recent trends leading up to this article’s publication.
Let’s get to it.
Alec Bohm, 3B Philadelphia Phillies
Alec Bohm is such a strong batting average contributor that I’m breaking my own “late-round” definition with his inclusion. The Phillies’ third baseman hit .280 last year to go along with 13 home runs, 72 RBI, and 79 runs. He’s an atypical corner infielder in terms of power production which is why his ADP is sitting so low. If your fantasy team needs a boost in the average department, you won’t find many others as helpful as Bohm this late in the draft that will also contribute in multiple categories.
In 2022, Bohm’s .280 batting average was the 29th-highest among qualified hitters and the sixth-highest among third basemen, and that came with him underperforming his .290 xBA. He also took a major step forward in limiting his strikeout rate, lowering it from 26.6% in 2021 all the way down to 17.4% in 2022. He did that largely by getting better against four-seam fastballs, raising his average against them from .176 in 2021 to .353 in 2022 while also cutting his whiff rate on the pitch from 27.1% to 17.5%.
Bohm’s entering his third full season at the MLB level and has no question marks surrounding his hold on the starting third base job. At just 26 years old, there’s certainly still plenty of upside here.
If your fantasy team needs batting average help at this part of the draft, I’d be happy to take a shot on Bohm. He’ll be a big boon to your team’s average and should do a nice job compiling runs and RBI in a great Philly lineup, and he does it at one of fantasy’s shallowest positions.
Masataka Yoshida, OF Boston Red Sox
Masataka Yoshida‘s ADP has been steadily climbing this winter, and I think that trend continues as more and more fantasy players start checking back into baseball as the season gets underway, and it’s easy to understand why. All he did in his last season in Japan was slash .335/.447/.561 with 21 home runs, 88 RBI, 56 runs, and four stolen bases. That’s an eye-popping stat line no doubt, but how his skill transfers to MLB is the big question.
All the projection systems that FanGraphs hosts think he’ll make the transition just fine, particularly Steamer and ZiPS. Even taking Yoshida’s projection from THE BAT – the projection system that likes him the least – you have a hitter pegged for a .282/.364/.458 line with 16 home runs, 64 RBI, 65 runs, and two stolen bases. If that’s the worst projection, I’m pretty happy targeting Yoshida at this point in drafts.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora has already indicated that Yoshida should start the season as the leadoff man, meaning he should be a solid boost to your fantasy team’s run totals on top of the expected batting average bump.
Luis Arraez, 1B/2B Miami Marlins
You can’t write an article about batting average contributors without including the batting average king himself: Luis Arraez.
Since debuting back in 2019, Arraez’s .314 average is the second-highest in baseball, trailing only Tim Anderson. Arraez’s highest single-season mark came in his rookie campaign at .334, but even slipping from that high-water mark he’s been a great producer. His .316 batting average last year was the fourth-best in the league.
Like most big batting average-centric players going this late in drafts, outside of the average department Arraez’s fantasy production is pretty hollow. Last year, the Twins generally kept him at the top of the batting order, and that allowed him to score 88 runs and be a help in that category as well. After giving up a big package to get Arraez this offseason, the Marlins surely view him as one of the focal points of their lineup, but whether he keeps hitting leadoff is uncertain. Miami has an abundance of players with a contact-first approach, so Arraez could slide down a bit in the order, something the Twins also did with him in the past.
Where Arraez ends up in the Marlins’ lineup is a pretty big question mark for his fantasy stock. Moving him down in the order would raise his RBI total but also hurt his run production. With such a lack of power in his swing, Arraez’s RBI production is pretty capped as is, so his staying in the leadoff role is likely the best-case scenario here, making him a boon to both your fantasy team’s batting average and runs. Keeping an eye on Miami’s Spring Training lineups could be worthwhile to see if he’ll end up being a one- or two-category contributor.
Gabriel Moreno, C Arizona Diamondbacks
Position alone gets Gabriel Moreno a mention on this list. Catchers with a plus hit tool are always tough to find, but Moreno in particular sticks out because he’s one of the few late-round catching targets that isn’t going to absolutely crater your team’s batting average.
Moreno had a small cup of coffee with Toronto last year, hitting .319 with one home run in 73 plate appearances. Digging into his minor league numbers, he flashed that high average tool consistently. At the Double-A level in 2021, he posted a .373/.441/.651 slash line in 145 plate appearances, and in his 2022 promotion to Triple-A he slashed .315/.386/.420 over 267 trips to the plate.
Scouting profiles suggest Moreno won’t offer much power production at the MLB level which slightly dims his prospect sheen, but his hit tool is good enough to make him a worthy target here, especially in two-catcher leagues. Moreno’s profile reminds me of his former teammate Alejandro Kirk, without the ability to drive the ball as well.
After a December trade sent Moreno to Arizona, his ADP shot up. He’ll split time with Carson Kelly to start the year, but a strong showing could pretty quickly make Moreno the go-to starter.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF Arizona Diamondbacks
Moreno’s trade partner comes just shortly after him in ADP, and I like his fantasy profile in this range quite a bit if you’re hurting for batting average. In five seasons at the MLB level, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has never hit below .276 and he’s not a total zero in other categories either.
The high point of Gurriel’s production came in 2021 when he hit .276 with 21 home runs, 84 RBI, and 62 runs scored. I’d wager that performance ends up being the high-water mark for his career, but I think he should bounce back from last year’s deflated power numbers when he only managed to hit five balls over the outfield fence.
Gurriel posted just a 4.2% HR/FB rate in 2022, a number that almost has to come back up. I hate saying a hitter just got unlucky, but when he’d never even had a season below a 15.3% HR/FB rate before, I think he’s due for some positive regression. Sure, Gurriel’s barrel rate plummeted nearly six percentage points to 3.8% last year too, but a lot of other important hit metrics were right on pace with his 2021 marks — hard-hit rate, fly ball rate, and 95th-percentile exit velocity.
I think a power bounceback is in store for Gurriel this year. A batting line around .280 with 15 home runs should play well in an Arizona lineup that has a lot of fun young players that could breakout giving him a boost to RBI and run production as well.
DJ LeMahieu, 1B/2B/3B New York Yankees
We’ve arrived at my personal favorite batting average star: DJ LeMahieu. He’s a couple of years removed from the .327 and .364 batting averages he put up to start his Yankee career, but he should improve on the .269 and .261 marks he’s posted in the last two seasons. Those lower averages came on the back of two of the worst BABIPs of his career, so there’s room for a batting average rebound, even though he’ll turn 35 in July.
Just like last year, the Yankees’ infield is crowded, but LeMahieu’s bat is a high priority for Aaron Boone to get in the lineup. He won’t have a set position, but he’ll be in the lineup most days like he was last year, allowing him to accumulate decent marks in the non-batting average categories.
LeMahieu’s multi-positional eligibility is the cherry on top of a nice fantasy profile. Give me shares of LeMahieu all day at this range.
Yandy Díaz, 3B Tampa Bay Rays
ADP : 256
Yandy Díaz is a batting average and on-base percentage machine that fits perfectly at the top of the Rays’ lineup, a place he should stay for the foreseeable future. The notoriously tight-fisted Tampa Bay front office opened the checkbook for Díaz this winter, inking him to a three-year, $24 million extension that should instill confidence that he’ll play a central role for the team over the next few years even as he ages into his mid-30s.
For a high average, low power output guy, Díaz hits the ball incredibly hard. His 114.3 mph Max EV was in the 95th percentile of hitters last year. Díaz simply doesn’t lift the ball enough to turn the hard hits into home runs, but his propensity for hitting the ball so hard should give you some confidence in a solid batting average floor.
Like others before him on this list, he should compile a lot of runs and help you in that category as well, especially given his sky-high walk rate. If you’re playing in an OBP league, Díaz becomes even more useful.
Michael Brantley, OF Houston Astros
You’re not going to find many players this deep in the draft with the batting average upside that Michael Brantley carries. The 35-year-old veteran has one of the best pure hit tools in the game, slashing .306/.368/.464 over his four-year tenure in Houston.
At this point of Brantley’s career, batting average is really his only fantasy asset. His power is all but gone and he hasn’t attempted more than five stolen bases in a season since leaving Cleveland in 2018. There’s a chance he accumulates a lot of runs scored just from hitting near the top of a strong Astros lineup, but he’ll have to stay healthy to do it.
Injury concerns have seemingly always been a part of Brantley’s profile, and last year a shoulder injury ended his season in late June. He underwent surgery in August that he’s still recovering from, and his availability for Opening Day will reportedly, “go down to the wire.” That should get you a discount on his draft price if you’re truly desperate for batting average help and want to bet on a healthy year from Brantley.
Harold Ramírez, 1B/OF Tampa Bay Rays
In terms of both playing time upside and batting average ability, Harold Ramírez may be unmatched in value at this point of a fantasy draft.
Ramírez is going after pick 400 and should start the season with an everyday job hitting in the middle of the Rays’ lineup. Last year, his first in Tampa Bay, Ramírez had the best year of his career, hitting .300/.343/.404 with six home runs, 58 RBI, 46 runs, and three stolen bases over 435 plate appearances.
You can probably expect that average to slip down to the .270-.280 range as it’s doubtful he repeats his career-high .350 BABIP, but that’s a batting average you’re happy to grab past pick #400. Although Ramírez should start the season with ample playing time, there’s always risk with Tampa Bay hitters. If they don’t perform, the team never seems to run out of solid replacements in the high minors that they love to take chances on.
Adam Frazier, 2B/OF Baltimore Orioles
If you’re interested in an Adam Frazier bounce-back after a rough 2022 season, this is a pretty good price for one of the newest Orioles.
In four of his six years at the big league level, Frazier’s posted batting averages of .276 or above, and I think he can do it again. Even though he disappointed quite a bit in Seattle last year, his batted-ball metrics look very similar to career norms, so the poor .238 average may be in large part due to a .268 BABIP that was 35 points below his career norm.
The Orioles signed Frazier to a one-year, $8 million contract this winter. That’s not a huge deal, but it’s enough money that Frazier should factor heavily into the team’s plans this year. He likely opens the season as the team’s starting second baseman and may get platooned against lefties.
Yonathan Daza, OF Colorado Rockies
There aren’t many bright spots in Colorado these days, but Yonathan Daza may be one of them. The 28-year-old centerfielder had the best season of his career in 2022, slashing .301/.349/.384 and earning himself the leadoff job for the Rockies.
Daza isn’t going to contribute much, if at all, in home runs or stolen bases, but playing his home games in high-altitude Coors Field should give his batting average a nice baseline. Like a lot of others on the list, if he holds down the leadoff job, he could help you out in the run department too.
Nick Madrigal, 2B Chicago Cubs
Injuries have plagued Nick Madrigal‘s early career, limiting him to no more than 228 plate appearances in a season, but when he’s been healthy he’s been a batting-average darling. He has a career .289 average and is one of the game’s premier contact hitters.
With the Cubs signing Dansby Swanson this winter and shifting Nico Hoerner to second base, Madrigal is left without a position which explains his rock-bottom ADP. He’ll likely serve in a utility role this year and may even get some run at third base.
In his first season with the Cubs in 2022, Madrigal disappointed with just a .249 batting average, but that came with a career-low BABIP. If the average bounces back and he works his way into the lineup regularly, Madrigal would be a huge batting average boost going this late in drafts.
Donovan Solano, 1B Free Agent
Donovan Solano hasn’t latched on with a new team yet this winter which is why his ADP is coming in so low, but if you want to throw a really late dart at some batting average help, he’s a great choice. He’s posted averages of .330, .326, .280, and .284 over the past four years.
Solano is 35 years old, but his recent track record is good enough that he should find a home this spring. Landing with a solid offensive club like the White Sox or Red Sox and shoring up their shallow infield depth charts seems like the best-case scenario for the nine-year veteran.
Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)