Fantasy Baseball Lottery Tickets
There is something exciting every year about the chances of hitting the jackpot on an end-game flier. Owners of Jonathan Villar or Jean Segura in 2016 can attest to that. Below is a list of possible lottery tickets who could punch your ticket to a league championship this year. All have significant question marks but could pay off handsomely if the stars align. For this study we are focusing on a 12-team league with 20 starting roster spots (1C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 1 UTIL, 1 MI, 1 CI, 9P). We limited the choices to picks made after a 240 average draft position (ADP). Here is the 2017 FantasyPros All-Lottery Team.
Mike Zunino (C – SEA) ADP: 283
The veritable wasteland of offensive catching production this year has been well documented. At pick 283, the expectations at the backstop are not high. Enter Zunino, who practically doubled his walk rate and home run output from 2015 to 2016 in about half the plate appearances. Granted the small sample size, batting average drain, and ample strikeouts, the University of Florida product could provide above average power in a stacked Mariners lineup while giving you Evan Gattis-type numbers (ADP 110) nearly 170 picks later.
Greg Bird (1B – NYY) ADP: 244
The 25-year-old was a question mark coming into spring training off of a recurring shoulder injury from 2015. Fast forward a whole 35 AB (!), and he’s answered all the pundits by batting .400/.488/1.431 with four home runs. If nothing else, he’s secured a full-time role to begin the season, and considering the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium for left-handed hitters, one has to like his chances to be productive. Chris Carter and Matt Holiday await to steal AB should his shoulder start barking, so tread carefully, but there is upside here.
Joe Panik (2B – SF) ADP: 317
Panik is not going to win you a league championship single-handedly, but he’s not going to hurt you in any category. Completely healed from concussion symptoms last season, he’s a good bet for a .300 batting average, a decent amount of runs from the two hole, and could scrape double-digit home runs. That’s not saying much for what was one of the deepest positions in fantasy for 2016. However, among keystoners with at least 950 PAs since 2015, Panik—even with his terrible 2016—checks in the top 10 in terms of weighted runs created (wRC+), a measure of overall offensive output. At pick 317, you could do a lot worse.
Yangervis Solarte (3B – SD) ADP: 291
Solarte was never much of a prospect, and he should not be your first choice at the hot corner. He has managed to parlay his skill set into a full-time role the past few years, which is more than most pundits ever thought he’d do. Let’s play the name game with two players since 2014:
No one can argue that Solarte is better than player A, but the latter has a 91 ADP price tag. Player A is Anthony Rendon. Add this to the fact that Solarte could also pick up second base eligibility this season, and there could be some sneaky value for a player who can fill a 2B, 3B, CI, or MI slot on your roster.
Orlando Arcia (SS – MIL) ADP: 271
Arcia disappointed last season (216 PAs), posting a paltry .219/.273/.358 line (.267 BABIP) with four home runs and eight stolen bases. Expectations were higher, though he was a 21 year old rookie at the time. However, he’s a career .282/.339/.404 hitter in the minors and stole a career high 31 bases in 2014. Unmet expectations create buying opportunities, and one thing the Brewers like to do is run (they stole 42 more bases than the next closest team in 2016). Arcia could be a cheap source of steals and provide a bit of pop without killing your average … all for pennies on the dollar.
Domingo Santana (OF – MIL) ADP: 255
Alex Gordon (OF – KC) ADP: 325
Albert Almora (OF – CHC) ADP: 499
Even the conservative STEAMER projections project a steady 15–20 HR and six SB a piece for Santana and Gordon while slashing a similar .250/.335/.420 type line. Admittedly, Almora is a shot in the dark, but there is skepticism that Jason Heyward’s swing has, in fact, changed despite the early reports/videos. Despite the glove-first profile, Almora stands to be the primary recipient of playing time if Heyward cannot pull out of his offensive funk. You should not draft these guys as primary options, but if you find OF value this late, you can cash in while the league pays top dollar.
Kolten Wong (MI – STL) ADP: 330
I’m still in on Wong, and you can read why here. Fast forward two weeks from that analysis and his ADP is virtually unchanged, which means he’s still flying under the radar. It probably has to do with the fact that he’s hitting .167/.250/.417 in 36 ABs so far this spring. There is nothing to indicate that he won’t be the starting second baseman for the Cardinals come Opening Day, so I’m still advocating for you to draft him for your MI slot.
Pablo Sandoval (CI – BOS) ADP: 360
No, this is not 2011. Gone are the Giants’ Panda-monium days, and we may never see Sandoval hit 20 home runs again. The jury is still out on whether he can hit lefties anymore. That being said, his 39 ABs in spring training (.333/.350/.965 with 3 HR and 11 RBI) at least still have the three-time World Series champion on life support. The move from San Francisco to Boston, his health, lineup, and all-but-locked-up starting job at third base have Panda trending in the right direction … enough to take a flier on at pick 360.
Alex Cobb (SP – TB) ADP: 299
Michael Wacha (SP – STL) ADP: 340
Alex Wood (SP – LAD) ADP: 385
What you’re looking for at this point in the draft are pitchers who have demonstrated major league success sometime in their past. You are also looking for a defined starting role to begin the season. Finally, you are looking for good home ballparks (and ideally solid defenses) to mitigate risk. While there are all sorts of questions surrounding this trio regarding health, they have all have had success at the big league level to varying degrees, Cobb and Wacha have locked up rotation spots (and Wood is on his way), and all three will pitch half of their games in favorable pitching environments. Oh, and all can be had outside the top 300 picks.
Daniel Hudson (RP – PIT) ADP: 418
Tony Watson, the current incumbent closer for the Pirates, should be a setup man, where he has thrived in his five years prior to 2016. He’s done nothing this spring to lock up the job (4.1 IP, 8 ER, 6:3 K:BB ratio). Meanwhile, Daniel Hudson has fared somewhat better (2 ER in 5 IP with an 8:2 K:BB ratio). Some may argue Felipe Rivero (7 IP, 0 ER, 9:0 K:BB ratio) should leap frog both, but my money is on Hudson taking the job from Watson soon. The veteran right hander is no lock moving forward, but management did give him $11M and two years to find out if they invested in a solid closer. The meager price for the Pirates and your fantasy squad could yield dividends this late in the draft.