10 Must-Have Players (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 15, 2019

Daniel Murphy now plays at Coors Field and boasts plenty of upside with a solid floor

Everybody wants the guys who are taken in the early rounds. Who doesn’t want Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, and Max Scherzer? The bigger question is, which players after the early rounds should you do your best to nab on all your teams? Sure, you might have that one guy you’ve been eyeing as your super sleeper, but we’ve got our featured pros in tow to give you some extra names for your “must-have” list. These experts have analyzed both hitters and pitchers they desire for all their rosters.

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Q1. Who is the one hitter outside the top 30 in hitter ADP you are targeting as a must-have on all your teams?

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B – COL)
Hitter ADP: 47
Jose Altuve is going in the second round and for good reason, as he has batted .334 over the last three seasons with 20 bombs and 80 RBIs a year. There used to be steals, which is why he was a top-five pick, but now that he has had knee surgery, we can expect those numbers to plummet. Essentially, he is Murphy. In those same three years, Murphy batted .326, nearly 20 points above #3 on the list. And despite playing 80 fewer games, he has just as many homers and RBIs too. Now that Murphy will be playing half his games in Coors, it would be fair to expect him to surpass Altuve in homers, RBIs, and perhaps even batting average. Stolen bases and runs might not be far behind either if he can stay healthy.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

“Once you get outside of the first five or six rounds of a fantasy draft, you usually need to either take a chance of an unproven young guy, bet on a big bounce-back candidate, or settle for a solid player who simply isn’t capable of being truly elite. But with Daniel Murphy, you get the best of all worlds. This is a player who was a top-30 hitter in standard 5×5 leagues in both 2016 and 2017, and he also performed like one in the second half last year once he was fully recovered from his offseason microfracture knee surgery. Now he’ll get to play his home games at Coors Field, easily the best hitting environment he’s ever called home. As one of the most likely candidates in baseball to win the batting title — while also fully capable of delivering 25+ HRs and 100+ RBIs — Murphy is a terrific bet to produce another top-30 season, if not top-10.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN)
Hitter ADP: 134
“‘Must-have’ might be a tad strong, but Cruz is a tremendous bargain anywhere beyond the top-75 picks. His idea of a down year is settling for 37 home runs and a .361 wOBA, both his lowest tallies since 2013. Nobody has belted more long balls over the last five seasons, and the 38-year-old doesn’t look ready to stop raking just yet. He placed among the 98th percentile in xwOBA and xSLG, so take the discount on the elite designated hitter.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Nelson Cruz is a bat outside of the top 30 in hitter ADP that could provide a great ROI for his owners. While they will lose some roster flexibility, the value at his current ADP is too good to pass up. Even at age 38, Cruz was in the top 98th percentile in exit velocity, hard hit%, and xwOBP. Many expect a decline, however, even with some decline baked into his projections, Cruz could still put up very productive power numbers. He is currently a steal where he’s going in drafts, and I’ll own him on many teams.”
– Jason Johnson (Understanding Fantasy Baseball)

Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS – KC)
Hitter ADP: 39
“Although coveting Mondesi based on a small Major League sample goes against much of how I think about fantasy baseball, I am certainly targeting him as the 39th hitter off the board. Of course, he’ll regress from his preposterous 2018 pace (he had 14 home runs and 32 steals in just 75 games), and he has horrific plate discipline that will probably be exploited. But realistically, it’s difficult for me to see him putting up less than an absolute floor of about 17 home runs and 35 steals, health permitting, particularly in light of how much the Royals will likely run to make up for their lackluster lineup. Even with the obvious regression of his batting average and lower runs scored and RBI totals given his team, his numbers will more than play at his current ADP.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS)
Hitter ADP: 79
“Jimenez is currently 79th in hitter ADP. He’s a Major League-ready phenom. If he wasn’t slated to spend three weeks in the minors, and if Vladimir Guerrero didn’t have a son, Jimenez would be a top-30 bat. He’s a polished hitter with tremendous plate discipline that should help him to avoid those rookie yips a lot of players run into. He has a plus hit skill with plus-plus power that should make him become an immediate star.”
– Tim Young (Brewer Rat)

Q2. Who is the one starting pitcher outside the top 25 in starting pitcher ADP you are targeting as a must-have on all your teams?

Chris Archer (SP – PIT)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 32
“I find myself quite annoyed at the positive talk about Archer looking good this spring because it’s inflated his ADP to the 32nd starting pitcher off the board. That’s still about 10 spots too low for me, and so my streak of 100% shares in Archer remains. Yes, of course, the ERA has been over 4.00 for three straight seasons and he really doesn’t have a valuable third pitch. But I largely gave him a pass last year because of his injury, and his move away from the AL East (career 5.27 ERA against the Red Sox, 5.07 against the Orioles) into the National League (career 3.33 ERA and 1.13 WHIP against NL teams) is more than enough reason to have optimism. Assuming he can get back to the 200-inning mark that he had reached the three seasons prior to 2018, I’d expect his strikeouts and overall numbers to greatly outpace his ADP.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Charlie Morton (SP – TB)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 29
“Over the last two seasons, Morton is one of only 10 pitchers who have thrown at least 300 innings with an ERA under 3.50 and a K/9 over 10. The others are a who’s who of consensus fantasy aces: Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Trevor Bauer, Stephen Strasburg, Luis Severino, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber. Some may be scared off by Morton’s move to the AL East, but he’ll get to make half his starts in one of the league’s most pitcher-friendly ballparks, and the opportunity to face the lowly Orioles multiple times helps offset the challenging trips to New York and Boston. Morton has never thrown more than 172 innings in a season, and at age 35 we shouldn’t expect that to suddenly change, but I’ll gladly take three-quarters of a season of ace-like production at a discounted price.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)

Ross Stripling (SP – LAD)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 60
“Stripling has taken over as the guy I want in every league now that Josh James suffered a quad injury. This time last year, Mike Clevinger was in the same exact spot as Stripling. He only had 120 innings so no one seemed to realize just how terrific he was. As you know, Clevinger proceeded to break out into a top-20 pitcher, and I expect the same from Stripling now that he will have a full season in the rotation. After all, he was top five in xFIP last year along with Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Patrick Corbin, and Carlos Carrasco.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Alex Cobb (SP – BAL)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 187
“Before surgery, Cobb had perfected one of the most devastating pitches in the game, his splitter, and he was a Cy Young contender. After surgery, he lost his feel for the pitch and essentially stopped throwing it. Late last season, however, Cobb seemed to have rediscovered his feel for the pitch. He posted a 2.59 ERA over his last 12 starts, and his splitter brought back memories of 2013 and 2014 when he made hitters look like they’d never seen a baseball diamond. Admittedly, drafting Cobb is essentially taking a flier, and it’s possible he’s lost his feel for the pitch over the offseason, but as the 187th pitcher by SP ADP, he shouldn’t come at too high of a cost, while the reward could be gigantic.”
– Tim Young (Brewer Rat)

Tyler Skaggs (SP – LAA)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 63
“Although he’s already dealing with a sore left forearm, Skaggs is too cheap to pass up. He sported a 2.61 ERA through 19 starts last season, but two disastrous outings before and after a DL stint buried his breakout. Despite the dreadful finish, he ended the season with a 3.63 FIP and 129 strikeouts in 125.1 innings. Barring a further setback, Skaggs is still worth targeting around the pick-200 range.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Kyle Hendricks (SP – CHC)
Starting Pitcher ADP: 34
“There’s a good chance I’ll have Hendricks on most of my teams this year. While he lacks the sexy K/9 ratio, he more than makes up for it in his other ratios. Only 29, Hendricks has always posted a near elite BB/9, while also fooling batters into very weak contact. Since 2014, he has compiled an amazing 3.07 ERA and is grossly underappreciated for his ability. He should easily finish as a top-30 pitcher, and allow his owners to gain an edge in the ratio categories for a very reasonable investment on draft day.”
– Jason Johnson (Understanding Fantasy Baseball)

Thank you to the experts for taking the time to name their must-have players. Please be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more great advice. Also, check out our latest podcast episode, which is also available below.

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