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8 Must-Have Players (Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 24, 2021

The short sample size we had last year may lead to a potentially unprecedented number of value picks in this year’s drafts. Many of 2020’s underperformers who were priced at a premium in last year’s drafts are likely poised to rebound. This means talented athletes who disappointed last season like J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, Charlie Morton, and Chris Paddack, could easily outproduce their draft cost and are sure to be “must-haves” for many managers.
Fake baseball GMs aren’t only targeting bounce-back players when determining their favorite draft targets. Older, yet consistent athletes or reliable bats that lack position eligibility are prone to getting overlooked annually by the public and make fine value plays as a result. Young talent with a top-prospect pedigree and strong spring numbers are also solid bets to outproduce their cost if they get enough playing time. Identifying these draft targets isn’t always easy though, so our featured analysts have come to give you their favorite picks. Read on to see who they are aiming for in all their drafts.

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Q1. Who is the one hitter outside the top 45 in hitter ADP you are targeting as a must-have on all your teams and why?

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN): ADP – H52 | 81st Overall
“Castellanos is one hitter outside the top 50 in hitter ADP that’s a must-have player. The entire Reds offense struggled and they ranked dead last with a .212 batting average and a .245 BABIP in 2020. For Castellanos, he never recorded a batting average below .272 from 2017-2019. He compiled a healthy amount of home runs, runs, and RBIs in the 2020 shortened season, yet still boasted an elite 26% LD% and 16% barrel rate (95th percentile). Expect a major bounceback for Castellanos in 2021.”
– Corbin Young (FantasyData)

“One of the easiest statistical cases to make for a bounce-back campaign is for Nick Castellanos. He actually got off to a torrid start in 2020 but it quickly fell apart. The most glaring reason was a .257 BABIP, which was extremely uncharacteristic. His previous career-low was .294 from 2013 and he had been above .300 in every other year. He also posted a career-high ISO and all of his expected stats remain elite. Like I’ve already mentioned; this is an easy bounce-back case to make.”
– Brendan Tuma (FantasyPros)

Joey Gallo (OF – TEX): ADP – H81 | 131st Overall
“I realize that the batting average may kill you, but I’m grabbing Gallo wherever I can. Gallo is mashing this spring after working on a swing change in the offseason, slashing .310/.429/.931. Yes, he was abysmal last year, but are we really going to all-out dismiss him (as we nearly are with a 131.8 ADP) just because of a small sample size? Particularly with the deadened ball, 40-homer hitters aren’t likely to be as easy to come by as in past years, so Gallo’s power will have an even greater impact. It takes some work to make sure you can withstand the average hit, but so long as you do it (and I do in my drafts), he should be a target everywhere.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN): ADP – H57 | 88th Overall
“Regardless of his age, I think Cruz is one of the safest bets for any one of 40 homers, a .300 average, or 200 runs plus RBIs. If he weren’t a UTIL-only player, I would be perfectly happy taking Cruz early in the third round. That said, even for me, his lack of a position does lower his value a little, but I still have him as a top 50 player, whereas his ADP is 88. My entire draft strategy revolves around Cruz. I draft pitching early, am sure to get a good steals source in the first three rounds, nab Cruz, and then draft guys with lots of eligibility to mitigate Cruz’s lack of flexibility.”
– Jordan Eisen (Field of Vision Sports)

Victor Robles (OF – WAS): ADP – H102 | 157th Overall
“Robles offers 20/30 potential. There aren’t a lot of players in your draft that you can say that about. Yes, he still strikes out too much. However, in roto leagues, that’s less of a concern. The Nats have publicly come out to say they want him at the top of their order which would not only increase his run total upside, but also allow him to see better pitches to hit with Trea Turner and Juan Soto behind him. At 24, there’s far too much upside o ignore at his cost.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

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 and why?

Charlie Morton (ATL): ADP – SP35 | 115th Overall
“Morton has the potential to be a league-winner this year and is severely discounted because of last year’s performance. Heading into Tuesday, he had yet to give up an earned run in the spring and looks as strong as he had prior to last season. And for those who want to write Morton off because of his 4.74 ERA and 1.39 WHIP last year, note his performance after his velocity returned as he recovered from his shoulder injury, including his 2.70 ERA in the postseason. Morton is also likely in the last year of his career, meaning there’s little reason for the Braves to try to limit his innings. In short, it’s a perfect storm for Morton to vastly outperform his ADP this year.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Charlie Morton has seen his velocity bounce back to the mid 90’s and he looks just as sharp this spring as he did in the playoffs. Morton struggled with the stop/start of 2020, but he did right the ship as time went on and looks like he could be the ace of the Atlanta rotation. Morton’s K-rate has really improved the last few seasons and in a year of unknowns, he’s the kind of rotation horse that could anchor your fantasy rotation should you miss out on the top shelf arms. He’s being undervalued solely on his age, which in 2021 should actually be valued because he can make 30 starts.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Jesus Luzardo (OAK): ADP – SP33 | 106th Overall
“There honestly aren’t too many stats backing up this take. I just have a good gut feeling about Luzardo taking a leap in his sophomore season. In 2020, he put up an unextraordinary 4.12 ERA and a slightly better 3.88 xFIP. However, if you take out his start against San Francisco, in which he found out he was pitching the day of the game due to Frankie Montas being scratched, Luzardo’s ERA drops to a solid 3.42. On top of that, it seems as though the fantasy industry has forgotten that the young ace contracted COVID in the offseason, and while we’re giving passes to Yoan Moncada and Austin Meadows, Luzardo isn’t nearly getting the same benefit of the doubt.”
– Jordan Eisen (Field of Vision Sports)

Tyler Mahle (CIN): ADP – SP54 | 177th Overall
“Mahle is a must-have starting pitcher outside the top 30 in starting pitcher ADP. He made a pitch mix change swapping the curveball for a slider/cutter that resulted in an 18.6% swinging-strike rate and a .243 xwOBA. His four-seamer also had 100% active spin that translated to an added 1-1.5 inches of vertical movement. Grab Mahle as an SP4 with upside in 15-team rotisserie leagues.”
– Corbin Young (FantasyData)

Aaron Civale (CLE): ADP – SP58 | 190th Overall
“I’m past the point of doubting Cleveland’s pitching development team. Next in line for their never-ending onslaught of breakout arms is Civale, who owns a 3.69 ERA through his first 22 big league starts. That isn’t bad, but things worsened towards the end of 2020, which led Civale to undergo an offseason change. He arrived to spring training with a shortened arm path and a new split-changeup. The early returns have been promising to say the least.”
– Brendan Tuma (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for sharing their must-have players. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more advice all season and check out our latest podcast below.

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