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Late-Round Picks & Lottery Tickets (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 17, 2021

Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) referenced is using FantasyPros consensus ECR

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Q1. Who is your favorite late-round pick? (ECR 200-300)

Jordan Hicks (RP – STL) ECR: 264
The closer market this year feels as volatile as ever, so I find myself looking for closers in the later rounds, not wanting to waste an early-round pick on a reliever. Enter Jordan Hicks. The 24-year-old flamethrower and his 102-mph fastball are now 19 months removed from Tommy John surgery and all reports this spring have been positive. Recall, Hicks did not miss the 2020 season due to injury, but rather sat out the season electively due to underlying medical concerns related to the fact that he is a type-1 diabetic. Hicks has had ample time to recover from his injury, and the Cardinals seem to have every intention of letting him reclaim the closer role he last held in 2018-2019. The Cardinals are the early favorites to win the NL Central after acquiring Nolan Arenado this winter, and Hicks would stand to see plenty of save chances if he re-emerges as the Cardinals’ closer.
– Lucas Spence (@lspence24)

Willi Castro (3B/SS – DET) ECR: 266
John Means is technically my top target in this range, but I’ve written about him several times already. So, on the hitting side, I love Willi Castro. He is hitting the ball harder this spring, and he hit six homers in only 36 at-bats last year. We know that he already provides average (.349 last year) and speed (17 stolen bases in 119 games in Triple-A in 2019). If he adds some pop, he could truly be a five-category contributor after pick 200. While the Tigers have added several vets this offseason, he should be the everyday shortstop this year. That means we are locked into a stable floor with a very high ceiling.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY) ECR: 204
The one name that stands out – Jameson Taillon – who underwent Tommy John surgery twice and also battled testicular cancer. He’s a resilient pitcher that’s made mechanical adjustments to alleviate stress on his elbow, which involved a shortened arm path. Sure, mechanical adjustments don’t automatically translate to success. However, during spring training, Taillon allowed four hits, zero earned runs, four walks, and nine strikeouts. I love Taillon as my SP4 or SP5, and he’s one of my favorite late-round picks.
– Corbin Young (@Corbin_Young21)

Alex Kirilloff (OF- MIN) ER: 268
Quite frankly, I’m baffled by the low ADP and ECR for Kirilloff. Indeed, he almost certainly won’t start the season with the Minnesota Twins, but he is likely to be with the Big League club by the end of April. After all, the Twins called upon Kirilloff in the playoffs of last year, so they don’t appear to be overly concerned with how “ready” he is. A consensus top-100 prospect over the past three years, Kirilloff’s calling card is his bat, and he should provide an instant boost to a fantasy team upon his call-up. Unlike last year, we now have a full year ahead of us to reap the rewards of Kirilloff’s regular season debut, even if it is delayed.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Jared Walsh (1B – LAA) ER: 223
There are plenty of quality options to choose from, but since he’s rarely discussed, I’ll go with Walsh. After putting up 36 home runs in only 98 games in Triple-A in 2019, Walsh followed it up by blasting an impressive nine homers in less than 100 major league at-bats last year. Even more remarkable is that he did it with a low strikeout rate of only 13.9%. He even hits lefties well, so a platoon situation isn’t likely. With all the attention focusing on the other stars in the lineup, expect Walsh to quietly keep producing. A 35 home run season with a .280 batting average is well within range. Don’t let him slip past the early 200s.
– Austin Lowell

Bobby Dalbec (1B – BOS) ECR: 270
We could be looking at 30+ home runs from Dalbec in 2021. His strikeout rate in 2020 was an astronomical 42.4%, but he also walked 10.9% of the time and hit eight home runs in 23 games. The raw power is real, and he somehow managed to hit .263 in that small sample size last season despite the strikeout rate. He has flaws, which is why his current ADP is around 280. But if the Red Sox let him play every day or something close to it, he’s going to provide free power to fantasy managers who grab him late in drafts.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)

Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY) ECR: 218
Hicks is expected to hit third in a loaded Yankees lineup and has the potential to post a 20/15 season in 2021. The 31-year-old says he’s 100 percent recovered from his October 2019 Tommy John surgery. Hicks’ ability to compile walks showed his ability to get on base, slashing .229/.400/.390 across 135 plate appearances in 2020. If Hicks is able to stay healthy and get on base, he should be line to score plenty of runs and be a steady contributor for fantasy managers in 2021.
– Brad Camara (@Beerad30)

Raimel Tapia (OF – COL) ECR: 239
The 27-year-old Tapia is coming off a career breakout in 2020 when he posted a .321/.369/.402 batting line with one home run, 17 RBI, and eight stolen bases. He’s taken the vast majority of his spring at-bats hitting leadoff and projects to begin the season in this role. Manager Bud Black even said he “wouldn’t count him out” on potentially winning a batting title. That seems a bit far-fetched but it shows you the kind of confidence the team has in Tapia. He’s always had trouble with breaking balls and has never been a great source for OBP, before last season, but you can afford to take that “risk” with your fourth or fifth outfielder. He’s got some pop, can steal bases, and should score a lot of runs as the team’s primary table setter. Even with the Rockies expected to finish dead last in the NL West, Coors Field is still a friendly hitting environment and Colorado should rack up runs.
– Jon Mathisen (@EazyMath)

C.J. Cron (1B – COL) ECR: 283
Before his injury, Kole Calhoun was my play. Now I like Cron, who is in the perfect situation, coming off a lost 2020 season in which he played in only 13 games. In 2019, Cron slugged 25 homers in 125 games, and in 2018 he hit 30 in 140 games. Cron’s Statcast profile from 2019 features high marks in Barrel%, xSLG, xwOBA, Exit Velocity, HardHit%, and xBA. Which, to me, confirms his breakout. Now he gets to play half his games in Coors Field, and with Nolan Arenado gone, somebody is going to have to knock in Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Why not Cron?
– Lucas Babits-Feinerman (@WSonFirst)

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Q2. Who is your top lottery ticket? (300+ ECR)

Myles Straw (OF – HOU) ER: 334
If you play in a format (such as Yahoo!) where he retains his catcher-eligibilty, then the answer to this question is likely Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose ability to contribute in AVG and stolen bases while being the Rangers’ everyday shortstop can provide terrific fantasy value. Otherwise, I’ll go with Straw. A part-time player since 2018, Straw offers very little in the way of power production (career .649 OPS) but is a speedster who can rack up stolen bases in a hurry. Straw himself mentioned earlier this year that he believes he is capable of stealing 50-60 bases if given the chance to be an everyday player. Straw is off to a great start this spring and has been mentioned as a candidate to replace George Springer as the Astros’ leadoff hitter. Keep an eye on this development for the remainder of March, as Straw would be a sneaky pick in the later rounds, capable of scoring runs and piling up steals, if he secures an everyday spot at the top of the Astros lineup.
– Lucas Spence (@lspence24)

Tejay Antone (RP – CIN) ECR: 337
There’s a lot of young pitchers to like in this range, but let’s go with Antone. With the recent Wade Miley injury news, Antone may slide into the rotation. He featured elite spin rates and velocity last year, and gets to work with one of the best pitching development organizations in the game. If he doesn’t lock down a rotation spot, he is an option to close, since Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett are nursing injuries. The worst case scenario is that Antone pitches high-leverage innings out of the bullpen, providing above-average ratios over 75 innings. In a year where innings will be rare, this could be extremely valuable, especially after pick 300.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Freddy Peralta (RP – MIL) ECR: 316
This is probably cheating here since he should continue to creep up rankings and ADP, but it’s Freddy Peralta. In 2020, Peralta primarily pitched in relief with a 3.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 37.6% strikeout rate, and 9.6% walk rate in 29.1 innings. Granted, it’s a small sample, but he increased his swinging-strike rate to 15.7% aided by the filthy slider that elicited a 20.8% swinging-strike rate. What has he done in spring training you ask? Peralta allowed three hits, two walks, and ten strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched. The highlights keep floating around Twitter, and they’re beautiful. Recent reports indicate the Brewers will stretch him out as a starter, but even if they don’t, Peralta should provide quality ratios, strikeouts, and some wins.
– Corbin Young (@Corbin_Young21)

Mitch Keller (SP – PIT) ECR: 329
I will shout Keller’s name from the mountaintops until he either delivers on the promise of his former prospect scouting report or retires. I’ve planted my flag on said mountain, and I see no reason to depart. Keller was the absolutely perfect breakout candidate in 2020 because of how imbalanced his numbers were in 2019 — a bloated 7.13 ERA with a solid 3.19 FIP and a high strikeout rate. He did positively correct as expected in 2020 — an impressive 2.91 ERA — but the underlying metrics — FIP and strikeout rate — both went in the wrong direction. Extremely wrong. We’re obviously at a crossroads with Keller, but this is why his ECR and ADP are so low. The talent is there, and he has had success in Major League Baseball. I’m still buying with the anticipation that this lottery ticket will pay off in the end.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Tarik Skubal (SP – DET) ECR: 304
Skubal is legit. While his starting spot to open the year in the majors is still TBD, all signs point to him being a part of the rotation sooner than later. In 2019, Skubal put together a tremendous season, including an outlandish 17.43 Ks/9 in Double-A. He has never averaged fewer than 10.4 Ks/9 at any stop along the way of his professional career, including his seven major-league starts last year. Even though he gave up plenty of long balls after his call-up, his stuff is off the charts and shows good command illustrated by his 19.4 K-BB%. If he can keep the fastball out of the middle of the zone, look for above-average numbers across the board and a high strikeout total. To me, he’s worth drafting in all standard leagues.
– Austin Lowell

Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX) ECR: 342
Everyone is down on Calhoun, and it’s easy to see why. After bursting onto the scene with 21 home runs in 83 games in 2019, he batted just .190 with one home run in 29 games in 2020. Most projections have him playing around 120 games and hitting 16-20 home runs with a batting average somewhere around .250. But if those are the pessimistic projections, what if things break his way and he looks more like the 2019 version of himself? That could mean 25+ home runs, 150 combined runs scored and RBI, and an average in the .250-.260 range. Sign me up for upside like that in the 300s.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)

Andrew Vaughn (1B – CWS) ECR: 299
Vaughn is currently 299th in the latest ECR and could be Chicago’s DH for most of the season. His service time is expected to be manipulated unless Vaughn and the White Sox agree on a long-term deal before the season starts. Vaughn was a top-three pick in the 2019 MLB Draft and has a 70-grade hit tool. The 22-year-old has elite power and his OBP and SLG percentage could be up there among all first basemen. Vaughn will get on base, hit for a solid average and pop 15-20 homers at a bargain price.
– Brad Camara (@Beerad30)

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA) ECR: 302
Kikuchi’s foray into MLB hasn’t gone well thus far; he’s struggled over his first two seasons but I think he’s ready to take a huge step forward in 2021. The casual fan will take one look at his 2020 numbers and immediately write him off. That’s an arbitrage opportunity. As poor as his numbers appeared on the surface, they were actually an improvement on his 2019 season and the advanced stats show he performed much better than his record would indicate. He finished the year with a 2-4 record, 5.17 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, and 47:20 K/BB over 47 innings. He introduced a new pitch, the cutter, which he threw 40% of the time. Batters had a .226 xBA and .299 xSLG off that offering. He also increased his ground ball rate to 52.8% overall. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph in his last spring start, where he also recorded six punch outs over 3 1/3 innings. We can’t read too much into spring performances but he has a 3.24 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP through 8 1/3 innings of Cactus League play thus far. The 29-year-old southpaw has done a solid job keeping hitters off balance with his pitch mix and he limits hard contact, but he’s just had some bad luck through the first two years of his career. I think his luck regresses to the mean this season. He’s got the tools to massively outperform his current ADP. I’m rostering him as my SP 5/6 all over the place.
– Jon Mathisen (@EazyMath)

Luis Severino (SP – NYY) ECR: 311
Severino has been out of the picture since, essentially, 2018. He missed most of 2019 with rotator cuff and lat injuries and then missed all of 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February. In a 2019 study published by Nathan E. Marshall et al. in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that the average time to return to a field after Tommy John surgery is 13 months. In another study by Eric C. Makhni et al. and published in the same journal, researchers found that player performance after recovery from Tommy John surgery declined, BUT not significantly different from a decline in performance due to aging. Severino is only 27-year-old, and he struck out 450 batters in 384 2/3 innings with a 3.18 ERA from 2017-2018. The Yankees have one of the strongest lineups in baseball, so he should generate plenty of wins, and he’s almost free at his ADP. He’s on track with his rehab and should return to game action before the All-Star break. If you add his production with whoever you were starting while stashing him on IR, you get a potential fantasy ace at a great value.
– Lucas Babits-Feinerman (@WSonFirst)

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