Mid-Round Targets (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Mid-round players are an often overlooked group of players for pre-season analysis. Draft content typically focuses on busts, breakouts, sleepers, and late-round targets, but mid-round selections are integral to winning fantasy championships. The following mid-round options provide a blend of upside and stability.
*ADPs found courtesy of FantasyPros Consensus ADP
Byron Buxton (OF – MIN): 124.2
Buxton possesses some of the loudest tools in baseball, and his power has manifested itself in a big way over the last two years. He’s smashed 23 homers with a .274 ISO in 430 plate appearances, per FanGraphs. Buxton produced eye-popping contact with a 9.6 Brls/PA% and 96.8 mph flyball/line-drive exit velocity that both ranked tied for 21st out of 351 players with a minimum of 50 batted-ball events, according to Baseball Savant.
Buxton stole only two bases last year, but his speed didn’t go anywhere, and he’s stolen 16 bases in 20 attempts since 2019. A 20-plus stolen base season is attainable for Buxton, and 30-plus isn’t out of the question, either.
The fly in the ointment for Buxton is a .259 batting average since 2019, with an ultra-aggressive approach to blame. His plate discipline numbers don’t suggest a change is imminent, but the rest of his profile offsets his lackluster batting average — which isn’t a complete train-wreck, anyway.
Wil Myers (1B/OF – SD): 128.4
Myers produced the best offensive season of his career last season, tallying a 154 wRC+. His real-life success also moved the needle in fantasy, with 34 runs, 15 bombs, 40 RBIs, two stolen bases, and a .288 batting average. The veteran slugger dialed up his barrel percentage to a career-high 14.8%, and his 9.6 Brs/PA% was the 13th-highest mark among qualified hitters, per Baseball Savant.
In addition to making high-quality contact, Myers displayed a discerning eye with a 25.8 O-Swing% (30.6 O-Swing% was the 2020 league average), and his 85.2 Z-Contact% was his highest mark since 2016 and better than the league average of 84.2%. His stellar plate discipline and improved contact led to a 25.7 K%, his lowest since tallying a 23.7 K% in 2016.
Myers offers gamers excellent power production, ample potential for runs and RBIs in a loaded Friars’ lineup, and double-digit steal potential despite last year’s hiccup stealing only two bases. Myers stole 16 bases in 2019 in less than a full-time gig (490 plate appearances and 155 games played, to be exact). Further, Myers’ improved contact and plate discipline numbers suggest the potential for a .260-plus batting average even if there’s some regression to his career norms.
Trevor Rosenthal (RP – OAK): 144.2
Rosenthal ranks 10th among true relievers — meaning I’m excluding reliever-eligible starters — in ADP, but he checks in as my fifth-ranked reliever. The righty underwent Tommy John surgery in late 2017, missed the entire 2018 season, and struggled mightily in 2019. He returned to dominant pre-Tommy John form last year, though.
Actually, that’s underselling his work. Rosenthal saved 11 games, twirling a 1.90 ERA, 2.31 SIERA, 0.85 WHIP, 8.8 BB%, 41.8 K%, and 16.5 SwStr%. in 23.2 innings. Further, Rosenthal has a track record of dominance on his resume. He saved 96 games with a dominant 2.66 ERA, 2.68 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.4 BB%, 30.5 K%, and 12.9 SwStr% in 237.0 innings pitched stretched across 233 relief appearances from 2012 through 2015. Coupled with his resurgence last year, I’m buying into Rosenthal performing as a top-shelf fantasy closer.
Christian Vazquez (C – BOS): 157.8
Vazquez fell under the umbrella of a no-hit, all-defense catcher with a .246/.296/.335 slash, 10 homers, and a 67 wRC+ through his first 999 plate appearances from 2014 to 2018. He revamped his swing in the offseason before the 2019 season. The results have been fantastic.
He’s launched 30 longballs, hitting .278/.327/.472 with a 105 wRC+, 88 runs, 95 RBIs, and eight stolen bases in 710 plate appearances since 2019. Vazquez is the eighth catcher off the board by ADP, making him a steal. I’m much more bullish on his outlook, ranking him as my third-best catcher.
Andrew Heaney (SP – LAA): 199.0
Some pitchers have a fatal flaw in their statistical profile that prevents them from pitching to their advanced metrics. Gamers of a certain age will remember Ricky Nolasco being an annual breakout candidate due to his advanced metrics, yet he lived up to his hype only one time. Nolasco couldn’t strand runners to save his life, and his ERA predictors failed to penalize him for his strand-rate issues.
Heaney’s underachieved his ERA predictors, but he doesn’t have a recurring blemish in his profile that appears to be the fatal flaw. Handwaving the gap away as unlucky might seem foolish, but that’s what I’m doing.
The 29-year-old lefty owns a 4.42 ERA, 3.84 SIERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.5 BB%, 25.6 K%, and 12.6 SwStr% in 60 starts spanning 342.0 innings since 2018. Heaney’s surface stats are worth selecting at his ADP, but I believe his SIERA is a better indication of his true talent level. A sub-four ERA with his standard WHIP and strikeout contributions would make him a steal.
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