Very Deep League Targets (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Late-round players in deep leagues have a tough row to hoe to stick on fantasy rosters. The following players falling past pick 300 have staying power. It’s a mostly veteran-laden group. Although, a young pitcher coming off a pop-up performance in 2019 also gets the nod.
Adam Eaton (OF – CHW): 314.8
Eaton struggled last year to the tune of a .226/.285/.384 slash in 176 plate appearances with four homers and three stolen bases. His .260 BABIP immediately stands out. The left-handed-hitting outfielder has a .332 BABIP for his career, and he amassed a .336 BABIP in 1,133 plate appearances from 2017 through 2019. Last year’s mark looks flukey.
Speaking of his three-year run from 2017 through 2019, he hit .288/.377/.425 with 22 homers and 27 stolen bases during that stretch. Injuries hampered him in 2017 and 2018, but his per-600 plate appearance pace of 11.65 homers and 14.30 stolen bases, stellar batting-average contribution, and run-scoring ability thanks to his on-base skills ties together nicely. He’s a perfect glue guy for rosters.
C.J. Cron (1B – COL): 323.3
Cron is battling for the first base gig with youngster Josh Fuentes and rebound candidate Greg Bird. Cron’s the highest-ceiling fantasy option of the bunch, and Fuentes has a pair of minor-league options remaining. If the battle’s close, that could be the deciding factor in the club’s roster decision.
Cron’s calling card is his thump. He has massive power that resulted in 30 homers in 560 plate appearances in 2018 and 25 in 499 plate appearances in 2019. He hit an identical .253 those two seasons. Cheap power is appealing, and his batting average could get a lift from MLB’s most hitter-friendly park, Coors Field. His possible new home digs drastically inflate all hit types. He’s worth a pick a few rounds earlier than his ADP, thanks to where he’d call home if he sticks on the roster.
Anthony Bass (RP – MIA): 341.8 and Jake McGee (RP – SF): 411.4
I’m lumping Bass and McGee together. Both offer potential saves for cheap. Bass’s teammate, Yimi Garcia, is also a candidate to close and is a bargain option with an ADP of 312.3. However, I’m leaning in Bass’s direction thanks in large part to Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald indicating Bass “appears to be a front-runner to be the Marlins’ closer for the 2021 season.”
The veteran right-hander saved seven games last year, five in 2019, and has a 3.44 ERA, 3.89 SIERA, 1.06 WHIP, 22.2 K%, 8.3 BB%, 55.0 GB%, and 29.6 Hard% in 86 appearances spanning 89.0 innings since 2018, per FanGraphs. He doesn’t strike out batters at the standard-closer level, but he makes up for the lack of punchouts with a gaudy groundball rate and limited hard contact against him.
McGee thrived last year after leaving Colorado, his home from 2016 through 2019. The veteran southpaw tallied a 2.66 ERA, 1.81 SIERA, 0.84 WHIP, 3.8 BB%, 41.8 K%, and 18.4 SwStr% in 24 relief appearances totaling 20.1 innings for the Dodgers. Manager Gabe Kapler said McGee’s “a nice candidate to close games for us based on how many strikes he threw last year and how many bats he missed” upon the lefty’s signing. I’m dumbfounded his ADP remains outside the top-400 players due to the likelihood he saves at least some games this year.
Tejay Antone (SP/RP – CIN): 348.3
I’m enamored with Antone, as evidenced by my touting him here, here, and here. Unfortunately, he appears ticketed for a long-relief gig. I’ve previously noted that’s a possible outcome and, while it’s less a less fantasy-friendly role than starting or closing, Antone’s skills are too good to pass up at his ADP.
The righty spun a 2.80 ERA, 3.69 SIERA, 1.02 WHIP, 11.3 BB%, 31.9 K%, and 13.0 SwStr%. He also managed rock-solid batted-ball data, including a 48.7 GB% and 86.7 mph exit velocity tying for 61st out of 345 among pitchers who had a minimum of 50 batted-ball-events, according to Baseball Savant.
Workhorse starters mostly don’t exist anymore, and they’re likely to be less prevalent this year than usual after an abbreviated 2020 campaign that suppressed all pitchers’ innings. The shift in pitching dynamics enhances the value of a multi-inning reliever like Antone. Further, there’s always the chance his ability pushes him into the rotation or results in multi-inning-save opportunities. Regardless, gamers should draft the talented hurler and let the chips fall where they may.
Matt Moore (SP – PHI): 511.8
Moore epitomizes a deep league target with an ADP north of 500. He’ll almost certainly skyrocket up draft boards if he has a strong spring, though. Gamers drafting now don’t have a chance to wait and see how he plays, but I’m inclined to believe the mystery surrounding his return from Nippon Professional Baseball makes him a steal.
The veteran lefty piled up innings in bunches abroad last year.
Most notable thing about Matt Moore? He threw 85 innings in Japan last season, which would have led MLB. Teams need innings. He’s also a lefty and Phillies had zero GS by a lefty in 2020.
– Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) January 29, 2021
Peter Gammons tweeted he was in the 90-95 mph velocity range, which is acceptable.
Matt Moore, still 31, has become intriguing FA. Once threw shutout G1 2011 ALDS. Was 17-4@22. Arm, calf, knee injuries cripple career, but 15 starts in Japan–2.65, 95-26 K-BB, 90-95 velo, delivery back balanced…mid-rotation possibility for several clubs
– Peter Gammons (@pgammo) January 19, 2021
Jim Allen stated Moore “had one of Japan’s more effective changeups and did well to miss bats over 78 innings in his first NPB season.” Additionally, Allen noted Delta Graphs credited Moore with the seventh-highest swinging-strike percentage among the 53 pitchers who logged 70-plus innings.
Moore teased a turnaround from back-to-back dreadful seasons in 2017 and 2018 in his two starts for the Tigers in 2019, but a knee injury cut his season short. Toss in his success in NPB last year, and the sample of a rebound is large enough to roll the dice on at his draft cost.
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