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Deep League Draft Targets (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Deep League Draft Targets (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

At the end of every season, I go back to my late-round draft picks from March to see how many players remained on my team for the duration. Even if I dropped them or traded them, I ask whether or not they were worth keeping in the long run.

And the harsh reality is this: Most of the guys we draft in the last rounds will be dropped (and should be dropped). But when you have a guy (or two) who does make it, the entire season can shift. Here are a few late-round gems from 2022:

What can we take away from a list like this? First and foremost, we have the players who are finally reaching their potential after a couple of years in the big leagues (Bohm and Gimenez). We have a top prospect who wasn’t valued as much as Bobby Witt Jr. (Rodriguez). We have a team finally committing to a player (Tellez hadn’t received more than 400 plate appearances since 2019). This idea of receiving a more prominent role is true of pitchers, too, like Devin Williams after Josh Hader was traded and Nestor Cortes Jr. running away with a rotation gig.

Of course, I’m speculating about causes here. But if I apply some of these ideas to a few late-round dart throws, the players below may be worth drafting in your leagues.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

The 250+ ADP Dart Throws

Catcher: Jonah Heim (C – TEX)

Jonah Heim is 27 years old. Although he saw two years of big-league action before 2022, last year was the first season that he had more than 400 plate appearances. As we saw in last year’s jackpots, we like to identify someone who has a couple of seasons under their belt and is now seeing more investment from their current team. He was stronger in the first half, but let’s assume Heim got tired by his first full season of at-bats in the second half. He still managed 16 homers. And while the season line of .227/.298/.399 looks scary, his BA was closer to .260 in the first half. This spring, he’s hitting .318/.414/.591 while also occupying a spot in the middle of the lineup.

First Base: Spencer Torkelson (1B – DET)

I might be forcing my theories from last year’s late-round winners here. Torkelson has only been in the league one year, but if we assume a player needs 800-1,000 major league at-bats to transfer skills, then he could still be the next Austin Riley by mid-season. I’d rather be ahead of the curve than behind with this former first-overall pick in 2020. Consider that Riley’s first two years (about 500 total plate appearances) saw his BA languish at .226 and .239 before making the leap in 2021 to .303. In his first season, Austin Riley owned a 5.4% BB% and a 36.4% K%. In Torkelson’s first season, he hit .203 and had a 9.2% BB% and a 24.5% K%. He was more patient than Riley, and he only has 404 plate appearances at the top level. Also, his FB% leaped from 37% in the first half to 46% in the second half, which is higher than Riley’s 39% for the 2022 season. So he’s clearly adapting. Tork could come together quickly.

Second Base: Kolten Wong (2B – SEA)

Wong is underrated. In 2019, he hit 11 home runs and stole 24 bases. In 2021, he managed a 14/12 season, and last year he gave the Brewers a 15/17 season. His BABIP of .280 was a bit lower than normal, which resulted in a .251 BA. But he can usually give us a .260-.270 BA. It’s the consistency I’m buying at an ADP of 251 and the hope that he gets a full season of at-bats. The last time he did that was in 2019 when he stole 24 bases. If we add the pitch clock changes to the equation, maybe he’s a “speed leveler” in the late rounds for our teams. He’s got two stolen bases this spring, and Seattle has been batting him at the top of the lineup a lot. There is a chance we’ll see him batting leadoff or second this season.

Third Base: JD Davis (3B – SF)

My bold prediction for JD Davis is that he will hit 25 home runs this year. The last time someone allowed him to have 400 plate appearances was in 2019 with the Mets. If he can run away with a full-time job in San Francisco, he could be this year’s Rowdy Tellez. Davis also owns ridiculous Statcast power numbers. He was in the 99th percentile in HardHit% last year, 97th percentile in Barrel%, and 95th in Average Exit Velocity, according to Baseball Savant. I firmly believe he’s never been given a complete chance to shine, and this could be the year for this oft-overlooked player.

Shortstop: Anthony Volpe (SS – NYY)

Here’s the thing: Volpe is most likely starting the season in AAA. Sure, it could be service time manipulation, but can we really call it that when the position has already been filled on their major league club (for a team that went to the playoffs last year)? I mean, they won the American League East, for crying out loud. Can I get an amen, Yankees fans? So this is probably a team that feels comfortable with a “wait and see” approach. Easily, an injury or some other issue could arise that promotes Volpe faster. That’s what ‘having depth’ is all about. And boy, do we want this depth piece. Volpe hit 21 dingers across two levels and stole 50 bases last year. He’s hitting .297 in spring training, with two home runs and four stolen bases in 37 at-bats. That already has us dreaming of 20/40, doesn’t it?

Starting Pitcher: Trevor Rogers (SP – MIA)

I know that many managers have soured on Rogers, a former first-round pick who managed a 2.64 ERA (3.54 xFIP) and a 10.62 K/9 in 133 IP in 2021. If you owned him last year, he did not repeat. You know this well. But while he owned a 5.47 ERA, in the second half, his xERA was almost exactly the same as his xFIP from 2021. Here are some more tidbits: His GB% of 39% in the first half jumped to 48% in the second half, which was even better than his 40% for the entire 2021 season. In fact, his BB% in 2021 was 8%, and it shrank to 5% in the second half of 2022. The K% may not return to the same heights, but we should want an arm with this much potential at ADP 250.

Reliever: Matt Moore (RP – LAA)

Can you name a 33-year-old relief pitcher who had a 10.09 K/9 and an ERA under 2.00 and also garnered five saves? I’ll give you a hint: He was signed for $7.55 million this year by the Angels. Yup, Matt Moore. That’s who. (I know you can see the answer above). That kind of investment might mean that he gets a chance to shine in a pivotal role at some point, so if you have a spot on your roster and you want to gamble, he’s virtually free. The other option for the Halos might be Carlos Estevez, but he does have a 15.43 ERA in spring training. My apologies to Estevez, but by comparison, he doesn’t seem to have the skills of a stopper, with a 3.47 ERA (xFIP 4.27) in 2021. He gave up a HardHit% that was 8% higher than Moore. This is not to say Moore is a top-tier closer, but he might end up owning the role.

Beyond our fantasy baseball content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – which optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.

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