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Fantasy Baseball Values to Target in CBS League Drafts (2023)

by Blake Meyer
Mar 11, 2023
Rowdy Tellez

There are many different platforms you can play fantasy baseball on. The interesting thing is that they all seem to value players slightly differently. While one player may be a consensus top-five player in one format, he may not even crack the top 12 in another. The key to nailing your draft, though, is to know the platform you’re drafting on and be able to find hidden nuggets of value.

There is plenty to find out there this year as well. From the deep shortstop position to pitchers going above pick 200, you’ll find plenty of guys who will offer solid fantasy value for relative pennies. It is important you know what to look for when evaluating under-ranked players and how to spot them. Many people have different ways they do it. This season, there are some interesting ones people may not be as keen on.

First, the basics. The most important thing when spotting an under-ranked player is playing time. Finding those guys later in the draft who are going to be getting consistent at-bats is crucial. Second, where they’re hitting in their respective lineup. While finding consistent playing time in a lineup is key, the farther up in the lineup they bat is better as well. Top-of-the-order guys get more at-bats, which can make a massive difference when it comes to hits, runs, RBI, and more.

The ones I have been keying in on this year are the guys who saw a spike in second-half production last year. What many casual fantasy baseball managers do is look at the overall season production of the prior year when determining how they feel about a player. While the overall stats do matter, the 2022 season was unlike many others. Due to the lockout and no real offseason, many players got off to incredibly slow starts. Much of the work they would have gotten in to ramp up for the season was completely halted and because of that, many players started slowly, which skewed their final numbers.

So with that in mind, let’s get into some guys who are undervalued on CBS and worthy of a spot on your roster.

Jake McCarthy (OF – ARI) (ADP 178)

Jake McCarthy is easily one of my favorite players heading into the 2023 season. McCarthy was a fantasy baseball darling last season who seems to be getting a bit overlooked in CBS drafts. His baseball savant page doesn’t do him any favors either. The light-hitting McCarthy’s barrel rate (4.8%), hard-hit rate (33.7%), and average exit velocity (87.4 MPH) are all well below average. What McCarthy does have going for him, though, is his speed. McCarthy was in the 98th percentile in speed last season, and it showed in the second half.

During that second half of the 2022 season, McCarthy put on a show. In 63 games, McCarthy hit .300 with 10 doubles, two triples, five home runs, and 21 stolen bases. That 21 stolen bases number was the best in baseball in that timeframe. He also sported an extra .360 OBP in that same second half and lowered his K rate to 17.6%. With the speed movement happening in Arizona this season, look for McCarthy to be leading the charge with Corbin Carroll when it comes to steals.

William Contreras (C – MIL) (ADP 188)

For whatever reason, Contreras is going as the 12th catcher taken in CBS drafts. Agree with me or not, I have Contreras as my seventh-ranked catcher for this season. By that alone, Contreras should be up closer to 100 on the ADP board. What he did in 2022 was proof that his power was legit. In 2021, Contreras hit 17 home runs in just 96 games. He followed that up by hitting 20 home runs in 97 games in 2022.

Contreras has power beyond just the counting stats as well. His 13.4% barrel rate was good for the 91st percentile. He also had a max exit velocity of 115.2 MPH, good for the 97th percentile in baseball last year. He made consistent hard contact, evidenced by his career-best 46.6% hard-hit rate. He also improved his K rate (27.7%) and BB rate (10.1%) to career-best numbers as well.

The move to Milwaukee only helps him. While Truist park was slightly better to right-handed hitters overall, American Family Field in Milwaukee is significantly better in terms of home runs. Atlanta was 15th best when it came to home runs for righties; Milwaukee was seventh. Expect Contreras and his excellent power to pay major dividends in fantasy this season.

Lars Nootbaar (OF – STL) (220 ADP)

I may talk a lot about Lars Nootbaar, but I need to make sure everyone has heard me. He’s more than just a cool name, I promise. Nootbaar came out of nowhere in 2022 to show everyone that there’s a new power-hitting outfielder in Cardinals red. Even if his end-of-season home run total may have said otherwise.

In 2022, Nootbaar burst onto the scene with a second half that had everyone’s heads turning. After hitting .200 with four home runs in 40 first-half games, Nootbaar powered up in the second half. Through 65 second-half games, Nootbaar hit .240 with 12 doubles, three triples, and 10 home runs. He also stole three bases, which will likely stay the norm for him throughout his career, even with the bigger bases.

What is it that makes his numbers so great, though? Where’s the upside for a guy who has hit 19 home runs in just over a full season’s worth of games in his career? Statcast. That’s where the upside is. In 2023, the man had a barrel rate of 12.1%, just shy of double the league average. He also had an average exit velocity of 91.7 MPH (90th percentile), a 46% hard-hit rate (80th percentile), and plate discipline most coaches dream their players can achieve. Lars had a walk rate of 14.5%, which, had he qualified, would have been good for fifth best in baseball. Most of that is due to his exceptional 21% chase rate, 7.5% better than the league average.

He’ll need to improve on his ability to hit breaking balls, but even if he’s unable, Nootbaar is for real. He’s in line for regular, consistent playing time in 2023 and the sky’s the limit.

Rowdy Tellez (1B – MIL) (ADP 291)

Another all-time name in the baseball world, seeing someone like Rowdy all the way down in almost the 300s feels criminal. Rowdy is being drafted as the 30th overall first baseman on CBS. 30th. That’s not a typo. Sure, his .219 batting average and .306 OBP in 2022 leave a bit to be desired, but being rated that low is not at all justified. I have Rowdy as the 15th-best first baseman in my expert rankings.

First of all, let’s talk about the batting average. His lowly .219 number wasn’t great, but his xBA was 30 points higher at .252, which was right around his batting average in 2021. Much of that low average is due to his new swing. What Tellez gave up in batting average, he gained in power. In 2022, he hit 35 home runs, which tied for seventh best in baseball. In fact, there were only 21 players in baseball who hit 30+ home runs in 2022. This is what makes Rowdy much more valuable than the 291st-ranked player in fantasy baseball.

In 2022, he raised his launch angle a bit to 15.3 degrees and leaned into being a fly ball-hitting pull hitter. His fly-ball rate jumped to a career-high 45.5%. He also raised his pull rate from 36.5% in 2021 to 41.4% in 2022. Combine that with Rowdy’s excellent power, and you have the makings of a home run-hitting machine. His 12.9% barrel rate and 91.1 MPH average exit velocity meant Rowdy was continuously making solid contact. Especially in the second half. In 65 second-half games, he hit 17 home runs. That’s very impressive when compared to the 18 he hit in 86 first-half games.

In a league seemingly weak in the home-run department these days, Rowdy offers superior production in the very late rounds of your draft. Steals will be a dime a dozen, but guys with 30+ home-run ability seem to go in the first handful of rounds. Take Tellez with confidence that late in your draft and reap the rewards.

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