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High-Risk/High-Reward Draft Picks: Hitters (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brian Entrekin | @bdentrek | Featured Writer
Mar 8, 2023
Luis Robert

Risk tolerance, or the risk vs. reward of a draft pick, is a popular topic of conversation during draft season. There are always a handful of players that we all know can produce a very high fantasy ceiling, but at the same time, the risk they bring with them is an awful fantasy floor. On the other hand, these players usually bring a decent ADP, so the draftee needs to decide if the price suits the risk.

High-Risk/High-Reward Draft Picks

Some players are coming off an injury or even injury-prone, while some are just young players who have not had a chance to prove themselves at the big-league level. This article will discuss five hitters with significant risk/reward traits this draft season — some familiar names year after year and some of the top prospects in baseball.

Luis Robert (OF – CWS)

Robert showcased immense talent when he played in his first three seasons with the White Sox. The problem is when he’s played. Last season, he played 98 games; that is the most he has played in a single season. He hit 12 home runs, stole 11 bases, and hit .284, which is solid, but we need that for a full season.

He enters 2023 healthy, which he has done most seasons, so there is intrigue to draft him again. If you take on the playing-time risk, he can supply 20/20 upside, which is always outstanding. Robert has showcased solid barrel and hard-hit rates, and a great maxEV over 117 mph. His current NFBC OC ADP over the last two weeks is 45, making him a major high-risk, high-reward pick.

Corbin Carroll (OF – ARI)

Carroll is a trendy name around fantasy baseball this draft season. Regarding prospect rankings, the DBacks outfielder is the top prospect by most publications. Last season, between Double-A, Triple-A, and the DBacks, Carroll hit 27 home runs and stole 33 bases while also hitting for a strong batting average.

The talent of Carroll is undeniable; a legit 30/30 bat someday. The big question is if that ultimately is 2023 or farther down the line. In his short time with the DBacks, he struck out 27% of the time while only walking 7%, which was a massive difference from his time in the minors. That could be the first-time-in-the-bigs jitters. His current NFBC OC ADP over the last two weeks is 64, which makes for quite the high-risk, high-reward pick on draft day.

Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT)

We were all waiting for Cruz to get the call last season, and when the Pirates finally brought the highly-touted prospect up, there were some mixed results. He played in 87 games for the Pirates, hitting 17 home runs with 10 stolen bases. That is pretty good, but the big problem is that he only hit .233 while also striking out 34.9% of the time. On the other hand, Cruz also showcased the insane quality of contact metrics with a 15.5% barrel rate, 45.6% hard-hit rate, and 122.4 mph maxEV.

Cruz’s quality of contact can excite anyone of the prospect Cruz can bring to a fantasy team. He can hit 30 home runs and even steal 20 bases. The problem holding Cruz back is the plate discipline. If he can revert back to the 25% strikeout rate from the minors, Cruz is a gift at his NFBC OC ADP of 62 over the past two weeks.

Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)

It would only be a high-risk, high-reward article with Buxton involved. His offensive skills have always been great, but his health has always been his issue. He played in 92 games last year, which was the most since 2017, when he had his only season over 100 games played. Buxton still hit 28 home runs while stealing six bases, but he only hit .224.

Buxton’s power has improved over the last three seasons, coinciding with a barrel rate of over 13.5% and a hard-hit rate of over 47%. Projections even love Buxton, as most have him playing 130 games while hitting 30+ home runs and stealing 10 bases. He will not be a significant average asset, but a 30/10 bat at an NFBC OC ADP of 81 is pretty solid. He just needs to play those 130 games.

Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY)

Stanton will not put up a season like Aaron Judge did last season, but a healthy season from Stanton could produce some fantastic power statistics. Last year, he hit 31 home runs and drove in 78 runs in 110 games. Unfortunately, he only hit .211, the lowest of his career, so I’d expect a return to his .240-.250 levels.

Stanton has had an NFBC OC ADP of 138 over the last two weeks, which is not too bad. But it could be a gift if he plays over 130 games. Stanton would likely pitch in 35+ home runs with the ability to be a 50-home-run bat. If he hit all those home runs, he would also have a great chance to drive in over 100 runs and score 80+. Stanton would be worth a pick about 50-60 picks higher if he can stay healthy. That may be worth the risk.

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