2019 Fantasy Baseball Late Round Draft Targets

With about a month left until Opening Day, draft season is in full swing. Sleepers are not sleepers anymore, unless most of your league is living under a rock. Instead we need to compile a list of late round targets for specific categories. We can still find the sleeper breakout, but nabbing a late power bat instead of getting the same numbers in an earlier round is key for drafting efficiently. We will be looking at ADPs 215 and later, which is heading into the 18th round in 12-man leagues. ADP is an average of a few sites. A few names will be broken down further, alongside some honorable mentions.

Starting Pitching

Joe MusgroveJoe Musgrove – Pittsburgh Pirates – ADP: 269.3

There are a lot of peripheral stats that will go overlooked to the common eye, well unless those eyes read some breakout pitching articles. Either way, Musgrove came up with the Astros the last few years, before being part of the Gerrit Cole trade. We had a 115.1 inning sample size last season, as he has been dealing with injuries over the last few seasons. Musgrove used five pitches last season, and was fairly balanced not throwing any of them over 35%.

An increase in slider usage would be a plus for Musgrove, given he has a 37% whiff rate on it, and a 35% strikeout rate. His sinker should have also generated better numbers with a -4 LA and .330 xSLG. Musgrove has potential to up his strikeout stuff, and churn out a strong season in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has an attractive fantasy rotation for this season, and Trevor Williams is a name that people are turning to late as well. With his mediocre swing and miss stuff, he will need to rely on some positive batted ball stats.

Joey LucchesiJoey Lucchesi – San Diego Padres – ADP: 245.7

Joey Lucchesi had some blowup outings, and there will be a few in 2019 as well. The strikeout upside is there, given he has a terrific curveball, which he says refers to as a change sometimes. His curve/change had over a 40% whiff rate, and generated a 42% strikeout rate. His sinker got him into trouble, especially leaving it up in the zone at times. A 1.59 HR/9 and 20.4% HR/FB were both crazy high numbers, that should drop in 2019. This would help neutralize some damage and blowups.

Adding a third pitch is crucial for Lucchesi developing at the big league level. While he has a fastball, he doesn’t really throw it. There have been reports of an added cutter, which would be a help from the left-hander. We will keep an eye to see if these reports are true. San Diego doesn’t have many viable fantasy options, but Lucchesi has some positive strikeout stuff, pitching in a friendly home ballpark.

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Skaggs (235), Ross Stripling (235.7), Dereck Rodriguez (263.3), Kyle Gibson (301.0)

Closing Pitching

Drew SteckenriderDrew Steckenrider – Miami Marlins – ADP: 281.8

Targeting saves gets trickier and trickier every year. We have multiple bullpen arms getting save chances, and overall the bullpen usage has evolved. We can’t fault people for being smart, even though it makes it tricky to project. Drew Steckenrider is a bottom barrel closer who is going to get a chance to close the door for a very bad Miami team. He had a downward trend in his strikeout rate which is a concern, but also dropped his hard-contact allowed by about 10%. Steckenrider is a flyball prone pitcher, and pitching in Miami helps negate some home runs and extra bas ehit.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Colome (246), Ryan Brasier (374)

Middle Infield

Ketel MarteKetel Marte – Arizona Diamondbacks – ADP: 257.7

Ketel Marte is coming off his second year in Arizona, posting a career high .177 ISO and 104 wRC+. Arizona’s best hitters over the last decade are now gone. This offense should be closer to league average, as I don’t think they will just drop off the face of the planet. Marte has solid plate discipline, and has some speed, but steals isn’t going to be there. He was in the 73rd percentile in xBA last season, and had a 36% hard-contact rate which was up 8% from his career norm. Marte is a solid later round plug for your middle infield spot.

Jorge PolancoJorge Polanco – Minnesota Twins – ADP: 236.3

Jorge Polanco is going to flirty with some of the tier two type shortstops in the league. He missed half of last season with a PED suspension, but came back with a .773 OPS in 333 PA. Polanco projects for about 30 combined HR and SB. Polanco has also been a strong contact bat as well. He doesn’t standout as a high upside bat with the lack of above average batted ball stats, but he is in the middle of a sneaky good offense. If you are holding out at SS and miss the wave of top end options, skip the middle tier and land Polanco a little later.

Francisco CervelliFrancisco Cervelli – Pittsburgh Pirates – ADP: 262.7

I will lump the catcher spot into the middle infield category, and leaving the position late is something I have done so far through drafts. Francisco Cervelli has had an interesting and lengthy career. He is a viable fantasy option, and has been the last few season. In 2018 he was in the 64th percentile in hard-contact, and 79th percentile in xwOBA. He is coming off a career high .809 OBP.

Honorable Mentions: Omar Narvaez (291,5), Willy Adames (234.7), Niko Goodrum (295.3), Starlin Castro (296.7), Brandon Crawford (338)

Corner Infield

Yonder AlonsoYonder Alonso – Chicago White Sox – ADP: 286.7 

Yonder Alonso has developed into a better power bat over the last few seasons, and his landing in Chicago is a good place for that to continue. He was around the 50th percentile in xwOBA, xBA, and hard-contact last season with Cleveland. He hit 23 HR and had a .738 OPS. A 20+ HR season or flirting with it is projected as he turned into a flyball bat the last two seasons. The hard-contact was at a career high last season. I am on board acquiring the late round power threat out of Chicago.

Jake LambJake Lamb – Arizona Diamondbacks – ADP: 269.3

An injury plagued 2018 and a strong group of players at the position has moved Jake Lamb to being a deeper target. Lamb is going to bring some strikeouts, with a career 25.4% rate, but the power is there. He has a career .201 ISO, and a fully healthy Lamb can flirt with 25 HR, 75 R, and 75 RBI. Lamb needs to get his groundball rate back down a little, but the 42.5% hard-contact rate when he was healthy last season. He had a .438 xSLG, and should get back to mashing fastballs.

Honorable Mentions: Kyle Seager (235.3), Brian Anderson (284), Josh Bell (235.3), Brandon Belt (325.7)

Outfield

Joc PedersonJoc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers – ADP: 326.7

Joc Pederson was in the 88th percentile in exit velocity last season, and was in the 66th percentile in hard-contact. He is going to sit against left-handed pitching, with a career .258 wOBA and 29% strikeout rate against southpaws. Against right-handers, he has a career .249 ISO, and 40% hard-contact rate. Pederson projects still for over 400 at-bats, and is in the mix of a top ten offense too. He projects for a similar wOBA of Marcell Ozuna and Michael Conforto, who are going much higher. Love Pederson to round out an outfield.

Jackie Bradley Jr.Jackie Bradley Jr – Boston Red Sox – ADP: 245.3

One of these seasons Jackie Bradley Jr is going to have the stats his batted ball stats deserve. He was in the 93rd percentile in exit velocity and in the 96th percentile in hard-contact. What set him back was outs above average being in the 90th percentile. Being in the top 4% in hard-contact is huge for JBJ. He had 35 barrels last season, which was 60th in baseball. He is part of a deep Boston lineup, and while Fenway is tough for lefty power, he is in a great division. I have him closer to 20 HR than the 13 he hit last season. The 10.6% HR/FB was too low, and that should rebound in 2019.

Domingo SantanaDomingo Santana – Seattle Mariners – ADP: 256.0

2017 was a breakout year for Domingo Santana, and then he took a back seat when Milwaukee upgraded their outfield. He had 30 HR and hit .278. The average is not something I think he will recreate, but the home run potential is there. He has a career 39% hard-contact rate, and 26% HR/FB. Santana is going to get 500+ PA in Seattle, and plus playing time is everything that he needed to be fantasy viable.

Honorable Mentions: Daniel Palka (292.5), Max Kepler (248.3), Randal Grichuk (269.3), Shin-Soo Choo (253.3), 

  
Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at The Fake Baseball and Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.