Draft season is finally upon us and I for one could not be more excited. If you’ve been following my dynasty rankings I believe its pretty obvious I’m a fan of deep leagues, whether they are dynasty, keeper or redraft. I love the late round gambles, the thrill of the waiver wire and above all, finding that diamond in the rough who can lock up a starting spot on your team for the remainder of the season. To continue this trend I’ve identified a few deep league outfield targets who I believe deserve a spot on your roster this season:
Leonys Martin – Cleveland Indians
As far as injuries go, Martin may have had one of the scariest situations last year. His 2018 season ended in early August due to a very serious bacterial infection which caused him to be hospitalized but luckily, coming into this spring, he has been a full go with no limitations. Currently he is slotted into the Indians lineup as their everyday center fielder and its worth noting that he is a top notch defender, which figures to keep him in the lineup even during slumps at the plate. In order to convince you of his fantasy upside let’s look into what he accomplished last season between the Tigers and Indians compared to his last full season (2016) with the Mariners:
He improved his plate discipline by dropping his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate. This is completely backed up by a sizable drop in his O-Swing% along with a 5% increase in his Zone-Swing rate (up to a fantastic 75%). His swinging strike rate therefore dropped and his contact rate increased, all of which proves he could continue to get on base at a .330+ clip.
Besides the possible improvement in AVG and OBP, why is this important? Martin is a guy with speed, meaning that the more he is on base the more he can swipe some bags. He is turning 31 before the season starts so I can’t guarantee elite speed, but in a little over half a season of at bats in 2018 he stole 7 bases. It’s not out of the question he could swipe 15 bags and with an NFBC ADP of 354 there won’t be many other stolen base threats available around that pick.
Another area I expect Martin to show improvement is his quality of contact. From 2016 to 2018 he increased his flyable rate almost 10%, which frankly is astronomical. In addition he increased his hard hit rate by almost the same margin, while more than doubling his Barrel %. Yet with all of these impressive adjustments he saw his HR/FB% drop, which seems like it could only be due to bad luck. So if I’m looking at what I think he can provide in terms of power I’m projecting closer to a 15% HR/FB rate, which could mean he hits 20+ home runs over a full season. On top of that he’s in a hitters ballpark with a solid lineup around him which could mean plenty of counting stats.
Verdict: Leonys Martin is going as the 354th player off the board in NFBC drafts. He’s projected to get everyday at bats and has completely reworked his batting profile to lift the ball more and make better contact. He’s also improved his plate discipline and now plays in a hitter-friendly park in a solid lineup. I’m hoping for a .260/.330/.440 season with 20 home runs and 15 steals. At his cost, what’s the risk?
Jackie Bradley Jr. – Boston Red Sox
Quickly becoming a popular pick this offseason, Bradley has never had a lack of talent, it’s just always seemed as though it hasn’t all come together for him. Still only 28-years old, I’m interested in buying at his NFBC ADP of 221. Like Martin, Bradley is an elite defender which keeps him in the lineup during slumps, yet it is worth mentioning that the Sox have shown a tendency to sit him sometimes in favor of getting JD Martinez into the outfield It may keep his plate appearances capped at around 550, but I’m still buying.
||PA||SB||CS||FB%||Hard Hit%||HR/FB%||Exit Velo (mph)||Barrel%|
In comparison to Martin, I’m not interested in Bradley due to improving plate discipline, ballpark or playing time situation. Instead Bradley showed elite power skills last season that we’ve yet to see come to fruition. He ranked in the top 7% of the league in exit velocity last year (Baseball Savant) and increased his hard hit rate by almost 8%, putting him in the top 4% of the league. Despite these improvements he saw a decrease in his overall numbers in 2018. His Batting average, OBP and home runs all fell putting him below league average with a 90 wRC+. Perhaps even more stunning is his HR/FB% falling from 14% to 10% when he ranked among the top of league in exit velocity. I’m not expecting a Yelich-like breakout of 35% but a HR/FB rate around 18% would not surprise me and would lead to vastly different results given his close-to-league-average FB%.
Just like Martin, Bradley projects to give you a bit of speed as well. In 2016 and 2017 Bradley provided just under 10 steals per year at a 77% success rate, which is solid but rather unexciting. In 2018 he had a bit of a speed resurgence and ended up stealing 17 bases while only getting caught once. The Red Sox certainly aren’t known as a team willing to run into outs, but if we can project Betts and Benintendi for 20+ steals I see no reason to as to why we should expect anything less than 15 for Bradley.
Verdict: Bradley had quite the resurgence in 2018 that never actually came to fruition. The contact was close to elite, his speed made an appearance and the solid supporting cast became even better. If the underlying numbers sustain, I’m projecting a line of .250/.325/.440 with 25 home runs and 15 steals. I will take that below pick 200 any day of the week.