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2023 Undervalued Players

Oneil Cruz

Oneil Cruz

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Here are all of my favorite picks for 2023, likely first- and second-rounders excluded. Players are listed along with their rankings from the Rotoworld draft guide, their NFBC ADPs from the last month and their Yahoo ADPs from the last week.

First basemen

Matt Olson - 23rd in Top 600 - 41st in NFBC - 46th in Yahoo
Nathaniel Lowe - 60th in Top 600 - 100th in NFBC - 113th in Yahoo
C.J. Cron - 106th in Top 600 - 134th in NFBC - 137th in Yahoo
Ryan Mountcastle - 111th in Top 600 - 152nd in NFBC - 162nd in Yahoo
Miguel Vargas - 121st in Top 600 - 201st in NFBC - 242nd in Yahoo

Olson didn’t come through for me in his first year in Atlanta, but I imagine he’ll be a little more comfortable in year two. He certainly has looked it while hitting .429 with five homers through 28 at-bats this spring. I have him projected to finish second in the majors in homers with 43, three behind Aaron Judge.

Mountcastle would probably be a top-75 pick right now if the Orioles hadn’t neutered Camden Yards. He was tied with Olson for sixth in the majors with 61 barrels last year. Statcast thought he should have slugged .509, rather than his actual .423. He’s still not going to fulfill his true potential in the home run department this year, but he should hit with a bunch of guys on base and make a run at 100 RBI.

Vargas is only first-base eligible at the moment, but he’s set to open up as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman and he should be a nice all-around player, even while hitting at the bottom of the lineup.

Second basemen

Jazz Chisholm Jr. - 29th in Top 600 - 36th in NFBC - 49th in Yahoo
Andrés Giménez - 44th in Top 600 - 79th in NFBC - 96th in Yahoo
Brandon Lowe - 117th in Top 600 - 158th in NFBC - 148th in Yahoo
Luis Arraez - 168th in Top 600 - 208th in NFBC - 209th in Yahoo

Second base is lacking in studs, but I’m pretty fond of the depth. Besides these four, there’s four other infielders in this column who should soon qualify at second (Vargas, Ryan McMahon, Nico Hoerner and Adalberto Mondesi). I was looking at Chisholm as a priority in a couple of my early drafts this year, but I’m just fine with waiting for a second baseman now. Typically, it’s McMahon and Vargas that I’m ending up with.

Third basemen

Gunnar Henderson - 52nd in Top 600 - 86th in NFBC - 94th in Yahoo
Ryan McMahon - 80th in Top 600 - 199th in NFBC - 206th in Yahoo
Ke’Bryan Hayes - 154th in Top 600 - 177th in NFBC - 194th in Yahoo

I’m less pleased with third base, which is why I like winding up with Austin Riley in round two. I am, however, surprised about the relatively modest price tag for Henderson. The power is there for him to hit 25 homers as a rookie, and he should contribute in steals as well; he didn’t do much running after his callup last year, but he was 22-for-25 stealing bases in 112 games between Double- and Triple-A.

McMahon always shows up on these lists of mine without ever fulfilling his potential. Still, he posted some of the best batted-ball and contact numbers of his career last year, and I think this might finally be the year he hits for a solid average.

I’m not as high on Hayes as usual, but I will grab him or Anthony Rendon late if I don’t wind up with a third baseman. He still has nice exit velocity numbers, and the groundball rate wasn’t quite as hideous last year as in 2021. Plus, the likelihood of 15-20 steals helps a bunch.

Shortstops

Oneil Cruz - 33rd in Top 600 - 63rd in NFBC - 82nd in Yahoo
Willy Adames - 56th in Top 600 - 90th in NFBC - 90th in Yahoo
Wander Franco - 69th in Top 600 - 82nd in NFBC - 91st in Yahoo
Nico Hoerner - 113th in Top 600 - 137th in NFBC - 204th in Yahoo
Adalberto Mondesi - 141st in Top 600 - 257th in NFBC - 221st in Yahoo
Ezequiel Tovar - 144th in Top 600 - 221st in NFBC - 220th in Yahoo

Yes, Cruz will strike out a whole lot. Yes, he’ll struggle against lefties. He’ll also crush the ball regularly, and he’s talking about stealing 30-40 bases. Now, spring training stolen base talk should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Cruz has 98th percentile sprint speed and no real barriers as the leadoff man for bad team. I also think he’ll have a better average than people suspect; because he hits the ball so hard and has such outstanding speed, he should be among the league leaders in BABIP. Cruz hits too many grounders right now to fulfill his potential as a home run guy, but at least we’re looking at more of those grounders turning into singles without the shift this year.

Adames is here every year. He’s a worse bet in batting average than some, but last year’s .238 looks like a fluke, considering that he was a career .262 hitter going into the season and actually struck out less than usual.

No one wants to take a chance on Mondesi this time around after getting burnt in a big way he last two years, but if you can grab someone with his upside in the last couple of rounds of drafts, you have to do it. He’s still almost certainly going to be one of the best basestealers in baseball when healthy, and he’s not a zero when it comes to power. He was a top-20 position player in 2020.

Catchers

Daulton Varsho - 53rd in Top 600 - 37th in NFBC - 65th in Yahoo
Will Smith - 65th in Top 600 - 53rd in NFBC - 77th in Yahoo
Alejandro Kirk - 142nd in Top 600 - 101st in NFBC - 145th in Yahoo

I usually lead off this column with the catchers, but it was too embarrassing this time around. First, the big caveat: my rankings are for one-catcher leagues and NFBC uses two catchers. In a two-catcher league, I’d have each of these three slightly ahead of their NFBC ADPs, though still only slightly. I just don’t have any catcher standouts this year. Unless I wind up with Varsho or Smith, I’m waiting until the end to draft a catcher, most likely Sean Murphy or Cal Raleigh in a 12-team league.

For two-catcher leagues, I’m a little higher than Logan O’Hoppe and Christian Bethancourt than the pack. If they’re off the board, I’d look at Nick Fortes and Jorge Alfaro as end-game picks.

Outfielders

Luis Robert Jr. - 28th in Top 600 - 45th in NFBC - 43rd in Yahoo
Eloy Jiménez - 36th in Top 600 - 67th in NFBC - 74th in Yahoo
Corbin Carroll - 43rd in Top 600 - 61st in NFBC - 77th in Yahoo
Tyler O’Neill - 47th in Top 600 - 96th in NFBC - 104th in Yahoo
Byron Buxton - 48th in Top 600 - 87th in NFBC - 92nd in Yahoo
Christian Yelich - 72nd in Top 600 - 113rd in NFBC - 115th in Yahoo
Taylor Ward - 75th in Top 600 - 106th in NFBC - 130th in Yahoo
Alex Verdugo - 89th in Top 600 - 196th in NFBC - 182nd in Yahoo
Ian Happ - 114th in Top 600 - 149th in NFBC - 155th in Yahoo
Esteury Ruiz - 131st in Top 600 - 242nd in NFBC - 243rd in Yahoo
Lourdes Gurriel - 134th in Top 600 - 227th in NFBC - 238th in Yahoo
Garrett Mitchell - 137th in Top 600 - 259th in NFBC - 226th in Yahoo
Bryan De La Cruz - 151st in Top 600 - 251st in NFBC - 259th in Yahoo
Riley Greene - 160th in Top 600 - 192nd in NFBC - 204th in Yahoo
Andrew Benintendi - 162nd in Top 600 - 208th in NFBC - 221st in Yahoo
Wil Myers - 196th in Top 600 - 237th in NFBC - 257th in Yahoo

It seems to me the last couple of years have been particularly bad for those position players we label as injury-prone and that, as a result, said injury-prone players are being too heavily discounted in fantasy leagues. That’s why we have Buxton going 90th in drafts and other talented players turning into afterthoughts. I think we worry a little too much about durability, particularly in shallow leagues. Even those considered among the most injury-prone will often put together healthy seasons and maybe eventually shed the label entirely. Trea Turner was once untouchable in the eyes of some, and no one is dinging Judge for durability this year. Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are being penciled in for full seasons by most. Jurickson Profar (the last cut from the list above) isn’t great, but he’s gone from being perpetually injured to having no such concerns.

It’s stunning to me that Carroll is still lasting this long in drafts... maybe it’s the Jordan Walker hype overshadowing him. He should steal around 30 bases and be solid elsewhere. ... It’s been encouraging seeing Yelich get the ball into the air more this spring, and he’s probably going to do enough running that he doesn’t need a monster rebound to be pretty useful. ... Mitchell’s hamstring injury has taken away from the hype that was building there after three quick homers to begin the spring. That’s great for me, as he’s one of my very favorite targets late in drafts.

Outfield isn’t as deep as usual this year, but I think the complaint is being overblown somewhat. There just isn’t a whole lot of power, so it’d be best to get that early. Unfortunately, one of my favorite outfield sleepers for power, De La Cruz, might lose out on a roster spot entirely. I’ve had to drop him some in the rankings, but I’ll likely slide him back up to No. 130 or so if the Marlins come to their senses.

Starting pitchers

Jacob deGrom - 18th in Top 600 - 35th in NFBC - 33rd in Yahoo
Justin Verlander - 22nd in Top 600 - 42nd in NFBC - 34th in Yahoo
Max Fried - 32nd in Top 600 - 72nd in NFBC - 65th in Yahoo
Logan Gilbert - 41st in Top 600 - 116th in NFBC - 120th in Yahoo
Clayton Kershaw - 87th in Top 600 - 123rd in NFBC - 90th in Yahoo
Tyler Glasnow - 96th in Top 600 - 137th in NFBC - 113th in Yahoo
Joe Ryan - 103rd in Top 600 - 144th in NFBC - 157th in Yahoo
Jordan Montgomery - 119th in Top 600 - 170th in NFBC - 176th in Yahoo
Jesús Luzardo - 124th in Top 600 - 152nd in NRBC - 162nd in Yahoo
Nathan Eovaldi - 186th in Top 600 - 246th in NFBC - 245th in Yahoo
Alex Cobb - 189th in Top 600 - 229th in NFBC - 230th in Yahoo
Zach Eflin - 193rd in Top 600 - 275th in NFBC - 241st in Yahoo

I’ve been more aggressive than usual in drafting starting pitchers this year, since I think that’s where a lot of the value is. I often wind up with one of deGrom, Verlander or Shane McClanahan and then Fried, Gilbert, Ryan and Montgomery.

I wonder how many years we’re going to keep doing this with Fried. Even though he finished second in the NL Cy Young balloting last year, he’s at nearly the same exact ADPs now as when I did this column last year.

Gilbert is the player I have in every single draft I’ve done this spring. There are things in the numbers not to like about him, but he’s showing top-notch stuff and he’s in an excellent situation in Seattle. He doesn’t have to be drafted nearly as early as my ranking suggests, but I don’t like the idea of missing out. He’s a reasonable bet for both a sub-3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts.

Eovaldi is someone I recent bumped in the rankings. His velocity has returned this spring after last year’s injury-related decline, and he should benefit from getting away from Boston’s defense and Fenway Park. His .318 BABIP is third highest in the majors among those to throw 300 innings the last three years. Only Patrick Corbin and Antonio Senzatela topped it.

Relievers

Camilo Doval - 57th in Top 600 - 109th in NFBC - 98th in Yahoo
Kenley Jansen - 71st in Top 600 - 103rd in NFBC - 90th in Yahoo
Clay Holmes - 81st in Top 600 - 124th in NFBC - 115th in Yahoo
Andrés Muñoz - 88th in Top 600 - 179th in NFBC - 152nd in Yahoo
Pete Fairbanks - 109th in Top 600 - 180th in NFBC - 153rd in Yahoo
Evan Phillips - 126th in Top 600 - 248th in NFBC - 192nd in Yahoo
José Leclerc - 130th in Top 600 - 220th in NFBC - 186th in Yahoo
Jorge López - 167th in Top 600 - 280th in NFBC - 213th in Yahoo
Craig Kimbrel - 174th in Top 600 - 301st in NFBC - 212th in Yahoo
Jason Adam - 180th in Top 600 - 367th in NFBC - 237th in Yahoo

With half of the league pretending they’re going to mix and match in the ninth, sure things are hard to find here. I like to make sure I have at least one top-10 closer, probably Doval or Jansen. I take it some are a little scared about the Taylor Rogers addition in San Francisco, but I think Doval is a top-five reliever capable of posting an elite ERA and WHIP.

Muñoz and Fairbanks aren’t sure things when it comes to saves, but they should get some and I have them projected among the very best relievers from an ERA/WHIP/strikeout standpoint. As far as pure ERA, I have Fairbanks first, followed by Jhoan Duran, Muñoz, Devin Williams and Emmanuel Clase.

I didn’t include David Robertson in the list above, since his ADPs are undergoing big changes in the wake of the Edwin Díaz injury. I currently have him 139th overall, slotting him behind Leclerc as my No. 18 RP.

For those still in need of saves at the end of drafts, I suggest trying Trevor May, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Fulmer.