It’s day three of the Most Undervalued series! I’ve put together a list of the most undervalued players according to the Big Board in each of of the major sites. I’ve done my best to avoid top-end players that are tough to specifically target in drafts, so these should all be guys that you could reasonably plan to draft. Also, I’m not going to be recommending guys like Iglesias that everyone generally agrees is a “sleeper”. Don’t go crazy drafting these guys way earlier than their ADP, but a good approach would be to split the difference between their Big Board rank and their ADP, and aim to draft them around there. That said, let’s get on with it! The pitchers:
Team ESPN Team CBS Team Yahoo
SP1Masahiro TanakaChris SaleJeff Samardzija
SP2Lance McCullersWei-yin ChenPatrick Corbin
SP3Jake OdorizziDrew SmylyRubby de la Rosa
RP1Jason GrilliCody AllenWill Smith
RP2Sean DoolittleA.J. RamosDanny Farquhar
SP - Masahiro Tanaka, 100th BB, 141st ADP
Ever since the ‘partial UCL tear’ label got attached to Tanaka, he’s become radioactive in fantasy. Nobody wants to trade for him, nobody wants to draft him. But really, the partial UCL tear is by all accounts a common injury in baseball, the real difference is that in this case, we know about it. And therein lies your chance to profit. His 2.96 xFIP over the past two years qualifies him for a spot in the top-10 starters in baseball, tied with Dallas Keuchel, and yet every other guy in the top-10 is being drafted 70 picks earlier. Performance is not a concern, only playing time, and Tanaka is well worth the risk if you manage to get a top-10 guy this late in the draft. His heavily regressed 1.13 WHIP projection means there is still upside above this projection (his WHIP was below 1 last year), which could give some wiggle room in case the 180 innings is a bit optimistic.
SP - Lance McCullers, 159th BB, 220th ADP
I am completely unfazed by McCullers’ spring training shoulder woes. In fact, he was always going to be facing an innings limit this year, so even though he’ll get a later start to the season, I still have him pegged for 175 innings. McCullers and his batman shoes surprised us last year at age 21 with a 3.2 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning. Even though he doesn’t seem to know where his changeup is going at times, he’s going to offer a pile of strikeouts with potential for elite upside this season. His already-too-low ADP is only falling now that he’s DL-bound. I know you don’t care, but he became the best pitcher in baseball for many years running in my most recent iteration of “Out of the Park Baseball”.
SP - Jake Odorizzi, 178th BB, 221st ADP
Famed for stealing Alex Cobb’s cool pitch-name, Odorizzi and “The Thing” broke out last year to the tune of a 3.35 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He posted a slightly depressed .271 BABIP, but for a guy that gets 40% fly balls with a 10% IFFB (4% popup rate) and Kevin Kiermaier behind him, that doesn’t necessarily indicate ‘luck’. I’m optimistic he could repeat the same thing this year. The upside is ultimately capped because of the way the Rays use their bullpen (he averaged 6 IP/GS last year), so the 180IP is a full-season projection.
RP - Jason Grilli, 201st BB, ADP>260
If you’re lucky enough to have your draft soon, grab Grilli before people realize he’s the Braves closer. Most of the site rankings have not caught on, and so we see Grilli not even being drafted in standard ESPN leagues so far. He won’t be a big producer of saves on this terrible Braves team, but that terrible-ness also means they’ll be motivated to keep their other relievers cheap and let Grilli (or Jim Johnson) rack up saves for as long as they’re able to. For what it’s worth (not a lot, since everything is small sample size with relievers), he was damn good last year, with a 25% K-BB% that harkened back to the Pirates version of Grilli that was so good from 2011-2013.
RP - Sean Doolittle, 151st BB, 177th ADP
Until we get a reason to not believe in Doolittle, I’m going to keep loving him. When he was last completely healthy in 2014, he was easily a top-5 reliever in baseball, with a 34% K-BB% and 10% popup rate. His sexy sexy fastball has driven his success so far, and this spring he’s been described as “ripe with giddiness” talking about the split-change he’s been working on. Doolittle with more weapons sounds downright scary. I’m buying the projection and viewing him as a great option to go after if you’d rather spend your mid-round picks on hitters/starters instead of the top tier of relievers.
SP - Chris Sale, 7th BB, 16th ADP
Pitcher ADPs are weird on CBS. Their points league draft room displays players based on projected points, and so the top is dominated by pitchers. Less savvy owners see that and decide to draft pitchers way too early. All that to say – it’s hard to find undervalued pitchers at CBS, so forgive a strange selection here – Chris Sale! The projections love him this year regardless of format… the 277 K’s is Kershaw-ian. And with an ADP of 16th, you could easily own him with a late first or early second round pick in CBS. If it comes down to picking a hitter you don’t 100% love or Sale, you might have to go Sale.
SP - Wei-yin Chen, 145th BB, 183rd ADP
Chen made one of the best possible park moves this offseason, packing his bags up from Balitmore and heading to Miami. So, while it might seem weird to project a career-best WHIP for a 30 year old, that is, in fact where we’re at now. Over the past couple of years Chen has been one of the more consistent mid-to-low end starters in fantasy, with the main thing holding him back being a meh K-rate and bad (Baltimore-related) HR rate. If you find yourself in the middle of your draft needing some reliable innings and decently good rate stats, look no further.
SP - Drew Smyly, 128th BB, 154th ADP
Much like Tanaka, Smyly’s shoulder injury from last year was never actually fixed, just rest+rehabbed, leaving us with a similar sense of ticking time bomb. But, if he can give us even a partial season this year (have him down for 165 IP which would probably mean one DL stint), I like Smyly’s chances to continue what looked like a breakout last year. He’s not had an ERA above 3.24 or WHIP above 1.17 since his rookie year, and last year posted a K/9 above 10. As a flyball guy, homers can be his downfall at times, but like Odorizzi I like his chances to post a low BABIP. Try not to end up with a team that has both Smyly and Tanaka, or any of the other injury-risk guys, but for his price he is well worth a gamble if the rest of your pitching staff looks solid.
RP - Cody Allen, 100th BB, 129th ADP
Cody Allen had a strangely ineffective start to 2015, giving up 10 R in 7 IP in April, but still managed to finish with a 2.99 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Really though, he was good all year from a DIPS standpoint, posting the best FIP amongst qualified relievers at 1.82. Look for him to continue his elite K-BB skills, and rack up a huge amount of saves behind one of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball.
RP - AJ Ramos, 154th BB, 172nd ADP
I really was excited to have Carter Capps A.J. Ramos on my teams in 2016 following his breakout 2015. The Marlins being terrible won’t help his case for saves, but it seems at this point he has the closer role locked down without anyone to challenge him in the near future. Ramos did go through a wobbly chair period or two last year, when his control escaped him, but the fact that he worked through it and regained composure is a positive to me. His impressive 3-4 pitch arsenal makes up for a meh fastball, and he was downright dominant for most of last season. Buy with confidence as long as his ADP stays depressed (I imagine it will trend upward with Capps gone).
SP - Jeff Samardzija, 110th BB, 153rd ADP
Samardzija was bad last year… really bad. Maybe the worst starter in fantasy baseball. Now that he’s out of the clutches of Don Cooper, who told him to throw his bad cutter way too much, and working in the pitcher-friendly AT+T Park in SF, everything’s looking up for this former ace-in-the-making. Plus, it’s an even year, so everything is sure to go right for the Giants this year. Much like Jonny Cueto, I’m putting some faith in the Giants front office here – they wouldn’t have signed him for that contract if they didn’t believe he’ll be good again. (Late addition: Eno Sarris over at FG has been raising alarm bells on Samardzija, as his velo is down in ST and he’s been getting blasted. I generally wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, but Eno is a pitching guru and a bay area guy as well… it may be worth avoiding the risk from Samardzy and looking elsewhere)
SP - Patrick Corbin, 109th BB, 180th ADP
Shh… don’t tell your leaguemates (or mine), but Corbin is really good. He broke out in 2013 to near-ace-levels, and his arm promptly fell apart. Then in his return from TJ last year he *still* looked really good, compiling a 17% K-BB% in 85 IP. The projections don’t know about his injury, and they’re more or less projecting him to do the same as he did last year, but there is upside here. Guys usually struggle with control returning from TJ, and we saw none of that from Corbin – that could mean that he’s even better than what we saw last year, but at the very least it is encouraging from a health standpoint. I have him down for 180IP but could see him going closer to 200 given that he’s done it before.
SP - Rubby de la Rosa, 227th BB, ADP>300
Rubby might be my favorite $1/final round pitcher this year. Sure, he got pounded by lefties, but he dominated righties to the tune of a .266 wOBA allowed (vs .404 for lefties). If he can develop a pitch to neutralize lefties better (or just learn to attack them in the zone), a breakout could be brewing. Cross your fingers and take him late, if he looks rough early in the season this may become a watch-list sort of guy, but it’s best to use your bench spots/low-end SP slots on upside anyway.
RP - Will Smith, 187th BB, 240th ADP
The closer battle in Milwaukee is hard to peg, but Jeffress has made it a bit easier for us by being injured early in spring training. Smith is a lefty, which is usually not great for his chances to close, but weirdly enough he has been a reverse-platoon split guy. Pumping mid-90’s velo with an elite K-rate, he’ll help your rate stats even if he doesn’t get the closer role. As-is, it seems like nobody is drafting him confidently as a closer, and Milwaukee says they won’t name one before opening day… all that adds up to Smith coming super cheap in drafts.
RP - Danny Farquhar, 237th BB, ADP>300
With the Boxberger injury, fantasy owners are scrambling to find the Rays closer – look no further, as I think Farquhar is our guy. Threats to his job abound in the forms of Colome, Cedeno, Webb, and Geltz, but Danny boy has the Closer Experience™ from his team with the Mariners back in 2013. He was bad last year, mostly due to problems with the longball, so the projections don’t think he’s likely to give you much help in the rate stats. But as long as he’s giving you saves, he’s worth having in your lineup in 5x5, and it seems you might be able to get him for next-to-nothing in drafts until people realize he’s the closer.