Of course it’s fun to roster that durable ace starter or all-world slugger at the top of your fantasy baseball draft, but it’s in those middle-to-late rounds where league championships are won annually. It’s where you separate yourself from the rest of the pack with savvy selections that others overlooked. Here are four players — as well as a handful of honorable mentions — you shouldn’t overlook as you reach the later portions of your drafts.
Randal Grichuk, Colorado Rockies, OF
As I began to write this article, news dropped that Grichuk has been traded from Toronto to Colorado, so pardon me for being caught up in the moment. He didn’t really have a spot in Toronto’s already-right-handed-heavy lineup, so this is a good move for Grichuk’s playing time potential. Of course, he probably wouldn’t be mentioned here if not for his destination; Grichuk will now get to bask in Coors Field for half the season. Think about how Coors assisted C.J. Cron last year — 28 HRs, 92 RBIs, a .281 average. Grichuk could provide that much power. He had a hard-hit rate north of 40 percent last year with Toronto and belted 22 homers in 511 at-bats. The 30-year-old probably won’t reach 30 home runs again, as he did in 2019, but 25 dingers with an average in the .260s is very possible.
Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates, SS
More really cheap power, but this time it comes from a 6-foot-7 rookie shortstop. Who knows if he will stick there at that size, but who cares for now? Cruz is on this list because he has special power. LIke, oh-my-lord pop. Now, he had just nine ABs in the Majors last year and struck out four times. Strikeouts are going to be an issue for the 23-year-old early on, but it’s encouraging that his K rate has steadily decreased since 2019, down in the mid-20s. When he does make contact, it is loud. Cruz recorded the seventh-highest max exit velocity last year (118.2 mph) and could couple 15-20 home runs this year with double-digit steals. His projected homer total is that low only because he likely won’t start this season with the Pirates. But he’ll be up soon, especially if he keeps mashing in the Minors.
Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies, 2B
Segura doesn’t exactly fit the typical sleeper mold; he’s been around forever, and you know what he does. Underrated is the more proper tag since Segura can be often found between pick Nos. 175-200 in drafts. He’s not flashy, but upwards of 15 homers, 10-plus steals and a batting average always at .280 or better is nothing to scoff at from your second baseman. The 32-year-old may be a relatively boring fantasy option, but he can give you a little bit of everything. With the additions of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, Segura probably won’t hit near the top of the Phillies’ lineup any longer, but if he’s lower in the batting order, maybe that means he’ll run a little more often. Regardless, just being a cog in this offense should help boost Segura’s counting stats.
Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins, SP
It was a pretty great offseason for Gray’s fantasy value. First, he was dealt from Cincinnati — home to one of the league’s most hitter-friendly parks — to Minnesota, which has a neutral or slightly pitcher-friendly home field. Then the Twins went out and beefed up their lineup, headlined by the signing of shortstop Carlos Correa. He along with Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Gary Sanchez, etc., give the Twins a scary lineup on paper, one capable of providing plenty of run support. Gray is being drafted outside of the top-40 SPs in ESPN leagues, but don’t forget that he was superb at limiting hard contact last season, ranking among the top 10 qualified starters in hard-hit rate and barrel rate. Plus, Gray’s K rate was north of 25 percent for the third consecutive season, and his walk rate hit a four-year low. As such, Gray’s expected ERA (3.25) was a full run lower than his actual ERA (4.19). Fantasy managers are definitely sleeping on this veteran righty.
Others to consider: Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins, 3B/2B/OF; Luke Voit, San Diego Padres, 1B/DH; Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners, OF; Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians, SP; Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants, SP; Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers, SP