Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - AL Central

Although baseball season is still a few weeks away, fantasy baseball season is here as draft rooms are opening and people are spending fake auction dollars on their favorite players. Everybody knows about the Mike Trouts and Clayton Kershaws of the world, so what you need to do stand out is find those hidden gems on each roster to propel yourself to fantasy greatness. I am going to go through each MLB roster to find at least one underrated player who will have you looking like a genius at the end of the season.

Today, we start the series with an oft-forgotten division, the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox - Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson had a really nice rookie year for any position but especially for a shortstop. He was a fairly well thought of prospect, and still, he barely makes ESPN's top 300 and is only ranked the 24th best shortstop. Now, yes, his BABIP was unsustainable as that .375 number is probably not going to hold up, but with his speed and batted ball profile, it is likely to remain above average. There's also a good chance that he can reduce his K% to make more contact meaning the BABIP won't have to remain quite as hight. On top of this, he managed 49 stolen bases in AA in 2015, and I think he could see a decent spike in those stolen base numbers this year. There is a lot of depth at shortstop this year, and outside of the top 5 (Machado, Correa, Seager, Lindor, Bogaerts), are you totally confident that any of them will definitely outproduce Anderson? I'm not, and considering where he's ranked, he'll make an excellent late-round addition.

Cleveland Indians - Cody Allen
Poor Cody Allen. He is a guy who is underestimated not by anything that he did, but because his teammate is Andrew Miller, possibly the most dominant reliever in all of baseball. Since most teams use their most dominant reliever in the closer role, everyone goes into this season that Allen will lose his job. Is it possible? Of course, but Allen has been a pretty darn good reliever these last few years, and one of Miller's greatest attributes is his versatility. Terry Francona is going to do everything eh can to keep Allen in the closer role, and he's likely to produce top-10 results with top-5 upside while currently only ranked as the 19th best relief pitcher. Drafting closers is rarely sexy, but it can still be valuable.

Detroit Tigers - Justin Upton
If I can justify selecting a brother (non-racist way), I'm going to do it. My fascination with drafting brothers in fantasy is a long and sordid affair that almost never works out for me. It started with the Giles brothers, drifted to the Drews, and finally made it to the Uptons. Despite it usually doing me more harm than good, I still always enjoy my experience. But I do believe this is a good year to buy in on Upton. Although he started off poorly for the Tigers, he lowered his strikeout rate and hit 22 home runs in 68 games during the second half last year. I think he's far closer to that second half player for the whole season this year. Although he's ranked in the 60s, I think he can produce at least that if not be up in the top-40 at the end of the year.

Kansas City Royals - Jorge Soler
Joe Maddon said he was Vladimir Guerrero with better plate discipline. That comment will never die in my head, and that means I will end up with Jorge Soler for the next ten years in fantasy baseball by drafting him 100 spots before anyone else. I'm kind of serious. He's ranked 260 right now. I will be at least considering him at 160. Dominant relievers are more highly valued than ever before, and the Royals were happy to trade one of the most dominant relievers for Jorge Soler. Clearly, they believe in him; clearly, I believe in him, and, guys...VLAD GUERRERO WITH BETTER PLATE DISCIPLINE.

Minnesota Twins - Byron Buxton
I'll admit this pick could be a year too early, but Buxton still gives plenty to dream on. Even though Buxton was drafted in 2012, he has far less minor league experience than other people from that draft as injuries have cut short a lot of his time, and he had that compounded by being brought up to the major leagues before he was ready. Still, he struggled in the majors, got sent down, raked in AAA, and showed improvement when he got called back up. It wasn't huge, but he hit some more homers, doubled his walk rate, and slightly improved on the strikeouts. If he can continue to lower that strikeout percentage, it is going to improve every aspect of his game, as just putting the ball in play makes him dangerous with his speed. If the power continues to blossom, you're looking at a true five-tool player. I'm not sure if that's going to happen, especially in 2017, but there were enough positive signs to make him worth the risk late in the draft.

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