The thing about being human is that it means that you are compelled to make decisions emotionally at times. This can be good and bad. In fantasy baseball drafts, making emotional decisions may not always be the best. Luckily, baseball projection systems exist and they have absolutely no emotion at all. You could tease them endlessly about why they still like Nelson Cruz and, nope, they wouldn’t waver at all.
That is precisely why I like deferring to the projections during a draft at times. The projections likely will not predict a sleeper who surprises everyone but they will give you a good idea of which players are being undervalued, perhaps due to public perception about them. Each year, there seem to be a number of players that the projections just love despite what the public thinks. It’s valuable to take a deeper look at those players to see if we should trust our gut or if we should trust those cold projections.
In this article, we’re going to take each player’s ranking within my Special Blend projections and then compare that to their FantasyPros average draft position. These rankings are being considered in a standard 5×5 roto universe.
Potential Starting Hitters That The Projections Just Love
One of the more interesting names on this list for me is Rafael Devers. I thought his draft value was inflated last year and I wasn’t going to draft him in the top 50. Many people did and feel burned by that. Now Devers is in post-hype sleeper territory and has fallen too far down draft boards. The projections have him pegged for a .268, 26 HR, 79 RBI and 72 R season. They’re not expecting top 50 value but they’re expecting far more than the public is giving him credit for after being burned last season.
Looking at most of these names, you can sense a similar post-hype feel to them, or at least one glaring flaw that we discount for. Nelson Cruz? He’s too old, right? The projections, which account for age regression, disagree. They still see a .278 AVG and 36 HRs. Rougned Odor? He impressed us with a breakout 2016 season as a youngster but hasn’t replicated it since? That’s okay. The projections look at what he actually has done and see a .255 AVG, 28 HR, 14 SB season ahead and they like that.
All in all, these players may give you immediate reactions as a human reader based on your perception of them. The computers see valuable seasons ahead for them though.
Hitters That The Projections Are Begging Us To Fill Our Bench With
These are the players that are being drafted deep in drafts and offer potentially good depth to your benches with starting potential. Jake Bauers is a player who hasn’t put together a full season yet but the projections already see a potential 20 HR, 15 SB player in his first potential full season. Max Kepler is a good player that hasn’t had a breakthrough season yet, and the projections aren’t quite predicting that but they see an increase in AVG and his usual 20 HR potential.
Admittedly, the most exciting name within this section is Franmil Reyes. I wrote about him a couple of times here already and am excited about his sleeper potential as the Padres cleanup hitter. Even the fairly conservative projections see a .252 AVG and 27 HR season for him.
Pitchers That The Projections Love More Than We Ever Could
One takeaway from the pitcher projections is that they are less concerned with age than the rest of us. We see J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton and Rich Hill still projected to be among the top pitchers despite their advanced age. Outside of that, German Marquez has come up in a lot of my research as a potential breakthrough pitcher. The public is likely scared off by his home ballpark but the projections think that he is worth taking a gamble on aside from that.
There’s also some overlap here with my underrated pitchers article. I had Chris Archer, Masahiro Tanaka and Kenta Maeda on that list already, and these projections give additional confirmation to the idea that they may be poised for a breakout.
Luke is better known as Mr. Cheatsheet despite his last name not being Cheatsheet. He makes spreadsheets, writes blog posts and his rankings were in the top 10 accuracy among FantasyPros experts in 2014, 2016 and 2017. When he's not doing fantasy baseball things, he can be found playing board games or rating beer.