Photo credit to Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
We can all agree that this off-season has been one of the slowest and dullest in a long time. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than 5 weeks, it is never too early to try and find sleepers that can provide you with great value in the upcoming season. Leagues can never be won purely through the draft, but they can be lost. If you don’t find the proper value for players in the draft, you will find yourself on the back end of the league quickly. These six players are your ticket to that much needed value on your way to a playoff run, so don’t sit around waiting like the rest of Major League Baseball is currently doing.
The following information on average draft position (ADP) and current rankings were taken from Fantrax. There may be some slight differences in ADP based on your site of choice.
Mitch Haniger (OF- Seattle Mariners)- Current ADP: 194.03, #51 OF
2017 Season Stats (96 games): 58 R, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 5 SB, .282/.352/.491 (.843 OPS)
Haniger was one of my favorite sleepers and breakout candidates for the 2017 season. It seemed like it was all there for the outfielder as he slashed .342/.447/.608 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI in the first 21 games, but an oblique injury sidelined him until June. Once Haniger returned, he struggled to get back into the offensive groove that he started in. He returned to the disabled list after taking a fastball to the face from Mets starter Jacob deGrom in late July. There is still a ton of upside with Haniger and he showed it over the last month of the season as he hit 9 home runs while driving in 23. Haniger has the right field job locked down for the Mariners due to very little competition and a 25 HR/10 SB season is easily reachable if he can stay healthy.
Willie Calhoun (2B/OF- TEX)- Current ADP: 222.38, #57 OF
2017 Season Stats (13 games): 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .265/.324/.353 (.677 OPS)
Willie Calhoun was the centerpiece of the Yu Darvish trade between the Dodgers and Rangers at the deadline in 2017. Concern surrounded Calhoun and whether or not he could play an everyday position, but that disappeared after he was dealt to Texas because he may end up as the everyday DH. The Rangers didn’t believe in his defense at second base, but did let him play 8 of his 13 games in left field. Calhoun raked in AAA this past season as he posted 31 home runs and 93 RBI between the Rangers and Dodgers affiliates to go along with a .300 average and he only struck out 11.4% of his plate appearances. While Willie will not provide much in terms of speed (only stolen 4 bases during his 128 games in AAA in 2017), he does bring elite contact and a ton of power upside as a 19th round pick in 12 team formats. The only competition that Calhoun would have for left field is Ryan Rua, so that isn’t a huge concern considering what they gave up to get Calhoun. He doesn’t come with outfield eligibility as of now, but it will come quickly in 2018.
Jordan Montgomery (SP- NYY)- Current ADP: 231.74, SP #67
2017 Season Stats (29 starts): 155.1 IP, 9 wins, 3.88 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 144 K
I will warn you that there is some risk that comes with Jordan Montgomery, because the Yankees are still trying to acquire a top end pitcher. This would force Montgomery out of the rotation until a change was needed in the rotation. However, there is a ton of upside with the second year pitcher. Montgomery was a guy that showed a lot during his rookie season for a surprisingly competitive New York Yankees. His story was buried underneath the emergence of Aaron Judge and Luis Severino. Montgomery’s peripherals show that his season wasn’t just a fluke either as he posted a 4.07 FIP along with an 8.34 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9. The left-hander gave up hard contact 26.5% of the time, which was 2nd of all pitchers who threw at least 150 innings. This put him in the company of Max Scherzer (26.5%), Stephen Strasburg (27.3%), and Clayton Kershaw (27.4%). Monty has the ability to limit his walks and has some strikeout upside. If the Yankees allow him to stay in the 2018 rotation, he could be the steal of the draft for owners and end up as a top 30 pitcher.
Carlos Rodon (SP- CWS)- Current ADP: 302.61, SP #80
2017 Season Stats (12 starts): 69.1 IP, 2 wins, 4.15 ERA, 1.370 WHIP, 76 K
Rodon has been one of my favorite young players to watch over the last few seasons. He has had his ups and downs throughout his first three years, but 2017 was mostly filled with injury concerns. Rodon didn’t make his first start of the season until June 28th, but he showed the ace potential every White Sox fan has been waiting for. The walks became an issue, but the runs were limited while the strikeouts piled up quickly in his 69 innings. The entry price for Carlos Rodon is so low because he is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder, which means he could return sometime between Opening Day and the beginning of June. There is some inherent risk, but the ceiling for the 25-year-old starter is a top 25 pitcher in the 2018 season.
Jeimer Candelario (3B- DET)- Current ADP: 326.75, #31 3B
2017 Season Stats (38 games): 18 R, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .283/.359/.425 (.784 OPS)
Jeimer Candelario has been on the prospect radar for the past few years, but was blocked from coming up in the Cubs system because of Kris Bryant. With the trade to the Detroit Tigers last year, the third baseman finally got his chance to stick in the majors and Jeimer seized his opportunity. In the 27 games that Candelario played for the Motor City franchise, he showed the plus hit tool that scouts raved about with a slash line of .330/.406/.468 with 2 home runs and 13 RBI. He displayed patience at the plate as well with a walk rate of 9.2% and strikeout rate of 21.1%. Nick Castellanos is expected to move to the outfield this season meaning that the third base job is Candelario’s job to lose. He is likely to bat 5th in that Tigers’ lineup and is primed for a good breakout. Don’t sit around before it is too late.
Devon Travis (2B- TOR)- Current ADP: 354.09, #35 2B
2017 Season Stats (50 games): 22 R, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 4 SB, .259/.291/.438 (.729 OPS)
Travis doesn’t jump right off the page to anyone, I know, but second base is usually a very shallow position. The Blue Jays are counting on Travis to finally stay healthy and lock down their second base position. He will turn 27 in just about a month, but the only thing holding Travis back has been his health. Travis has only played 213 games over the past 3 seasons, but has also shown flashes of greatness in the games he has played. Travis struggled early in 2017, but turned it around in the middle of May. He slashed .403/.423/.701 with 4 home runs and 18 RBI from May 15th to June 4th before injuring his knee, which promptly ended his season. If the second baseman can play a full year, he could easily be post a 20 HR/10 SB season. I’m not telling to select Travis as your primary second baseman, but you could do a lot worse in the last few rounds than the 27-year-old Devon Travis.
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