Want to waste $8? Go to your closest magazine stand and purchase a fantasy baseball guide.
Want to waste a first-round fantasy baseball draft pick? Take an outfielder.
OK. Maybe that is a bit harsh, especially since fantasy outfielders are shallower than in recent years.
However, there are a lot of potential diamonds in the rough when it comes to outfield value options. Some of my favorites include … (don’t miss my other sleeper/value guys: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP)
Hunter Pence, HOU. For three consecutive seasons, Pence has hit 25 homers. For the past two years, he’s hit exactly .282. His stolen base total has consistently improved over the past three seasons and last year, Pence recorded career highs in RBI (91) and runs scored (93).
And yet, his current average draft position has him going in the late sixth or early seventh round. Five-category production that late from a player three years on the right side of 30? Sign me up.
Chris Young, ARI. A 30-30 season from an eighth-rounder? Especially one that should again easily eclipse 90 runs and 90 RBI?
Sure, Young’s batting average is atrocious, although his .257 last year was a marked improvement over the .212 the year before. Still, how many other guys can you find this late who can produce great numbers at four of the five main categories?
Which of these players will be the best value in 2011?
Travis Snider, TOR. Looking for a later-round upside guy? Look no further than Snider. The 23-year-old is a former No. 1 draft pick and has been up and down with the Blue Jays organization for three years now. So, while he’s still really young, he does have more MLB seasoning under his belt than others his age.
He hit .304 in September and cracked five homers in the last 10 games of the season. He burned things up in the minors, hitting 69 homers and with a .301 average over 1,400 at-bats. Overall, he’s averaged a home run in approximately every 20 at-bats, which would translate to between 25 and 30 this year if he starts the whole season.
Drew Stubbs, CIN. Perhaps one of the most under-rated guys to hit at least 20 homers and steal 30 bases, Stubbs continues to get little love in many fantasy baseball drafts.
That is a good thing for those of us who know better, seeing the 91 runs scored, 22 homers and 30 steals in Stubbs’ first full MLB season as a sign of good things to come. His 77 RBI also stand to improve as the Reds improve offensively as a group.
The only downfall at the moment for Stubbs was his .255 batting average, affected majorly by a late-season 1-for-37 slump. Streakiness could be an issue moving forward, but considering how low he’s been falling on draft day, he’s worth the risk.
Delmon Young, MIN. With a current ADP at ESPN mock drafts of 91, Young finds himself being drafted near outfielders such as Corey Hart, Curtis Granderson, Ben Zobrist and Colby Rasmus. He could easily outperform all these guys, and then some.
Young is only 25, yet has seen major league action, at least partially, for five years now. He has consistently hit for average, something guys drafted in the seventh round rarely do. His power numbers continue to trend in the right direction and the Twins will give him every chance to be successful.
Rajai Davis, TOR. There are plenty of reasons not to draft mostly speed players early in drafts. That’s because speed typically can be found cheaply in most league formats. Davis represents on such option.
His current ADP is buried at 143, meaning he’s around in the late 11th round in many 12-team drafts. Much later than you’ll have to draft a Michael Bourn or similar speed-only option.
Austin Jackson, DET. The 24-year-old had a breakout season right out of the gates, scoring more than 100 runs, hitting just a hair below .300 (.293 to be exact) and stealing 27 bases. Perhaps the best stat, however, was his league-leading .396 on balls put into play.
Jackson has reportedly entered camp with 10 extra pounds of muscle in an effort to keep healthy at the major league level while also possibly augmenting his power numbers a little.
The best part? He’s going in around the 16th round of 12-team drafts.
Nyjer Morgan, WAS. A deep sleeper guy to keep an eye on more than anything else, Morgan is a mostly speed option who saw a dip in his batting average last year and is currently playing for a starting spot in the Nationals outfield.
Some slumpage so far this spring may hinder his chances at a full-time gig out of the gate, but reports from Washington suggest that no one has shown as much motivation and enthusiasm as Morgan.
He could be another cheap source of steals in the extreme late rounds of your draft or via free agency afterwards. Just be sure to temper expectations at first.
And the extremely popular composite ranking of the ultimate Top 50 fantasy baseball players for 2011.