2017 Fantasy Baseball ADP review: Daniel Murphy, Andrew Benintendi looking like Draft Day steals – CBSSports.com

There’s no better feeling in your Fantasy draft than making that pick that makes everyone else jealous. Sniping 11 other queues simultaneously leaves you the envy and villain of your league, which is the best place to be.

It’s not just about finding the best player, but that guy everyone can acknowledge right away is a great value. That guy everyone knew they should have drafted two rounds ago, but kept waiting to pull the trigger.

This piece is all about those players. The value picks, who just don’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve in drafts. Here are the 10 most undervalued players as we head into the heart of Fantasy baseball draft season.

All rankings up to date through March 9; ADP data from FantasyPros.com’s industry consensus

Daniel Murphy’s 2016 stands as a huge outlier from his career numbers, which is typically a good enough reason to dismiss a career year. However, that might not be wise in this case.  In the second half of the 2015 season, Murphy made a conscious decision to start driving the ball in the air more, and he hit .304/.337/.576 from Aug. 1 on, including the playoffs. I was skeptical that change was real, but I’m not sure how anyone could be after watching Murphy simply carry that on through a full season in 2016.

He has maintained his preternatural bat control, meaning Murphy essentially had no holes to exploit in his game last season. He won’t hit .347 again, however with a strikeout rate below 10 percent and his newfound power, Murphy seems as good a bet to battle for a batting title as anyone East of Houston. Be skeptical of what Murphy did if you must, and you’ll join 64 percent of FantasyPros’ experts in believing even No. 33 is too high for Murphy. However, what happened to him in 2015 was no accident, and after he proved that in 2016, this skepticism seems misplaced. 

Apparently, one great season from Murphy isn’t enough to convince you, but one bad season from Andrew McCutchen is. He’s never going to be the 20-20 threat he once was in his younger days, but reports of McCutchen’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. He is on the wrong side of 30 and hit just .256 last season, yes, but he also still ended up with 24 homers and 160 combined runs and RBI. The upside should be obvious; he was the No. 6 outfielder in points leagues in 2015, and No. 12 in Roto. Even in 2016, he was top-30 in both formats, so the downside just doesn’t seem that low here, since he is the 19th OF off the board. 

If you’ve played Fantasy baseball long enough, you will inevitably have been burned by Hanley Ramirez at some point. This is, like gravity or relativity, one of those immutable laws of the universe. I understand why Ramirez might be on your “Never Again” list, but sometimes reason has to trump emotion. Ramirez’s struggles in 2015 could pretty easily be blamed on shoulder issues, and the fact that he was able to hit .286/.361/.505 with 30 homers and 111 RBI last season should be proof of that.

Yes, injuries and consistency will always be an issue for him, but with Ramirez stepping into David Ortiz’s spot as the DH and cleanup hitter, he is in one of the best run-producing situations in baseball. There’s risk here, but there is also considerable upside, and at some point the latter simply weighs more. The seventh round is definitely that point for me. 

Sometimes, older players just don’t get the benefit of the doubt they deserve. Cole Hamels — along with the next two players on the list — is past his prime, sure, but there haven’t been that many warning signs of impending doom. Hamels tossed 200 innings for the seventh straight season in 2016, struck out a batter per inning, and still kept his ERA in the low-3.00’s. His WHIP was a bit high, and he has struggled with homers since getting to Texas, but at some point, track record has to matter. With less proven pitchers like Carlos Martinez and Kyle Hendricks going ahead of him, it’s hard not to see Hamels as underappreciated, even if his risk continues to increase as he ages. 

In Adam Jones’ defense, he isn’t even as old as the other members of his cohort here. The 31-year-old gets lumped in, despite putting together yet another solid season in 2016. His batting average dipped to .265, giving him two straight seasons below .270, however it’s not farfetched to think he can bounce back even from there, given his strikeout rate. Jones is still a solid source of power, and contributed 170 combined runs and RBI last season. He’s still playing in a great lineup and park, and if he doesn’t have the potential of some of the younger guys going in the same range, he brings an underrated consistency to the table. 

Jose Bautista is 36 and is coming off his worst season since before his breakout in 2010, so I understand the skepticism. When it goes for older players, we don’t tend to get a lot of warning, and it’s possible Bautista just lost it last season. On the other hand, he still walked nearly as often as he struck out, and still homered 22 times in 116 games, so this much dropoff in his perceived value definitely seems like an overreaction. 70 percent of experts on FantasyPros have him ranked higher than his current ADP, which should be a sign that he’s being undervalued. 

Aledmys Diaz took a huge step forward upon arriving to the majors, posting a .300/.369/.510 line in 110 games, after hitting .275/.335/.441 in the minors. The power had always been there, but Diaz took an unexpected step forward with his plate discipline, sporting a 13.0 percent strikeout rate that fueled his batting average gains. That may not stick.

However, nothing he did last season screams “unsustainable.” Diaz’s BABIP was just .312, his HR/FB rate was just 12.6 percent, and his low strikeout rate was buoyed by a miniscule 7.4 percent swinging strike rate. If Diaz showed his true talent level last season, then there’s a lot to like about him moving forward. I understand being skeptical about only one season’s worth of numbers, but players with less track record like Jonathan Villar and Trevor Story are going well ahead of him, so at some point, there just isn’t anything to be scared of. 

It’s hard to understand why Andrew Benintendi isn’t going higher. He is the consensus top prospect in baseball, is going to hit either 2nd or 3rd in what should be one of the best lineups in baseball, and has already showed he can more than hold his own against major-league pitching, and yet for some reason, isn’t being hyped all that much. Benintendi hit .298 in 126 plate appearances between the regular season and postseason last year. Benintendi has 20-20 potential, a terrific eye at the plate, and no obstacles to playing time. Don’t be surprised if he makes a meteoric rise up the ADP ranks before long, especially if he keeps raking in the spring. This is a future superstar, and you can get in on the ground floor. 

There really shouldn’t be any doubts about whether Lance McCullers has the talent to be an ace. Despite battling wildness at times, he has sported a 3.22 ERA in his first 206 2/3 innings in the majors, with 10.2 K/9 and the peripherals to back up his pretty run prevention marks. When he’s on, McCullers can be one of the most overpowering pitchers in the league, with a fastball he can dial up to the high-90’s and a devastating curveball that induces swings and misses at a huge rate.

Of course, he’s not without red flags. McCullers battled elbow issues last season that limited him to just 81 innings of work, and that is going to be an ongoing concern, especially since he throws that curveball on nearly half his pitches. There is a delicate balance to strike, and he might be walking a very thin tightrope. However, I love betting on upside at pitcher, and McCullers has plenty of that, if he can just stay healthy. In the 13th or 14th round, he’s well worth the risk. 

I’ve had to force myself not to get too excited about Bundy, however self control has never been my strong suit, which is why I spent $13 for him in a
recent mock draft
. In my defense, it was a H2H points league, where his relief pitcher eligibility has the potential to make him one of the most valuable assets in the game.

That Bundy was even able to pitch in the majors last season, facing 474 batters across 109 2/3 innings of work counts a big win for the Orioles, seeing as the former top prospect had largely fallen off prospect lists last season after throwing just 63 2/3 innings over his previous three seasons due to injuries. He didn’t exactly dominate in 2016, but there are reasons to think he has plenty of room to grow, and it all starts with what made him great in the first place.

As a high schooler, it was Bundy’s slider that made him stand out more than anything. As a prospect, that pitch has been blamed for his elbow woes, which is why he didn’t throw it a single time among his 1,843 pitches tracked by BrooksBaseball.net. The Orioles are allowing him to work the pitch back into his repertoire in the spring, and early reviews are glowing. Bundy held his own with a limited number of offerings last season. If his cutter is as devastating as some say, he could end up a huge bargain at this price, and I like the upside either way. 


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