We continue to wait for the start of the MLB season, and with the extra time, we are able to dig deeper into late-round draft targets. Many know the main targets, even the Top 100. It is good to know the early targets, but knowing the deep targets will help win leagues. The outfield position is a great position to really dig in and find those deep sleepers.
Most teams -- especially in deep league play with five outfielders, finding deep targets are essential for season-long success. There will be many late-round outfielders that surprise and outproduce certain people’s expectations. With the depth at outfield, it is also a great position to draft team needs later, and some of these players discussed below will help with those needs.
This article will be one of two articles targeting later round outfield sleepers: up first the American League. Since April 1, all five outfielders are being drafted in between pick 297 to 409, according to NFBC Draft Champions ADP. Some of the targets are on new teams; some are young players looking to get a shot with the big club; and some are even veterans looking to bounce back after a down season.
Domingo Santana, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 297.75)
Santana had a very strong start to the 2019 season. Over his first 99 games, Santana had a solid stat line of .274-19-56-65-6, but that all changed after an elbow injury that he sustained on July 23. After the injury, Santana only played in 21 games, hitting .119 with two home runs. His ISO went from .199 in the first 99 games to .119. (Another major shift was his BABIP, dropping from .364 to .200.)
The injury played a major role in Santana’s overall stat line of .253-21-63-69-8 with a .188 ISO. It was still a nice season and brought back production reminiscent of the 2017 season where Santana was starred for the Brewers, posting a line of .278-30-88-85-15 and .227 ISO.
Santana was not brought back to Seattle this offseason, but instead signed a one-year deal with the Indians for only $1.5M. Most of MLB was not a believer in Santana, either, but I believe they're wrong. Comparing the 2017 and '19 seasons leaves room for a lot of optimism:
|Barrel %||Sweet Spot %||xwOBAcon||HH%||Ideal Contact %|
There are similarities and some stats saying that Santana was actually better in 2019. Last season he was hitting in Safeco Park, a strong pitchers park and still put up solid numbers. He will be hitting in Cleveland this season, not a crazy hitters park, but much more lively than Seattle.
Also, the division opponents and venues will be a plus for Santana. ATC has Santana projected for 20 home runs with 7 steals while hitting .252, but only in 115 games. He will have a chance to play in the outfield, possibly platooning with Greg Allen to start. If he is able to play most of the time, he could return a really solid power source with a decent average and some stolen bases for your fantasy team. Imagine Franmil Reyes-type production.
Anthony Santander, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 323.75)
Last year, Santander received his first extended stint with the Orioles and he did not disappoint. In 93 games, his stat line read .261-20-46-59-1. If we combine his 48 games in Triple-A, Santander had a really nice season with 25 home runs, 76 runs, and 87 RBI. The switch-hitting outfielder maintained a solid 36.2% hard-hit rate with an 8.5% deserved barrels rate and a .387 xwOBAcon in his first year.
Some may point to the ball as having helped Santander, but it is not the end all be all as he made some very nice gains at the plate in 2019. He saw his contact rates rise from his previous stint in the bigs, and also saw his whiff rate drop.
The increase in contact is important, but an increase in his type of contact can help Santander take the next step. In 2019, he had a groundball rate of 40.3% and a flyball rate of 27.2%; even with all those groundballs, he was able to hit 20 home runs and that was due to a 21% HR/oFB. When he elevates the ball, he hits it with authority. The continued increase in contact with more fly balls could lead to a massive home run jump.
ATC projections have Santander hitting .254 with 23 home runs over 131 games. He will be playing nearly every day for the Orioles while hitting in a nice spot in the batting order. He will be a really nice source of power with even more upside after pick 300 in drafts.
Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (ADP: 327.25)
Gardner is coming off a 28-home run season, his fourth season of 16-or-more home runs in his last six seasons. He also stole 10 bases, which was his 11th season of more than 10 steals in his 12-year career. Is a repeat season in the works? It's not likely. But can he be a productive fantasy outfielder? Definitely.
Gardner is unlikely to match his 28-home run total in 2020. He was helped some by the ball, but he was likely helped more by his home ballpark and the short porch in right field. Gardner only barreled the ball up 4.1% of the time last season, with a flyball rate of only 20.7%, but his 44.3% pull rate was huge. He ended the season with a really solid 27.5% HR/oFB in large part due to the pull rate and dimensions of Yankee Stadium.
Gardner is not a "sexy" draft pick by any means, but he is a really nice floor draft pick. The ATC projections have Gardner hitting 16 home runs and stealing 10 bases in 121 games. A source of 15/10 after pick 320 is very adequate. Keep an eye on the health of Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge as the season approaches, as they could eat into Gardner’s playing time. Even if they return, Gardner should play over half the games for the Yankees and is an injury away from mega playing time, becoming another cheap and solid fantasy player.
Stephen Piscotty, Oakland A's (ADP: 403.5)
Last year seemed to be a lost season for Piscotty in which he hit .249 with 13 home runs over 93 games. He was battling injuries throughout the season which definitely had an effect on the overall stat line. He only had a 7.9% barrel rate, when he usually has a barrel rate of over 9%. Even with the low barrel rate, his xwOBAcon was still a decent .379 and he had a really productive 40.6% hard-hit rate.
The power was down, the barrel rate was down, but the hard-hit rate was promising. It seems odd, but again, it was likely injury-related. When comparing some 2018 numbers with his '19 numbers, it really makes us believe the injury was a factor in his overall power production.
|Sweet Spot %||HH%||GB%/FB%||Whiff %||Ideal Contact %|
There are some definite similarities in types of contact, while the quality of contact is slightly different. Piscotty was also swinging and missing more in 2019, which was a career worst. He will be entering his age 29 season and will look to get back to becoming a 20+ home run cog. The A’s team will have a lot of power in that lineup and there is no reason not to take a chance on Piscotty after pick 400.
Jake Fraley, Seattle Mariners (ADP: 409)
Fraley has been a late-round, even last pick of a draft target of mine this season. As I stated above, the outfield targets really late in the draft are more made to help in specific stat categories or drafting on the pure upside. Well, Fraley fits into both categories.
Fraley had a strong season in the Minors last year, spending time between Double-A and Triple-A. In his 99 games, he hit .298 with 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases. He hit for a solid average, with power and speed, everything we can ask for in a prospect. The power has developed in the last few seasons in the Minors, but he has always hit for average and has been a stolen base threat at all levels when healthy.
Fraley looks to have the starting left field job to start the season, but could possibly platoon with Austin Nola or Tim Lopes -- not exactly household names. The bottom line is that Fraley just needs to hit. He needs to continue to improve his fly ball and hard hit rates, as he has the last few years in the minors. Most projection sites have Fraley with 10/10 upside, and that is only over 100 games. A full season could put Fraley over the 15/15 threshold, and that is outstanding after pick 400.