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Our fantasy baseball analysts reveal their favorite draft target on each of the five American League Central teams. This could be a perceived draft value, an emerging star they're picking everywhere, or anything in between.
Andy: No one's gonna fight you for Max Kepler in all likelihood, not after he slashed .228/.321/.439 in an abbreviated season. But he still cleared the fence nine times in just 48 games and he’s just a year removed from a 36-homer campaign. Don’t be surprised if he goes 90-25-85 in 2021.
Dalton: Byron Buxton is obviously a major injury risk, but he also just led baseball in homers per plate appearance last season, and plenty of SB potential remains as the third-fastest player from home to first last year. Now is the season to draft Buxton, whose ADP is going to be 100 spots higher in 2022.
Scott: I’m a known sympathizer for old boring players at times — a hunt for value — but Jose Berrios is a young boring player. And that’s fine with me. His last four seasons average out to a 3.89 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, with a strikeout per inning. Even if he never takes the step up into Cy Young contender class, this is a very solid SP2 or SP3 (and into his age-27 season, we can’t rule out another bounce forward). The Twins will have a plus defense behind him.
Andy: James Karinchak has upper-tier closer potential after whiffing 53 batters over 27.0 innings last season. He finished behind only Devin Williams last year in strikeout rate among relievers and his fantasy ratios were excellent (2.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). His fastball is plenty lively and his curve is simply unfair.
Dalton: James Karinchak hasn’t been officially named Cleveland’s closer, but this is the next star at the position. It should come as no surprise when he’s the consensus No. 1 reliever off the board in 2022 fantasy drafts. THE BAT projects him to record MLB’s best K rate (14.27) by a significant margin this season, and he owns a nice 1.40 FIP over the first 32.1 innings of his MLB career. Armed with an “80” fastball, Karinchak struck out a comical 186 batters over 102.1 innings in the minors, and his control is improving. With no slam dunk No. 1 closer out there right now, Karinchak is my favorite RP target this year.
Scott: Second base is ugly this year. Seaweed. A mess. You need a plan, and if that plan is tied to a budget, consider Cesar Hernandez in the late rounds. The steals oddly disappeared last year, but a .283 average and .355 OBP will play, and he’s capable of hitting double-digit homers in a full season. It’s not the most exciting pick, but the ADP is in a friendly spot.
Chicago White Sox
Andy: This team is a party, full of interesting young (and old) pieces. I could give you any number of names, but I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t say Luis Robert, a player I’ve held in multiple dynasty leagues. Robert is a lock for a 20/20 season and he’s a decent bet to go 30/30. Here’s hoping he can keep the average respectable.
Dalton: Yoan Moncada is almost certain to outperform his projections, which don’t know how much his season was compromised by COVID last year. The switch-hitter plays in a home park that’s favorable for power to both sides, and he posted a 140 wRC+ while finishing in the top 2% in exit velocity as a 24-year-old during MLB’s last full season. His ADP is a gift as the 10th third baseman off Yahoo draft boards.
Scott: I wanted to promote Moncada but Dalton had to steal my thunder. That’s okay, this is a lineup with plenty of destination spots. Tim Anderson, the breaker of projection system batting average? Yes, please. Adam Eaton could be a steal if he stays hale; he’s the likely No. 2 batter. Eloy Jimenez is going to haunt the Cubs for a decade. This is a carnival offense, and you’ll want multiple tickets.
Kansas City Royals
Andy: Josh Staumont is a flamethrower who routinely touches triple-digits and his breaking ball is pure evil. He’s the sort of reliever you should want on your fantasy roster regardless of his role.
Dalton: Brady Singer was a top-20 pick in the 2018 draft and finished last season strong, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with 30 Ks over 29.2 innings in September. Intriguingly, Singer finished top-15 in CSW, sandwiched between Gerrit Cole and Lucas Giolito. There’s a chance he makes a further leap in 2021.
Scott: The most polarizing early-round pick this year is probably Adalberto Mondesi. His OBP is lousy but I’m not sweating the average like some others are — do you realize he’s batted .265 since 2018? In this roto racket, we need to mind the gap between real life and fantasy life. If the Royals aren’t in a hurry to bench Mondesi, that’s good enough for me. We’re only in this for the numbers. A full season will bring some power and, of course, 40-60 steals. He’s the new Jon Villar (Editorial note: Do not draft the old Jon Villar.)
Andy: This whole pick-one-player-from-each-team thing seemed like a good idea, but then you get to the Tigers, and, well … hmph. The concept kinda breaks down. No one here is a must-draft, but I don’t hate Jonathan Schoop as a late source of power if you miss on the top-tier second basemen.
Dalton: Matthew Boyd is coming off an ugly 2020 in which he finished with easily the worst ERA in baseball, but he pitched through hamstring and plantar fasciitis injuries and is one season removed from finishing top-10 in K-BB%. There’s nice upside here if Boyd returns to health.
Scott: Robbie Grossman is a switch-hitter with good OBP skills and the ability to chip in homers and steals. And because this offense is a toxic waste dump, you’ll get him at a very nice ADP point. A good final outfielder in mixers, or the first outfielder off the bench. I’m surprised the A’s let Grossman get away; he symbolizes what they have generally been about.