I love player takes. You love player takes. The entire fantasy industry loves player takes.
It makes sense. Time is a valuable resource. Would you rather listen to hours of podcasts and spend days reading all the latest macro-level strategy articles just to feel comfortable enough to start drafting? Or would you rather me just give you a list of names and off you go?
If you're the former, then I recommend a recent piece from my Substack (free to subscribe) titled "Why I'm Taking German Marquez Over Grayson Rodriguez on Underdog Fantasy."
If you're the latter, then (after viewing the names below) I recommend using this Google Sheet of rankings specifically designed for UD MLB Best Ball. The ranks can be uploaded into Underdog drafts on your desktop as well. Reach out if you need help figuring it out.
Anyways, I preface my late-round infield targets with this distinction between player takes and macro-level analysis because I want to make it clear why Underdog drafters should target these specific infielders in the later rounds.
My perfect Underdog draft (preferably pick 7) typically goes OF-IF-P-P and from there I continue mixing in all positions but lean SP (preferably 6 total, all taken somewhat early) or OF with an anchor IF already secured. This allows me to take advantage of the incredible infield depth available in the second half of drafts.
This means I'm typically back-filling my position players, especially infielders, in the final rounds of drafts. Because of that I want them to have sturdy floors. I never feel like my Underdog teams are in position to take an "all or nothing" chance (since we're limited to 20 roster spots). I just want to best shot at players who could give me usable weeks. So that's what is guiding this guide for some late-round infield targets - sturdy floors that are primarily based on THE BAT X as a foundation. Lastly, I want to highly recommend that everyone drafting uses projections in some form, whichever your preferred system might be. Without projections, every late-round hitter feels the same and you essentially draft off "feel" or because you recently heard something good about them. With projections, it becomes much easier to realize which players represent a value. Current ADP simply isn't efficient enough to use it as your only resource. Or maybe you just love player takes and want a list of who to draft. In that case, here you go:
Rodgers was the No. 3 overall pick back in 2015 and most agree he hasn't lived up to that hype. The 26-year-old owns a career 87 wRC+ and has never even attempted a stolen base in the majors. Why should we keep getting excited about him?
My argument isn't that he's about to break out. It's that people have grown so tired of Rodgers that he's a value in drafts, particularly on Underdog.
As of this writing his ADP is 234.2, while I ranked him 201st in my most recent update. You don't actually have to take Rodgers that early, but this ranking highlights him as someone to target when those final rounds approach.
Using THE BAT X, Rodgers is projected for 1,032 UD points. There are just 4 players going after him projected for at least 1,000 points while there are many who go before him who aren't projected for as many. This includes many outfielders, which is why I prefer finishing my draft with multiple infield selections.
Examples of some IF options going before him who project for less are DJ LeMahieu, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Drury, and Vaughn Grissom, among others.
Rodgers still hits too many grounders (career 52%), but as shown below his plate discipline continues to improve during his time in the majors. Add in the fact you're getting cheap exposure to Coors (and the potential for spike weeks, something I'll write about soon), and there's an upside case for weekly Best Ball scoring that isn't reliant on Rodgers actually taking a step forward as a hitter.
Underwhelmed? Look I'm sorry but this isn't the piece for breakout selections. That article is coming eventually, but right now we're focusing on comfortable, projectable late-round infielders. That doesn't sell as well as HUNTER GREENE NO MATTER WHAT, but the philosophy of landing on Rodgers, Urias, and co. will help improve your Underdog drafts. And making money sells.
There isn't anything particularly special about Urías other than providing a safety net for IF-needy drafters. The 25-year-old "broke out" in 2021 by being more aggressive on pitches in the strike zone (see graph below). The deadened ball from 2022 seemed to affect his power numbers, but he's overall been 11% better than league average since the start of '21.
Interestingly, THE BAT X is his worst projection (though not by much) when looking at the publicly available systems on Fangraphs, so this isn't a case of one source functioning as an outlier. All the systems peg him as being highly usable throughout 2023.
One final note - Urías pairs well with any combination of Willy Adames, Christian Yelich, Jesse Winker, and Rowdy Tellez for a nice mini-stack.
You guessed it - Moncada is another one of those infielders being drafted in the "Rodgers range" who projects for 1,000 points. He's similar to Rodgers in that people are tired of him. Moncada was sensational in 2019, terrible in 2020, bounced back in '21, and had a career-worst campaign last season.
The first stat that jumps out in Moncada's projection is the 56 walks (same as Urías), which is tied for the 57th most in MLB, per THE BAT X. Just like we discussed with Matt Chapman in a previous post, accumulating walks is an underrated part of UD scoring.
THE BAT X projects Moncada for a 10.1 BB%, but he walked 13.2% of the time from 2020-21, so maybe there's a hint of upside here as well.
Everything about Moncada's 2022 was terrible - filled with injury trouble and bad luck. It would be a mistake to view those results as his new baseline, however. All the projection systems peg him as a bounce back, and he's entering his age-28 season, so the athleticism should still be there.
While we shouldn't assume he reverts to his 2021 level of play, we also shouldn't dismiss him as a last-round floor pick.
For those who stuck around, here are some other late-round infielders who fit the goal of this exercise: