Late-Round Draft Scenarios

When you go into a fantasy draft, you almost certainly have a shopping list of sorts. However, you are on a limited budget, and won’t be able to draft the best 22 players on your draft board, so you make sacrifices for the greater good. For some people that means waiting until the very end to find a catcher, and for some that means relying on some starting pitchers with upside in the last few rounds. Below are four scenarios and strategies you will likely recognize, and a couple of players that will help you cross something off your list.

Late-Round Catchers
One of the strategies a lot of owners have revolves around catchers. Do I take one of the studs early, or do I look for value late? Everyone has their own plan, and there may not be one that is better than the others. However, if you are waiting until the last round or two to draft your starting catcher, you need to have a couple of names in the back of your mind in case one of your “guys” doesn’t slide.

Josh Thole: Thole made his MLB debut last year, and has clearly cemented his role as the Mets’ catcher of the future. Thole is 24 years old, and possesses extremely impressive contact skills. While he may not have a prime spot in the Mets’ batting order, Thole’s batting average and mediocre run and RBI totals make him a safe catcher to take late in the draft.

John Buck: Buck had a glorious first go-around with the Blue Jays, but has since moved on to play for the Florida Marlins. While Toronto’s ballpark almost certainly helped his home-run totals, Buck was also able to hit a good deal of dingers while playing in Kansas City, home to a pitcher’s park. Florida isn’t the best situation for his skill set, but Buck should be able to keep his power numbers relatively stable. His batting average, though, will take a tumble. If you need a little extra pop and want to get it from your catcher, turn to Buck in the later rounds.

Late-Round Middle Infielders with SB
Another strategy that has become commonplace is waiting a bit on a middle infielder with the hopes of finding a player that won’t kill your batting average while contributing to your stolen-base total. Here are a couple of guys to target this season.

Ryan Theriot: To be fair, Theriot is in this spot every year, and tends to get drafted in the last couple of rounds for that very reason. Theriot will hit about .280 and steal 20 bases for you, but owners could be in for an additional treat depending on how the Cardinals organize their batting order. If Theriot can bat leadoff for the Cardinals, he could even provide you with above-average runs. If you want another reason to draft him, Theriot will be eligible at both second base and shortstop this season.

Alcides Escobar: Escobar’s speed isn’t really up for debate, but his ability to steal bases may be. Despite good SB totals in the minors, Escobar only attempted fourteen steals last season with the Brewers. Now that’s he with the Royals, Escobar should be seeing the green light early and often. And his batting average? You don’t have to worry too much about that, as some BABIP regression will lead to an average around the .270 mark.

Late-Round Strikeouts and Upside
Late in drafts, a lot of owners begin to look for starting pitchers with upside. Most notably, starting pitchers with high strikeout rates who haven’t quite put it all together yet. Here are two pitchers that have some risk attached, but whose upside makes it worth your while.

Bud Norris: Norris is a strikeout machine, and has a career 9.11 K/9 in a little less than 210 innings. His walk rate? Well, let’s talk about that. Norris’ BB/9 for the entirety of 2010 was 4.51, but it is skewed by a terrible first and last month. During the middle four months of the season, Norris’ walk rate was less than 3.50 per nine, a much more attractive number. Norris also has a bit of a home-run problem, but he curbed it a bit despite playing in a less-than-perfect ballpark. The Astros won’t be very good this year, but Norris should still be able to luck into at least 11 wins. He’s not perfect, but he’s got upside and is worth the risk of a late-round selection.

Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco doesn’t have the strikeout skills of Norris, but he does have good control and a fastball that sits around 93 mph. Carrasco also had a super ground-ball rate last season, but got bitten by the home-run bug. However, his HR/FB ratio wasn’t pretty, so I’d expect to see Carrasco keep more balls in the park next season. He pitched almost 200 innings between Triple-A and the Majors last season, so Carrasco should get a full season of work in Cleveland’s rotation.

Dual-Threat Outfielder
When you’re filling out your bench, it’s always a good idea to look through the remaining players and see if you can find a dual-threat: someone who will have double-digit steals and home runs. It’s hard to find this outside of the outfield, and here are two of those guys who fit the bill.

Will Venable: Venable strikes out quite a bit, but his willingness to take a walk and defensive skills keep him in the lineup most days. As a left-handed hitter playing half of his games in Petco, Venable isn’t in the best situation, but still was able to hit 13 jacks in fewer than 400 at-bats last season. Venable’s speed was surprising, and he almost stole 30 bases last year. I’d bet against him stealing 30, but a 15/25 season or better is very likely. His batting average will hurt you a bit, but if he can manage to keep it around .255, you’ll be in good shape.

Franklin Gutierrez: Gutierrez doesn’t play in a park that is conducive for right-handed homers, but he should still be able to jack 15 out of the yard this season. He has good speed, and while I’m not sure if he’ll nab 25 bases again, he should be able to get himself 20. Gutierrez should also be able to contribute a batting average around .260, his career mark. He’s not perfect, but should have a good spot in a relatively bad lineup.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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