Ray Butler’s 2019 High-Value Active Players: Hitters

Written by: Ray Butler

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I know I’m a ‘prospect guy’, but creating my high-value active player list is consistently one of my favorite things to do each preseason.


I like helping you win this season, too. And I want this site to eventually become a place that recommends high-value active players who once existed as touted prospects in our archives.

Some of you will likely ask yourself the same question as you read through this list: “How can a player with a ____ ADP be a high-value player?” Simple. I believe that all players on this list will outperform their draft-day value this season, and that includes players whose ADP currently sits inside the top-100.

As you’ll notice, some of the players listed below will have a ‘February 1st ADP’ and a ‘Current ADP’. Players with both designations were originally released and sent to P365 VIP members on February 1st.

Of course, the hope is you’ll see the benefit subscribers had by seeing this list early and consider becoming a VIP member in the future. It’ll also be fun to witness the changes in ADP with these players between now and Opening Day.

Without further ado, these are the currently-underrated players I firmly believe can help you win a fantasy championship this season…

Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, BOS. Age: 29

JBJ has already broken out once. From 2013 to the end of the 2015 regular season, the outfielder only hit 14 home runs in 785 big league plate appearances. He struck out in 28.2% of his plate appearances and posted a minimal 74 wRC+ during that non-small sample. The following season (2016), Bradley Jr. hit 26 home runs in 636 plate appearances. The strikeout rate dropped to 22.5% and the wRC+ ascended to 118. The numbers have fallen off the since Bradley Jr.’s original breakout, but the batted ball profile in 2018 suggests the outfielder might be on to something once again. The 29-year-old posted a career-high Hard% last season, though both the general and advanced output statistics didn’t necessarily reflect it. Bradley Jr. also stole a career-high 17 bases in 2018 and is a good bet to hit double-digits again this season. We recently learned the outfielder spent the offseason working with swing-guru Craig Wallenbrock (who’s credited with helping J.D. Martinez re-invent himself earlier in his career), and the early returns this spring are quite delicious. Figuring to bat behind Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Martinez and Xander Bogaerts this season, Bradley Jr. should have ample opportunities to drive in a ton of runs along the way. I won’t spoil a prediction I’ll be making on JBJ before Opening Day, but I’ll say this: grab the 29-year-old as often as you can this draft season. 2019 Projection: .252 AVG, .332 OBP, 79 R, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 19 SB. February 1st: 227, Current ADP: 224

Michael Conforto, OF, NYM. Age: 26

A drop in Hard% and rise in Pull% led to a .039 BABIP drop for Conforto last season, but the outfielder still posted a 120 wRC+ with 28 home runs and a .350 OBP. The 26-year-old was especially effective from August 1st to the end of the regular season, smacking 14 home runs in only 252 plate appearances while compiling a 134 wRC+. With the addition of Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos and Pete Alonso, Conforto should thrive in 2019 while hitting in a better lineup, especially if he recaptures his all-fields approach that abandoned him at times last season. He’s now a full season removed from major shoulder surgery, and I think we’ll see it in his numbers this season. 2019 Projection: .258 AVG, .356 OBP, 79 R, 29 HR, 88 RBI. February 1st ADP: 105, Current ADP: 107

Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS. Age: 22

The quality of contact last season tells me Devers had poor batted ball luck, which basically sets the stage for his inclusion on this list. He’ll play the entirety of the 2019 season as a 22-year-old with free-swinging tendencies, so he’s not the least risky player you can roster this season. But the potential is immense, especially when you consider the slash numbers should be better this season. I think we’ll remember this season as a big stepping-stone for Devers as he takes genuine steps to becoming the player we know he can be. There’s above-average breakout potential here. 2019 Projection: .273 AVG, .330 OBP, 74 R, 25 HR, 84 RBI. February 1st ADP: 149, Current ADP: 147

Yandy Diaz, 1B/3B, TB. Age: 27

I’ve been clamoring my ‘Yandy Diaz will breakout someday’ drum for around a year now, so of course he’s included on this list. A trade to the Rays makes it easy to dream on a player who has historically posted a high-rate of hard hit balls. Unfortunately, as you probably know, Diaz puts the ball on the ground way too often (56.6 GB% in 299 career big league plate appearances). If his average launch angle doesn’t change, Diaz’s inclusion on this list will be for not. But my gut tells me the Rays will work with Diaz in attempt to capture a power output the 27-year-old hasn’t experienced throughout his professional career. For now, the infielder figures to be on the wrong side of a first base platoon with righty-masher Ji-Man Choi. But with position eligibility at both corner-infield spots (and perhaps OF) and definite, untapped potential, Diaz has an outside chance at becoming one of the biggest draft steals of the 2019 season. 2019 Projection: .278 AVG, .370 OBP, 65 R, 12 HR, 58 RBI. February 1st ADP: 415, Current ADP: 504

Brian Dozier, 2B, WAS. Age: 31

A historically-good second half player, Dozier only managed to slash .213/.307/.398 with 10 home runs and 7 stolen bases (92 wRC+) in 283 plate appearances from July 1st to the end of the regular season in 2018. Thankfully for this list’s sake, Dozier’s atypical second half performance was mostly because of a knee injury the second baseman attempted to play through last summer. Back at full strength and with a new team, the 31-year-old is primed to return to his normally, healthy self in D.C. While it’s not likely he mimics the 42 home run season he posted as a Twin in 2016, Dozier should flirt with or exceed 30 home runs in 2019. 2019 Projection: .249 AVG, .336 OBP, 80 R, 29 HR, 83 RBI, 11 SB. February 1st ADP: 144, Current ADP: 135

Wilmer Flores, 1B/2B/3B, ARZ. Age: 27

Now away from the Mets and with an organization planning to give him everyday playing time, Flores is projected to near 600 plate appearances for the first time in his career. The 27-year-old isn’t likely to put up superstar numbers while playing at the humidor-aided Chase Field, but I defy you to find better bang for your buck at Flores’s current ADP. Surprisingly, Flores turned his traditional ‘southpaw masher’ label upside-down last season, batting .283 with 10 home runs in 281 plate appearances versus right-handers and .237 with 1 home run in 148 plate appearances against lefties. With his batted ball luck projected to be more favorable in 2019, Flores should help your fantasy team maintain a healthy average while compiling 20+ home runs. If you play in an AVG league, the 27-year-old is 2019 Miguel Cabrera lite with three positions of eligibility. 2019 Projection: .273 AVG, .329 OBP, 60 R, 21 HR, 78 RBI. Current ADP: 396

Joey Gallo, 1B/OF, TEX. Age: 25

The inevitably low AVG and high K% might devalue Gallo in your keeper/dynasty league or scare some of your league mates away in redrafts. Make sure you’re not deterred. The 25-year-old has posted back-to-back 40 home run campaigns (he’s only the ninth player in the history of baseball to do so while being younger than 25), and most projection systems predict Gallo to accomplish the feat once again in 2019. There are other first basemen who bring more well-rounded skillsets to the table, but I’m willing to give a little bit of ground in the strikeout and AVG department to roster one of the most powerful players in baseball. With a career 13.4 BB% at the big league level, acquiring Gallo via draft or trade in OBP leagues is an absolute no brainer. 2019 Projection: .223 AVG, .330 OBP, 87 R, 42 HR, 105 RBI, 5 SB. February 1st ADP: 113, Current ADP: 99

Yuli Gurriel, 1B/2B/3B, HOU. Age: 34

I’m a sucker for versatility, and Gurriel fits this mold as well as any player, especially when evaluating the landscape of the 2019 season. Both first base and third base are awfully shallow positions, and the 34-year-old provides quality depth at both corner infield spots. And while he doesn’t yet possess second base eligibility, the Astros are planning on utilizing Gurriel at the position frequently this season when spelling Jose Altuve. With a batting average hovering around .300 with double-digit home runs and a strikeout rate less than 15%, he’ll carry mixed league value at the cornerstone before factoring in his eligibility at two other positions. Miss out on the elite options at either first base or third base? Starting an un-elite second baseman? Gurriel is the perfect option to give your roster quality, flexible depth. 2019 Projection: .288 AVG, .325 OBP, 65 R, 15 HR, 69 RBI. Current ADP: 190

Aaron Hicks, OF, NYY. Age: 29

One of the more underrated players in baseball, Hicks slashed .248/.366/.467 with 27 home runs and 11 stolen bases (127 wRC+) last season. Sure, if your fantasy league hasn’t evolved with the times and still uses AVG instead of OBP, the 29-year-old gets dinged a little. Still, with a moderate strikeout rate (it hasn’t exceeded 19.1% since 2014) and gaudy counting stats, Hicks is plenty valuable swinging his bat in the AL East. Perhaps hitting at the top of a stacked Yankees lineup, the outfielder will once-again prove to be a valuable commodity in 2019, especially considering his current ADP. 2019 Projection: .252 AVG, .360 OBP, 91 R, 25 HR, 79 RBI, 10 SB. February 1st ADP: 125, Current ADP: 120

Max Kepler, OF, MIN. Age: 26

If you look at the batted ball profile from last season, you might guess Kepler has already broken out. The 26-year-old raised his Hard% by 4.2 percent to 37.1% and his FB% 6.7 percent to 46.2%. He dropped his strikeout rate to 15.7% and walked 11.6% of his plate appearances, both of which are easy career bests. The statistical results? A putrid .236 BABIP that led to a .224/.319/.408 slash line, though Kepler did manage to hit a career 20 home runs. Projection systems seem to agree the outfielder was unlucky at the dish last season, predicting Kepler will post an ~110 wRC+ in 2019. Positive regression seems like a forgone conclusion here, making Kepler quite an appetizing option as a fourth outfielder in fantasy this season and beyond. 2019 Projection: .258 AVG, .337 OBP, 81 R, 27 HR, 78 RBI, 9 SB. February 1st ADP: 259, Current ADP: 240

Our Mac Squibb tweeted his nugget on Kepler back in January:

Jonathan Lucroy, C, LAA. Age: 32

In 2016, Lucroy slashed .292/.355/.500 and hit 24 home runs in 544 plate appearances (123 wRC+). Since, the catcher has only managed to slash .259/.319/.348 with 10 home runs in 935 plate appearances (76 wRC+). Maybe the ship has officially sailed for the 32-year-old at the plate, but I’m buying into this interview on The Hot Stove from January. In summation, Lucroy brought in the hitting coach from his time with the Brewers this offseason. Together, the two worked on improving the 32-year-old’s timing while lowering his hands in his stance. Of course, no one actively works to become worse at hitting during the offseason, so Lucroy will need to show improvement in games before the fantasy community really begins to buy back in. But I just don’t believe he lost the entirety of his hitting ability as quickly as his stats say he did, and I think Lucroy finally bounces back in 2019. 2019 Projection: .271 AVG, .332 OBP, 59 R, 15 HR, 62 RBI. February 1st ADP: 327, Current ADP: 312

Ketel Marte, 2B/SS/OF, ARZ. Age: 25

Of course the sweet, sweet positional eligibility is a fantastic starting point here (Marte doesn’t yet possess OF-eligibility but should attain it early this season), but the 25-year-old put together a pretty underrated performance in 2018. Marte increased his Hard% from 28.2% to 36.0%, which led to a career high 14 home runs despite the fact he hit the ball on the ground more last season than he did in 2017 when he only mustered 11 home runs. At only 25-years-old, Marte could provide value for redraft teams in 2019 while also becoming a staple on keeper/dynasty teams for the next five seasons at least. If only he had interest in stealing the bases he’s capable of stealing. 2019 Projection: .277 AVG, .340 OBP, 67 R, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 7 SB. February 1st ADP: 222, Current ADP: 221

Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, COL. Age: 34

I’m used to writing about players about 12-15 years younger than Murphy, but I think there’s a lot of value here this season. The multi-position eligibility is a fantastic starting point, and Murphy’s batted ball profile will excel in the lovely hitting confines of Coors Field. More importantly than the first two points, the 34-year-old should be back at full health after being hindered by his right knee following micro-fracture surgery in October 2017. I’m not overly-confident Murphy can match his sterling numbers from 2016 and 2017, but turning the nob one degree would still lead to a fantastic season. 2019 Projection: .313 AVG, .363 OBP, 77 R, 21 HR, 87 RBI. February 1st ADP: 127, Current ADP: 69

Yasiel Puig, OF, CIN. Age: 28

Away from the Hollywood spotlight and the pitcher friendly confines of Dodger Stadium, Puig is set to explode in a smaller market while playing at the launchpad that is Great American Ball Park. Imagine 2017 Yasiel Puig with a better average; that’s what I think is in store for the 28-year-old in 2019. What’s more, I think the Reds will give the outfielder a chance to hit towards the middle of their lineup, meaning he should have the opportunity to drive in Jesse Winker and Joey Votto on a regular basis. My gut tells me the Reds are going to be sneaky good in 2019, and I think Puig will be a big reason that prediction comes true. 2019 Projection: .273 AVG, .342 OBP, 77 R, 29 HR, 85 RBI, 13 SB. February 1st ADP: 111, Current ADP: 73

Franmil Reyes, OF, SD. Age: 23

I wasn’t originally ‘in’ on Reyes this preseason thanks to the crowded Padres outfield, but this deep dive from our Mac Squibb convinced me otherwise. There are still some playing time questions with Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot and Reyes all carrying value in a crowded outfield, but I’m hopeful the Manny Machado signing pushes the Padres to trade one of their grass-standers for a much-needed starting pitcher. Most projections systems see Reyes accumulating anywhere from 500-600 plate appearances this season, which would be more than enough playing time for the 6’5, 275 pound outfielder to wreak havoc on opposing pitchers. There’s some swing-and-miss associated to his offensive profile, but I’m guessing you’d accept that flaw if it meant drafting a player who could flirt with 30 home runs after the 200 ADP checkpoint. 2019 Projection: .257 AVG, .326 OBP, 65 R, 28 HR, 79 RBI. Current ADP: 227

Victor Robles, OF, WAS. Age: 21

The outfielder will always provide plenty of value with his glove, but Robles makes this list because I think he will impress offensively in his rookie season in 2019. To me, the 21-year-old is in somewhat of a fantasy baseball purgatory right now; he’s somehow an underrated top-5 prospect in baseball (thanks to the VGJ, FTJ and Eloy Jimenez hype this preseason) while also being underrated from an immediate value standpoint. Now that Bryce Harper is officially not returning to the Nationals, Robles figures to see everyday playing time in center field in D.C. There’s legitimate redraft value here. 2019 Projection: .277 AVG, .339 OBP, 75 R, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 25 SB. February 1st ADP: 100, Current ADP: 105

Corey Seager, SS, LAD. Age: 25

The shortstop is a season removed from slashing .295/.375/.479 with 22 home runs and a 127 wRC+ as a 22-year-old big leaguer. Tommy John surgery basically made Seager’s 2018 campaign a wash, but he should be back with a vengeance this season. Seager has basically been off the radar for nearly a season now, and his ADP this preseason reflects it. At a premium position like shortstop, Seager will produce like a top-50 fantasy player in 2019. 2019 Projection: .289 AVG, .367 OBP, 88 R, 24 HR, 82 RBI. February 1st ADP: 92, Current ADP: 84

Andrelton Simmons, SS, LAA. Age: 29

One of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, Simmons has played in an average of 152 games the past two seasons. But quite frankly, it’s the offensive floor I’m in love with heading into the 2019 season. Simmons slashed .292/.337/.417 with 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases last season (109 wRC+). If you play in a 6×6 or 7×7 category league, the microscopic 7.3 K% is also quite handy. The counting stats aren’t likely to carry your team at any point this season, but the floor is sturdy enough to keep you from collapsing while Francisco Lindor is on the mend (or while Aldaberto Mondesi doesn’t live up to the immense preseason hype). One-position bench players aren’t my cup of tea, but Simmons will prove worth his weight in gold this season. 2019 Projection: .287 AVG, .334 OBP, 75 R, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 12 SB. Current ADP: 204

Chance Sisco, C, BAL. Age: 24

If you haven’t yet noticed, the catcher position has basically become a dark pit of despair, and that notion has been furthered since news broke of Salvador Perez’s UCL injury. Allow me to preface what I’m about to say with this: don’t look at Sisco’s projections for the upcoming season. They’ll just disappoint you and further the current, gloomy perception surrounding catchers in the fantasy world. But Sisco added some good weight this offseason, and a slight mechanical tweak has manifested itself early this Spring Training with 4 home runs and 9 RBI in just four games. Yes, I’m scouting Spring Training stat-lines, but the catcher position is so bad that any sign of possible value must be taken advantage of. Of course, a potential offensive breakout doesn’t mean too much if the backstop doesn’t prove to be reliable defensively, which has been somewhat of a knock on the 24-year-old throughout his professional career. Sisco probably isn’t worth much of a look in a 1 catcher league, but I think there’s sneaky value in 2-catcher formats, which are for some reason still a thing. The price tag is basically free here. 2019 Projection: .248 AVG, .332 OBP, 47 R, 12 HR, 53 RBI. Current ADP: 597

Jesse Winker, OF, CIN. Age: 25

Winker is basically everything I want in a player worthy of this list. More walks than strikeouts means the floor is awfully comfortably, and increases in Hard%, FB% and LD% (along with a dramatic drop in GB%) means power we haven’t seen throughout his career might be coming. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with Winker as I was pre-Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig trade, but the Reds desperately need a top-of-the-order table setter and I think Winker fits that bill perfectly. He may not get there in his first season back from labrum surgery, but I promise there’s 25 home run potential in that bat. 2019 Projection: .303 AVG, .409 OBP, 76 R, 17 HR, 65 RBI. February 1st ADP: 211, Current ADP: 200

Next up: My high-value active player pitchers will be released Monday, March 4th. 

It’s also #ProspectListSZN here at P365, and the first 60 prospects from my #P365Top200 have already been released. Check out my #141-160 prospects here, my #161-180 prospects here and my #181-200 prospects here

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Featured image courtesy of USA Today Sports

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