Bernie on the Scene: 10 Undervalued Players

Bernie on the Scene: 10 Undervalued Players

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

We have learned a bit more every day from early reports out of MLB training camps.

As we enter a critical two-week period prior to the shortened 2020 season beginning, the number of fantasy baseball drafts and auctions will increase.

The list below includes players I believe to be better than their Average Draft Position (ADP) ranking on the RotoWire ADP listing.

Those of you who have followed my work over the years know that one of my guiding principles in evaluating fantasy team players is assessing risk/reward. I spend a considerable amount of time evaluating the known and unknown risks against the rewards I may reap. These players each have some risk. But I think the rewards are in our favor.

As fantasy owners continue to prepare for revised drafts and auctions, I have identified these 10 players as interesting potential "over achievers." Either their roles have and will change, or I just value them more than where they have been drafted to date.

Dellin Betances, RP, Mets
ADP: 332

Reports out of the Mets camp indicate Betances looks healthy and ready to assume some ninth-inning pressure. I'm not a huge fan of presumed Mets closer Edwin Diaz. Diaz really had a rough time adjusting to the National League after being traded to the Mets from Seattle. Last year, he threw to a whopping 5.59 ERA in 66 mound appearances.

For now, I think Diaz gets the first crack at closing. However, Betances seems to be waiting in the weeds. With teams playing 15 games in a row in a condensed season, it makes sense that more than one closer will be needed and used. Enter Betances.

Now 32, Betances has that huge 6-foot-8, 265-pound frame to maneuver on the mound. His size has caused problems in his past, as he failed at times to repeat a clean delivery. He was limited to one appearance pitching for the Yankees in 2019 due to a partially torn left Achilles. That issue seems to be in the rear view mirror, and Betances has looked sharp so far. Look for him to get the ball as a closer. But beware, Jeurys Familia and Seth Lugo are also ninth-inning options.

The back end of every bullpen in baseball will see action. Again, games cramped together with few days off and taxing weather in the heart of summer could spell a need for a guy like Betances to gain your consideration.

Diego Castillo, RP, Rays
ADP: 339

When I was scouting American League teams in Fort Myers during spring training in March, Diego Castillo really made an impression. The ball comes out of his hand very easily and he has some mustard on his fastball. He's a great candidate to close games for a club that should be a consistent winner.

Castillo may share closing opportunities with Nick Anderson and Jose Alvarado. Of those three, Castillo may be my choice due to his big arm and very strong frame.

Entering his age 26 season, Castillo is primed to produce. He threw 68.2 innings last year, and finished with eight saves. He had a 3.41 ERA, striking out 81. Walks have been a problem, but I believe he can overcome bouts of poor command and control. When a pitcher can strike out an average of 10.6 batters per nine innings, it speaks volumes.

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
ADP: 350

Miguel Cabrera turned 37 in April. He is one of the best pure hitters I have seen in my life. And I've seen a lot of good hitters. I'm old.

Cabrera worked very hard in the offseason to come back from serious knee issues. While we have no guarantee he will hold up physically, we do know he is driven. Cabrera always wants to be great. He will not coast into his Hall Of Fame election. He will still drive the ball to the gaps and be a force at the plate. The problem? There aren't many bats around him in the lineup to offer protection. 

I have grabbed Cabrera in the end game of every draft so far. Why? I still think three-fourths of Miguel Cabrera is better than 100 percent of many of the first baseman going ahead of him in drafts.

Yoenis Cespedes, DH, Mets
ADP: 350

Well, he should be well rested. And he has plenty to prove. If he's healthy and his ankle and heel problems are behind him, Cespedes could be a steal on draft day. His health is a big "if." If he can get to the plate with strength throughout his body, he can be a terrific gift to fantasy owners. But he still hasn't run hard in Mets workouts. That's a bit of a concern.

I think Cespedes is now the natural to be the team's DH. He likely won't be in left field, but with his heel surgeries a thing of the past, this is a guy to target on draft day. But beware, he could re-injure himself and leave you with a huge hole on your roster. From a risk/reward standpoint, the reward could be much greater than the risk.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Mets
ADP: 356

The fantasy world has forgotten Robbie Cano. He isn't the sexy pick at age 37 he once was in his prime. I get that. But he can still hit. He can still hit the large gaps in his home park. He'll be surrounded by solid hitters in the Mets lineup. Hitting third or fourth, he'll have plenty of chances to drive in runs. And he will drive in runs.

Cano finally made adjustments to the junk pitches he was seeing. When he learned to take those off-speed pitches, he became the hitter of old. I'll take Robbie Cano over a good number of the younger, less experienced second basemen in weak lineups. Especially in a short season when he can really pour it on for a more limited number of games.

Corey Knebel, RP, Brewers
ADP: 401

Now 15 months out from Tommy John surgery, Knebel seems primed to regain a role in the Brewers bullpen. Not all pitchers return from surgery with the same velocity on their fastball or with the command and control they took to the operating room. But I think Knebel will really respond well.

Yes,   Josh Hader is king of the pen. But there will be save chances for Knebel, provided he can throw strikes without pain. Hader will need some nights off. Manager Craig Counsell seems to know how to use his pen properly. Count Knebel in the mix.

In his age 28 season, Knebel is the type of guy who can perform under the late-inning pressure on a team that should be able to contend. 

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF/DH, Marlins
ADP: 418

I'm a believer in Garrett Cooper. And I think he'll get plenty of chances to DH for the Marlins, a club improving in virtually every aspect of the game.

The caution is simple: As a right-handed hitter, he will be hitting mostly on the short side of the platoon. That's a concern. The team has Matt Joyce to hit against righties, if Joyce is healthy. But what if Cooper is so good with the bat that he beats out Jesus Aguilar at first base? That could happen. Aguilar could implode at the plate. Or what if Cooper beats out an inconsistent Lewis Brinson in the outfield? That could easily happen. So the risk/reward here could tip to reward in a big time way. The risk is fairly limited. I'll take my chances on Cooper at age 29 to make an impact for the Marlins.

Eric Thames, 1B/DH, Nationals
ADP: 419

Not that Ryan Zimmerman was a threat to him, but Eric Thames got a break when Zimmerman announced he was opting out of the 2020 season. That means Thames can play some first base as well as be a designated hitter in the right matchups against right-handed pitching.

Make no mistake, Thames still has power in his bat. He'll go low in drafts, but he's better than his player No. 419 rank in baseball, even at age 33. I'll take the power he'll give me in a lineup that includes Juan Soto hitting anywhere near him. He fades a bit if Soto isn't playing. Watch that carefully.

Shed Long, 2B/OF, Mariners
ADP: 420

I can see left-handed hitting Shed Long leading off and playing second base on a regular basis for what I consider to be a woeful Mariners team. He should score some runs. He should steal some bases. And … he has a bit of pop in his bat.

Long is only 5-8, but he has some speed that he hasn't used in his brief big league career. Still only 24, Long has a golden opportunity to put himself on the map as a quality starting player. And we reap the benefit of him going low in drafts. 

Long is the guy who will send Dee Gordon to the bench. But … if Long comes up short, Gordon takes away his at-bats.

Austin Romine, C, Tigers
ADP: 435

Romine will win the starting catching job in Detroit. Always a backup in New York, this is a chance for Romine to prove he belongs as a starter. It's a big opportunity for him, and I think he'll hit.

As a backup for the Yankees, he got plenty of chances to play when the ever-injured Gary Sanchez was out of the lineup. In 240 plate appearances last year, Romine hit .281 with eight homers and 35 RBIs. He'll have some off days with the tight schedule in Detroit this short season, but he should be able to get into a hitting rhythm and help out with your needs at catcher. I like him and I think he's far better than his current ADP.

DRIBBLERS

I have been hearing now that the Cleveland Indians won't be changing their team name until 2021. They want to get it right, and that takes time.

• Will you be a fan of piped in crowd noise in stadiums? I can't stand laugh tracks on television situation comedies. I don't think I'll be a fan of piped in crowd noise. I want to hear the guys swearing at each other and talking trash. No noise, and we'll hear that.

This would have been the time to use robo umpires. But they aren't. Missed opportunity.

You may be interested in reading my article at forbes.com this Thursday, July 16. I'm going to write about a rule change I propose that will add excitement and action to the game. Please don't miss it. Just go to forbes.com and hit the looking glass to the right. Type in PLESKOFF and voila. 

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

Please-Be smart. Be safe. Wear a mask. Keep your distance from people. Don't put yourself in a position to get sick. Stay healthy. This isn't about politics or being macho. This is about all our health. I'm asking this for a friend — YOU.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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