As the 2018 season winds to a close, let's take a look at some of the late-round draft picks that have greatly exceeded their draft-day value this season:
Michael Brantley, OF, CLE
Brantley hadn't stayed healthy the past two seasons and opened 2018 on the DL as well, so it wasn't a surprise that he was easy to acquire in fantasy leagues this season. That won't be the case next year however, as Brantley has put together another season of at least 15 HR's, 10 SB's, and a .300 BA - numbers he has reached in each of his last 3 full seasons. He continues to make contact at an elite rate and has improved his Hard% to a career-high 37.3%, so the skills are clearly still there. His health remains a risk however, so I wouldn't at all count on another top-50 overall finish for Brantley in 2019.
Mike Clevinger, SP, CLE
We mentioned back in Spring Training that Clevinger had the potential to be a huge steal late in drafts and that has basically turned out to be the case. While he hasn't been Blake Snell, Clevinger enters his final start of the season with a 3.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 202 K's in 193.1 IP across 31 starts. He has improved his BB/9 from 4.44 in 2017 to 3.12 this season, and has gotten better as the season's gone along, compiling a 2.89 ERA and 10.98 K/9 over his last 18 starts. He currently ranks as a top-25 SP this season, and if he stays healthy, he should be a solid option once again in 2019.
Mitch Haniger, OF, SEA
Haniger has been an extremely valuable fantasy OF this season, hitting .282 with 26 HR's, 91 RBI, 88 runs, and 8 SB's heading into the final weekend of the season. That's quite a value for a guy who was selected near the bottom of drafts this year, and he should and will be much more highly sought after in 2019. The funny thing is that there's really nothing about Haniger's season that shouldn't have been expected; his .282 BA and .491 SLG are actually identical to what he put up last year, and his counting stats over 96 games in 2017 were on a similar pace to this year's numbers. I guess people wanted to see if he could keep it up over a full season, and it turns out that he can. Haniger should continue to contribute in every category without particularly excelling in any, kind of like what Kyle Seager used to be.
J.A. Happ, SP, NYY
Happ tends to be viewed as a solid but unspectacular, back of the rotation type of starter, but he currently ranks 20th in the ESPN SP rankings in what has in some ways been a career year for the 35-year old. Happ currently boasts career-bests in WHIP, K% and SwStr%, while his 16 wins are the 2nd highest total of his career. He has an exceptional 2.34 ERA in 10 starts since joining the Yankees in late July, but it's worth noting that his xFIP during that span is 4.36 and his K-rate has dropped off a bit. He should be solid again next season, but I would expect some regression to his strikeout rate and probably his win total depending on where he ends up pitching.
Blake Snell, SP, TB
It's fair to say that Snell has led many fantasy teams to championships this year, going from a late-round pick or even waiver-wire pickup at the start of the season to becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball. To put his season in historical perspective, Snell has a chance to join Clayton Kershaw as the only pitchers in MLB history to post 20 wins, a sub-2.00 ERA and a 10.00+ K/9 in a single season. It's a shame for Chris Sale, but right now Snell looks to be easily the front-runner for the AL Cy-Young. In terms of fantasy, one could make an argument for Trevor Story or perhaps others, but I would go with Snell for Fantasy MVP.
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