As fantasy owners complete their final preparations for the start of the baseball season, it is important to understand how to take advantage of the rules of the league. Most rotisserie fantasy baseball leagues will utilize batting average as a component of scoring; however, there is a growing interest in on-base percentage as an alternate category to batting average. With this growth comes the opportunity to take advantage of knowledge and player evaluation in order to gain the upper hand on opponents. In this article, we look at fantasy baseball on-base targets whose values jump considerably in leagues that utilize on-base percentage as a category rather than batting average.
Fantasy Baseball On-Base Targets
The catcher position can often be as much of a drain on a fantasy team’s batting average as it can be a plus in counting stats. Fortunately for fantasy owners, there is hope deep in the draft. Yasmani Grandal has a .340 OBP over the past three seasons along, and has averaged fifteen home runs, and forty-eight RBI over the past two seasons. Grandal appears to be close to full health entering this season, and has the ability to be a positive factor in an OBP lineup. Francisco Cervelli had a strong season with the Pirates as the full time catcher in 2015, posting fifty-six runs scored and forty-three RBI. He has also demonstrated a remarkable ability to get on base thus far in his career, with a .365 career OBP. Neither Grandal nor Cervelli are being drafted in the top-200 players at this point, so they will likely be available late in the draft or early on the waiver wire.
The first base position is usually full of players that can offer significant power and solid counting stats, and yet, as the draft progresses, the decreasing value of batting average can take its toll on a fantasy team’s ratios. When looking at on-base percentage (OBP), the obvious top choice may be Joey Votto. Votto has been a perennial on-base machine in fantasy baseball, with a three-year average .437 OBP, and should be looked upon as a first round draft pick in OBP leagues.
If a fantasy owner is looking to grab value at the position, Carlos Santana may be an ideal candidate. Santana has a .366 OBP over the past three seasons, while averaging twenty-two home runs and eighty-one RBI over that same period. Lucas Duda may be another target, thanks to his .349 OBP, twenty-four home runs, and sixty-six RBI average over the past three seasons.
The second base position is traditionally considered to be more shallow on fantasy talent than most positions. However, if an owner looks deep enough into the pool, they can find value. Ben Zobrist is a veteran hitter who offers little flash, but solid production season after season. Zobrist has put together a three-year average .355 OBP, along with eleven home runs, and seventy-eight runs scored. He is now in a solid lineup that will place a high value on value his ability to get on base. Dustin Pedroia can also be a savvy late round draft pick or early waiver wire add in OBP leagues. Although the days of Pedroia being a top fantasy selection may be in the past, he still can provide nice value for owners. Over the past three seasons, Pedroia has averaged a .356 OBP, with nine home runs, eight stolen basess, and sixty-nine runs scored.
The shortstop position can be as equally thin at times as second base, yet there may be production to be found deep in drafts or on early waivers. Jed Lowrie makes his return to the Oakland lineup in 2016, where he demonstrated consistent success for an organization that highly values players that get on base. Over his prior two full seasons, Lowrie has averaged a .332 OBP, along with ten home runs and seventy runs scored. With an ADP of over 400, he is likely to be available in most leagues. Jonathan Villar is not a hitter known for a high batting average, but he offers surprising on-base skills. Last season, Villar posted a .342 OBP in AAA and a .339 OBP for the Astros over limited at bats. Villar has also demonstrated exceptional speed by averaging one stolen base for every fourteen at-bats over the past three seasons.
The obvious targets at third base are Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, yet there are exciting values available very late in a draft on the wire. Yunel Escobar has an ADP outside of the top-350, which means he is available in most leagues. Over the past three seasons Escobar has a .344 OBP, and last season he added seventy-five runs scored as the lead-off man for the Nationals. This season, Escobar looks to lead off for the Angels, and should see similar solid production. Former rising star Martin Prado is also a potential value target, with an ADP close to 350. Prado has posted a .328 OBP, along with eleven home runs, sixty-seven RBI, and sixty-one runs scored over the past three seasons.
The outfield position has the largest volume of talent of any hitter position in fantasy baseball, and with great volume comes great opportunity. If a fantasy owner misses out on the gargantuan .460 OBP that Bryce Harper displayed last season, there are still plenty of options available. Matt Holliday may no longer be a good bet to be drafted in the early rounds, but he is asset when it comes to getting on base. Over the past three seasons, Holliday has a .379 OBP, along with twenty-one home runs, and ninety-two RBI over his last two full seasons. Shin-Soo Choo was once a legitimate 20/20 threat, and although his speed has declined, he can still produce for fantasy owners. Choo has carried a .382 OBP while belting 18 home runs and scoring eighty-six runs as a three-year average. Both Holliday and Choo will likely be drafted in most leagues, though they should be available in later rounds, and are excellent trade targets for owners that do not know the value they have in these veterans.