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5 potential value picks for 2018 fantasy drafts

Bour, Kiermaier among those who could improve on '17 production
MLB.com @FredZinkieMLB

While most fantasy owners are deep into their offseason slumber, those who stay ahead of the competition are already eyeballing the results of early 2018 mock drafts. And though the rankings are inevitably going to fluctuate between now and Opening Day, a few players are emerging as potential value picks during the middle or late rounds.

Christian Vazquez, catcher, Red Sox
Vazquez emerged last season as a lesser version of the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto -- a backstop who overcomes a lack of game-changing power by flashing strong contact skills (career 6.9 percent swinging-strike rate) and solid speed (seven steals in 2017). Owners who wait until the late rounds to fill their catcher spot will be wise to grab the 27-year-old, who could see an expanded workload and hit at least .270 with 10 steals across 400 plate appearances.

While most fantasy owners are deep into their offseason slumber, those who stay ahead of the competition are already eyeballing the results of early 2018 mock drafts. And though the rankings are inevitably going to fluctuate between now and Opening Day, a few players are emerging as potential value picks during the middle or late rounds.

Christian Vazquez, catcher, Red Sox
Vazquez emerged last season as a lesser version of the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto -- a backstop who overcomes a lack of game-changing power by flashing strong contact skills (career 6.9 percent swinging-strike rate) and solid speed (seven steals in 2017). Owners who wait until the late rounds to fill their catcher spot will be wise to grab the 27-year-old, who could see an expanded workload and hit at least .270 with 10 steals across 400 plate appearances.

Justin Bour, first baseman, Marlins
Given the fantasy depth of the first-base position and Bour's injury problems in 2017 (108 games played), the Marlins slugger will likely plunge to the late rounds of shallow-league drafts. However, owners who extrapolate his '17 results across 130 contests will see that Bour could have hit .289 with 31 homers and 100 RBIs last season. And even with the MLB-wide power surge factored in, players who can provide pop and hit for average still hold significant value in all formats.

Video: Can these surprising 100-RBI players get there again?

Rougned Odor, second baseman, Rangers
On the surface, plate discipline woes (career 0.2 BB/K ratio) seemingly caught up with Odor when he posted a .204/.252/.397 slash line last season. However, the youngster was beset by incredibly poor batted-ball fortune (.224 BABIP) despite logging a career-best 36.7 percent hard-hit rate. Considering he topped the 30-homer plateau for the second straight year and swiped 15 bases, Odor would have been a strong fantasy option if he hadn't had to deal with bad luck. Keep that in mind when assessing the second-base crop in '18 drafts.

Kyle Seager, third baseman, Mariners
Seager took a step backward in 2017, falling short of his impressive '16 season (30 homers, 99 RBIs, 89 runs scored) in virtually every department and ranking outside the top-20 fantasy third basemen. However, he has the potential to return to the 30-homer plateau after finishing last year with a healthy 35.7 percent hard-hit rate and a career-high 51.6 percent fly-ball rate. The veteran may also be capable of a higher average than the .249 mark he posted last year, as he's a lifetime .263 hitter who puts the ball in play frequently (career 16.7 percent strikeout rate). 

Video: Can surprise starters from 2017 shine in 2018?

Kevin Kiermaier, outfielder, Rays
If not for a hip injury that limited him to 98 games, Kiermaier would likely be held in much higher regard by fantasy owners heading into '18. After all, the defensive whiz produced a career-best .276 average last season while logging counting-stat totals that extrapolates to 21 homers, 80 runs scored and 23 steals across 140 games played. With just nine players posting 20-20 seasons in '17, Kiermaier has the potential to hold plenty of fantasy value next year.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.