This story originally ran on Yahoo.com.
Drafting a lineup full of boring, established veterans is a great way to finish in fourth place. Unfortunately, no one remembers which team finished in fourth place, there is no prize for finishing in fourth place and no one joins their fantasy league with the intention of finishing in fourth place. To finish atop a quality fantasy league, successful managers balance some stable players in the early rounds with some high-risk, high-reward options during the second half of their drafts. Here are some options with an ADP of 200 or higher who could take their game to another level this year.
Tom Murphy (C, Seattle Mariners)
Murphy was a fantasy sleeper during his four abbreviated seasons with the Rockies, as his plus power skills seemed like a perfect match for Coors Field. But fantasy managers may have made a big mistake by casting the slugger aside after Murphy was traded to the Mariners, as he needed just 260 at-bats to launch 18 home runs last season. Murphy could lead all catchers in long balls this year if given a heavy workload by a rebuilding Seattle team that has little depth at the position.
Mark Canha (1B/OF, Oakland A’s)
Even in an offensive-charged fantasy landscape, Canha’s .301/.415/.528 slash line in the second half of last season stands out as exemplary. The slugger’s performance did not go unnoticed by A’s manager Bob Melvin, who put Canha in his starting lineup for nearly every second-half game. With solid plate control (0.63 BB:K ratio in 2019) and a penchant for producing hard-hit fly balls, the 31-year-old should produce a helpful batting mark and more than 30 round-trippers.
Ian Happ (2B/3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)
Once a touted prospect, Happ now fits the definition of a post-hype sleeper. However, the multi-position asset has been sneaky effective thus far from a fantasy perspective, having compiled 50 home runs and 18 steals across 891 career at-bats. A lack of regular playing time has often kept Happ out of the mixed-league discussion, but he now has an opportunity to grab the starting center-field gig. Although a risky late-round option, Happ has the skills to compile 30 homers and a double-digit steals total across 500 at-bats.
Jon Berti (3B/SS/OF, Miami Marlins)
Berti is strictly a rotisserie option, as his fleet feet are especially valuable in those formats. The late bloomer posted a solid .273 average and 17 swipes across 287 plate appearances, while also using his versatile defensive skills to make at least one appearance at five defensive positions. He is expected to enter 2020 in the same utility role, but wise managers can see that the Marlins have questionable starters at second base (Isan Diaz), shortstop (Miguel Rojas) and center field (Lewis Brinson). Berti has the potential to turn a hot start into a full-time job and a 30-steal campaign.
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)
Swanson will gain little fantasy attention for his 2019 stats (17 HR, 10 SB, .251 BA) but managers who dig a little deeper will see that he broke out in the first half before being felled by injury after the All-Star break. In fact, all of the shortstop’s 17 long balls, seven of his steals and 50 of his 60 runs scored were produced prior to the Midsummer Classic. With improved health, Swanson could threaten the 30-homer plateau and rank among the top 10 shortstops.
Sam Hilliard (OF, Colorado Rockies)
Although he is admittedly a deep dart throw in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, Hilliard is someone who could pay off in a big way. The power-speed threat was sensational in Triple-A last year, collecting 35 homers, 101 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 22 steals in 500 at-bats. And he complimented his eye-popping Minor League success by producing seven homers and two swipes in 77 at-bats with the Rockies. Hilliard is not yet part of the regular lineup, and he is blocked by two players – Ian Desmond and Raimel Tapia – who cannot match his massive potential. When swinging for the fences in the final round, this is a direction in which fantasy owners should look.
Austin Hays (OF, Baltimore Orioles)
Having been in the Orioles system since 2016, Hays is facing a make-or-break season. Baltimore is deep into a long-term rebuild, and they are expecting the 24-year-old to become a regular starter and plus contributor on offense this year. His recent Minor League numbers are not exciting, but he has some pedigree and hit .309 with a .947 OPS in 21 games with the O’s in 2019. Also-ran teams are often the source of sneaky fantasy value, and Hays could use his offense-inducing home park to get his career on the right track.
Domingo Santana (OF, Cleveland Indians)
Few players have been a bigger roller-coaster ride than Santana in recent seasons. The slugger was dominant in 2017 (30 homers, 15 steals) before bottoming out the following year (5 homers, 1 steal). He appeared to get his career back on track in the first half of 2019 (18 homers, six steals) and then disappeared after the All-Star break (three homers, two steals). The 27-year-old has a massive range of outcomes after joining a Cleveland team with an unsettled outfield, and he warrants a late-round pick in the hope that he puts everything together.