Every year there are players who come out of nowhere to help fantasy owners win a championship -- or they're just being overlooked. The key is trying to figure out who these players are. Unfortunately, the reality is there will be players we draft high that will fail to live up to expectations. If we can hit on a player or two drafted late, we are on our way to being competitive throughout the season.
Minnesota Twins Outfielder Max Kepler
Fantasy owners have been waiting for a breakout from the 26-year-old, and it wouldn't come as a surprise if it happened in 2019. Despite never hitting more than 20 home runs or finishing a season with a batting average of .245 or better, the Twins believe so much in Kepler that they gave the youngster a five-year extension this past offseason.
There's a chance the Twins know a monster season is coming after they witnessed Kepler improve in a lot of areas in 2018. Despite a career-low batting average, the outfielder finished with a career-high in home runs and on-base percentage. Kepler also saw his walk percentage rise, strikeout percentage decrease, ground ball percentage decrease and hard hit percentage increase.
I'm not going to go crazy and say he will hit 30 home runs, which is why I didn't have Kepler as a breakout candidate, but I think he can easily finish with a .250 batting average to go along with 25 home runs and chip in with a handful of steals. This is a great target to fill out your outfield. Kepler has an average draft position of 259, which is just too low for a player that will be hitting in a good lineup and playing every day.
St. Louis Cardinals Shortstop Paul DeJong
Fantasy owners can draft a shortstop that has hit 44 home runs the last two seasons after Round 14 if they want. After a strong rookie season that saw DeJong hit 25 home runs in only 108 games, the 25-year-old had a sophomore slump that saw him hit just 19 in 115 games in 2018.
I think the power is legit if he can stay healthy, and the Cardinals' lineup should be potent after the addition of Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason. The question with DeJong will be his position in the batting order, as he could find himself anywhere from second to sixth. If he hits near the top of the order he will be scoring a bunch of runs, but if he falls past the middle of the order he will have a chance to drive in a bunch of runs. DeJong won't steal bases, but I think his batting average can be in the .250 range with the potential of hitting 30 home runs.
To find that kind of power late, especially for a middle infielder, is huge. Fantasy owners should take advantage.
Tampa Bay Rays Outfielder Austin Meadows
Fantasy owners love hyping young players, but when they actually make it to the big leagues, it seems like they are quickly forgotten. Meadows has been a hyped prospect for a few years but has dealt with injuries throughout his young career.
The 23-year-old finally made it to the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018 and held his own with a .287 batting average to go along with six home runs and five stolen bases in 59 games. Meadows was dealt to the Rays at the trade deadline and is now poised to start in right field every day.
Opportunity is everything in fantasy, and Meadows playing on a consistent basis is huge. It remains to be seen where he will bat this season, but he has been leading off for the Rays in spring training. If Meadows is the leadoff hitter every day, he makes for a very appealing fantasy option.
I don't think it's unrealistic to project a season for Meadows that sees him hit .250 with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases. If he does hit leadoff, he should score a bunch of runs as well. Meadows currently has an average draft position of 203. Like Kepler, this is another late-round target to help fill out your outfield.