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Chicago Cubs' Rowan Wick plays during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

FANTASY BASEBALL 2022 – FIVE LATE ROUND SLEEPERS

Mike Shara

Once your draft gets down to the dregs (anything after round 16), there’s always a point where you have to take some chances. Should you gamble on an experienced veteran who’s hoping to hold off the hot young prospect for one last good year in the sun or do you maybe choose the unproven kid on a bad team who might be given a starting spot because they’ve traded away some high salary stars to begin a rebuild? It’s always a dilemma but in many ways it is my favorite part of a draft because there’s also usually very little risk. Remember – if any of these recommendations (and that’s all they are) flop, you can always return them back to the waiver wire to be replaced without much regret or shame. They’re late round picks, folks – they’re available late in your draft for a reason. Here are a few late round options that I like a bit better than others.

IF YOU NEED POWER…
SETH BROWN (OF/1B), Oakland
He hit 37 home runs in 500 at-bats in AAA during the 2019 season and last year hit 20 bombs in just 307 MLB at-bats. His batting average and on-base percentage left a lot to be desired last year, but he had shown the ability to do those things better in the minors in previous years, too. With first baseman Matt Olson and outfielders Mark Canha and Starlin Marte gone from last year’s A’s team and Ramon Laureano suspended for the first month of 2022, he could find himself getting somewhere around 500 at-bats in 2022. He could end up with around 30 home runs this year if that happens. That’s worth a buck late.

IF YOU NEED STOLEN BASES…
CAVAN BIGGIO, (2B/3B), Toronto
After having +113 and +122 OPS in his first two MLB seasons, Biggio had the injury-riddled season from hell last year, starting with a finger injury in Spring Training which he then re-injured in April, then a sprain of his cervical spine(!) which caused him to miss over two months, and then a UCL sprain in his elbow while rehabbing his neck in AAA. In the brief periods where he was healthy, he was back to his normal self, batting .293/.400/.534 in 18 games in June. This year he’ll be back to playing second base (his usual position), but will qualify at 3B as well. He stole 20 bases in 574 at-bats between 2020 and 2021 without being caught once. He’s the only left-handed regular in the Jays’ lineup this season, so he’ll likely play most days, too. I think his skill set and positional versatility sets him up to help your fantasy bench and now that he’s healthy he should get back to running this year, too. 


IF YOU NEED SAVES…
ROWAN WICK, Chicago (NL)
At this point the Cubs do not appear to be a playoff team, but they are improving their team at the fringes and will be better in 2022. Last year, Wick had 5 saves in the final month of the season after Chicago traded away Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera. Codi Heuer, his chief rival to replace Kimbrel as closer, just had Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. He appears to be the incumbent closer to start the season. If he loses his hold on that job, you can just replace him with whoever replaces him at the back of Chicago’s bullpen.

IF YOU NEED AVG/OBP…
NICK MADRIGAL, 2B, Chicago (NL)
The key piece of the deal that sent Craig Kimbrel across town to the White Sox late last season, Madrigal missed 99 games last year due to hamstring surgery but appears healthy this spring and looks to have first dibs at being the Cubs’ starting second baseman. In his brief MLB career, he has batted .317 with a .358 OBP, numbers that match up to what he’s accomplished in his entire minor league and college career. He won’t contribute a lot of power, but he did also steal 35 bases at three stops in the minor leagues in 2019, so he could be a sneaky boost for you there if you already feel like your team has enough power.

IF YOU NEED STRIKEOUTS…
CHRISTIAN JAVIER, Houston
If the season starts the way things look right now, Javier may not have a spot in the Astros’ starting rotation. The returns of Lance McCullers Jr and Justin Verlander from injuries have probably made the 25 year-old Houston’s long reliever for now – somewhat akin to how they used him in the 2021 postseason. That will create hesitation to select him earlier in drafts, but if you’re looking to fill up your team’s K totals late and he’s there, pounce on him. Whatever role he’s in, he will be punching tickets at a massive rate (he’s averaged 10.6 Ks per 9 innings already in his young MLB career). With more double headers added to this year’s schedule he’ll still be playing a big role, whether its spot starts or 2 or 3 innings of high leverage relief. (Plus does anyone believe McCullers and Verlander will both make 30+ starts this year?) Last year he punched out 130 batters in just 101.1 innings. If he reaches, say…150 innings this season…you’re looking at 190-200 strikeouts. If he steals a few saves and wins for you as well – that’s a pleasant bonus. 

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