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Mid-Round Draft Advice: Look for XBH

Last year, Miguel Cabrera led the league in extra-base hits in 2012 with 84. Robinson Cano followed him with 82.

In third place? Aramis Ramirez, with 80.

Yet in fantasy, one of those things is not like the other. Cabrera and Cano will cost top-5 draft picks, whereas Ramirez has an ADP of 73.

Many fantasy managers find it pretty easy to rank their top 30 or so players, and then identify their can’t-miss sleepers for the late parts of the draft, but finding value in the middle rounds is a little trickier. In fact, I’m not sure many GMs even try--usually mid-round picks go more like “oh hey, I still need a SS” or “oh hey, I’m low on steals, let’s take Michael Bourn.” And while I absolutely believe you need to react based on how the draft is progressing, a little prep work on mid-round values could net you some bargain production.

One simple way I like to look for mid-round value is to check out the league leaders in extra-base hits. Why not? It means the player has some power and will have a solid batting average (the 2012 top 20 in XBH all had a higher average than .250). And moving more than one base at a time A) increases the likelihood of driving in runs and B) puts you in scoring position to score runs. So, while it’s certainly not a perfect measure of a player, it does touch four key offensive categories in the fantasy game.

And that’s why I have Aramis Ramirez on my cheat sheet this year. No, please don’t take him in the first round. But here he is in the company of Cabrera, Cano, Pujols (4th in XBH) and Braun (5th in XBH), yet at a significantly lower draft price.

XBH isn't the perfect measurement by any means, so please don't just run with this and draft the highest XPH guy available each round, but I like it as a tool to identify some guys who should maybe be on your radar. With that in mind, here are four other players who caught my attention when scanning the list (overall MLB rank in XBH in parenthesis):
  • Aaron Hill (7th): Lot of uncertainty about what he'll do this year, but guys, this is a 2B who ranked 7th in all of baseball in XBH. Power production from 2B isn't exactly easy to find. Will he repeat his 2012 numbers? Dunno. But if we did know, he'd be a top 20 pick, so getting him in round 6 has the potential to pay major dividends. Oh, he also chipped in 14 steals too, so he'll offer you some speed as well.
  • Adam Laroche (13th): With a Yahoo O-Rank of 149, Laroche isn't getting much pre-draft love this season, and I'm not sure why. If you miss out on one of the elite 1B, I'd skip the next few guys going off the boards (guys like Rizzo, Freeman, Howard, Ike Davis, Hosmer...etc) and try to snag Laroche late. Laroche has the possibility to be a top-10 1B this season--I'm not guaranteeing he will, but if you can wait til way late in the draft to snag someone like that, it's incredible value.
  • Alfonso Soriano (17th): Nobody seems to like Soriano, probably because they remember his glory days and now think of him as "washed up." But that doesn't mean he can't be a valuable fantasy commodity, especially where he's being drafted (Yahoo O-rank of 194). Take him in round 15ish and you'll have a guy who has hit 20+ HR every season since 2002. He's also been good for 75+ RBI the last three years. He doesn't offer elite production anymore, but he certainly is better than his current draft position.
  • Ben Zobrist (22nd): Same position-scarcity principle as Hill; though Zobrist has fewer XBH, he qualifies at 2B and SS (and OF, but he's not really special there). Love the flexibility, love the production from the unlikely positions, love Zobrist.
So that's how I use XBH--to identify players who I look at their ADP and think "hm, he probably is better than that." I think sometimes we get hung up on the player's name when doing evaluations; this method forces me to look back at the data and maybe uncover some hitters who are being overlooked. After all, fantasy is about the numbers, not the name.

Thanks for reading, and if you'd like to point out anyone else along these lines in the comments section, please do so!