Three seasons, three middle of the pack finishes. No, I haven't had much success since I began competing in NFBC Draft Champions leagues, a 15-team mixed format with a 50-round slow draft and no free agent pickups allowed. Since I consider the draft to be my strength as a fantasy owner, these consistently mediocre finishes are puzzling. There have been a few early-round busts over the years, but I always seem to make several strong late-round picks, and one would think that the late rounds are the most important rounds in this format.
But my fortunes might be changing this year, as I've resided in either first, second, or third place for almost the entire season. There weren't any major early-round busts this time, and I haven't lost my knack for finding late-round value. OK, enough about me. Well, sort of. This got me thinking about the best late-round picks from the standpoint of performance relative to round value. Here are my choices for the top five late-round hitters selected in NFBC Draft Champions League #3719, all drafted after Round 30.
Melvin Upton Jr. (Round 34, Pick 5) - When I took a chance on Upton as my eighth outfielder, I never really expected to start him barring multiple injuries to my other fly-chasers. But through 43 games, the player formerly known as B.J. has already tallied six homers and seven steals to go along with a respectable .266 batting average. A career .245 hitter, Upton is due for regression in that department, but the power and speed have always been a part of his game, and he seems to be revitalized in his first full season as a Padre. Upton made his first appearance in my starting lineup last week, and I wouldn't be surprised if he remains there for quite awhile, maybe even the rest of the season.
Travis Shaw (Round 35, Pick 15) - I devoted some space to Shaw in last week's column, so there isn't a lot more to say about this guy. A batting line of .310-6-29 through 42 games pretty much says it all.
Aledmys Diaz (Round 45, Pick 14) - Another player who I discussed last week, Diaz boasts a gaudy .373-6-23 stat line in 40 games this season. The 25-year-old shortstop might not see regular playing time once Jhonny Peralta returns from the DL next month, but logic says that the Cardinals will do their best to give Diaz as many at-bats as possible. Fantasy owners shouldn't be so quick to trade him now for a less than satisfactory return.
Jordy Mercer (Round 41, Pick 3) - Mercer has never quite lived up to expectations, but the 29-year-old is quietly putting together a quality season in 2016, highlighted by a career-best .298 batting average and .388 OBP. He will need to recapture the power stroke that produced 12 home runs back in 2014 to become a fantasy factor in standard 12-team mixed leagues. But as a starting MI in deeper formats, he's fine.
Brandon Drury (Round 42, Pick 5) - Drury's impressive offensive performance combined with his ability to play multiple positions has earned him everyday at-bats, and he's certainly making the most of the opportunity, hitting .309 with seven homers through 38 games. However, his 25-to-5 K/BB ratio suggests that a batting average correction could be on the horizon. Then again, the 23-year-old did post better plate discipline numbers in the Minors, so maybe the batting average correction will not be too drastic. The Diamondbacks are loaded with options at several positions, so Drury will always be under pressure to produce at the risk of losing at-bats.
And as the owner who drafted Drury in the 42nd round, this worries me. A lot.