Two weeks to go, and though most of my fantasy focus at this point in the season is geared towards finishing strong and possibly even winning a league title or two, it is also a time for reflection. And since the biggest key to winning in fantasy is earning as much profit as possible, whether it be through the draft or via the waiver wire, one of my annual end of season traditions is to assemble a team of players who all exceeded draft day expectations by a hefty margin. And chances are high that at least one of these guys resides on the roster of the vast majority of contending fantasy squads. Let's focus on hitters this week before moving to the mound next week.
C Wilson Ramos - After drafting Ramos in multiple leagues year after year only to be disappointed, I ended up investing in him in only one league this season. And that's too bad, because the Nationals backstop has finally realized his potential, setting career highs across the board. Top 5 catcher heading into 2017? Yeah, I'd say so.
1B Mike Napoli - Staying healthy has been a challenge for Napoli in recent years, but not in 2016. The Indians first baseman is surprisingly enjoying a career year in his age-34 season, and the best part is that he opened the year on the waiver wire in many mixed leagues. Congrats to those of you who stumbled across his 34 homers, 98 RBIs and 89 runs scored through 139 games for the price of a roster spot.
2B Daniel Murphy - What else is there to say? I didn't have any problem with the Mets cutting ties with Murphy this past winter and his $8 price at the Tout Wars Mixed Auction seemed like a fairly accurate measure of his fantasy value. I even viewed Neil Walker as an upgrade at second base for the Amazins. Not quite. Walker pieced together a productive year before succumbing to season-ending back surgery earlier this month. Meanwhile, Murphy is a legitimate MVP candidate. Is this the new Daniel Murphy? Is this what we should expect for 2017? I don't know. But I do know that I won't be willing to pay the 25-plus dollars it will take to find out.
SS Jonathan Villar - Back in March, Orlando Arcia garnered all of the attention. It was only a matter of time before Arcia would get called up to the big leagues and take over as the everyday shortstop for the Brewers. Villar was seen as merely a placeholder. Well, this placeholder just so happens to sport a .289 batting average with 16 homers and 54 steals through 143 games. That's pretty good production from an April waiver wire pickup.
3B Jake Lamb - Sticking to the early-season waiver wire pickup theme, Lamb was hitting .291 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs at the All-Star break, and though his production has tailed off considerably in the second half, he had already given his owners much more than they paid for. And perhaps his second half fade will lower his draft day price tag to the point where he can again deliver a profit in 2017.
OF Wil Myers - There must be something special about the number 8, because like Daniel Murphy, Myers was purchased for $8 at the Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft table. All he's done is record 25 homers, 83 RBIs, 89 runs and 25 steals through 142 games. After capturing AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, Myers battled health woes and underperformance from 2014-2015, so it's nice to see him finally put it all together. Do note, however, that his bat has cooled off in the second half to the tune of a .215 average, six home runs and 23 RBIs. Still, at just 25 years of age, there's clearly a lot to like about Myers going forward.
OF Mark Trumbo - Trumbo was your prototypical undervalued hitter pick entering this season, and I fully expected him to challenge for 30-35 homers now that he would be playing half of his games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards. But I didn't expect him to challenge for 45 homers, or 95 runs. And consistent power production hasn't been a problem, as he's recorded at least six homers and 15 RBIs in every month from April through August. Trumbo has exceeded even the most optimistic stat projections, and that's why he belongs on this team.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr. - Bradley Jr. could never quite figure things out at the big league level. Then 2016 happened, and we're now looking at a potential perennial All-Star.
And all it took to draft this potential perennial All-Star was one dollar in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction.
Talk about a dollar well spent.