This season, DraftKings is bringing its popular Best Ball contests to Major League Baseball. This format gives players a chance to draft a fantasy baseball team for a season-long competition that requires no active in-season management but still provides a full season of drama and competition.
You can find all the details, scoring and rules for the format in this overview post along with links to the rest of our season preview content. My top 60 at each position can be found at that link or on my author page. My colleague, Garion Thorne has also been cranking out some excellent Best Ball content including Sleepers & Busts for each position.
Be sure to check back for more content to help get you ready for all your drafts leading up to Opening Day.
In this post, we’ll focus on some players that are available at the very end of drafts, even in 12-team sit-and-go contests. As you work to fill in the last few spots on your roster, these options bring a high enough ceiling to be worth considering as you near the end of your rankings sheets.
Each of these five players brings good upside, but there are more than 150 other players being drafted ahead of them. Since they do come with risk, you don’t want to reach for them too early, but they’re nice late-round swings for the fences.
I’ve included the ADP from the Best Ball lobby of each of my selections as of the end of the World Baseball Classic. Especially this late in drafts, though, ADP can shift quickly, so be sure to know when players are being picked as your draft winds down.
P Josiah Gray, Washington Nationals
Gray was one of the key pieces that the Nats got from the Dodgers in the Trea Turner and Max Scherzer trade at the end of 2021. He made 28 starts for Washington in his first full season in the Majors last year, going 7-10 with a 5.02 ERA and 5.86 FIP. His elevated ERA and 38 home runs allowed are why he has fallen off the radar a bit, but he still has plenty of upside coming into this year.
Despite giving up so many long balls, Gray still had a good strikeout rate with 9.32 strikeouts per nine. His numbers in the minors indicate there could even be room for improvement on that rate, and he has added a new pitch to his repertoire which has been effective in Spring Training. His velocity has been up just a little bit and his new cutter has looked strong. In his first four appearances, he has allowed just one earned run in 12.1 innings while striking out 11 opponents.
He’s firmly entrenched as a key part of Washington’s rotation and is coming off a full season of work. If he can keep the ball in the yard and live up to his potential while keeping his strikeout rate up, he could be a steal at the end of your draft.
IF Josh Jung, Texas Rangers
The Rangers are ready to give their 3B job to their top prospect, Josh Jung. The 2019 first-round pick has dealt with a laundry list of injuries on his rise to the Majors, but when he’s healthy, he has a good enough bat to give him a high-ceiling in fantasy. After tearing his labrum lifting weights, it looked like he would miss the entire 2022 season, but he was able to recover and actually get his first call to the Rangers. After homering in his first at-bat, he had inconsistent production, finishing with five home runs, but a batting average barely over .200 in his 26 games. It is worth noting, though, that he only played 31 games in the minors before being called up and was still recovering from surgery, which may have impacted his plate coverage.
Most projections have Jung hitting around 20 homers with a wOBA over .300 and a batting average of around .250. Those numbers are solid enough to merit attention at the end of Best Ball drafts, but the potential for more is what is truly intriguing. This Spring he has gone 13-for-38 (.342) in his 15 games with five doubles, a triple and three home runs. His plate discipline and power to all fields hint at plenty of upside, especially if he lands in the middle of the batting order. He could end up hitting fifth behind Adolis Garcia, Nate Lowe and the table-setting duo of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. That spot could give him plenty of RBI potential.
The health concerns are real, but at this point in the draft, grabbing a prospect with such potential makes Jung worth the risk.
OF Oscar Gonzalez, Cleveland Guardians
The Guardians gave Gonzalez their starting RF spot last season, and he put together a strong rookie campaign. In 91 games, he hit .296 with 11 homers, a .339 wOBA and 122 wRC+. He’s projected for similar stats this year with some slight regression in batting average and a little more power.
Gonzalez showed a flair for the dramatic last postseason with three game-winning hits in just five playoff games. I expected him to be over-hyped coming into the season, but a slow Spring Training and some legitimate concern about his chase rate and lack of patience at the plate have kept prospective owners at bay.
There is a wide range of possible outcomes for the Guardians' hulking slugger, but his ceiling is too high to pass on him if you need outfield help. Last season, he was in the 91st percentile in maximum exit velocity and 88th percentile in sprint speed. Despite his chase rate and ultra-aggressive approach, he struck out just 19.6% of the time.
He has the potential to break out with a massive campaign and reach 30 homers, or he could end up with a low batting average and a ton of strikeouts. At this point in drafts, though, his ceiling is definitely worth a shot, and he should be a key fixture in Cleveland’s lineup all year long.
P Javier Assad, Chicago Cubs
Assad made the climb from Double-A through Triple-A to the Majors last year, and the bespectacled 25-year-old has been getting plenty of deserved attention from his impressive WBC run with Mexico. Assad threw 5.2 shutout innings with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed, facing elite competition. He also threw four hitless innings with two strikeouts in the Cactus League.
Assad’s dominance has been partly due to a bump in velocity. His offseason program has his heater topping out at 97 mph and regularly hitting 94-96 mph. The extra velocity could help his strikeout numbers pop even more.
His role to start the season could be out of the bullpen, but he has been a starter most of his career. He started 21 of his 23 minor league games last year in Double-A and Triple-A, with a 2.66 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. In the Majors, his strikeout rate dipped a bit, but he was still effective with a 3.11 ERA and zero or one runs allowed in five of his eight starts.
With a little added zip on his fastball, Assad could be even better for the Cubs this year. His role is the biggest question, and the team will keep a close eye on his innings. At some point this season, though, you would think they would take a look at him as a full-time starter, and when they do, he could definitely stack up enough strong outings to be a usable pitcher from late in the draft.
IF Francisco Álvarez, New York Mets
Álvarez is the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball coming into the season, per MLB Pipeline, and he could definitely be on track to make a difference in the Majors at some point this season. On that list of prospects, he’s ranked ahead of Cardinals 3B/OF Jordan Walker and Yankees SS Anthony Volpe, who have been getting much more fantasy attention coming into the season.
After a slow Spring Training, Álvarez was sent to Triple-A to start the year, but the main reason is to continue to work on his catching, as he has already shown he’s ready to hit in the Majors. Last year, he piled up 27 home runs in 112 games across Double-A and Triple-A at just 20 years old. He hit .260 with a .885 OPS and an ISO over .200 at both levels. In his brief stint in the Majors at the tail end of last season, Álvarez went 2-for-12 and hit his first MLB home run, giving him a .333 ISO.
Álvarez could end the year as the Mets’ DH, but it’s more likely he eventually takes over behind the plate for the veteran tandem of Omar Narváez and Tomas Nido. Even without the factor of being a catcher boosting his value in this format, his potential power makes him a name worth taking a flier on at the end of your 12-team Best Ball drafts.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is z.thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.