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For us grizzled roto veterans who toil for months over player valuations as we prepare for our auctions and drafts, in the back of our minds we know going into draft day that championships are ultimately won in the endgame and by plucking hidden fantasy gems off the waiver wire early in the season. While most prevalent endgame and waiver-wire fantasy rewards come in the saves category, there is always gold unearthed with a handful of position players who were hovering near the bottom of our sheet prices, or not even on our draft-day radars at all.

To pay homage to these 2015 fantasy saviors, below are a few hitters who provided substantial dividends for their owners this year despite accounting for a fraction of their auction salary dollars and FAAB budgets in AL-only formats

Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Expert league auction values: CBS –Undrafted/LABR – $1/Tout Wars – $1
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $24
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $27

While he has a defensive highlight reel for the ages this season, Pillar was much more than a Gold Glove caliber player for the Blue Jays in 2015. Yes, his 2.8 Defensive WARP was second only to Kevin Kiermaier among MLB outfielders this year, but Pillar also proved to be an offensive catalyst in the mighty Blue Jays lineup, stealing 25 bases and scoring 76 runs while also hitting 12 long flies. Many fantasy owners invested in Dalton Pompey on draft day, but Pillar’s consistent play not only helped the Blue Jays break their 22-year playoff drought but also made him a game-changer from a fantasy perspective in AL-Only formats.

Billy Burns, OF, Oakland A’s

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $23
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $25

I now feel somewhat vindicated writing about Billy Burns in the Oakland A’s Fantasy Team Preview article way back in November of last year. Here was my blurb:

“Billy Burns – OF

Burns is a younger and faster version of Craig Gentry. Burns does not possess the skills to be an everyday player in the big leagues, but he can certainly provide value because of his speed. Burns stole 179 bases—while only being caught 23 times—in 385 career minor-league games. With the A’s OF situation, Burns could see playing time and be a nice speed play.”

Well, I was wrong about the everyday-player part, as Burns played in 125 games and amassed 555 PAs this season while posting a .294 AVG for Oakland. However, I did get the speed-play prediction correct, as Burns’ 26 steals tied for third-best in the AL. Burns also showed a little pop with five home runs (he had just two home runs in nearly 1,800 PAs in his minor-league career) and scored 70 runs to earn $23 in standard AL-only 5×5 formats. Burns’ speed off the waiver wire led to many happy fantasy owners, and his overall earnings helped many competing teams stay in the title run to the very end.

Logan Forsythe, 2B/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $21
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $24

Nick Franklin… wait… who is he again? While Franklin was atop many preseason fantasy sleeper lists, an oblique injury derailed the start to his season and Forsythe stepped in and never looked back. The 28-year-old infielder posted a triple slash line of .281/.359/.444 over 615 PAs for the Rays this season while hitting 17 home runs, driving in 68 runs, and stealing nine bases. That kind of production from a MI will make him a hot commodity in next year’s drafts, but for those who grabbed him off the waiver wire in April, you were ahead of the curve and rewarded nicely.

Mitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers

Expert league auction values: CBS –$2/LABR – $7/Tout Wars – $2
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $19
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $24

Moreland was low on draft boards heading into 2015 as he was coming off reconstructive ankle surgery that ended his 2014 season in June. He had also been primarily a platoon player during his career and he entered this season with a .227 career AVG and .636 OPS against southpaws. However, despite missing three weeks early in the season after surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow, the veteran first baseman slashed .294/.348/.528 against right-handed pitching and held his own against lefties. All together, he swatted 23 home runs and drove in 85 runs while posting a respectable .278 AVG and playing 120 games at first base. Moreland was a pleasant surprise for those who paid for his services; I wish I’d been one of them.

Chris Colabello, 1B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $18
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $21

Yet another cog in the well-oiled offensive machine built in Toronto, Colabello put up impressive fantasy numbers when inserted into John Gibbons’ lineup. The right-handed Colabello put up nearly equal slash lines versus righties and southpaws, and his overall .321/.367/.520 season triple slash with 15 home runs helped him net $18 in fantasy profits in AL-only 5×5 formats. Waiver-wire finds like Colabello can dramatically change the fortunes of a fantasy season.

Delino DeShields, Jr., OF, Texas Rangers

Expert league auction values: CBS –$1/Undrafted in LABR and Tout Wars
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $18
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $17

Selected by the Rangers from the Astros with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft back in December, there was little optimism the 22-year-old outfielder would stick with the big-league club. However, DeShields made the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder, and with early-season injuries to Ryan Rua and poor play from Jake Smolinski, the speedy Deshields garnered more playing time and took advantage of the opportunity. The first-round pick of the Astros in the 2010 MLB draft was a regular in the Rangers outfield for most of this summer, and his 25 steals and 83 runs scored made him a fantasy bargain for those who gambled on the young speedster.

Danny Valencia, 3B/OF, Oakland A’s

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $18
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $20

In only 345 at-bats this season split between Toronto and Oakland, Valencia smacked 18 home runs and drove in 66 runs while putting up a .290/.345/.519 slash line. His $18 earned in AL-Only 5×5 formats made him one of the most profitable waiver-wire finds of the season. His 11 HR/37 RBI/.284 AVG from August on was not only crucial for his fantasy owners’ title runs, but was another feather in Billy Beane’s cap.

Mark Canha, 1B/OF, Oakland A’s

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $16
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $18

This Rule 5 pick made a splash during the spring by belting six home runs and made the A’s Opening Day roster, earning him FAAB relevance in the week one waiver-wire frenzy. Canha helped his fantasy owners early as he produced a solid first five weeks to the season, slashing .284/.348/.469 with four home runs and 14 RBI in early May, but then struggled during part-time duty the rest of the first half. However, from August 1st on, Canha was a steady fantasy performer, as he hit .280 with eight home runs and 37 RBI in 53 games. His final line of 16 homers and 70 RBI, as well as seven steals, helped him earn $16 in standard AL-Only 5×5 scoring formats, making the 26-year old rookie and great April FAAB find.

Eddie Rosario, OF, Minnesota Twins

Expert league auction values: Undrafted
AL-Only 5×5 earnings – $16
AL-Only 4×4 earnings – $18

The Twins called up Rosario on May 4th to replace Oswaldo Arcia's roster spot when Arcia was placed on the DL with a hip injury. No one knew how long the converted second baseman would stick with the Twins as an outfielder, but he certainly made a historic debut as he became the 29th player in major-league history to hit a home run on the first pitch he saw. Rosario had been a top prospect in the Twins organization the past few years and opened a lot of eyes with his performance in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .330 with 18 RBI and 10 stolen bases. The 24-year-old proved that was no fluke, as he hit .298 in his first month in the big leagues and remained a fixture in the Twins lineup the remainder of the season. He finished the year with 13 home runs, 50 RBI, 60 runs scored, and 11 steals—good for a cool $16 earned in standard AL-Only 5×5 scoring leagues. In keeper formats, Rosario should offer positive dividends looking ahead, as well.

Honorable Mention (with AL-Only 5×5/4×4 year-end earnings): Jose Iglesias, SS, Detroit Tigers ($14/$14 earned); Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins ($13/$14 earned); Brock Holt, 2B/3B/OF, Boston Red Sox ($13/$13 earned); David Murphy, OF, Los Angeles Angels ($12/$13 earned); Jimmy Paredes, IF/DH, Baltimore Orioles ($12/$13 earned); Brandon Guyer, OF, Tampa Bay Rays ($12/$12 earned).

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MaineSkin
10/07
Is there a way to see how much value most owners received? We know not many picked up these players day 1 except the ones with an elite skill. I.e. Mitch Moreland probably had to get to $5 before he was added or started in an only league.
Or does this hold no value?
Is there a a prediction factor possible as in guys who amass x value in x PAs are more likely to end the season with y overall value?
I'm not writing a book to explain myself but anyone get me?