Sunday marked the end of many head-to-head fantasy baseball leagues. Fantasy players who won may have had successful years from early draft picks such as Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, or Max Scherzer. In all likelihood though, they found at least one "diamond in the rough" on the free agents' list who helped their team to victory.

Here are the hitters (at each position) and pitchers (five starters and two relievers) who helped many fantasy teams despite not being drafted in most leagues. In order to be eligible to make the list, the player must have had an average draft ranking after 250 (250 players are drafted in a ten-team, 25-round draft) according to

They used six different preseason fantasy rankings (including ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo) and came up with an average of the six.

Seven of the 15 players on the list are the same as the midseason team. Hitters eligible at multiple positions are listed at the position they have played most this season.


  • Catcher - Yan Gomes, Indians

It wasn't a great year for catchers offensively excluding a select few like J.T. Realmuto and Wilson Ramos. So while Gomes' numbers don't jump out, his current .267 batting average is a far improvement over the .215 he hit from 2015-17. He also has 15 homers which are his most since 2014.

Honorable mentions: Francisco Cervelli (Pirates), Kurt Suzuki (Braves)

  • First base - Jesus Aguilar, Brewers

Aguilar was an afterthought in fantasy drafts as he wasn't expected to see regular playing time.

He has been an extremely productive player for Milwaukee this year though and ranks fourth in the majors with 104 RBIs as well as tied for 14th with 33 homers.

Honorable mentions: Max Muncy (Dodgers), Jose Martinez (Cardinals)

  • Second base - Gleyber Torres, Yankees

Torres, one of the AL Rookie of the Year favorites, sat in the minors for nearly a month before making his MLB debut on April 22.

He is hitting a solid .275 while connecting on 23 long balls, driving in 73 runs, and stealing six bases. lists him and his Yankees teammate Miguel Andujar as two of the top choices for AL Rookie of the Year.

Honorable mentions: Jed Lowrie (Athletics), Asdrubal Cabrera (Mets/Phillies)

  • Shortstop - Jose Peraza, Reds

Peraza exhibited little power prior to this year but has hit 13 home runs in the 2018 season.

He has performed well at the dish altogether hitting for a .290 batting average to go along with 23 stolen bases and 84 runs.

Honorable mention: Jurickson Profar (Rangers)

  • Third base - Matt Chapman, Athletics

The 25-year-old Chapman was known as a defensive whiz during his rookie season in 2017, but he has shown massive strides at the plate this year. His fantasy-helping numbers include a .280 batting average, 23 homers, and 97 runs.

Honorable mentions: Miguel Andujar (Yankees), Eduardo Escobar (Twins/Diamondbacks)

  • Outfield - Mitch Haniger, Mariners

Haniger played in just 96 games last year but put up numbers that would make him fantasy relevant if he made more appearances. That is what he has done in a productive 2018 season in which he is hitting .287 with 26 home runs, 91 RBIs, 87 runs, and eight steals.

  • Outfield - Michael Brantley, Indians

Brantley finished third in AL MVP voting in 2014, but injuries limited him to just 101 games in 2016-17. He started this season on the DL as well, but he has been raking all year since returning to the lineup. He is ninth in the majors with a .309 batting average. He also has compiled 17 homers, 11 steals, 75 RBI, and 86 runs on the year.

  • Outfield - Juan Soto, Nationals

Just 19 years old, many believed the Nationals would wait a year before bringing Soto to the majors. Instead, he made his major league debut on May 15 and has been an integral part of the Nationals lineup since. In 110 games, he is hitting .293 with 20 home runs, 65 RBI, 72 runs, and five steals.

His 74 bases on balls made him even more valuable in leagues that count walks.

Honorable mentions: Aaron Hicks (Yankees), Nick Markakis (Braves), David Peralta (Diamondbacks), Stephen Piscotty (Athletics)


  • Starter - Miles Mikolas, Cardinals

Mikolas had pitching stints in the majors from 2012-14, but he wasn’t all that good. The Cardinals signed him in the offseason after three dominant years in Japan. He continued his success back at the major league level this year as his 17 wins are fourth in the big leagues, and his 2.94 ERA ranks 11th-best.

  • Starter - Walker Buehler, Dodgers

In a normal season, Buehler would be the NL Rookie of the Year favorite. Unfortunately for him, Ronald Acuna Jr.

and Jorge Soto are also rookies in the NL this year. In 22 games (21 starts), he owns an impressive 2.74 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. Buehler has struck out 143 batters in 124.2 innings.

  • Starter - Kyle Freeland, Rockies

Freeland has under a three-ERA (2.84), a rare occurrence for a Rockies pitcher. While most Colorado pitchers cannot be started at home in fantasy, Freeland has actually been better at Coors Field with a 2.36 ERA in 14 starts there. His 16 wins are bettered by only seven pitchers. mentions how he has built a case this year for NL Cy Young.

  • Starter - Mike Foltynewicz - Braves

Foltynewicz made 50 starts for the Braves in 2016-17 but posted uninspiring numbers with a 4.58 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in those two seasons.

He has pitched like an ace all season for the NL East champions in 2018 with a 2.88 ERA in 30 starts that ranks eighth in the majors. His 193 strikeouts are tied for 17th-most in MLB, his 1.11 WHIP is 13th-best, and he has also won 12 games.

  • Starter - Zack Wheeler, Mets

The 28-year-old Wheeler was nowhere near this list at the midway point, but his completely dominant second half gets him on to end the fantasy season. In 11 starts since the All-Star break, he has a 9-1 record, a microscopic 1.68 ERA, nearly a strikeout an inning (73 in 75 innings), and a 0.81 WHIP.

Honorable mentions: Clay Buccholz (Diamondbacks), German Marquez (Rockies), Derrick Rodriguez (Giants), Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers), Trevor Williams (Pirates), Jack Flaherty (Cardinals)

  • Closer - Bud Norris, Cardinals

The Cardinals signed Greg Holland late in the offseason seemingly for him to become their closer.

Instead, he struggled mightily, and Norris assumed the closer role. He is 12th in the majors with 28 saves, and he owns an above-average ERA (3.49) and WHIP (1.18) marks on the year.

Honorable mentions: Sergio Romo (Rays), Keone Kela (Rangers, was traded to Pirates where he is no longer closer), Will Smith (Giants)

  • Reliever - Josh Hader, Brewers

In his last five outings, Hader has pitched 7.1 innings and struck out 20 batters. While he hasn’t been quite that dominant all year, he has made hitters look silly all season. In 77 innings, he has a 1.99 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 136 strikeouts, and 11 saves.

Honorable mention: Adam Ottavino, Rockies