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Why Javier Baez was this season's most valuable fantasy hitter

Javier Baez is Eric Karabell's fantasy MVP hitter for the 2018 season. Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Just about every season, we can find a hitter who finishes near the top of the final fantasy baseball Player Rater that few were thinking about on draft day. Last season it was Kansas City Royals infielder Whit Merrifield, and before that, it was Milwaukee Brewers infielder Jonathan Villar and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock. Well, it isn't so easy to find someone like that this season. In fact, best I can tell, a mere three hitters from the current top 20 were not top-100 options on draft day.

One is Cincinnati Reds infielder Scooter Gennett, currently second in the NL in batting and boasting big power numbers, similar to last season. Another is Los Angeles Angels curiosity Shohei Ohtani, who is not among the top hitters this season in pure fantasy value, but when combined with his work as a pitcher and the fact that the Rater combines those statistics into eligible positions, his overall work is astounding. Ohtani was a 12th-round selection in ESPN ADP, and while I do not think I underrated his pitching skill, and we were correct to have concerns about his health, he obviously hit better than expected.