10 Post-Hype Hitters for 2016
It’s often useful to have a short memory when it comes to fantasy baseball. Players can see their long-term stock swing greatly in a matter of days, and owners slow to the draw can miss out on either securing a great breakout player or selling too late. There’s plenty of times when breakout players just don’t break out, or sleepers never wake up. It’s a good idea to move on from these fliers, instead seeking more promising options. Despite all this, keeping past sleepers or top prospects in the back of your mind can be a good strategy. Post-hype players are a largely untapped market in fantasy baseball, and while the number of players that end up returning value may be smaller, they can still turn into useful assets. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most promising post-hype hitters of 2016.
Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs
To start this list of post-hype hitters, I decided to go with the most post-hype hitter of them all. A consensus top-10 prospect in 2014, Baez struck out at an absurd 41.5% rate in his first chance in the big leagues. He bounced back last season in Triple-A, but didn’t see much big league playing time. Still without a starting spot, it’s easy to write Baez off. That said, he’s shown the ability to play a slew of positions and could see enough at bats around the diamond to make an impact in 2016. There’s still elite power in his bat and above average speed in his legs, so Baez has a ton of upside if he can carry over last season’s Triple-A strikeout rate of 24.3%. The profile is as boom-or-bust as you can get, but Baez could finally pan out this season.
Jonathan Villar, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers’ roster composition is 90% post-hype players, 6% sadness, and 4% Jonathan Lucroy, which is why you’ll see a few of the Brew Crew on this list. Villar was pegged by some as the next surprising speedster leader prior to 2014…alas, a .209 batting average crushed that chance. But, Villar managed to hit .284/.339/.414 last season with Houston, while also stealing 35 bags in 70 Triple-A games (along with 7 home runs between the two levels in 441 plate appearances). You may have noticed that last season’s .284 average was mostly a result of his .360 BABIP, but Villar doesn’t need to hit too far above the Mendoza Line to make an impact. Plus, his offensive profile is conducive to a high BABIP. Villar hasn’t been able to steal bags in the majors at the prolific level he has in the minors just yet, but a starting job in Milwaukee next season may allow him to wreak havoc on the bases while also tossing in a handful of home runs at shortstop.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Believe it or not, Castellanos is younger than last year’s NL Rookie of the Year winner Kris Bryant. With that in mind, it’s not time to write off Castellanos as a mediocre player. Yes, his past two seasons have been uninspiring to say the least, but not every player can break into the majors like Carlos Correa. Castellanos saw his power tick up a bit last year, and another improvement in the home run department wouldn’t be shocking. Although he’s unlikely to repeat the exciting plate discipline numbers (if you could ever call plate discipline exciting) from Triple-A, the third baseman could be in for a tick down in strikeout rate and tick up in walk rate. If these two things happen, Castellanos would see his batting average take a step forward. Maybe you aren’t interested in a player with a career WAR total of -0.7, and that’s understandable. But, there could be more in his bat than past numbers show.
Domingo Santana, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Big tools? Check. Opportunity? Check. Youth? Check. A career batting average above .215? Well, now you see why Santana is a post-hype hitter and not a present-hype hitter. The 23-year old has big power, but he hasn’t been able to translate it into performance just yet. This is because of Santana’s all-or-nothing approach, which has led to a Javier Baez-esque strikeout rate. In short, the 23-year old has a lot of bat speed, a lot of walks, and a lot of power that could make up for the strikeouts. He’ll get plenty of chances with the rebuilding Brewers, and while Santana could end up hitting under .200, he also may finish the season with 25+ bombs and an on base percentage well over .300.
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego Padres
Post hype? How can I call Spangenberg, a player many haven’t heard of, a player that once had hype? Well, there was a time when Spangenberg was a pretty interesting asset back in 2011 as the 10th overall pick in the draft. Spangenberg’s career took off slower than Jed Bradley’s (who?), and he was thrown into the ‘meh’ prospects abyss for a while. Spangenberg is back with a vengeance, though, and was actually somewhat interesting in 2015. In his first taste of the big leagues, the then-24-year old hit .271/.333/.399 with four home runs and nine steals. The average was largely powered by a .344 BABIP, but it was still a promising performance for the unheralded rookie. Spangenberg’s upside isn’t very exciting, but double digit steals, a handful of homeruns, an okay average/OBP, and a great name from a mostly unknown second baseman isn’t bad at all.
Brad Miller, 2B/SS/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
At this point, you may just associate the name Brad Miller with Bad Miller, and that makes perfect sense. Miller had a great rookie year, but Brad was Bad in his sophomore season. He rebounded last season, though, and could finally live up to expectations. Miller started running again, stealing a career high 13 bags in 2015. He also managed to cut down on strikeouts while improving walks, which isn’t a feat to overlook. Miller’s also out of Safeco Field and in a slightly more power-friendly Tropicana Field, which could double-digit home runs and stolen bases from a middle infielder with outfield eligibility. Maybe Brad isn’t so bad after all.
Rymer Liriano, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (again!)
Liriano saw his prospect stock soar in 2012, following a 8 HR, 32 SB, and .280 average performance between High-A and Double-A. But, Tommy John surgery that kept him out for 2013 put a damper on that, as did a disappointing major league debut in 2014. Liriano couldn’t climb the Padres’ outfield depth chart last season, instead spending the whole season at Triple-A where he hit 14 home runs and 18 stolen bases, plus a solid .292/.383/.460 slash line. His plate discipline could prevent him from experiencing big league success, but the 24-year old’s power/speed combination is certainly worth a shot, especially now that he has a path to playing time. [Update: 🙁 ]
C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angeles
Cron had an exciting first trip in the majors in 2014, flashing solid pop with 11 home runs and a 113 wRC+ in just 253 plate appearances. He was arguably just as good in 2015, but for some reason the hype died off. It might return after this season, though, as Cron now has the chance to receive a full year of at bats and could impress. The 26-year old has the power you look for in a first baseman, and doesn’t strikeout as much as you’d expect either. He should have a solid batting average, and 25 home runs isn’t an improbable feat (Cron was on pace for 23 last year if he had been given regular playing time). The one place he falls short in is walks, though, so Cron old is a much better investment in average than OBP leagues.
Pedro Alvarez, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
There was a time when El Toro could do nothing wrong, but 2014’s lackluster performance ended that nice run. Things might be getting better now that Alvarez is with the Orioles, though. Baltimore is as good for a power hitter as it is bad for a pitching prospect, and there’s still easy 30+ home run power in Alvarez’s bat. A .250 batting average would be a small miracle, but Alvarez has been able to cut down on his strikeout rate while continuing to walk at a decent pace, so it’s not all bad at the plate. Although the batting average will be a liability, fantasy owners will take it if he can be a major run producer in the Orioles lineup.
Michael Saunders, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Saunders went from a near 20/20 hitter in 2013, to an interesting-if-healthy-but-not-usually-healthy hitter in 2014, to a never-healthy-so-not-really-interesting hitter last season. Now 29 and with an extensive injury history, it’s unlikely Saunders has the same power/speed tools that enticed fantasy owners years ago. But, Saunders has a prime opportunity to see regular playing time in a ridiculous Blue Jays lineup this season. Saunders probably won’t stay healthy but on the off-chance he does, double-digit home runs and steals isn’t out of the question.