A Closer Look at September Standouts

A September surge doesn’t guarantee success the following year. For every Luke Voit (208 wRC+ in September 2018; 128 in 2019), Ketel Marte (148; 151), Yuli Gurriel (160; 134), there’s a Ryan O’Hearn (157; 68), Kevin Kiermaier (162; 77), or Willson Contreras who actually had the worst September wRC+ (min. 70 PA) at 27 but rebounded for an excellent 2019 and career-best 129 wRC+. It doesn’t need a 100% success rate to be a worthy exercise, though.

Let’s look at a handful of September standouts (focusing primarily on guys who weren’t great through August) and see if they are worth buying into for 2020.

Eloy Jiménez, CWS | 188 wRC+ in September

Jimenez came into the season with major expectations only to labor through the first two months hitting just .220/.273/.390 with 6 HR and a high ankle sprain that shelved him for nearly a month. He soared from June 1st through the first week after the All-Star break (.921 OPS, 11 HR) and it looked like he was cool for the summer. But a bruised ulnar nerve shut him down for a minimum stay and curbed some of the momentum.

His second wave of excellence really started in mid-August, but we’ll isolate his electric September during which he hit .348/.389/.719 with 8 HR, 23 RBI, and 14 R in 95 PA. This flourish seems to have killed any chance at a discount on the budding star as he was actually going higher in the Too Early Mocks (91st) than he did in this year’s Main Events (110th). I was buying then and I’m buying now. This is a legitimate .300 AVG/35 HR profile.

Tommy Edman, STL | 174 wRC+

Edman entered the 2019 season as the 20th ranked prospect on the Cardinals list, drawing a “switch-hitting Joey Wendle” comp with the ability to make loads of contact and swipe some bags. The Stanford product hit 4 HR in college and just 23 in 1597 minor league PA, nearly a third of which came this year with the rabbit ball (7 in 218 PA). He was called up on June 8th and ran out to a .940 OPS in his first 46 PA with 3 HR and 2 SB, looking like the latest case of Cardinals Devil Magic wherein a mid-tier prospect plays well above their projected level.

A month into his tenure, he ascended to the top of the Cardinals’ order, but sputtered in his second month of action, hitting just .216/.248/.299 with 1 HR and 4 SB in 101 PA. A trip to Pittsburgh sparked another big run that included 10 multi-hit games fueling a .354/.391/.476 line in 87 PA, but that was just the beginning. He’s been insane in September, hitting .333/.389/.667 with 6 HR and 5 SB in just 95 PA. It’s hard not to think the ball has played a role in the power explosion (11 HR in 329 PA) and while he doesn’t crush the ball, he does avoid soft contact pretty well with just a 16% Soft rate.

The reason I really like him for 2020 is the speed. It’s legit. His 29.4 ft/second sprint speed places him in the top 4% of the league and has aided him to a 14-for-15 SB rate in his half season. The power may (will?) wane, especially if the ball is altered. I tabbed him as a potential .285/20 HR/25 SB guy in my 2B rankings, but I’d gladly take .280/12/25, essentially a poor man’s Trea Turner (.298/18/34). He will qualify at 2B and 3B and even if he jumps well beyond his Too Early Mock ADP of 389, he’ll be remarkably affordable for the game-changing speed.

Garrett Hampson, COL | 166 wRC+

Oh Garrett, we meet again. I was pretty hyped on Hampson coming into the season, even including him in a fun exercise of trying to identify some potential 1st round seasons if everything broke right. Welp… pretty much everything broke wrong… EXCEPT September! He accumulated just 232 PA through August thanks to a horrific .218/.274/.322 line with 3 HR and 6 SB (in 9 tries). And now he’s winning leagues for people. In a very nice 69 PA, he’s hitting .371/.435/.677 with 5 HR and 7 SB (100% success rate). Four of the homers have come on the road, too! I’m back in baby!

Honestly, it will depend on price. He went as the 270th player in the Too Early Mocks and that’s set to rise after this bananas September. I still don’t trust the Rockies at all with anyone who’s age starts with a  2 so and without a set job, whether it’s at one position or bouncing around but playing daily, my excitement will be tempered. The desperation for SBs will have many keyed in on Hampson even with an overall line that still stinks (70 wRC+) so I think I can afford a 40-50 pick bump from this current ADP, but anything beyond that would give me some pause.

Fast forward two weeks to the AFL draft and my dumb ass will be taking him at 170 or something.

Corey Seager, LAD | 143 wRC+

I’m so unsure about Seager. On a recent pod, I basically quit him, thinking that he’ll continue to cost too much for the production we’ve seen thus far. Even acknowledging that he logged just 530 PA, his 18 HR output is underwhelming, though he is also leading the NL in doubles with 43. He’s hitting .273 since 2018, after opening his career at .305 through 1413 PA. The health profile is a mess, too. At the same time as I underline all these negatives, I wouldn’t even be 1% surprised if he found a way to stay healthy and dropped a .320-30-100 season next year.

He’s rallying to the finish line with a .307/.342/.627 line, including 6 HR, 22 RBI, and 13 R in 79 PA, though he just left last night’s game with hamstring tightness. His ADP in the TEMs was 137, slotting him as the 19th SS (further underscoring how deep that position is), and I could see myself paying that price, but I think it only goes up from here meaning I’m unlikely to get shares of him. I just don’t know… I think his draft season price could vacillate as wildly as we saw in the TEMs, ranging from 69 (nice) to 174. Are you in on Seager? Why or why not?

Oscar Mercado, CLE | 137 wRC+

Mercado was pretty solid fantasy-wise through August with 10 HR and 12 SB in his 370 PA, but his 90 wRC+ was a little lacking. Everything is moving in concert this month with not only 5 HR and 3 SB, but also a killer 137 wRC+ in 100 PA. All told, it’s a sharp 15 HR/15 SB season in 470 PA, a full season pace of 22/22. The downside is that it’s going to raise his price for 2020. He went at pick 142 on average with a high of 129 in the Too Early Mocks. I could see his average pushing up into the early 100s by the time we get to draft season as speed is just so precious, especially when it comes with some pop and batting average upside.

Who is your favorite of this group? Anyone else who is rallying September that has your attention for 2020?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Pirates Hurdlesmember
3 years ago

Yeah but it needs better than a 50% success rate to justify the exercise, otherwise its a coin flip. I’m pretty sure that whole season numbers have been resoundingly shown to be better than Sept numbers when predicting the future. It is even more problematic when you consider how many Sept at bats come against AAA pitchers and teams playing out the string.

3 years ago

I’d probably get more use out of the opposite of this article: guys who flagged late that we might be able to get a discount on. Especially if they burned managers in the playoffs

3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Yeah I can see that. Also could see guys like this that “won them the championship” and getting viewed stronger.. Knowing both would be nice quite frankly…

Pirates Hurdlesmember
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

but, you are trying to claim that these numbers are at all predictive, which they are decidedly not.

Jonathan Sher
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

You: “It doesn’t need a 100% success rate to be a worthy exercise, though.”

Some will read that an think you are implying that it is a worthy exercise because there is some degree of success rate beyond the white noise of shorter sample sizes. If that is not what you meant, if this was just meant to be a fun jumping off point to look at who might continue their success and who will not, that line might have thrown off some readers. No biggie; I enjoyed your piece and the comments.