Finding This Year’s _____: Hitter Edition

After a nice response to the pitcher iteration, I’ve decided to put together a hitter version. OK, that’s total BS. I was always going to do a hitter one even if y’all had hated the pitcher one. If you missed the first piece last week, here’s what we’re doing: I’ve got seven hitter scenarios from last year that I’m going to overlay on this year’s ADP data to identify some potential gems. For some of the deeper categories, I added a few extra considerations.

I’m using the NFBC ADP (linked above) and set to 2/1/19 and Draft Championships.

Christian Yelich: Star-to-MVP Transformation (35+ ADP)

-A very good early rounder finally takes that final step.

Anthony Rendon (45th Average Draft Position) – Rendon is already coming off back-to-back 6-win seasons, but he hasn’t that mega power breakout that we saw from Yelly last year. Rendon is a premier hitter who can roll out of bed and drop a .300/.400/.500. However, he will need a mid-30s homer season like Yelich to become more than a down-ballot MVP candidate. The Nationals doing really well would certainly help, too.

Whit Merrifield: Legit Late-Bloomer (70+ ADP)

-Mid-20s something breakout proves to be real and then some.

Max Muncy (104th ADP) – Muncy dialed up his aggressiveness and became one of the game’s best power hitters, clubbing 35 homers in just 481 PA. He finished in the top 2% of key power Statcast metrics and sat behind only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Joey Votto in walk rate with a 16% mark. Even with some pullback, this certainly looks like the latest in an ever-growing line of mid-to-late 20s breakouts that are legit.

Matt Chapman: Defensive Part-Timer Becomes Full-Time Beast (175+ ADP)

-Summer standout from year before establishes himself with a big first full season.

Ramon Laureano (166th ADP) – My continued quest to make Laureano a Wide Awake Sleeper! Perhaps my favorite stat about Laureano isn’t even directly related to fantasy: despite playing just 48 games last year, he tied Jackie Bradley Jr. and Leonys Martin for the most assists among American League centerfielders with 9. His defense is what locks in his playing time, though. Premium speed fuels him center, but also gives a great shot to be a dynamic fantasy stud even if he doesn’t maintain the power improvements from 2018.

David Peralta: Dreams Do Come True! (200+ ADP)

-Established bat finds another level his biggest believers always thought he could reach.

Gregory Polanco (241st ADP) – Hi, my name is Paul and I’m a Gregory Polancist. *Other Polancists*: Hi Paul! I’m heading into my fifth year predicting a Polanco breakout and didn’t realize I had a problem until I found myself in a dark alley at 3:00 AM buying fake medical reports that said his shoulder was perfectly healthy. Being a Polancist has cost me everything, but I just can’t stop.

It’s funny… last year I was chiding the Confortoans about their eagerness over his early return reports and felt somewhat vindicated as he did return early, but clearly wasn’t himself with just 1 HR and 6 RBI in April. You’d have been better off with a replacement OF. Now I find myself dreaming on the accelerated timetable we’re already seeing for Polanco this spring.

Max Kepler (237th ADP) – This is a perfect “prospect growth isn’t linear” profile as his AVG and SLG dipped last year and yet I’m more excited about him coming into ’19 than I was heading into ’18. He showed major improvements in his strikeout (16%) and walk (12%) rates while also adding to his barrel rate and exit velo. He deserved much better than his .236 BABIP. It’s not hard to envision a 30 HR/.260 AVG season along with a new career-high in RBIs (currently at a very nice 69).

Miguel Andujar: Solid-but-Unspectacular Prospect Turns Fantasy Household Name (350+ ADP)

A Rays Lowe of Your Choosing: Brandon Lowe [pronounced like “Now” for some reason] (466th ADP)/Nathaniel Lowe [pronounced like “No” aka the right way] (528th ADP) – Neither Lowe is projected to break camp with the Rays and Brandon may actually have a leg up having had a 43-game sample last year and remaining on the 40-man roster, but both are interesting power sources who could contribute quite a bit in Tampa Bay this year.

Brandon plays 2B and the corner OF spots, all of which are firmly blocked right now, and he can’t touch Joey Wendle defensively, so the outfield is his best avenue to playing time. While the Rays would be ecstatic with a healthy Pham-Kiermaier-Meadows all year long, none of them have a particularly strong track record of staying on the field. Brandon posted a 166 wRC+ (7th in baseball) across Double- and Triple-A with 28 HRs when tack on his six from the majors.

Nathaniel was even better with a 178 wRC+ across three levels, tying him with Michael Reed and sitting behind only Vlad Jr. He’s already on the low end of the defensive spectrum as a 1B prospect, but he’s hit enough to be a legitimate prospect despite his position. I didn’t even see this before writing up this category and picking him, but Andujar’s name was invoked in Nathaniel’s prospect profile in Tampa Bay’s list. By the way, just to complicate things even a bit more, Nathaniel’s brother Josh is also part of this system.

C.J. Cron: Look What I Can Do! (325+ ADP)

-Cromulent mid-career power bat finds another level his game.

Justin Bour (366th ADP) – Truthfully, this already kinda happened for Bour back in 2017 when he clubbed 25 HR with 83 RBIs in just 108 games, logging a career-best 135 wRC+. His season was cut short by ankle and oblique injuries, though, so it’s his per-plate-appearances breakout. The 2019 season is going to be his volume breakout. The same oblique limited him a bit in 2018 so health concerns are depressing the price a bit. This is a 30 HR/100 RBI-capable bat, though, and he’s been an underrated AVG guy outside of last year (.273 AVG through ’17; .260 career).

Jesus Aguilar: “But He Has Nowhere to Play!” (400+ ADP)

-Offseason roster crunch loosens due to injury and/or underperformance and this player takes full advantage.

(I almost got cheeky and went with Eric Thames as he was blocking Aguilar at this time last year, but I’ve got a real one instead.)

Chad Pinder (450th ADP) – I became a Pinder super fan this past season because of MLB The Show and he became such a cult favorite in my Twitch stream that I actually have his jersey. Swipe Right showed some big time pop in his 333 PA as a super-utilityman (played every position but C in ’18) with a 9% Barrel rate that was 12th (8th-highest total when accounting for ties) in the league and yielded 13 HR. As Mike Petriello points out in this piece, Pinder’s .365 expected wOBA was 34th in the league squinched in between some impressive names: Juan Soto, Anthony Rizzo, and Joey Gallo just ahead of him and Xander Bogaerts and Matt Kemp just behind him.

Pinder does his best work against lefties, but his .178 ISO against righties is well ahead of the .161 RHB v. RHP league average. He might not lock into a single spot like Aguilar did at 1B for Milwaukee, but if he holds his own against righties, there’s no reason he can’t be a regular who bounces around the diamond and plays 5-6 games a week. Robbie Grossman isn’t a major impediment, either, so left field could be the avenue to garner a full role.

Bonus Meme – Khris Davis: Oakland DH/OF Who Will Hit .247 (37-66 ADP)

Khris Davis (48th ADP) – I’m hilarious. 😐

We hoped you liked reading Finding This Year’s _____: Hitter Edition by Paul Sporer!

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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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Joe Mannix
Member
Joe Mannix

Great articles, Paul. Semi-related question: When will ZiPS projections (with adjusted Depth Charts projections) be loaded up and available on player pages? Thanks!

Aaron
Member
Aaron

Seconded this question! All of the ZiPS team previews appear done, would be great to have access to download/export the full data set now!

Pirates Hurdles
Member
Member
Pirates Hurdles

Dan addressed this in his chat today, he needs internet access on his desk computer, waiting for repairs from the windstorm yesterday.