We’ve made it to the New Year! It is the dead of winter, but at least with fantasy football being done, we’re flipping the fantasy calendar back toward baseball. Those who really dive into both sports will now begin their baseball deep dive and that’ll move the ADP markets for sure, so keep that in mind when I reference these draft spots. Today I want to look at five players I’m buying back after disappointing 2018 seasons. The hype is gone, their price has tanked, and now is the time to buy!
Ian Happ | Chicago Cubs | 261 ADP
Happ and teammate Javier Baez were going in the same ADP range last year just around the Top 100 and I chose Happ… whoops. Although, Ozzie Albies was going around them, too, and I favored him over the two Cubs so I didn’t get too crushed by my awful Happ over Baez decision. Not that Albies over Baez was some great win. When Happ hit a home run on the first pitch of the season, my confirmation bias went into overdrive. I’m not proud of it, but I definitely got way too hyped over that whopping ONE PITCH SAMPLE! He went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks the rest of that game and wound up with a .233/.353/.408 line, 15 HR, and 8 SB in 462 PA.
His excellent 15% BB rate was overshadowed by a brutal 36% K rate and he could only muster the .233 AVG despite a .362 BABIP. A strikeout rate this high is just untenable and he’ll need to improve his swing-and-miss to really take off, but there were still the glimmers of hope that keep me interested at this discounted price. With a 27-30% K rate (still bad, but manageable), he has an upside of a .250/.360/.440 line with 20 HR and 10 SB in 500+ PA (though the playing time volume is never guaranteed in Chicago).
Jorge Polanco | Minnesota Twins | 220 ADP
Polanco was popped for PEDs before the season started and missed half the season serving his 80-game suspension. When he came back and posted a second half similar to what he did in the second half of 2017, it might’ve gone a bit unnoticed. In 2017, he posted a 110 wRC+ from July 1st on with 10 HR and 10 SB in 291 PA.
He returned on July 2nd in 2018 and put up a 110 wRC+ in his 77 games with 6 HR and 7 SB. Add it all up and it’s 624 PA with 16 HR, 17 SB, 73 R, 90 RBI, 17% K, 8% BB, and a .279/.340/.445 line. He’s slated to lead off for a solid Twins lineup and looks like a great late-round shortstop pickup. Even with a 2-3 round rise in ADP, there’s still upside in this profile.
Manuel Margot | San Diego Padres | 242 ADP
I thought Margot was going to be a strong SB option for 2018. I wasn’t even worried about his power improving, I’d have taken another 13 HR like 2017, but I did see a 25+ SB campaign coming. He swiped just 11 in 21 chances and ended up with a pretty poor season all told (81 wRC+). Prospect growth isn’t linear! If you liked Margot last year, I wouldn’t quit him at age-24 just because of a poor sophomore campaign, especially now that the price has sunk. He’s tied for the 9th-highest sprint speed, though he’ll need to make better choices on the basepaths to turn it into SB goodness.
Scott Kingery | Philadelphia Phillies | 348 ADP
This one isn’t technically a buyback for me because I wasn’t drafting him last year. It’s not that I thought he’d flop (62 wRC+), I just had other options I was favoring. Once he got his contract, his playing time was all but assured which seemed to add to his draft appeal. It never came together as he labored through 484 PA, hitting .226/.267/.338 with 8 HR and 10 SB. Entering his age-25 season, he’s a bit older for the prospects that fantasy community fawns over nowadays, but he’s far from old so I’m reluctant to discard him as a bust.
He doesn’t currently have a starting role, but he should fill a super utility role and get several starts a week. If he begins to play like the guy who posted a 143 wRC+ across Double- and Triple-A in 2017 (w/26 HR and 29 SB), then his role will expand, likely via the uncertain outfield. The bad season and blocked path are built into the price so look at Kingery as a late-round flyer capable of turning into an all-formats power-speed combo.
Willie Calhoun | Texas Rangers | 342 ADP
I saw Calhoun as an advanced hitter ready to make a substantial fantasy impact despite not really having a position (he’s probably best deployed as a DH). When he didn’t break camp, I thought he’d need just a few weeks in Triple-A before coming up, but he languished in Round Rock until after the All-Star break, debuting on July 20th. He didn’t do anything in 39 July PA (.615 OPS) and enjoyed a brief flourish in August (.303 AVG, .823 OPS) before sleepwalking into the finish line with a .100 AVG and .329 OPS in 31 September PA.
He was reportedly unhappy about how his season went, starting his Triple-A demotion to open the season and it seemed to hang over him all year. He hit a meh .294/.351/.431 with 9 HR in 470 Triple-A PA. Attitude is definitely something that can be adjusted and with the Rangers in a full-scale rebuild, hopefully they realize that the 24-year old has nothing left to learn at Triple-A. I can’t think of any reason they shouldn’t give him the bulk of the DH playing time and see if he can deliver on the hype that made him a top 50 prospect before 2018. I still believe in the bat despite a brutal season and will gladly take him as a last starter/reserve round pick.