Out of Nowhere All Stars – Hitters

Every year we get a group of players who emerge from being completely off the radar and turn into fantasy stars. This season might have added to that phenomenon by only being two months of action. After all, how often do we see one of these out of nowhere players have a fast start before tailing off as the six-month grind wears on? Plenty hold up and become something real, but many others fade. Well, no chance to fade with just two months so let’s take a look at this year’s Out of Nowhere All-Stars and assess their ’21 outlook, too.

Note: this is not a complete list, there are definitely more than eight candidates so feel free to include yours in the comments and I’ll give my thoughts on them in a response.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa | C, 3B – TEX

There’s one key letter that completely dictactes everything for IKF: C. His catcher-eligibility drove his fantasy interest this year and for me it was the fact that he wouldn’t have to catch much (turns out he hasn’t caught at all), though I did soft pedal on him a bit when we discussed him for summer drafts. Turns out I should’ve held firm in my love for non-catching catchers.

IKF has enjoyed a career year and while he only has an 88 wRC+, it comes with 3 HR and 8 SB which is enough to make him a top 10 catcher (7th on Razzball’s Player Rater). Unfortunately, he’ll lose the catcher eligibility for 2021 which severely curbs his outlook. He has been the 22nd best 3B and 21st best SS meaning he’s likely an AL only option.

Jared Walsh | 1B – LAA

Walsh only needed half of a remarkably shortened season to make this list. In 94 PA, he’s hitting .291/.319/.640 with 8 HR, 23 RBI, and 17 R. Taylor Blake Ward highlighted a key switch in Walsh’s setup that has no doubt aided his improvement. He quietly ripped 36 HR in Triple-A last year with a 1.109 OPS, though that was with the rabbit ball in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, so it didn’t garner any real attention.

My biggest question for 2021 is where does he play? Albert Pujols still has a year left on the mega contract and Shohei Ohtani will still take plenty of DH plate appearances. Walsh has 717 OF innings in his minor league career, but even that avenue is pretty well blocked with two years left on Justin Upton’s deal likely keeping him in left field while Mike Trout and Jo Adell are taking center and right. Talent plays, though, so hopefully they’ll figure it out because there is some viability to Walsh’s surge as he’s made tangible changes in his setup, shaved his strikeout rate to a career-best 14%, and carried over last year’s AAA power.

Jeimer Candelario | 1B/3B – DET

I’ve been rooting for Candy since the Tigers acquired him from the Cubs back in 2017 and while he’s shown glimpses, the overall performance hasn’t really been there. Coming into this year, I had to see something first so I wasn’t drafting him. He went 0-fer in July (19 PA, 17 AB), but then took off immediately in August with 4 multi-hit games in his first six which spurred a filthy month: .356/.389/.622 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, and 16 R in 95 PA.

He has cooled a bit down the stretch, going 1 for his last 23 (6 BB at least), but his bottom line is still strong at .297/.369/.503. He’s hitting the ball a lot harder which is the biggest change in his profile and he’s doing a lot better against righties with an .812 OPS (previous career high of .754 in 2017). I’ll be considering him in deeper leagues heading into 2021.

Donovan Solano | 2B/3B – SF

Solano actually started lacing line drives last year, but his strong half season went completely under the radar. He hit .330/.360/.456 in 228 PA as a 31-year old, but he was barely going in Draft Champions leagues let alone anything close to shallow. He had a 730 ADP having gone in 3 of the 13 DCs that took place in the summer. He jumped out of the gate collecting hits, but still didn’t get a ton of attention off rip. Eight or nine games into the season when he was somewhere in the .480 range, he finally started to get picked up.

In the August 2nd pickup period, he was the 6th-most picked up player in NFBC leagues and still took another three weeks to really get up to a 95-100% roster rate. While he obviously hasn’t maintained the .480 clip, he has hit .304/.348/.432 in 158 PA since August 3rd when that first big pickup wave happened. He’s closed with a bang, too, hitting .348/.384/.493 in September. I’m not sure I can get too excited about a 33-year old product of BABIP going into 2021 leagues, but if he’s slotted into a starting role, he’s still a deep league consideration for at least a reserve spot.

Jedd Gyorko | 1B/3B – MIL

Who had 31-year old Gyorko rebounding from his 36 wRC+ of 2019?

Literally no one. The answer is unquestionably no one.

Sure, he only had 101 PA so it’s not like he was destined to stay that bad, but he wasn’t set up for a starting role, so he just wasn’t on the radar. Things went south in Milwaukee and by late August he was a regular. A 2-homer game on August 28th spurred a big run during which he’s hit .292/.369/.569 with 6 HR, 10 RBI, and 14 R in 84 PA pushing his bottom line to 132 wRC+ in 123 PA.

He’s probably the toughest to buy into of this list, even lower than Isiah Kiner-Falefa, because at 32 years old he’s unlikely to have a full time role and it’s such a small sample of production (I mean, it would be small even if it was all 60 games, but it’s all of 22 games plus whatever he does this weekend). If you picked him up right after the 2-homer game on the 28th, you still got a nice .279/.363/.485 line so I just wanted to give the Jerk Store a little love.

Dylan Moore | SS/OF/2B – SEA

Moore had a little power and speed in a short sample last year with 9 HR and 11 SB, but his paltry .206/.302/.389 line left him in the 600-700s ADP-wise of the Draft Champion leagues he went in both in the spring and summer sessions. A big run in the week of August 3rd (1.064 OPS, 2 HR, 2 SB) made him the 3rd most popular pickup in all NFBC leagues and those that missed the boat in that August 9th session made up for it a week later.

His average has been light at just .240, but a .371 OBP and .448 SLG with 5 HR and 9 SB since August 10th have made him a strong pickup for those who bought in. He did miss some time in late-August into early-September, but he’s been plenty useful since returning. Outside of a trade, which is always on the table with Jerry DiPoto, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have a role with Seattle in 2021. The 28-year old utilityman shouldn’t cost too much, either, as his full season AVG of .255 will keep the price reasonable while power-speed combo give him real value.

Jake Cronenworth | 2B/1B/SS – SD

I’ll just direct you here for my thoughts on Cronenworth. He has cooled since I wrote that with a .267/.347/.407 line, but I’m still fully in. I don’t think he’ll be overpriced going into 2021 and he’ll have a role, likely at 2B, for the Padres.

Who are some of your favorite Out of Nowhere All Stars?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and Content Director for OOTP Perfect Team. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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3 years ago

Jesus Aguilar