THE NEXT *TOP 150* HITTERS

Earlier this week, I wrote up a team of guys who could be top 75 players next year. It is a different way to write about breakouts and I want to run it back today with some deeper breakouts. These guys have a real shot at being top 150 players in 2021 which for reference is where guys like Jorge Soler and Yasmani Grandal are being drafted meaning these would be high impact pieces of your team if they panned out.

Max Stassi, C 336 ADP

His awesome 2020 was undercut by only playing 31 games so you may not have noticed that he hit 7 HR and 20 RBI with a .278/.352/.533 line in 105 PA. With Jason Castro gone, the job is clear for Stassi to take on full time and sit just once a week for rest. Stassi has a strong glove reputation and the bat might be catching up.

It’s worth noting that Stassi had 147 PA in 2019 and it couldn’t have gone worse with a .136/.211/.167 line and just one homer. We’ve seen the best and worst of him the last two seasons in tiny samples. The closest catcher to the top 150 last year was Grandal at 138 and he did that with a .230/.351/.422 line. Stassi can replicate that while also bringing the upside for more.

Rowdy Tellez, 1B 290

The power of Tellez is unquestioned with a career .239 ISO but in 2020 we saw a major strikeout rate drop (-12 points to 16%) that could send him soaring if there’s any legitimacy to it. He dropped his swinging strike rate 4 points to 11% and boosted his contact rates both in (+8 pts to 89%) and out (+6 pts to 66%) of the zone and while all three are unlikely to full hold, if he maintains some gains from all of them, it’ll still net a more favorable strikeout rate and give him a better AVG upside. I’d still focus on a .245-.255 range as opposed to the .283 he hit in 2020.

That said, it could be coming with 30+ HRs if he’s given the time. In the last two years, he has a .240/.306/.470 line with 29 HRs in 536 PA meanwhile his 2020 alone was a pace for 38 HRs in 588 PA. In limited time he has shown the ability to handle lefties well enough to maintain his playing time against them with a .764 OPS and 6 HR in 179 PA so hopefully Toronto allows him to at least rack up 500 PA.

Ty France, 2B 343

An obscene Triple-A performance in 2019 earned France some attention. He hit .399/.477/.770 with 27 HR and 89 RBIs in 348 PA at Triple-A El Paso with the rabbit ball in tow. He couldn’t come close to replicating that with a modest debut of .234/.294/.402 in 201 PA that same season. A 111-point surge in BABIP led to a pretty solid 2020: .305/.368/.468 in 155 PA split between San Diego and Seattle.

Being in Seattle is part of why I really like him as I think the playing time is guaranteed and he will get a chance to flourish. I don’t expect those Triple-A numbers at any point in his career obviously, but the 132 wRC+ he posted in 2020 is a reasonable full season upside with a strong AVG being his best fantasy asset.

Paul DeJong, SS 223

I wish I’d have saved Willy Adames for this piece and used Ha-seong Kim in the Top 75ers piece because I left myself a bit hamstrung for a pick. This pick almost feels a bit like cheating given the heights that DeJong has reached before as a power heavy shortstop (30 HR/9 SB in ’19). He fell off massively with a 6% HR/FB and boost in strikeouts (+7 pts to 29%) yielding just a .099 ISO en route to an 86 wRC+.

DeJong had similarly ugly runs in 2018 and 2019 but still wound up with solid average seasons and 26 HRs per 600 PA. A return to his level in a full season or at least something well above 60 games seems likely and I’m happy to bet on DeJong in 2021.

Jeimer Candelario, 3B 242

I don’t feel bad taking guys who finished top 150 or better in 2020 because it was such an anomalous season and achieving the feat in a full season would still be noteworthy. Don’t bet on Candy’s 110-point BABIP surge holding so plan for something close to a .260-.270 AVG. The major decider in whether or not he can be a top 150 player for a full season is holding the power gains. Barrel and Hard Hit rate surges drove his gains, particularly against righties. He will need to maintain success v. righties to have any chance at being good again so you have to decide how real you think it was.

Leody Taveras, OF 234

Did you even realize Taveras quietly put up a 20 HR/40 SB pace in his 134 PA last year? Of course, it came with a .227/.308/.395 line and I’m definitely not here suggesting he’s about to drop a 20/40 on us in 2021. I do however think 10/30 is very much in play. He slotted 6th in the Texas system coming into 2020, but moved up to 1 and to 60th in Top 100 in the middle of September after a check-in by Eric Longenhagen. He will likely enter the season with the CF job in hand and a spot atop the lineup. Sign me up!

Edward Olivares, OF 477

He didn’t do much in his debut split between San Diego and Kansas City, but it’s a speed-first profile that I can see rounding into form with a full opportunity in ’21. Despite going 0-for-2 on the bases in his 101 PA, there’s still above average speed and 30 SB/600 PA in the minors saying he should be a contributor over the long haul. No one is raving about his bat, but an impressive contact rate and useful .260 xBA in his time with KC offer some hope while his 50 raw power netted 17, 12, and 18 HRs over the last three seasons in the minors. I have more confidence in Taveras as a big fantasy asset, but Olivares is a cheaper option who could end up emulating Taveras’ output.





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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Tellez said something about changing his approach. Basically that he was big and strong enough he didn’t have to swing as hard as he could every single swing, and as soon as he realized that himself, he started making a ton more contact. And it certainly didn’t hurt his power either, as he checked in 3rd in the MLB at 117.4 max EV