Although most of the attention in Anaheim surrounds Mike Trout, there’s another young outfielder who is beginning to dot the fantasy radar.
Most scouts slapped a “fourth outfielder” label on Kole Calhoun since the Angels drafted him in the 8th round of the 2010 Draft. After all, he’s only 5-foot-10 and possesses a corner outfield defensive profile. That places a lot of pressure on his bat to carry that profile, and it’s understandably difficult for shorter players to hit for enough power to do so. However, his mature, well-rounded approach at the plate makes him an attractive bench outfielder who can handle both left and right field (and even a little first base).
Over the last two months, though, the 25-year-old outfielder has received everyday at-bats for the Angels, and he’s doing his best to shed that fourth outfielder label that’s shadowed him throughout his professional career. He was hitting .354/.431/.617 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases in Triple-A at the time of his call-up, and he hasn’t slowed since reaching the majors. In 153 plate appearances since his ’13 debut on July 28, Calhoun has compiled a .384 wOBA and a 148 wRC+. That wOBA ranks 10th amongst outfielders in the second half — just ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig and Shane Victorino.
Such a performance will naturally turn heads in fantasy circles. The real question is whether his power output will carry over to next season. He already has seven big-league home runs this season. Can he potentially be a 15-20 home run guy for the Angels next year? If he can, Calhoun becomes a very sneaky play in most fantasy formats because he profiles to carry a solid average and an above-average walk rate (for those in OBP leagues).
It’s difficult to say anything definitively after roughly 150 plate appearances, but the most intriguing aspect of Calhoun’s surprising power is that it mirrors his minor-league numbers.
Despite being only 5-foot-10, he’s developing quite the power track record. This isn’t to suggest his ridiculous hot streak will necessarily sustain itself for the remainder of the season and continue into 2014. Instead, it could be time to take the size concerns with a grain of salt and consider the numbers. Kole Calhoun has posted a .200+ ISO at every level since signing a pro contract in 2010. Perhaps his 16.3% HR/FB will regress a bit, but it’s not outlandishly high. Even with some regression, he could potentially hit 15 home runs in a full season.
He may get the chance to do so, too. It appears he’s making a push to see significant playing time for the Angels again next season. Mike DiGiovanna recently opined Calhoun’s impressive performance could make it easier for the Angels to trade Peter Bourjos for pitching this winter, which would conceivably open the door to everyday at-bats for Arizona native. That’s obviously not a guarantee and pure speculation. Considering the Angels’ disappointing season, though, it’s a move that makes some sense.
We haven’t seen enough of Kole Calhoun to make any overarching statements about his future performance at the major-league level. Through 153 plate appearances, though, he hasn’t deviated from his minor-league numbers. He continues to hit for average, draw walks, hit for solid power and has a track record of double-digit stolen bases in the minors. That’s not the profile of a star, but it sounds like a well-rounded fantasy producer at the outfield position.
Considering he’s been a top-30 fantasy outfielder over the last 30 days and is available on many waiver wires, he’s a viable late-season pickup and someone to keep on the radar over the winter. If he secures regular playing time, he could be a sleeper next March in deeper leagues, especially OBP leagues.
J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).