Why We Missed: Mitch Haniger

Mitch Haniger surprised about everyone this season with top-25 production when his average draft position was over 200 in NFBC leagues. In all fairness, he should have made several sleeper lists but the industry failed to pick up on his productive but ignored 2017 season.  He’s the type of hitter owners need to focus on rostering, late-round injured hitters.

His stats speak volumes. Here are some of Haniger’s projections and results over the past two seasons.

Mitch Haniger’s Last Two Seasons
2017 Steamer 470 .249 .315 .413 15 6
2017 April 95 .342 .447 .608 4 2
2017 April – June Strained Oblique
2017 June 65 .231 .367 .354 2 1
2017 July 68 .176 .233 .279 1 0
2017 August 38 .211 .250 .474 2 0
2017 Sept/Oct 119 .353 .374 .613 7 2
2017 Full Season 410 .282 .352 .491 16 5
2018 Steamer 536 .253 .324 .433 19 7
2018 Full Season 683 .285 .366 .493 25 8

His projection coming into 2017 was decent with a 20 HR and 8 SB profile when prorating to 600 PA. The season started out great until he went on the DL with an oblique injury which lasted for over a month. He came back from the DL, struggled, got hurt a coup of times (finger and face), and finally turned it on over the last month. This profile screams sleeper and everyone slept on him.

By just prorating his 2017 season to 600 PA, he would be at 23 dingers and 7 bags with an acceptable .282 AVG. His results were similar to another pre-season unknown, Marwin Gonzalez (23 HR, 8 SB, .303 AVG). Gonzalez’s average ADP was 123, about 100 picks before Haniger went off the board.

As for Haniger’s 2018 season, he showed the value of a well-rounded player. A near .300 batting average, over 20 homers, and about 10 stolen bases placed him as a  top-25 overall batter. Unexciting stats can still be good.

Going forward, owners can take several lessons from this failure. First, dig into hitters after pick 100 who struggled with injuries but showed positive production when healthy. Most owners are going to hope the top names like Kris Bryant and Jose Altuve will rebound. They aren’t going to surprise anyone. Instead, players like Kyle Seager (toe), Steven Souza Jr.(pec), and Jorge Soler (rib) might be acquired for nothing and end up being a top-50 player.

Another item is to prorate each player’s previous season to 600 plate appearances to see if anyone pops up if given more playing time. With Haniger’s nearly identical pro-rated 2017 and 2018 seasons, his 2017 season would have stood out and owners could have taken notice. Instead, he was relegated to the reserve rounds.

Missing on Haniger’s points to some obvious projects for me later in the offseason. Until then, let me know of any players who the industry missed on and there was no obvious cause.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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5 years ago

The “other Jeff” highlighted Haniger to Fangraph’s readers 2 Springs ago. I got him in my auction then for $15. Now trying to decide if he warrants an extension.