Every season a few hitters come out of nowhere to become major fantasy contributors. And by nowhere, I mean no one targeted them at all during draft season, even in 50-man roster draft-and-holds. This past season, Max Muncy, Joey Wendle, and Luke Voit provided fantasy production for nothing. An interesting trait for each of these hitters is that savvy teams targeted them in trades before the breakout. In recent seasons, these breakouts include Chris Taylor. Jose Martinez. and Jesus Aguilar. While the general public doesn’t have the same resources, scouts, and data as major league teams, I found the general traits some teams are looking to acquire.
I asked for help in creating the list. I end up with many responses but I wanted productive hitters on no one’s radar. I removed a suggestion if the hitter was on any top-100 list (e.g. John Hicks) or if they were ever an MLB regular (e.g. Scooter Gennett). In the end, 12 hitters made the cut: Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, Luke Voit, Joey Wendle, Jose Martinez, Jesus Aguilar, Teoscar Hernandez, Adam Duvall, Daniel Palka, Eugenio Suarez, Mitch Haniger, and Justin Turner.
While some of these breakouts spent time in the majors, they were mainly Triple-A players before the trade and breakout. I started with every trait available to me (FanGraphs has a few) and just started whittling down the stats while trying to keep them useful and simple. I ended up with age, walk rate (BB%), strikeout rate (K%), groundball rate (GB%), and isolated power (ISO) as the major factors. Here are the average Triple-A values for these 12 and also the league average and standard deviation.
|The 12’s Average||25.4||8.9%||22.4%||39.8%||.202|
These hitters aren’t young but young for the level. They at least have league average plate discipline. They put more balls in the air with more power than the average Triple-A hitter. It’s a simple believable combination.
I farted around with the above values and ended up using the following benchmarks:
AGE >= 24 and AGE <27
ISO >= .150
GB% <= 43%
BB% >= 7.5%
K% <= 24%
I’m not set on these values, but they provide a decent place to start targeting hitters. Going into 2018, the hitters would have been:
Note: I didn’t remove anyone who appeared on a top-100 list.
|Alex Blandino||2B/3B||24||Reds (AAA)||13.5%||18.9%||38.2%||.173|
|Cam Perkins||OF||26||Phillies (AAA)||10.2%||18.3%||42.8%||.160|
|Cheslor Cuthbert||3B||24||Royals (AAA)||10.3%||18.6%||36.7%||.288|
|Christian Villanueva||3B||26||Padres (AAA)||9.5%||20.9%||32.2%||.231|
|Christian Walker||1B||26||Diamondbacks (AAA)||10.3%||20.2%||30.4%||.288|
|Colin Moran||3B||24||Astros (AAA)||9.2%||18.2%||33.7%||.235|
|Drew Robinson||OF||25||Rangers (AAA)||13.6%||27.9%||38.1%||.226|
|Greg Bird||1B||24||Yankees (AAA)||18.6%||19.1%||37.8%||.277|
|Hunter Renfroe||OF||25||Padres (AAA)||9.8%||12.7%||37.0%||.382|
|Jorge Bonifacio||OF||24||Royals (AAA)||10.5%||15.7%||25.6%||.294|
|Luke Voit||1B||26||Cardinals (AAA)||9.4%||19.7%||31.9%||.238|
|Max Muncy||1B||26||Dodgers (AAA)||14.2%||26.3%||42.6%||.181|
|Max Stassi||C||26||Astros (AAA)||13.2%||27.8%||42.0%||.207|
|Mitch Garver||C||26||Twins (AAA)||13.4%||26.6%||38.4%||.250|
|Nolan Fontana||2B||26||Angels (AAA)||16.6%||26.9%||29.9%||.177|
|Oswaldo Arcia||OF||26||Diamondbacks (AAA)||11.3%||25.2%||33.5%||.314|
|Pat Valaika||3B/SS||24||Rockies (AAA)||8.0%||24.4%||35.3%||.156|
|Preston Tucker||OF||26||Astros (AAA)||11.4%||20.7%||37.0%||.215|
|Rafael Ortega||OF||26||Padres (AAA)||9.7%||11.7%||39.4%||.150|
|Rhys Hoskins||OF||24||Phillies (AAA)||13.5%||18.7%||31.5%||.297|
|Ryan Cordell||OF||25||Brewers (AAA)||8.6%||24.9%||34.2%||.222|
|Teoscar Hernandez||OF||24||Astros (AAA)||11.2%||23.9%||40.3%||.206|
|Tyler Naquin||OF||26||Indians (AAA)||9.1%||24.1%||41.5%||.176|
|Tyler White||1B||26||Astros (AAA)||9.5%||23.2%||36.1%||.227|
Even some players who weren’t originally listed in the 12 but contributed were Tucker, White, and Villanueva. Now, Wendle didn’t make the list based on his age, power and walk rate but Voit and Muncy made the cut. The filter passes the eye test for now.
Now onto next year’s list which is half the length for some unknown reason (min. 50 PA).
|A.J. Reed||1B||25||Astros (AAA)||11.9%||27.7%||29.3%||.251|
|Christin Stewart||OF||24||Tigers (AAA)||12.8%||24.3%||38.1%||.216|
|Dan Vogelbach||1B/DH||25||Mariners (AAA)||20.4%||19.9%||38.7%||.256|
|J.D. Davis||3B||25||Astros (AAA)||9.5%||20.7%||40.6%||.240|
|Jordan Luplow||OF||24||Pirates (AAA)||10.9%||20.4%||33.5%||.175|
|Jose Osuna||1B/OF||25||Pirates (AAA)||9.1%||16.9%||41.8%||.175|
|Max Moroff||2B/SS||25||Pirates (AAA)||14.5%||27.5%||34.3%||.170|
|Phillip Ervin||OF||25||Reds (AAA)||9.9%||22.5%||37.8%||.202|
|Phillip Evans||2B/3B||25||Mets (AAA)||8.6%||19.2%||42.6%||.237|
|Renato Nunez||3B||24||Orioles (AAA)||10.1%||24.4%||37.0%||.154|
|Socrates Brito||OF||25||Diamondbacks (AAA)||9.2%||24.3%||36.2%||.222|
|Taylor Ward||3B||24||Angels (AAA)||13.5%||26.9%||41.9%||.185|
|Tommy Joseph||1B||26||Rangers (AAA)||7.8%||24.3%||30.2%||.265|
Some of these hitters have already got the call in 2018 like Ervin, Stewart, and Ward. Besides being an offseason tool, it looks like the filter may also be decent in season filter to find potential callups.
Overall, I happy with the initial results. One adjustment I may implement is to weight each category to find those hitters who are close to the cut when promoted. Additionally, I may come back to the above list of players to dive deeper into each player. On the next installment of why we missed (and missed), Jesus Aguilar.
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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.