BATTERS: 2019 Sleepers

This column will help you target batters who may be undervalued heading into draft day and have the potential to take a significant step forward in 2019. In many leagues, they can be considered breakout targets.

Let's try to find the most appealing breakout targets by looking at highly-skilled bats who earned modest value in 2018.

This same exercise last year pointed owners to guys like Matt Chapman (3B, OAK), Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL), and Jose Martinez (1B/RF, STL).

Here is a list of the most skilled bats who generated between $5 and $15 last season:

50+ BPV, 5x5 $5-15, 2018*

Name                League  Pos     bb%  ct%  Eye   PX   HctX  xPX  Spd  5x5 R$  BPV
==================  ======  ======  ===  ===  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ======  ===
Voit, Luke              AL      1B  11%  70%  0.40  206   121  158  104      $8   99
Pederson, Joc           NL      CF   9%  78%  0.47  156   122  134   88     $11   85
Pearce, Steve           AL   1B/DH  12%  81%  0.71  129   110  122   94      $7   80
Marte, Ketel            NL   2B/SS   9%  85%  0.68   93   113   84  149     $13   79
McNeil, Jeff            NL      2B   6%  89%  0.58   73   100  103  164     $10   78
White, Tyler            AL   1B/DH  10%  77%  0.49  147    92  101  102      $6   77
Zimmerman, Ryan         NL      1B   9%  81%  0.55  129   118  128   95      $7   76
Santana, Carlos         NL      1B  16%  83%  1.18  101   101  112   81     $13   73
Hernandez, Enrique      NL CF/2B/SS 11%  81%  0.64  115   105  105  105     $12   70
Kepler, Max             AL      RF  12%  82%  0.74  104   112  120  105      $9   68
Frazier, Adam           NL   2B/LF   8%  83%  0.55  105   107   79  107      $8   68
Diaz, Aledmys           AL   SS/3B   5%  85%  0.37  105   100  105   94     $12   66
Nimmo, Brandon          NL      RF  15%  68%  0.57  148    93  114  144     $15   64
Franco, Maikel          NL      3B   6%  86%  0.47  100    87   88   88     $13   64
Flores, Wilmer          NL      1B   7%  89%  0.69   85   108  109   81      $8   64
Dahl, David             NL      LF   7%  73%  0.28  153   101  124  111     $10   62
Cano, Robinson          NL      2B   9%  85%  0.68   99   130  110   74     $11   61
Grichuk, Randal         AL      RF   6%  71%  0.22  167    96  136   92     $13   60
Braun, Ryan             NL      LF   8%  79%  0.40  125   125  120   82     $15   58
Gallo, Joey             AL   LF/1B  13%  59%  0.36  213   105  180   80     $15   57
Iglesias, Jose          AL      SS   4%  89%  0.40   73    88   45  105     $13   56
Renfroe, Hunter         NL      LF   7%  73%  0.28  155   127  136   82     $12   56
Suzuki, Kurt            NL       C   6%  88%  0.51   97   125  105   49      $8   56
Hernandez, Teoscar      AL      LF   8%  66%  0.25  157    90  149  158     $12   54
Murphy, Daniel          NL   2B/1B   6%  88%  0.50   82    84   82   78     $11   54
Kinsler, Ian            AL      2B   7%  87%  0.63   79    94   81   84     $13   53
Heyward, Jason          NL      RF   9%  86%  0.70   71    94   69  106     $10   53
Span, Denard            AL      CF  10%  82%  0.65   89    93   61  103     $13   52
Diaz, Elias             NL       C   8%  84%  0.53   92   112  104   83      $6   52
Reddick, Josh           AL      RF  10%  82%  0.64   83    91   91  107     $11   50
Bell, Josh              NL      1B  13%  79%  0.74   93    99   88  102     $11   50
Canha, Mark             AL      CF   8%  76%  0.39  123   104  114   98      $9   50
Margot, Manuel          NL      CF   6%  82%  0.36   81   118  106  148      $9   50
*min 50 AB

Here are several guys in each league who could be on the verge of a breakout in 2019, including some additional breakout targets not shown in the table above.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Jake Bauers (1B/OF, CLE) opened up his swing during his rookie season, which helped to unlock his power (130 PX, 132 xPX). That approach led to more strikeouts but didn't cause his plate discipline to tank, as he still drew a lot of walks (14% bb%). At age 23, Bauers remains a premium investment in keeper leagues and has a shot at delivering $15+ value in 2019.

Rafael Devers (3B, BOS) eclipsed the 600-AB threshold for his career before turning age 22. His second season in 2018 was a step backwards on the surface, as his batting average tailed off. But that was the result of a 28% h%, which was much different than the 34% h% he posted during his rookie season. In addition, he nearly doubled his walk rate from the first half to the second half. If he can tweak his launch angle, Devers possesses immediate 30-HR upside.

Randal Grichuk (RF, TOR) seemingly has plateaued in his career, but a closer look reveals some latent reasons for hope. For one, the holes in his swing slowly have been closing. Check out his contact rate over the past four seasons: 66%, 68%, 68%, 71% ct%. His power steadily has been elite (130+ xPX last five seasons). And he's still young enough to show more consistency (age 27). Grichuk has some nice profit potential at his current 249 ADP.

Teoscar Hernandez (LF, TOR) is another toolsy bat in the TOR outfield. He also carries some big holes in his swing (66% ct%). But he has an intriguing power/speed package (149 xPX, 158 Spd). And he made contact at a playable rate in the first half (72% ct%) before struggling to do so late (59% ct% in 2H). Hernandez also carries some intriguing upside at his 335 ADP.

Max Kepler (RF, MIN) made some big gains with his plate discipline in 2018 (12% bb%, 82% ct%, 0.74 Eye). They went unnoticed due to a career-worst 24% h%. With surging rates of hard contact and underlying power, Kepler has the goods to post a $20 breakout in 2018. And you'll be able to get him without breaking the bank (247 ADP).

Austin Meadows (RF, TAM) started the 2018 season with a flourish, posting an .880 OPS in the first half before fading late. That level of production was accompanied by impactful power and speed skills commensurate with his prior top prospect pedigree. Expect ups-and-downs, but if he can find steady playing time, he's the type of young bat that could emerge quickly.

Jorge Polanco (SS, MIN) never could get on track in 2018 after a drug suspension. He flashed some of his breakout ingredients in September, a month in which he posted an .821 OPS and solid plate discipline. In addition, his production against RHers keeps going up (.718, .749, .845 OPS vR last three seasons). Polanco is a premium post-hype play.

Jorge Soler (RF, KC) started the 2018 season with a bang before a broken toe ended his season in June. That season was a reflection of his inconsistency, which largely has been the product of an inability to stay healthy. Still, he's being drafted as an afterthought in many leagues (375 ADP), and at age 27, he's still got time to cash in on his upper-tier upside.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Josh Bell (1B, PIT) owns one of the better plate discipline profiles in the game. He has posted double-digit walk rates in all three of his MLB seasons. If he can accelerate the rate at which he is increasing his flyball rate (29%, 31%, 33% FB% last three years), Bell would be able to unlock his 30+ HR raw power.

Franchy Cordero (LF, SD) was one of the major-league leaders in exit velocity in 2018 before undergoing elbow surgery at mid-season. While he still carries big holes in his swing, he did close them down a bit between 2017 (52% ct%) and 2018 (60% ct%). And he posted one of the most interesting power/speed combos in the game (144 xPX, 123 Spd). Cordero carries a ton of profit potential at his current 389 ADP.

David Dahl (LF, COL) is another high-upside bat that has struggled to stay healthy. When his body cooperated late in 2018, he posted results and skills that reminded us of his prospect pedigree (12 HR, 35 RBI, 3 SB in 158 AB during second half). And that surge was accompanied by an uptick in his walk and contact rates too. Dahl carries $30 upside if he can stay healthy.

Wilmer Flores (1B, ARI) has been soured upon by many owners, as they have grown impatient with his inability to cash in on his upside. Still, Flores posted the best plate skills of his career in 2018 (7% bb%, 89% ct%, 0.69 Eye). And his power was held back by a 7% HR/F. Some of that was his own doing, as he lost 13 feet on his flyball distance between 2017 and 2018. Nonetheless, Flores has a path to everyday playing time in the ARI infield, and his combination of contact and power give him .280 BA, 30 HR upside that you can get for a flyer (467 ADP).

Adam Frazier (2B/LF, PIT) doesn't have the upside of many of the bats listed here, but he does carry some good profit potential at his current 354 ADP. His skills blossomed in the second half of 2018 (89 BPV) due to a continued high rate of contact, an elite 138 HctX, and a sneaky 123 xPX. Frazier owns some hidden multi-category potential.

Enrique Hernandez (CF/2B/SS, LA) looked like an impact performer in the second half of 2018 when his plate discipline went from good to great (11% bb%, 86% ct%, 0.83 Eye). He also started to hit RHers with authority for the first time in 2019 (.833 OPS vR). Hernandez is another great profit target at his 309 ADP.

Manuel Margot (CF, SD) firmly is in the post-hype phase of his early career now. It's a fact that makes him one of the most undervalued bats in the game (275 ADP). Margot flashed his multi-category upside in September when he delivered excellent plate skills (8% bb%, 86% ct%, 0.60 Eye), a strong power foundation (131 xPX), and top-tier wheels (177 Spd). Don't be surprised if Margot inches closer to his 15 HR, 40 SB upside in 2019 during his age-24 season.

Ketel Marte (2B/SS, ARI) was viewed as a premium end-game target in 2018 drafts and delivered good value to those who drafted him ($13). His contact rate continues to inch upwards (80%, 81%, 83%, 85% ct%), and he has posted a 140+ Spd in three of his four MLB seasons. With a stronger green light, there's a reachable .300+ BA, 20+ SB ceiling here.

Joc Pederson (CF, LA) put up the best skills of his career in 2018 (85 BPV). He possesses one of the most encouraging contact rate trends in the game (61%, 65%, 68%, 75%, 78% ct%). His power skills also remained intact even as he closed down the holes in his swing (156 PX, 134 xPX). Check to see if he has made any adjustments against lefties this spring. That's the only thing preventing him from delivering his first $15+ season.

Hunter Renfroe (LF, SD) looked like an upper-tier outfielder in the second half of 2018 (22 HR, .822 OPS in 264 AB). That power was backed by an elite 164 PX and 148 xPX. And the unlocking of his raw power came without Renfroe opening up his swing, as he actually cut down his strikeout rate in the second half. He also hit RHers much better in 2018 (.803 OPS vR) compared to 2017 (.636 OPS vR). There's legit 40+ HR breakout potential here.

Jesse Winker (RF, CIN) also got better as the 2018 season went along. He looked like an impact bat in June (.944 OPS) and July (1.132 OPS) before a torn labrum in his shoulder ended his season early. If healthy, Winker's ability to control home plate (15% bb%, 84% ct%, 1.07 Eye) and his blossoming power give him some of the best breakout potential in the game.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.