BATTERS: 2020 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 2020. 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 2019.

This same exercise last year pointed owners to guys like Rafael Devers (3B, BOS), Austin Meadows (RF/DH, TAM), Jorge Polanco (SS, MIN), Jorge Soler (DH/RF, KC), Max Kepler (RF, MIN), Josh Bell (1B, PIT), Adam Frazier (2B, PIT), Ketel Marte (CF/SS, ARI), and Joc Pederson (LF/1B, LA), all of whom increased their value significantly in 2019.

Here is a list of the most skilled bats who generated between $5 and $15 in 5x5 mixed leagues last season:

50+ BPV, 5x5 $5-15, 2019*

Name          Lg  Pos      bb%  ct%  Eye   PX   xPX  Spd  5x5   EV    LA   BPV
============  ==  =======  ===  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ====  ===
Garver, M     AL        C  11%  72%  0.47  186  159   90  $14  91.1  15.3   89
Gallo, J      AL    LF/1B  18%  53%  0.46  251  199   96  $10  93.0  20.3   77
Diaz, A       AL  1B/2B/3B 11%  87%  0.93   92   70  110   $5  88.3  12.2   76
Dickerson, C  NL       LF   6%  78%  0.29  146  112   90   $9  87.1  16.4   71
Luplow, J     AL       RF  13%  73%  0.54  151  110  103   $8  89.3  15.7   71
Freese, D     NL    3B/1B  12%  73%  0.52  160  105   84   $6  91.5  11.0   71
Buxton, B     AL       CF   6%  75%  0.28  148   92  120  $12  89.3  19.5   69
Correa, C     AL       SS  11%  73%  0.47  153  132   99  $10  89.0  12.4   69
Calhoun, W    AL       LF   7%  83%  0.43  118  104   91   $9  89.7  17.6   69
Pederson, J   NL    LF/1B  10%  75%  0.45  141  124  108  $14  90.9  15.3   68
La Stella, T  AL    2B/3B   6%  90%  0.71   80  104   91   $9  87.8  13.2   68
Bichette, B   AL       SS   7%  74%  0.28  149   97  117   $7  89.6  10.3   67
Encarnaci, E  AL       1B  12%  75%  0.56  144  132   77  $14  90.0  22.5   66
Canha, M      AL       CF  13%  74%  0.63  124  100  138  $15  89.1  15.0   65
Beaty, M      NL    1B/LF   6%  87%  0.52   97   93   87   $6  89.4  10.2   65
Smith, W      NL        C   9%  69%  0.35  175  168   85   $5  89.5  23.7   64
Arraez, L     AL    2B/LF  10%  91%  1.24   55   73  111  $11  86.9  11.4   63
Pence, H      NL    DH/LF   8%  76%  0.38  133  106  111  $14  91.4  10.1   62
Winker, J     NL       LF  10%  82%  0.63   99   88  102   $7  89.1   7.4   61
Diaz, Y       AL    3B/1B  10%  80%  0.57  108  115  102   $8  91.7   5.7   60
Seager, C     NL       SS   8%  80%  0.45  117  130   86  $15  88.8  14.1   58
Sano, M       AL       3B  13%  58%  0.35  213  175   93  $13  94.4  15.9   58
Suzuki, K     NL        C   6%  87%  0.56   98  101   53   $7  86.0  18.9   58
Gurriel, L    AL       LF   6%  73%  0.23  144  145  124  $12  90.2  14.1   57
Aquino, A     NL       RF   7%  71%  0.27  166  110   82   $9  87.9  18.2   57
Flores, W     NL       2B   5%  88%  0.48   84   93   82   $8  87.4  16.4   57
Sogard, E     AL       2B   9%  84%  0.60   84   84  111  $14  84.7  18.3   56
Frazier, A    NL       2B   7%  86%  0.53   70   69  129  $13  86.3  12.1   56
Verdugo, A    AL       CF   7%  86%  0.53   90   91   85  $10  89.4   8.8   56
Bruce, J      NL       LF   6%  74%  0.23  160  161   60   $5  90.0  22.2   54
Hoskins, R    NL       1B  17%  70%  0.67  131  143  114  $10  89.7  24.0   53
Profar, J     NL       2B   9%  84%  0.64   93   98   79   $8  86.7  14.2   53
Contreras, W  NL        C   9%  72%  0.37  141  128  106  $12  88.3   7.3   52
Gregorius, D  NL       SS   5%  84%  0.32   95   99   97   $6  88.2  17.2   51
Kelly, C      NL        C  13%  75%  0.61  126  168   75   $5  89.0  14.3   51
Ahmed, N      NL       SS   8%  80%  0.46   95   99  123  $14  87.5   7.5   50
*min 50 AB

Let's take a closer look at a bunch of undervalued guys in each league who could be on the verge of a breakout in 2020, including some additional breakout targets not shown in the table above.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Luis Arraez (2B/LF, MIN) enters 2020 as an excellent play for owners looking for a high batting average. His elite plate skills (10% bb%, 91% ct%, 1.24 Eye) give full support to a .300+ BA. The risk for him is his low 86.9 mph exit velocity, because if he doesn't show any pop, pitchers will be more likely to make him beat them.

Bo Bichette (SS, TOR) had a promising debut with TOR in 2019 (.311 BA, 11 HR, .930 OPS in 196 AB). He hit the ball hard, too (89.6 mph exit velocity). He'll need better plate discipline to become more consistent (7% bb%, 74% ct%, 0.28 Eye). He'll also need to increase his launch angle (10.3 degree LA) to unlock his 30-HR upside. Still, he remains worthy of a premium in keeper leagues and should provide at least moderate power and speed in 2020.

Cavan Biggio (2B, TOR) wasn't as heralded of a prospect as Bichette, but his debut in 2019 might have been even more promising. He hit 16 HR in 354 AB due to a large uppercut in his swing (20.1 degree launch angle). That approach led him to an excellent 151 xPX. He also drew walks at a really high rate (17% bb%).

Willie Calhoun (LF, TEX) is one of the better post-hype plays around. He hit for good power in 2019 (21 HR in 309 AB). While it didn't come with the full support of our underlying metrics (104 xPX), his Statcast metrics confirm his upside: 89.7 mph exit velocity, 17.6 degree launch angle). And his plate discipline improved as the season went along.

Ji-Man Choi (1B/DH, TAM) could be in store for a mid-career breakout in 2020. He paired strong plate skills in 2019 (13% bb%, 74% ct%, 0.59 Eye) with tons of exit velocity (91.1 mph exit velocity). With more loft in his swing (12.6 degree launch angle), Choi would become a 30-HR threat this season.

Aledmys Diaz (1B/2B/3B, HOU) showed one of the better collections of plate skills in the game in 2019 (11% bb%, 87% ct%, 0.93 Eye). He also showed decent speed (110 Spd). And his exit velocity wasn't terrible (88.3 mph exit velocity).

Yandy Diaz (3B/1B, TAM) was on his way to a breakout in 2019 before getting injured. He showed good power for the first time in the majors (14 HR in 307 AB). His 91.7 mph exit velocity remains one of the better marks in the game. Getting consistent power out of him will require Diaz to adjust his launch angle (5.7 degree LA). Still, he hits the ball really hard, owns good plate discipline, and qualifies at both 1B and 3B in most leagues. He could develop into an impactful everyday option at CI in 2020.

Teoscar Hernandez (LF, TOR) remains inconsistent, which is a product of his high strikeout rate (63% ct%). Still, his 144 xPX validates his power upside, as does his 91.1 mph exit velocity and 15.5 degree launch angle. And he's at the right age (26) to take a step forward. Even modest improvement in his strikeout rate will help him no longer be such of a big BA liability. He has legit 30+ HR upside.

Manuel Margot (CF, TAM) seemingly is a young bat to target every year. His 2019 season was a disappointment, as he struggled to hit for average (.234 BA) and only showed modest pop (12 HR in 398 AB). Nonetheless, he was effective on the basepaths (20 SB in 24 attempts) and his plate discipline against lefties was excellent (13% bb%, 77% ct%, 0.67 Eye in 103 AB). He's an excellent buy-low target at his current 497 ADP, even if he has to fight for playing time this spring.

Hunter Renfroe (RF, TAM) had a mini-breakout in 2019 (33 HR in 440 AB), power that was offset by a terrible batting average (.216 BA). That level of power was backed by a 144 xPX, 89.9 mph exit velocity, and 19.1 degree launch angle. Hope for more consistency and a better batting average will be tied to his ability to cut down his strikeouts (65% ct%).

Alex Verdugo (CF, BOS) will get a fresh start in BOS after being labeled as a guy with shaky makeup in LA. Verdugo is a young bat (age 23) that consistently shows excellent plate skills (86% ct% in 343 AB in 2019). He also makes pretty hard contact (89.4 mph exit velocity). He just needs to find a higher swing plane to become a power source (8.8 degree launch angle). Verdugo carries some nice post-hype appeal in 2020 drafts, especially if you can get him on an injury discount.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Sam Hilliard (CF, COL) repeatedly displayed a package of good power, speed, and walks in the minors. After his recall to COL in 2019, he showed much of the same (7 HR, 2 SB, 10% bb% in 77 AB at COL). Even more interesting was the 90.8 mph exit velocity he generated. He's another pre-peak bat that will need to tweak his swing (8.4 degree launch angle) to tap into his power consistently. Still, his multi-category potential is evident.

Keston Hiura (2B, MIL) enters 2020 as one of the better breakout targets in the game. He popped homers at a 40-HR pace in 2019 (19 HR in 314 AB). His 91.4 mph exit velocity and 16.0 degree launch angle give him the tools to become one of the best power-hitting MI in the game.

Rhys Hoskins (1B, PHI) is one of the best power breakout speculations in the game. In spite of a bad finish to his 2019 season (.189 BA, 10 HR in 275 AB in 2H), most of Hoskins's power skills remained intact (131 xPX in 2H). In addition, his full-season Statcast metrics were very good (89.7 mph exit velocity, 24.0 degree launch angle). There's a 40+ HR season coming here.

Carson Kelly (C, ARI) looked like a frontline backstop at times during the 2019 season. He had 18 HR in 314 AB. In addition, his plate skills were very strong (13% bb%, 75% ct%, 0.61 Eye). His underlying power skills were elite (168 xPX). And his Statcast metrics were solid (89.0 mph exit velocity, 14.3 degree launch angle). At age 24, he's one of the best young catching investments in the game.

Scott Kingery (CF/3B, PHI) put up a strong season in 2019 (19 HR, 15 SB in 458 AB). His high rate of strikeouts (68% ct%) will prevent him from being a consistent producer. However, he's one of the few true HR/SB combo threats (123 xPX, 124 Spd). And at age 26, he's another bat that could be primed to take a bigger step forward in 2020.

Jurickson Profar (2B, SD) might seem like an odd breakout target, as he followed up his 2018 mini-breakout with a stinker in 2019 (.218 BA in 459 AB). But Profar ended the season stronger than it might have seemed. He had elite plate skills in the second half: 13% bb%, 85% ct%, 1.08 Eye. His power skills started to improve (104 xPX in 2H). He even posted a .296 xBA in the second half. And his overall skills were excellent (85 BPV in 2H). Profar is a steal at his current 372 ADP.

Will Smith (C, LA) is another young catcher worthy of a premium investment, especially in keeper leagues. Smith had 15 HR in 170 AB with LA, a rate of homers that came with underlying support from both our expected power metric (168 xPX) and his Statcast stats (89.5 mph exit velocity, 23.7 degree launch angle). If he can improve his 69% ct%, Smith could deliver on his breakout potential in 2020.

Jesse Winker (LF, CIN) is being drafted as an afterthought in many leagues (424 ADP). He still hits too many ground balls to provide much power (49/26/25 G/L/F), an approach confirmed by his low 7.4 degree launch angle. Nonetheless, Winker owns a sturdy foundation of really good plate skills. He has missed large parts of the past two seasons due to injury. If he can stay healthy, he's another age-26 bat that carries some good breakout potential.


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