2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: 10 post-hype hitting prospect sleepers to consider on Draft Day
Waiting a year can pay off big with players like these 10 available at a discount from 2019 because they were not instant big-league hits.
You can find superstars by targeting this year's most-hyped young players, but you'll also have to pay a premium to get them. That's just how it works: We always want the next big thing, so you're going to have to invest a pretty early pick or a sizable chunk of your auction budget to grab Luis Robert this year. Prepare to pay even more for Fernando Tatis, Vladimir Guerrero or Eloy Jimenez, last year's top prospects who showed enough in the majors to project easy superstar production someday.
However, as excited as we get for the latest shiny object, we tend to toss them aside fairly quickly once they show some blemishes. Robert tore up the minors last year, and while his aggressive approach at the plate might lead to some overexposure against major-league arms, that hasn't come to fruition yet, so we're still dreaming on the upside. If he struggles to make contact in his first taste of the majors and even earns a demotion back to the minors, his price will be significantly lower this time next year — even if the talent level hasn't changed much. That's just what happens when a prospect moves from the realm of the theoretical into an actual major-league player, with all the warts and flaws they typically show.
That is where the concept of the post-hype sleeper comes from. I'm going to spend the next few days looking for post-hype options to target on Draft Day, and first up, we're going to look at 10 recent prospects who have failed to live up to the hype so far, and who have seen their prices drop as a result. If you took a chance on the likes of Yoan Moncada, Joey Gallo, Tyler Glasnow or Matt Olson last season, you reaped the benefits.
Here are 10 hitters with the potential to do the same in 2020:
Kyle Tucker LF
HOU Houston • #30 • Age: 23
Tucker's ADP is actually up from this time a year ago, so he doesn't quite qualify, but I still think there might be some prospect fatigue going on. He proved he can hang in the majors last season, hitting four homers and stealing five bases in a 22-game cup of coffee, and has now hit .297 with 58 homers and 50 steals in 225 games at the Triple-A level — and he's just 23. Tucker is a comparable prospect to Luis Robert, perhaps with a bit less speed but better plate discipline, and he's coming off the board well after him. Tucker is still vying for an everyday job and he'll have to beat out veteran Josh Reddick to earn one, but if he does, he figures to be a potential power-speed stud in the middle rounds.
COL Colorado • #1 • Age: 25
Hampson also has to earn an everyday role, but he improved his chances of doing just that with a late-season breakout after he reworked his swing. The path to an everyday role isn't exactly clear right now, but Hampson has a track record of being a serious source of steals in the minors and playing half his games at Coors Field would certainly elevate the bat. There is poor man's Trea Turner potential here — he's a career .311/.383/.455 hitter in the minors with 10 homers and 59 steals (83.8% success rate) per-150 games.
Ryan McMahon 2B
COL Colorado • #24 • Age: 25
McMahon is the one who seems to have an everyday job locked up for the Rockies, and manager Bud Black recently said he's looking for McMahon to start 150 games this season. Personally, I'm not altogether jazzed about the idea of McMahon pushing out some of the more interesting options in Colorado's lineup, but you can't deny the potential for a good Fantasy profile here — he's a career .337 hitter in Triple-A, so it's not unreasonable to expect better than his .250 mark from last season.
SD San Diego • #27 • Age: 24
There's been a real learning curve for Mejia in the majors, which isn't surprising given how slowly catchers tend to develop, but we may have seen the light start to go on in the second half last season. He upped his walk rate from 3.9% to 6.4%, cut his strikeout rate from 25.2% to 21.3% and started hitting the ball in the air more often, leading to a .305/.355/.511 slash line after the break. Playing time is still something of a concern given the presence of expert pitch framer Austin Hedges, but Mejia's bat has the potential to nullify the defensive edge. He just has to hit like he did in the minors, and in the second half.
TOR Toronto • #9 • Age: 24
Jansen was a popular sleeper this time last year, as he continued to rake in the minors and even held his own in a cup of coffee at the end of the season. However, he got off to an impossibly bad start to 2019, hitting .160/.245/.202 through his first 31 games and pretty much dropped off Fantasy radars. However, he homered on consecutive days on May 17-18, and hit 13 from that point on — a 20-plus homer pace. The overall numbers were still pretty disappointing (.225/.292/.419), but that was with a .233 BABIP. There is above-average pop for a catcher with pretty good bat-on-ball skills here, and he was one of the biggest under-performers in the league in terms of expected batting average, per Statcast data. Jansen is significantly better than he showed in 2019, and he has top-10 catcher potential as the No. 21 catcher off the board.
Austin Riley LF
ATL Atlanta • #27 • Age: 23
We saw every bit of Riley in 2019, the good and the bad. He continued to crush it in the minors and was one of the biggest stories in baseball when he clubbed nine homers in his first 18 games. Of course, the strikeouts were present even as he was crushing the ball, and they ultimately caught up to him when he hit just .192 with 83 strikeouts in the following 62 games. A 37.6% strikeout rate is a fatal flaw for basically every hitter except for Joey Gallo or Miguel Sano, and it proved to be the case for Riley, but that doesn't mean he'll always struggle with contact to that degree. Riley struck out a much more palatable 25.4% of the time in the minors, and it was consistent at pretty much every level, so there's no sign he got exposed as he moved up. He was just 22 last season, so writing him off would be a mistake. Riley is battling with Johan Camargo for the third base job this spring, and all reports indicate he'll be the starter if he wins the job, so it's in his hands now.
WAS Washington • #8 • Age: 22
This whole crew is pretty much fighting to win a camp battle, but Kieboom seems to be in the driver's seat in his fight to be the Nationals opening day third baseman. He'll have to prove his glove is up to the task of transitioning from shortstop, and that's likely the bigger impediment at this point, despite the fact Kieboom was limited to a .128/.209/.282 line in his brief time in the majors in 2019. He's proven about all he can in the high minors, hitting .303 with 16 homers in 109 career games at Triple-A while showing an advanced feel for the strike zone, so the bat should translate — and there's potential for 20-plus homers and double-digit steals with a good average here. His ADP could skyrocket with a good spring, but it should be higher already despite his struggles last year.
Luis Urias 2B
MIL Milwaukee • #2 • Age: 22
A hamate bone fracture suffered in the winter will likely delay Urias' arrival in the Brewers everyday lineup, though the team still hopes he will be ready for Opening Day. If that's the case, he figures to be the team's everyday shortstop, and I still believe in his bat despite a poor showing in his first 302 trips to the plate in the majors. Urias hit .296/.398/.447 in his first run through Triple-A in 2018, and then hit .315/.398/.600 in his second stint in 2019, so there isn't much for the 22-year-old to prove there anymore. That power is inflated by playing in the PCL with the juiced ball in 2019, however Miller Park is a pretty great place to hit in its own right, and there's the potential for 20 homers and 20 steals here — though he'll need to be a more effective baserunner than he was in the minors, so the speed could be more of a question. Still, if the bat plays up, he'll hit for average and some pop in a great lineup; now it's all about getting healthy.
COL Colorado • #7 • Age: 23
You can never quite count on the Rockies to do the right thing, and the presence of three different players on this list is a good indicator of just how crowded their lineup figures to be. Rodgers probably needs an injury or a teammate's epic failure in spring to get a chance, but he's another player who is probably major-league ready at this point. Rodgers could use more seasoning than either Kieboom or Urias as he's working his way back from a torn labrum in his shoulder, and he's likely to get it. However, he has the potential to be a perennial .300 hitter with the 25 homers and 15 steals playing half his games in Coors Field, so don't be discouraged by his struggles in his first taste of the majors last year. He might not be someone worth stashing on your bench, but if McMahon stumbles, Rodgers could be nipping at his heels early in the season, and there's still superstar potential here.
Isan Diaz 2B
MIA Miami • #1 • Age: 23
Diaz isn't the same caliber prospect as some of the other names on this list, but his path to everyday playing time looks a lot clearer in Miami. He struck out far too much in his time in the majors in 2019, but he showed signs of mitigating that issue in Triple-A, striking out just 22.1% of the time in 2019 after a 29.0% mark in 36 games in 2018. Diaz might just need time getting acclimated to a new level when he earns a promotion, and his breakout in his second time through Triple-A should be a promising sign. The profile is riskier, especially with batting average, but Diaz could be another power-speed threat at middle infield, and is worth targeting with your last-round pick right now.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.
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