Seth Trachtman

Draft Strategy

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2017 Category Sleepers: HR

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


It’s never too early to prepare for your draft, and some of us draft fiends are already setting our draft dates for 2017. The hot stove league is just taking shape, but it’s still a fun time to look toward the 2017 fantasy baseball season.

 

For the third year in a row, I’ll be breaking down category sleepers at each of the 5x5 roto categories. So far we’ve looked at batting average and WHIP sleepers. In the third installment of the series we’ll be reviewing hitters who could be sleepers for home runs. Over 10 weeks, I will be providing a list of sleepers for each 5x5 roto category (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).  Since the hot stove league still has a long way to go this offseason, for the next few weeks we will focus on players in categories that are less based on opportunity and more based on skill.  Other roto categories that are more dependent on opportunity, supporting cast, and batting order spot (R, RBI, SB) or team and manager (W, SV) will be discussed in the latter half of the 10-week series.

 

Before reading any further, it’s important to note the definition of a sleeper. In this case, it’s a player who will exceed draft day ADP AND projections in a particular category. The players are broken down by mixed league sleepers and single league sleepers.

 

 

Mixed League Sleepers

 

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants

 

Belt was starter-level in traditional 12-team leagues last season, so he doesn’t fit under the regular definition of a sleeper. However, he does fit the definition for a player who could far exceed his ADP and home run expectations given the warning signs that are present. Belt has hit at least 17 home runs in three of the last four seasons, becoming one of the most consistent fantasy commodities in baseball. He continues to struggle hitting the long ball at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, with only six homers last season and five in 2015. Still, his metrics do show some power growth potential.

 

Last season Belt’s flyball rate spiked to 46 percent, ranking ninth in all of baseball, while his groundball-to-flyball rate was the lowest in the league. Unfortunately, the home runs didn’t follow with his power, but the extra-base hits were above 10 percent for the third consecutive season. Belt’s career average home run per flyball rate is 7.8 percent, a semi-significant 1.3 percent above what he produced last season. If Belt’s flyball rate increase able to hold, it’s very reasonable to expect Belt’s first 20-plus home run season in 2017 if he just matches his other career averages. With the increase in RBI and runs last season, it’s not crazy to expect a top 10 first baseman as a result.

 

 

Tom Murphy, C, Rockies

 

Murphy was mentioned as a single-league home run sleeper last season. Despite seeing very limited playing time in 2016 as he worked on his defense, Murphy gets an upgrade for 2017. The catcher situation in Colorado remains fluid, but at the time of this writing Murphy will compete with Dustin Garneau and Tony Wolters for the starting job going into spring training.

 

Murphy has eight home runs in only 79 major league at-bats, an incredible home run rate but also too small of a sample size to rely on. Still, his minor league track record speaks for itself, hitting 19 home runs in only 303 at-bats at hitter-friendly Triple-A Albuquerque last season, 20 homers in 394 at-bats in 2015 between Double- and Triple-A, and 22 home runs in 357 at-bats between Low-A and Double-A in 2013. The questions about Murphy’s defense remain, but he has clearly made strides, throwing out 33 percent of runners at Triple-A last season with eight passed balls. Just as important, he gets a blank slate with new manager Bud Black forming an opinion during the spring. Murphy very well could be this year’s Trevor Story among Rockies breakout hitters if he’s able to win the starting job.

 

 

Scott Schebler, OF, Reds

 

Acquired from the Dodgers last offseason in the three-team Todd Frazier trade, Schebler quietly gained everyday at-bats over the last two months of 2016. With the Reds well out of the playoff race, Schebler delivered on that playing time, hitting .290-8-32 in 213 plate appearances. That performance will certainly earn him a long look in spring training, and it also helps that top outfield prospect Jesse Winker’s stock has declined after hitting only three homers last year.

 

After hitting only 13 home runs in 121 games at the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2015, there’s likely some skepticism surrounding Schebler’s power outburst. However, the power he showed last season certainly wasn’t out of nowhere. He hit 27 home runs in the hitter-friendly California League in High-A during 2013, and added 28 home runs at Double-A Chattanooga in 2014. With his 13 homers in 75 games at Triple-A Louisville last season, Schebler has hit more than 20 home runs three of his last four pro seasons. There’s plenty to like here going into 2017 in a hitter-friendly home park.

 

 

Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Mariners

 

Vogelbach has been a consistent, solid offensive prospect since the Cubs drafted him in the second round out of high school in 2011. At the time, there were questions about whether he could develop defensively, and those questions were why the Cubs had almost no choice but to finally trade him last season. Vogelbach was shipped to Seattle in July, along with Paul Blackburn, for Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries. Immediately, Vogelbach’s near future looked brighter with the possibility of playing DH and first base in the AL.

 

The Mariners have Vogelbach penciled in as their starting first baseman heading into 2017, and Vogelbach has vowed to work on his defense during the offseason. He committed only six errors at the position last year, but is considered rigid as a fielder. The potential value is seen in Vogelbach’s bat, perhaps enough to put up with a below average first baseman. Vogelbach hit a career-high 23 home runs in 563 plate appearances at Triple-A last season, and has a career .391 on-base percentage in the minors as one of the more patient hitters in the minors over his pro career. Vogelbach’s career .481 slugging percentage certainly shows viable power, and possibly a cheap 15-20 home runs next season if his defense shakes out.

 

 

Single League Sleepers

 

Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies

 

Now we come to the prospect portion of our program. A former second-round pick from 2012, Cozens led the minors in home runs last season with 40, a huge breakout season after hitting only eight home runs in 2015. Cozens had hit 16 home runs in 2014 at Low-A Lakewood, and standing at 6-6, his power certainly isn’t shocking. It should be noted that Double-A Reading, Cozens’ home last season, is possibly the most hitter-friendly home run park in Double-A. Still, 40 home runs and a .591 slugging percentage is impressive anywhere for a 22-year-old at Double-A.

 

Most importantly for 2017, the Phillies remain in clear rebuilding mode with some opportunities in their outfield. It seems unlikely that Cozens will skip Triple-A, especially after fanning 186 times in 134 games last season, but we’ll almost certainly see him at some point this season if he can show that the power surge wasn’t a fluke. There is enough power upside and playing time potential in the second half to make Cozens worth stashing in NL-only redraft leagues.

 

 

Alex Dickerson, OF, Padres

 

While the Padres were losing last season, they did have several power hitters emerge. One of them was Dickerson, who took full advantage of his first significant opportunity in the majors by hitting .257-10-37 in 285 plate appearances. Adding in his brilliant numbers at hitter-friendly Triple-A El Paso, Dickerson hit 20 home runs for the season.

 

While he’s never been a huge power hitter in the minors, Dickerson has been consistently productive. He’s a career .309 hitter with an .867 OPS, numbers worthy of a major league chance. Further, he showed an extreme flyball rate above 40 percent and should have done enough to earn at-bats in 2017 with an .810 OPS against right-handed pitching. Top prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe will be threats to Dickerson’s playing time if he remains in San Diego, but Dickerson should see enough at-bats on a rebuilding team to have significant value.

 

 

Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners

 

Haniger has been a very strong minor league performer over the last two years, and is coming off clearly his best season. He shared time between Double- and Triple-A in the Diamondbacks organization, hitting .321-25-94 in 548 plate appearances at age 25. He added five more long balls in 123 plate appearances during his major league debut.

 

Early in the offseason he was shipped to Seattle in the Jean Segura/Taijuan Walker trade, adding another promising minor league performer to GM Jerry Dipoto’s stash. The Mariners added Ben Gamel from the Yankees late in the 2016 season, and have insinuated that he will get a shot to be a regular in 2017. Haniger likely adds to that competition, and is a relatively safe projection as at least a platoon player at the highest level, as he’s absolutely smashed left-handed pitching over the last two seasons. If the Mariners don’t add another outfielder to their competition during the offseason, Haniger has an outside shot at winning the left field job over Gamel and Danny Valencia.

 

 

Steven Moya, OF, Tigers

 

With offseason J.D. Martinez trade rumors, Moya’s status comes more into focus. The Tigers currently have a hole in center field after trading Cameron Maybin, which Moya is probably incapable of filling with no experience in the minors. Still, the huge power could give him the first shot at at-bats if either of Detroit’s corner outfielders is moved or injured.

 

Moya has had three huge minor league power seasons in a row, hitting 35 homers at Double-A Erie in 2014, 23 homers between High-A and Triple-A in 2015, and 20 homers in only 426 plate appearances at Triple-A Toledo last season. His power played just fine in his brief major league time last season, but unfortunately, so did Moya’s awful plate discipline. Moya’s lack of patience at the plate has been a serious red flag for quite a while, resulting in a career .254 batting average and .295 slugging percentage over his minor league career. It’s an issue that prevented Moya from getting a significant look in the majors last season, and could threaten his major league future. Despite the blemishes, Moya’s power upside for the required price in AL-only leagues does make him intriguing.



You can find Seth Trachtman on Twitter @sethroto.
Email :Seth Trachtman



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