Yes, we’re all happy that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have immediately become strong fantasy options and great #1 OF for our teams. However, that doesn’t happen with many (okay, most) young players, at least not in terms of fantasy relevance. With a relatively strong youth movement occurring across baseball, I thought I’d give you some quick stats and thoughts on a few OF that people are hoping will be the second coming of Puig. Here’s a spoiler of every profile: do not pay for and expect a breakout, but be happy if it does happen. Some guys may be closer than others to putting the skills together, but they’re all risky and shouldn’t be leaned on too heavily in redraft leagues.
Yelich touched three levels of the minors but spent the bulk of his time at AA, where he showed some power, wasn’t super successful in stealing bases, and struck out a bit more than 2012. However, he maintained his walk rate and SLG, which are good signs as a player moves up the ranks. His speed gives him a better chance to maintain a high BABIP, but he’s not necessarily a .300 hitter, and his .330 mark in 2012 was boosted by an insane .397 BABIP.
When he moved to the majors at just 21 years old, he once again maintained his BB%, which is a good sign that he could be in the top part of the Marlins lineup for years to come. He was successful in all 10 stealing attempts in the bigs, but he’s never been projected to be a Bourn or Ellsbury on the basepaths, so I wouldn’t expect 25+ SB in the near future. Yelich’s contact rate isn’t great, and that combined with the K% could hinder him in the short term, but he does have good plate discipline. For those that expect him to become a 20/20 threat in 2014, I wouldn’t be too hasty. His 63% ground ball rate could be a small sample size issue due to under 300 PA, but unless he starts hitting the ball in the air, I’d set a short-term cap of 10 HR. That being said, a player who could go 10/20 with a decent BA and a good number of R at the top of a lineup is valuable — it’s simply not amazing. Long-term leagues should continue to drool at his potential, but temper your expectations for 2014.
Garcia has 5-category potential similar to Yelich, but he displays more power potential at the expense of plate discipline and BA. A crazy BABIP of .455 in Triple-A and a high BABIP of .370 with the Sox hide the lackluster average he posted in Detroit when his BABIP was just below the league average at .295. He has enough speed that he could maintain a BABIP above the league average, but I’m not banking on anything more than a .270 BA in 2014, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer to .250. Part of his problem is a complete inability to take a walk; his walk rate of 3.5% in the MLB in 2013 is right in line with his sub-4.0% in the minors from 2010-2012.
I said Garcia has more power potential than Yelich, but note that it’s not here yet. His 7 HR at the major leagues is a bit misleading, because he had a rather high HR/FB rate that would’ve been in the top-40 for qualified hitters, and I don’t think he’ll sustain that for a full 2014 season. He also hits the ball into the ground a lot, with a 56% rate. This grounder tendency could be because he swung at a ghastly 39% of pitches outside of the strike zone! Couple that with a high swinging strike rate, and you’ll be hoping he gets enough hits to keep him in the lineup, let alone hitting lots of home runs. Long term he could possibly hit 25 HR and steal 10-15 bases, but you’re going to have to suffer through some growing pains — and honestly, this bad a plate discipline could derail his high ceiling.
Arcia had more major league AB than Yelich or Garcia. He’s not the 5-category contributor that the others can be because he’s not a runner, but he likely projects to have the best bat. During 2012-2013 he went from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A, improving his OBP and SLG every step. Then he hit the majors in 2013 and everything went wrong except for his power. So what happened?
In the minors Arcia had a league-average K% (which is 20%), and his BB% was improving from A+ (4.0% in 2011) to AA (9.4% in 2012) to AAA (14.2% in 2013). But when he made it to the majors, his strikeout rate jumped to 31% and his walk rate dipped to 6.1%. He swung at more pitches outside of the zone than the average player, and his swinging strike rate was more than 1.5 times the league average. Whether he was pressing or pitchers at the top level simply found his weaknesses, I’m not sure, but it does indicate he has some adjusting ahead of him. His power was still above league average, and if he can work his way back to somewhere near his minor league averages, he’s my top choice of the players covered in this article to take a big step forward in 2014.
Almonte seems like an odd inclusion in this bunch. He’s been playing in the minors for eight years — yes, eight. He seems like a failed prospect when you think of that fact. But then, he started when he was 17, and making his MLB debut at 24 isn’t that old. He had flashes of power when he was young, and he’s always displayed good speed. He could take a walk in the minors, and he had a league-average BB% in his cup of coffee with Seattle. His Triple-A stint in 2014 showcased career bests in BA and SLG, and Seattle could use him in 2014 if they don’t sign a big free agent; familiar names like Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley aren’t anything special, and Franklin Gutierrez is a free agent. Almonte could be a 10/25 guy with a decent BA and would certainly cost less than bringing back the ancient Raul Ibanez. Of the four players in this article, Almonte is the highest risk, and he doesn’t offer the highest reward, but he’s also going to be the cheapest option.