Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. In today’s world, quenching your thirst for fantasy content is rather effortless. Countless podcasts are available at your fingertips, satellite radio providers have 24-hour networks, and of course, the various websites providing content seem to be endless.
While it may be hard to fathom, it wasn’t that long ago when draft prep revolved around the yearly fantasy publications that appeared at your local newsstand. The Sporting News was my magazine of choice, but in reality they were all the same; varying strategic discussions, minor league prospect overviews, player capsules, position rankings, a mock draft recap, and of course… sleepers.
With the amount of exposure given to fantasy today, the “sleepers” of yesteryear simply no longer exist. The practice of finding potential growth in skill sets is somewhat similar across the board. Thus, the end result is nearly every informational source giving you the same names as potential breakout players. As a whole, this buzz leads to a built-in draft day markup, a markup that ultimately includes the upside in the pricing.
With 90 Starting OF in a full slate of games, it goes without saying that OF is the deepest position offensively in fantasy. With the depth at the position comes a greater opportunity for players to slip through the cracks so to speak. This week I wanted to look beyond the top 75 OF in ADP to see if I could find some potential late round gems that come with little fanfare. Players whose skills may not necessarily jump off the page, but if given the opportunity could provide their fantasy owners with welcomed production.
Ben Revere: Angels
Revere emerged as a regular with the Phillies in 2014. In both 2014 and 2015, Revere managed to exceed 30 SB and hit above .300, posting a .306 AVG both seasons. In 2016 Revere was ticketed for the leadoff role with the Washington Nationals. For really the first time in his career, Revere had become a coveted fantasy option as owners really pushed him up the draft boards. 103 Games and 375 plate appearances later, Ben Revere posted a .217 average with a .560 OPS and 14 SB.
Revere has resurfaced in Anaheim on a one-year deal. From a skills standpoint, I very much like what I see. His plate approach remained steady last season; one needs to look no further than his .234 BABIP, which is 80 points below his career mark. The BABIP explains some of his .217 mark, and that average goes a long way into cutting back the SB totals Revere has been accustomed to.
My only skill set concern for Revere would be his batted ball profile. Last season he managed a 2.09 GB/FB rate (helps explain some of the BABIP issues) that was well below his 3.69 career mark. Did an early season oblique issue lead him to compromise his swing? Based on the lengthy track record I’d be willing to suggest that to be the case.
As we head into camp Cameron Maybin would appear to be the starter in LF, with Cole Calhoun in RF, and some fish themed player manning CF. While it may appear to be an uphill battle at this point, Revere’s path to playing time is there for the taking. Revere and Maybin are most certainly the most appealing leadoff options for the Halos. Between the two, Revere’s health history has been much better, and he also has the platoon advantage over Maybin. The move from CF should improve Maybin’s defensive metrics, yet Revere’s glove work has graded out well aside from his lack of arm. In Revere’s favor, the same can be said about Maybin’s arm strength.
The reality is simple. If Revere shows enough with the bat in spring this job will be his come April 2nd. Ender Inciarte is currently the 44th OF off the board and is going 150 picks before Revere. Look for Revere to be every bit the equal to Inciarte come season’s end.
Scott Schebler: Reds
Schebler arrived in Cincinnati as part of the Todd Frazier deal in December of 2015. He played in 82 games for the Reds last season and managed to hit .265 with 9 HR in 282 plate appearances. Schebler displayed good power numbers in the minors. League and Park Factors may have assisted in hitting 33 HR across two levels in 2014 and 27 HR in 2013. Schebler struggled with contact early in his career, but since 2014 the minor league K totals have been tolerable, hovering around 19%. In his Reds cameo last season he managed a 20.9% K rate, which was a stark improvement over his 2015 Dodger cameo total of 32.5%.
A left-handed power bat playing in Great American Ballpark will always appeal to me. While I realize that home runs were up across the league last season. I’m inclined to believe you will see some push back from that this season. With that being said, others may consider 25 HR options to be a dime a dozen, but I still find it to be appealing. Factor in Schebler’s decrease in K’s and groundball lean as a hitter and you could be looking at a .260-.270 average to accompany it.
As of today, Schebler is expected to be in a platoon with Desmond Jennings in RF. Could a handful of good at-bats vs. LHP in Spring Training prompt the Reds to change their thinking? Would it not be in the organization’s best interest to give a 26-year-old power source more exposure than an oft-injured washed up prospect?
If Schebler approaches 550 PA I could easily see a season where he could mirror Jay Bruce’s production. Bruce is currently the 42nd outfielder off the board at 192nd overall. Schebler is currently the 90th OF off the board – nearly 190 picks later than Bruce.
Mitch Haniger: Mariners
Haniger came over to Seattle in the Jean Segura deal. At 26, Haniger is very similar to Schebler in the fact that they have both graduated from prospect status, but neither has been given an extended look at the Major League level.
While Schebler has plus power potential, Haniger has the coveted power/speed skill set. In 2015 Haniger posted 13 HR and 12 SB in 104 Games between A and AA. Between AA and AAA last season, Haniger compiled 25 HR and 12 SB while managing to hit around .320. Haniger’s plate approach has improved as he’s moved up the ranks. Last seasons his BB% was just over 12%, while his K% settled just over 17%. In a 34 game audition with Arizona last season, Haniger hit 5 HR in 123 plate appearances, while hitting .229. While the .229 wasn’t encouraging, his 9.8% BB rate and 22% K rate was.
Players with these skills sets will always intrigue; seeing positive results in even brief stints only adds to the excitement. Safeco is not the hitting environment he’s accustomed to, but the trade-off could be increased stolen base potential. The .229 AVG from last season also seems to have room for improvement. As previously mentioned his plate approach has never wavered but a .256 BABIP was well below his Minor League output, giving hope that the .229 AVG could approach the .250-.260 range.
The Mariners have other potential options for RF including Ben Gamel, Danny Valencia, and Guillermo Heredia. At 24, Gamel has yet to match the Minor League success of Haniger. At 32, Valencia seems better suited to platoon with Vogelbach vs. LHP than run around the Safeco OF on a routine basis. Heredia seems to be the classic bench OF option given ability to play all OF spots, with contact being his most attractive offensive asset.
Given Haniger’s skill set and playing time potential, you could very well be looking at a 20 HR, 15 SB player who could manage to hit .270. Should this potential success prompt a move up in the order then you could really have some value here. Jackie Bradley Jr. is going 33rd among OF, with an overall ADP of 144. I could easily envision Haniger compiling very similar numbers and he’s currently going 96th among OF and 417th Overall.
Rymer Liriano: White Sox
Claimed off Waivers by the White Sox in October, it’s difficult to remember Liriano was once a ranked prospect. His Minor League track record is rather solid. In A-Ball Liriano was more of a SB specialist, posting 31 steals over three A-Ball stints. In 2011 the power developed to some degree and he managed to hit 12 HR to go with the 66 SB during his second stint of A-Ball. He followed that up with 12 HR and 38 SB in 2012 and finally reached AA during that season. Liriano missed all of 2013 with an elbow injury but returned in 2014 with 14 HR and 20 SB between AA and AAA.
A .452 AVG in a 16 game AAA stint prompted the Padres to promote him for 38 games. Liriano struggled mightily in 121 plate appearances, managing a .220 average, a .289 OBP, and a 32.2% strikeout rate. He began the 2015 season in AAA, and over 131 games he totaled 14 HR and 18 SB along with a .292 AVG. The Padres not finding room for Liriano that season effectively labeled him as a forgotten commodity. He was not given a second chance to impress the new Padres brass as his 2016 was wiped out due to multiple facial fractures.
Really bad players offer upside in fantasy because they can run. Liriano is a player who clearly possesses that trait. Yet his Minor League track record would suggest there’s more to offer. The double-digit HR pop would certainly be aided in US Cellular. A 11.7% walk rate in 2015 perhaps suggests some growth. And a ground ball approach with his speed should aid in producing a BABIP that will enhance the AVG. With all things being considered, you could be looking at a .250 hitter who could approach a .330 OBP if the increased walk rate holds up.
As of February the White Sox OF alignment would appear to be Melky Cabrera, Charlie Tilson, and Avisail Garcia. While Melky is certainly safe, neither Tilson or Garcia have any sustained success to speak of. Tilson would seem to be safe. He’s 24, has shown good contact skills, and projects to be a solid batting average contributor with plus stolen base potential.
Garcia is a different story. Garcia and Liriano are roughly the same age. Garcia has spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the last two being full stints. During that time Garcia has shown no gains statistically, and his approach as a hitter has actually regressed to a degree. Meanwhile Liriano has all of 38 games to his credit. Would it be best for the organization to give Garcia another crack at it only to see Liriano’s potential being wasted another year?
I’m in the mindset of allowing Liriano the chance to showcase his skills. Give him a solid two/three months and allow him to play. With minimal cost, perhaps a speed asset with some pop would make for a nice midseason acquisition for a contender. Even a best case scenario for Garcia wouldn’t garner much interest outside of the organization.
Double digit pop with 30 SB potential, good OBP, and lack of a proven options could warrant a move up the lineup. 90 Runs, 14 HR, 30 SB and a .250 AVG is a possibility. Rajai Davis is currently the 49th OF off the board, pick number 212 overall. Liriano is the 130th OF and 596th player overall. If simply given the opportunity Liriano could be a better option for 2017.
While the process of labeling sleepers has become problematic, the reality is we continue to miss good to great assets each and every year. Anyone recall Jonathan Villar’s name being mentioned repetitively last offseason? Did I miss any of the Rick Porcello for the Cy Young chatter? We spend so much time on skill sets and evaluating players strengths and weaknesses that we often miss the most valuable currency of all… opportunity.
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