A lot was expected of Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF, Colorado Rockies) coming into 2019. He was a very popular sleeper pick for some solid batting average, power and most importantly, 20-25 stolen bases. The world was his hitting oyster, it seemed—he had shown decent plate discipline in the minor leagues and stole a combined 38 bases across 122 games in Double-A, Triple-A and the majors.
While he was strong on Monday evening (3-4, R, 2 RBI), he has been a significant fantasy disappointment for those who banked on his success. As of today, he’s slashing just .239/.296/.355 with an ugly 28.3% strikeout rate. He’s spent time in Triple-A and on the injury list in addition to the MLB roster, and in 94 games he has just four home runs and nine steals.
Generally, when rookies perform poorly out of the gate, the fantasy community thoroughly rejects them; however, that same community is also prone to finding a reason to believe in a guy if he gives us a nice run at the beginning or end of the season. With multiple hits in four of his last five starts and a .936 OPS in 44 plate appearances in September, Hampson may be doing just that.
His playing time, strikeout rate, and quality of contact have been question marks all year, but little by little he’s showing signs of turning those around. Early in the year, he struggled to find regular playing time behind Ryan McMahon and the overall randomness of the Rockies starting lineup, but he’s now regularly starting at second base, shortstop or center field and should be eligible at all three positions in 2020.
Also, while the strikeout rate has been high all season, he’s lowered it considerably so far in September, down to 18.2% after it peaked in August at 37.3% (though he also managed a 17% walk rate to go with it). Finally, as for his quality of contact, see below for a rolling chart of his xwOBA on the season, which shows a significant struggle followed by a sharp recovery (which certainly has my attention).
Now I’m not saying he’s going to be as good as we hoped at the start of this year, but for those of you already looking to the 2020 season, I figured this might be a good bounce-back candidate to highlight.
Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF, Minnesota Twins)—3-4, 2 RBI. His .350 batting average is best in the majors among players with 300 or more plate appearances by a whopping 14 points. He’s significantly outperforming what Statcast predicts his batting average to be (.295 xBA), but truthfully that’s not a big deal, as a .295 xBA is still a very solid number. He never really hits the ball hard and he has very average speed, but he’s still a strong play in points formats and as a fantasy utility man who can help keep your ratios up thanks to an impressive 8.4% strikeout rate and 10.2% walk rate.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS, Kansas City Royals)—3-5, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI. Precious few people on this big blue and green rock have the talent to succeed at the major league level with a strikeout rate above 25% and a walk rate below 5%. I now firmly believe that Mondesi is one of those people. I don’t expect a .270 batting average in a full season, but .240-.250 is doable and isn’t all that bad considering the 39 steals in 96 games. He has a real shot at 50+ next season if he can stay healthy, but it should be pointed out that the 120-ish games he’ll appear in this season (including his minor league rehab) is more than he’s played in at any level since 2013 (where he played in 125 Low-A games). Durability is a very real concern.
Marcus Semien (SS, Oakland Athletics)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. He extended his hitting streak to seven games during which he’s slugged five home runs to go with 22 combined runs and RBI. He’s improved his plate discipline significantly this season, which is a big part of how he is currently fantasy’s seventh-best shortstop.
Ryan Braun (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—2-4, 2 R, 2B. His 136 games so far is the most he’s played since 2015, and he has back-to-back seasons with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases. That doesn’t move the needle much in 10- and 12-teamers, but he’s a solid back-end outfielder in 15-team formats. It’s also nice to see his batting average jump back above .275, which is something I believe he can do again. He has one more guaranteed year under his contract, so expect him to provide one more of these years for the Brewers.
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. He already has seven home runs this month but he’ll need five more if he wants to reach 50. There aren’t enough superlatives to fully capture how much he has done this season compared to the expectations. He went inside the top-100 in the 2 Early Mocks and I expect that price to rise throughout the offseason.
Marcell Ozuna (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. His 28 home runs and 86 RBI look a lot like what he did over the last three seasons, but it should be noted that he hasn’t even played 120 games yet. Assuming his injury woes are behind him, he’ll be a nice value in 2020 drafts.
Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. 35 home runs and over 200 combined runs and RBI was outside the realm of what I thought was possible for Escobar. His .235/.275/.506 line in the second half is less impressive, though, and I expect a lot of folks to throw red flag articles out about Escobar for 2020. I doubt I’ll be owning him next year, as I anticipate someone else believing in 2019 more than I do come draft day.
Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF, New York Mets)—2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. I’m a huge McNeil fan because I love his approach at the plate and that others look past him because his best stat is his batting average. Also, I have a sentimental attachment to him because the time I featured him earlier this year included one of my favorite Batter’s Box titles on the season. Props to anyone who remembers it and/or knows what I was quoting.
Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-5, R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’ll likely get to 35 home runs pretty soon thanks to this recent surge of three home runs in four games against the lowly Tigers, and his .350 OBP shows a marked improvement in plate discipline that he sorely needed to standout among the 30-ish home run hitters for fantasy. He’s powerful, durable, and now is more patient. He should be among the top-20 first basemen for 2020, which sounds less impressive than it is considering the renewed depth at the position.
Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics)—2-4, R, BB, SB. It’s a small sample but in the six starts since coming back from the IL, he’s hitting .296/.394/.481. He’s a guy I hope to be able to buy in drafts next season thanks to his power and speed and the improvements he made in his contact ability in 2019.
Tommy Edman (2B/3B/SS/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, SB. He does a little bit of everything for the Cardinals and for fantasy owners with his positional flexibility and his power/speed combo that comes with a decent batting average. He’d need a full-time gig in 2020 to be relevant for most players, but he’s someone to keep an eye on when he makes the starting lineup. Of course, that includes right now, as he has started nearly every game this month and has a .963 OPS in September.
(Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)