Going Deep: Garrett Hampson the Future Fantasy Rock Star?
(Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)
Recently here at Pitcher List, we have been releasing a bunch of dynasty and prospect content because we know that side of fantasy baseball never rests! I released a top 150 fantasy baseball prospects list in late October which can be found here, and my colleague Brennen Gorman has been releasing a position by position look at the top players to own in dynasty leagues. In both rankings, Colorado Rockies 2B/SS prospect Garrett Hampson was regarded highly as I ranked him 14th overall among prospects from a fantasy perspective, and Brennen followed suit by ranking Hampson 10th overall among all 2B dynasty options. We are both quite high on Hampson’s outlook based on his combination of high-end contact skills, his terrific speed with the instincts to use it effectively, and a bit of power that all should be helped by the prospect of potentially having Coors Field as his future home ballpark.
These rankings may have been considered slightly aggressive given that Hampson isn’t universally ranked that high (yet?) on traditional prospect lists. So perhaps that’s why I ended up being asked a lot about my prospect ranking of him on various platforms, and while I answered the questions then, I felt it was worthwhile to go further in-depth with an article to explain why I think Hampson deserves your attention in fantasy leagues, both in re-draft for 2019 and in dynasty leagues.
Let’s take a quick look at back at Hampson’s professional baseball career! Garrett Hampson was a 3rd round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies back in 2016 out of Long Beach State University. Interestingly, Long Beach State has a track record of producing MLB Shortstops as 4 others have made the majors this millennium including Danny Espinosa formerly of the Washington Nationals, the now-retired Bobby Crosby formerly of the Oakland Athletics, Matt Duffy of the Tampa Bay Rays, and most famously Troy Tulowitzki now of the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Hampson’s scouting reports at the time of the MLB draft suggested that speed was going to be his carrying tool and that his ultimate upside would be dictated by his ability to hit as his lack of power was likely to limit him to a utility role or a speedy leadoff hitter.
Here is how he has hit as a minor leaguer:
As you can see, Hampson has handled minor league pitching quite well! He’s hit at least .300+ at every level while posting well-above-average swinging-strike rates at all full-season levels. The 5.9% swinging-strike rate at A+ in 2017 ranked 2nd best in the California League among qualified batters and the 5.2% at AA in 2018 ranked 5th best in the Eastern League among those with at least 130 PAs. Even the 7% mark at AAA is impressive considering it would rank in a tie for 13th best in the Pacific Coast League if he had enough PAs to qualify. When you take into account that the MLB average for the swinging-strike rate in the majors last year was 10.7%, you can see that he projects as an above-average contact hitter even with regression baked in during his transition to the majors.
Along with the contact skills, Hampson has consistently shown a strong approach at the plate that includes above-average walk rates and a tendency to see lots of pitches per plate appearance. The quality walk rates have helped him post no worse than a .377 OBP in his minor league career, which according to the Fangraphs library is pretty much top of the scale. I also mentioned above that Hampson has shown a tendency to see a number of pitches per plate appearance, well during Hampson’s MLB exposure this year he saw an average of 4.0 pitches per appearance (P/PA). For context, he was right up there with the ever patient 1B Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, who averaged 4.02. This isn’t valuable in and of itself, but for further context, the Colorado Rockies as a team ranked dead last in baseball when it came to P/PA. The contact skills and patient approach lend itself to projecting a potential top of the order table-setter for the Rockies.
So we’ve seen that Hampson can get on base in multiple ways, but what can he do when he’s on them? Well, he’s been among the best base-stealing threats in the minor leagues over the last 3 years showing both prowess and efficiency. His 123 stolen bases over the last 3 years rank 4th best in the minor leagues over that time period and have come with an impressive 84.2% efficiency rate. He notably led both the Northwest League (Low-A) and California League (High-A) in steals with 36 and 51 SBs respectively while spending full-seasons there. His 2018 season finished with an impressive 36 for 41 success rate on the basepaths in only 380 PAs split between AA and AAA, the highest levels of the minors. Hampson regularly receives 65 or even 70 Run grades on scouting reports, and he clearly has the instincts to use the speed and I think there’s realistic 30+ SB potential here in the majors.
What separates Hampson from many other speedsters though in my opinion is that he’s not without power and should be able to contribute across the board for your fantasy teams. He hit 8 HRs at A+ in the California League in 2017, and then followed it up with 10 HRs this past year split between AA Hartford and AAA Albuquerque in 504 PAs. Now some may suggest that some of that HR power can be attributable to his home ballparks, all of which the last 2 years are great hitters ballparks:
|Team||Home Ball Park HR Factor (1.000 is considered neutral)||Home Stats||Road Stats|
|Lancaster (A+)||1.441||.350/.406/.532, 6 HRs||.300/.366/.383, 2 HRs|
|Hartford (AA)||1.254||.301/.402/.470, 2 HRs||.308/.375/.462, 2 HRs|
|Albuquerque (AAA)||1.365||.308/.371/.449, 4 HRs||.321/.383/.471, 2 HRs|
As you can see though, he’s produced well both at home and on the road, and he will continue to have a great hitting environment as long as he stays in the Rockies organization. A quick look at his batted ball data helps to understand where his power comes from! He combines an all fields approach that leans pull heavy (minor-league averages of 40.35% pull, 27.8% center, 31.8% Oppo) with a flyball-rate that has sat between the low-and-mid 30’s as a minor leaguer. It’s a similar distribution to someone like Washington Nationals SS Trea Turner (career 40.4% Pull%, 48.5% GB rate, and 32.% FB rate) who has reached double-digit HRs the last 3 years including 19 HRs last year. That means that while Hampson can go the other way on the ground for a base hit, he can also drop the barrel on the ball and drive the ball deep like this:
This first gif is a HR from May 25th while playing in AAA against RP Ryan Halstead of the San Francisco Giants organization who posted a 3.30 ERA with 55 strikeouts against 17 walks in 60 innings pitched between AA and AAA.
This 2nd gif was Hampson’s first career MLB hit, an RBI double off the wall against Arizona Diamondbacks SP Zack Godley. You can see in both gifs that Hampson utilizes a leg kick coming from an open batting stance, and it serves as both a timing mechanism and a weight transfer. That weight transfer looks to be pretty effective as he clearly stacks his weight well on his back leg at the time of pitch release. He then pushes forward, plants his front foot and then uncoils his built up momentum. I do notice though that some of that positive momentum is lost in both swings by his foot coming down a little early. If he was a true power hitter, I would be more concerned but Hampson is an all-fields hitter with terrific plate coverage. Him getting his foot getting down early allows him to let the ball travel deep into the zone which equates to better pitch-recognition, allows him to adjust to whatever pitch is coming and use the whole field in terms of contact. Despite the front foot perhaps coming down a little early, the gifs show that he has relevant power, and he’s clearly more than just a slap-hitting speedster type.
So now that we’ve established Hampson’s intriguing skill set, the question is where will he be able to find playing time in a potentially crowded Colorado Rockies middle infield? The Rockies have Trevor Story entrenched at SS and he’s not a free-agent until 2022, and top prospect Brendan Rodgers is getting close to the majors having reached AAA late last year. Now, 2B D.J. LeMahieu who has been the starting 2B for the Rockies since 2013 is a current free-agent and at this point, he seems unlikely to return given that the team did not offer him a qualifying offer and seem intent to save payroll for a potential 3B Nolan Arenado contract extension. That means that the 2B position is open and at this time, I would say Hampson is the early favorite for the gig. I’m not the only one either as RosterResource agrees listing Hampson as the current starter at the position.
Some may point to Brendan Rodgers as the first option for the 2B role, but Hampson advanced past Rodgers on the internal depth chart by out-performing him at both AA and AAA this year while also making a positive impression in the majors over a small sample filling in for an injured D.J. LeMahieu. Rodgers notably struggled in his small sample at AAA and I think it’s clear that he needs more time in the minors. The other contender for the 2B gig internally is Ryan McMahon who has bounced between AAA and the majors the last 2 years while struggling to solidify a full-time role for himself. McMahon notably struggled with contact this past year including a 31.7% strikeout rate at the major league level and a 25.2% mark at AAA, but it’s fair to note that he dealt with inconsistent playing time throughout the year. McMahon is also not a natural 2B as he entered pro-ball as a 3B with many projecting him to wind up at 1st base long-term. The Rockies introduced him to 2B in 2017 and he’s played 75.1 innings at the position in the majors over the last two years. He’s far from proven at the position though and Hampson is likely a better defensive option.
The other avenue to playing time for Hampson could be in a utility role! It’s been suggested by Rockies blogs Rox Pile and Purple Row that Hampson could get an opportunity in the OF, particularly in CF where his elite speed could play well. OF Charlie Blackmon is likely better off in a corner OF spot at this point as he graded poorly in CF this past year. With Blackmon in a corner OF position, that would open up playing time in CF for David Dahl but he’s graded fringey defensively at the position so far (to be fair, it’s a small sample of just 95 innings at the position over the last 2 years) and also had some platoon issues (.234/.258/.438 line with an elevated K rate against lefties in 2018 for a 68 wRC+). Additionally, OF Carlos Gonzalez may not be brought back and OF Gerardo Parra is assuredly not returning after the Rockies turned down their club option on him, both of which point to an increased role for someone like OF Raimel Tapia but he’s likely more of a RF candidate. So if Hampson can prove capable in the outfield, particularly in CF, the opportunity is there for a Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs sort of role where Hampson is able to get playing time across various positions. The Rockies actually had Hampson play some CF this past year as he racked up 74 innings at the position across AA, AAA, and the majors so it’s more than just a hypothetical scenario! The other benefit is that a utility role with OF responsibility for Hampson would also help keep a middle infield position open for top prospect Brendan Rodgers for when he’s ready to contribute at the major league level.
So while there are potential question marks on where he will find playing time, I think its clear that there is both an immediate opportunity and a long-term opportunity here for Hampson. Opportunity plus the intriguing skillset he brings could make him a great value both in dynasty/keeper leagues as well as redraft leagues. Just looking at 2019, Steamer projections are quite high on Hampson’s upcoming season outlook as they project a .291/.351/.416 batting line with 8 HRs and 25 SBs over 541 PAs. For reference, SS Amed Rosario of the New York Mets hit .256 last year with 9 HRs and 24 SBs and finished as the 13th ranked SS, and SS Jean Segura of the Seattle Mariners hit .304 with 10 HRs and 20 SBs and finished as the 6th ranked SS. That suggests that if Hampson simply produces to the level of his Steamer projection in 2019, he will be a starting caliber fantasy player. Note too that Steamer projections are notoriously conservative with prospect projections. Long-term, his combination of contact skills + power + speed could make Hampson a consistent fantasy monster in the mold of a Lorenzo Cain type at 2B/SS. With the potential of Coors Field helping him reach that level, I think he should be considered among the top 15 fantasy baseball prospects heading into 2019 and I suggest buying him where you can!