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Prospect Fatigue: Post-Hype Players to Target

Post-hype players you should keep in mind for 2022.

In the fantasy community, prospect fatigue is a contagious disease that causes managers to vastly underrate players year after year simply because the luster of a former top prospect has worn off. It is the reason why former can’t-miss pitching prospect Lucas Giolito went undrafted in leagues in 2019 (437 ADP) only to be a top starting pitcher. Players like Kyle Tucker (2019 ADP: 291) and Tyler O’Neill (2021 ADP: 359) became fantasy superstars only when their names stopped appearing on fantasy prospects and sleeper lists. There are countless more cases of “post-hype” players taking off once they are written off by the industry. There is a clear market inefficiency due to this and value to be had by targeting these players that the industry and fantasy managers alike may be “sick” of.  All ADP data courtesy NFBC, from January 1 drafts on.

 

Jo Adell

ADP: 231

 

In 2019, Jo Adell was one of the top prospects in baseball. Two years later, after just 272 Major League plate appearances, Adell is being drafted as an OF4 and is an afterthought in most drafts. It is easy to forget that the Angels’ 2017 first-round pick was consistently far better than league average while being one of the youngest players at each level. He posted a 173 wRC+ as a 20-year-old in AA in 2019 while striking out just 22.5% of the time and walking at a solid rate of 10.4%.

After getting the call in August of the shortened 2020 season, the former University of Louisville commit fell flat in his first taste of the big leagues. He struck out over 40% of the time while batting just .161/.212/.266 in his first 132 plate appearances. That small sample seemed to be enough to extinguish all hype around the 22-year-old. Despite showing gains in AAA in 2021- he hit 23 homers in 339 plate appearances with a .302 ISO- as well as the major league level, where he reduced his K-rate to just 23%, the market seems to be out or indifferent at best on Adell. Don’t forget about him as an affordable OF option this season, as he seems very ready for his breakout.

 

Brandon Marsh

ADP: 378

 

We don’t have to go very far to find another post-hype player to keep on your radar. Brandon Marsh never got quite as much hype as his teammate Adell, but there certainly was a good amount of excitement when he got the call last year. Usually, when a top prospect player is promoted and disappointed, even in a small sample like the player next on this list, he is written off far too quickly. That wasn’t exactly the case with Marsh.

Despite an early-season shoulder that limited him to just 25 Triple-A games, Marsh actually performed well in his brief time in the majors last season, yet he is still being seemingly forgotten. Marsh had a very good barrel rate (10.9%), was in the 86th percentile for Max Exit Velocity, was 37th in the majors in FB/LD EV (min 100 batted ball events), and had a staggering 51.7% hard-hit percentage. Sure, the strikeout rate was high at 35%, but he hovered around 27% in the minors, so that should improve given more major-league reps. As a cherry on top, Marsh has elite sprint speed – 95th percentile to be exact- and stole bases with good success rates in the minors.

 

Vidal Bruján

ADP: 346

 

As mentioned before, nothing takes the shine off of a top prospect like a disappointing short sample in the big leagues. If Vidal Bruján did not appear in 10 MLB games last year how much higher would he be going in drafts? I am willing to bet at least 100 picks given the eye-popping numbers he has put up at every stop in the minors.

Are 26 plate appearances going to prevent stop us from drafting one of the most prolific base stealers in the minors over the last three seasons? In this stolen base economy? On top of the potentially league-winning speed, the Rays prized prospect has always shown elite plate discipline never striking out more than 15.4% of the time at any stop in the minors while consistently posting double-digit walk rates.

Vidal’s SBs and Plate Skills—Minor Leagues

There have been rumblings (read: Yancy Eaton speculation) about the Rays potentially trading Bruján due to their overcrowded infield (and outfield for that matter) but that would only help his value – the switch-hitter just turned 24 in February and has nothing left to prove in the minors. This could be the last time Bruján is taken anywhere outside of top rounds in drafts. I am buying at this cheap price anywhere I can.

 

Keston Hiura

ADP: 452

 

When you look up “post-hype sleeper” in the dictionary there is a picture of Keston Hiura. I have been very wrong on Hiura in the past, so it only makes sense for me to double down on it and recommend him again; however, this year it won’t cost you a high draft pick. There’s not much to this expert analysis other than “it can get worse, right?”. I know, I know that is the in-depth research you come to Pitcher List for, you can thank me later.

In all seriousness, Hiura went through some very traumatic off-the-field stuff last year, dealing with his mother’s cancer diagnosis in the middle of a pandemic, which prevented him from visiting her, all while trying to fix his very broken swing, on top of learning a new position. Hiura has been working on toning down his leg kick with his lifelong hitting coach Sean Thompson this offseason—something that he hopes will fix Hiura’s timing issues and trouble with high fastballs. If nothing else, Hiura was an elite hitter at every level, including the Majors in 2019, and I am willing to pay the extremely affordable price to see if there is a post-hype bounceback.

 

Jesús Luzardo

ADP: 291

 

Last season the hype around Jesús Luzardo was palpable. Being drafted as an SP2 around pick 100 was a popular move for fantasy managers after the hard-throwing lefty had an encouraging 59-inning showing in the shortened 2020 season. To say he disappointed would be the understatement of the year. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the former Oakland Athletic. On the field, he posted a disastrous 6.61 ERA in 95.1 innings with underlying numbers that were not much more encouraging than that. Off the field wasn’t great either, there was the video game incident that led to a broken pinkie and an IL-stint that basically was the last straw for most fantasy managers last year.

However, if you squint hard enough, there is some room for optimism here. After being traded to the Marlins, Luzardo’s pitch mix changed as he upped the usage on his curveball (42.1% Whiff%, 43% K%), and some of his better performances of the season were in South Beach, including an 11-strikeout performance in his final start of the year. The Marlins have done a great job developing young starting pitching, and Luzardo seems like a great post-hype bounce-back starter to target late in drafts.

 

Adbert Alzolay

ADP: 352

 

Adbert Alzolay was a target of mine late in drafts in 2021, and through the first two months of the season, it looked like an absolute steal and I was ready to take the much-maligned fantasy victory lap. The calendar then turned to June and everything went wrong for the Cubs’ young starter. He posted ERAs north of five in the subsequent three months and was relegated to the bullpen.

During that time in the bullpen, Alzolay may have unlocked the key to him becoming a fantasy-relevant starter once again: the cutter. Alzolay ditched his worst pitch by far, the sinker, in favor of the cutter which had some promising results and could be the fastball he needs. Alzolay makes a living off of a filthy breaking pitch, his slider (-8 run value, 36.1% K%) and a nasty offspeed pitch, his changeup (-4 run value, .212 xBA) so if the cutter and four-seam can be just average and he can find the right pitch mix, there is room for growth.

 

Mitch Keller

ADP: 570

 

By now, everyone has seen “The Mitch Keller Video”. For the uninitiated, Keller has been sitting around 97 mph at the private pitching facility Tread Athletics in Charlotte, NC, while routinely hitting 101 on the radar gun. After sitting around 94 mph with the heater the last two seasons with disastrous results, if any of these gains carry over to the field when real baseball starts Keller should be vastly improved. The former top-prospect had shown some intriguing secondaries in 2019 and 2020, but this newfound velocity could change everything and is well worth a shot as he is essentially free in drafts.

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Steve Gesuele

Steve Gesuele is a fantasy baseball enthusiast who has been playing since 2012. He takes pride in participating in his competitive home league- The League of Champions. He was the sports editor at Loyola University Maryland where he covered their men's basketball team and NCAA-champion men's lacrosse team. He is a die-hard New Jersey Devils fan currently residing in Hoboken, NJ.

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