As Derek announced yesterday, this is All-Star week at THT Fantasy. Yesterday, Troy listed his “bargain” players for the second half. Today, I’m focusing on batters I believe have the potential to seemingly come out of nowhere to become fantasy studs in the second half.
I’m taking a high-risk approach here. These players might hit it big. They also could produce close to zero value. I have two basic criteria:
1) Identify batters who are owned in less than 25 percent of leagues currently.
2) Identify batters who have the potential to be owned in more than 75 percent of leagues by the end of the season.
So here we go:
Catcher: Chris Snyder
Since 2007, among catchers with at least 600 at-bats, only three catchers in baseball have better HR-to-AB ratios than Chris Snyder. The three catchers? Brian McCann, Geovany Soto, and Mike Napoli. Snyder always has had the sneaky ability to put up good power numbers, and he combines this skill with improving plate discipline. His current average isn’t great, but peripherals show he’s gotten a little unlucky on balls hit into play. Snyder’s biggest block to great value is teammate Miguel Montero, who also deserves consideration as a catcher who could see a giant leap in value with more playing time. Others we’d watch for sneaky value include David Ross in Atlanta, Ramon Castro in Chicago, and Jeff Clement in Seattle.
1B: Justin Smoak
Last week, Baseball America rated Justin Smoak the fourth-best prospect in baseball. What’s astounding about this is Smoak’s position—first base. Typically, scouting services like BA take defensive value into account and, as a result, rarely give prospects who play the defensively limited position of first base much thrift. For example, when Joey Votto came into the majors, he never made it past No. 44 despite the big bat. Smoak’s killer bat projects to do damage whenever he gets a chance in the majors, and thanks to the recent demotion of Chris Davis, and a surprisingly competitive Rangers ballclub, that opportunity could come quite soon. One of the best hitting prospects in baseball in Texas? Sign us up.
2B: Eric Young
At the Futures Game this past weekend, Eric Young astonished onlookers by hitting a home run. Young is not expected to provide much power whenever Colorado calls him up, but he will provide speed. A ton of it. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Young may have a season in the majors where he puts up 100 stolen bases. In the past three and a half seasons in the minors, Young has swiped an astonishing 254 bags. What separates Young from most speedsters his age is very good plate recognition. Young knows the value of putting the ball in play and taking walks. The semi-reappearance of Clint Barmes temporarily blocks Young’s ascension in Colorado, but everyone expects Young to arrive quite soon. He’ll be the hottest commodity on the waiver wire when that happens.
SS: Ty Wigginton
Wigginton doesn’t qualify at shortstop. Yet. But he’s gotten seven games at the position and Orioles manager Dave Trembley has been getting more comfortable with sticking Ty at shortstop in recent weeks. Should Wigginton land a job as the everyday Orioles shortstop, he’d be a hot commodity in fantasy leagues. After all, how many shortstops have averaged 23 home runs a year like Wigginton has in the past three years? Just Hanley Ramirez.
3B: Troy Glaus
OK, you’ve heard of Troy Glaus. Still, the Cardinals 3B is owned in less than 15 percent of leagues and is reportedly set to begin a rehab stint. Recall that only a year ago, Glaus hit 28 home runs and 99 RBI. He’s coming off a shoulder injury so we can’t finger certain second half breakout value but if we’re talking high upside, you can’t beat a player who has routinely knocked the stuffing out of the ball while maintaining a very good approach at the plate. We were also tempted to give this slot to Chris Shelton, recently called up in Seattle, because hey, you never know.
OF: David Murphy
The summer weather at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a hospitable environment for fantasy value. Especially for a 27-year-old outfielder who has flashed decent power and speed since arriving there last year. The Rangers outfield is always a tad crowded, so we can’t guarantee Murphy’s playing time. But as a left-handed bat who is hitting .300 against right-handed pitching this season, we see opportunity for Murphy to potentially shine. Since May 1, Murphy also leads the Rangers ballclub in OPS and contributed a handful of steals to boot.
OF: Nate Schierholz
One recent development that many fantasy pundits have seemingly overlooked has been Nate Schierholz winning Fred Lewis’ former job in the San Francisco outfield. Where has the buzz gone on this potential 20-15-.300 player who was touted as being a sleeper coming into the season? Currently, Schierholz is hitting a very respectable .288 with three home runs and two steals in 160 at-bats. Schierholz is hitting right in the middle of the lineup and, at 25 years old, has the potential to grow.
OF: Jonny Gomes
Jay Bruce was knocked out of action this past weekend for up to two months with a fractured wrist. This news opens the door for someone in Cincinnati’s outfield. Who? Right now, the smart money seems to be on Chris Dickerson, but we’ve always had a small thing for his teammate Gomes, who never got the chance he deserved in Tampa. Look at Gomes’ career numbers and you’ll see a batter who would be projected to hit 30 HR if given 500 at-bats. Gomes also takes his share of walks. Call him a cross between Adam Dunn and Russell Branyon, and if given some playing time in Cincy, he could put up eye-popping value in a short time frame.