With a week left until the season starts, I thought it would be fun to engage the readers in lively, constructive fantasy debate. This series of articles will focus on low-risk, medium-reward $1 sleepers who could be a boon for stars-and-scrubs minded drafters and diamonds in the rough for active waiver-wire fishers. The goal of each article is to present a short, objective analysis of two players comparable in expected value. I hope this provides a chance for readers to debate in the comments below. I look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts!
Both players are having big springs, but neither is getting much attention outside of single-league format leagues. Hicks is not even in the top 1,000 players ranked on Yahoo (I suspect that will change in the coming days, with Hicks having locked down a full-time position with the Twins to open the season), and Brown is ranked just outside the top 250 by Yahoo. Despite the low rankings, both are arguably relevant in non-shallow mixed formats (12+ teams, four or more outfielders). The players, however, are vastly different.
Hicks is the younger player, and a top three organizational prospect in a system that boasts two promising top-100 overall prospects ranked ahead of him (third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Byon Buxton).
Now entering his age-23 season, Hicks started his minor league career young and was slow to develop. He played well in Double-A last season at age 22, batting .285/.382/.459 with 13 home runs and 32 steals. However, Double-A is the highest level of professional experience on Hicks’ resume, and he’s making the leap to the majors to open the season. That jump is pretty substantial for a non-pitcher prospect who is near-universally ranked outside the top 50 entering the 2013 season.
Hicks’ biggest strengths are his patience at the plate (career 14.8 percent minor league walk rate), speed and defense. He also has good gap power and should be able to post a double-digits home run season over a full season of at-bats—an increasingly rare attribute of players with 30+ stolen base upside. His minuses are a relatively high strikeout rate for his power level (career 20.1 percent in the minors), and below average, but improving, contact skills. Hicks could be an underrated major league staple with a prime time ceiling akin to Shane Victorino. But is he ready for The Show now, and might a level jump hurt his development?
Brown is no stranger to the prospect tag himself. Once ranked among baseball’s brightest up-and-coming hitters, Brown has stumbled his way into post-hype obscurity over the past three years. Once a perceived 20-20 threat I compared, in terms of potential long-term fantasy value, to Shin-Soo Choo, Brown owns a career .236/.315/.388 triple slash line with 12 home runs and three net steals over 492 major league plate appearances. That makes him look more like a Ben Francisco wannabe.
Now he’s 25 years old, and the Phillies’ expectations of Brown have mellowed. However, a monstrous spring training seemingly has pushed the Phillies to hand Brown an everyday gig in the outfield. What is different this year, and should we buy into numbers that are traditionally to be taken with a grain of salt?
If Brown’s post-hype spring numbers are legit, he should be a threat to post a slightly below-average batting average with 15- to 20-home run power and double-digit steal upside. He’ll likely bat in the upper part of the bottom of the Phillies lineup, which should make for good RBI opportunities but minimal runs scored. That makes Brown a potential three-category player.
However, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the quality of pitching that Brown has faced overall this spring ranks somewhere below Quadruple-A. Once he is consistently matched up against major league talent, which Brown will we ultimately see at the plate?
Time for you to chime in. Who would you rather have this season in re-draft leagues: Domonic Brown or Aaron Hicks? Check out the stats below and post your comments!
|Aaron Hicks 2012 (AA)||563||0.285||0.382||0.459||13||32||100||61|
|Aaron Hicks 2013 Oliver||584||0.242||0.322||0.391||13||18||72||57|
|Aaron Hicks 2013 Spring||68||0.350||0.397||0.650||4||3||16||16|
|Domonic Brown 2012 (AAA)||220||0.286||0.335||0.432||5||4||33||28|
|Domonic Brown 2013 Oliver||482||0.262||0.332||0.427||14||9||59||58|
|Domonic Brown 2013 Spring||84||0.368||0.429||0.671||7||0||22||16|