How real is…? Breakout stars of 2012: hitters

Jason Kipnis, 2B:

The toast of fantasy owners everywhere, Jason Kipnis is arguably the biggest breakout star this season. With him hitting for more value than 90 percent-plus of the league’s outfielders, while playing among the scarcity of second base, you can make the case that Kipnis has been the most valuable player in fantasy this season.

He’s always had the power and he’s always had the speed—but he’s only now had the big league opportunity. I expect the runs, RBIs and steals to slow down a bit from here on out, but it doesn’t matter—he’s a stud and in the discussion as the best second baseman in the major leagues.

Ask yourself: who would you rather have? Other than Robinson Cano, and Ian Kinsler… who would you rather have? Pedroia? Uggla? I’m taking Kipnis. If you have one of Cano or Kinsler, I’d think long and hard about a package deal where I pick up Kipnis and an above average player somewhere else. If I had Dustin Pedroia—definitely Dan Uggla—I might offer him straight up.

There’s great value coming the rest of the way, among the best at the position. Scaled to 150 games played: 86.7 R, 25.0 HR, 96.4 RBI, 23 SB, .2808 AVG and 4.712 points above average.

Skinny: 4.712 points above average, Top three second baseman

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B:

I feel bad about writing off Encarnacion earlier this year. I really do. To his credit, before this season, he has flashed the potential to be a league average third baseman if he could ever put health and skill together at the same time.

But this?

Taking a close look, it doesn’t seem all that ridiculous. Other than the power spike (and a few extra steals), he hasn’t done anything that’s that far outside his reach. The usual suspects, BABIP and K-rate, don’t yield any red flags, and everything else is seems reasonable.

But when a home run spike is at the heart of a breakout, you have to approach it with caution.

With power hitting, it’s always difficult to say what is real and what is fake. There’s a reason why scouts say it is the hardest tool to project. Without an established record of power hitting, it’s almost impossible to say without watching the games (unfortunately, I live outside the Toronto market). And, even then, it’s still very uncertain one way or the other. Nevertheless, a sharp increase in fly balls and a decrease in Z-Contact percentage may indicate that there is some intent behind this pattern—perhaps yielding some contact for more power.

For the near future, I would encourage taking the cautiously-optimistic approach. Everything hinges on the power right now and there’s a considerable amount of risk involved in depending on a player like this. At the very least, he’s got a very good flyball rate, but without the power, he’s not much different than the old Edwin Encarnacion—and no one seemed to want any part of him.

If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got a great chance to continue being a big surprise at the hot corner. I see a drop coming in each category, but I do think he holds on to some of his gains in the power department. All in all, he’ll be a value contributor and above average third baseman the rest of the way.

Projected to 150 games played: 82.7 R, 30.5 HR, 93.9 RBI, 11 SB, .2570 AVG, and 2.586 points above average. Enjoy!

Skinny: 2.586 points above average; Top 5-10 fantasy third baseman

Josh Reddick, OF:

Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, Reddick’s breakout came one year too late. They could really use his help in the outfield.

But here he is… and what an interesting player he has become. Long touted as a moderate power-speed combo, he has never been able to put it together at the big league level. After two disappointing big league stints in 2009 and 2010, though, he did show signs of improvement during 87 games in 2011.

Fortunately for Reddick, those improvements have carried over to this season—and then some. His power numbers are way up, he’s showing off his speed, and he’s being rewarded with full-time at-bats.

Like Encarnacion, Reddick’s value is at the mercy of that ever-enigmatic power spike. But, also like Encarnacion, he’s bought himself some leeway with an above average flyball rate.

Overall, I like what I see in Reddick: he puts the ball in the air, he’s got reasonably good contact skills, and he likes to hack (regular readers know full well of my affinity for hacking fantasy players). Batting in Oakland won’t do him any favors, but there’s a lot of potential here.

Projected to 150 games played: 82.6 R, 32.7 HR, 103.1 RBI, 12 SB, .2791 AVG, and 4.152 points above average. Am I surprised the power projections are this high? Yes. But hey, that’s what the model says and I won’t lie to you about that. I think he’s a stud in the making—and its not too late to pick him up via trade for a reasonable price.

Skinny: 4.152 points above average; Top 15 fantasy outfielder

Mike Trout, OF:

After stumbling in a brief trial last season, the All-Everything prospect is lighting the world on fire through 41 games.

It doesn’t take a lot to see that he’s going to slow down soon: his frenetic .405 BABIP is far beyond any sustainable limit and there’s the problem with the… wait a second, that’s about it. Everything else seems, well, reasonable. Nothing else about him hints at a fluke.

The power numbers aren’t out of line with his career norms, and he’s always been lauded for his speed. He’s also hitting at the top of the order—perfect for a volume guy like Trout, who contributes in all counting categories.

In short, I love what I’m seeing out of Trout: great speed, decent power, and hitting at the top of the order. I think its fair to say he’s going to be a star for the remainder of the year, even if his BABIP takes a big hit. He’s still new enough where you may be able to dangle an established player and steal him away from an unsuspecting owner.

Prorated to 150 GP: 109.5 R, 23.0 HR, 73.1 RBI, 48.3 SB, .3008 AVG, and 7.200 points above average

The numbers are eye-popping, but when you add up all the pieces—power, speed, contact ability, plenty of plate appearances—you have the consummate fantasy outfielder. Congratulations, Mike Trout owners: you’ve just inherited a bona fide No. 1 outfielder.

Skinny: 7.200 points above average; Top five fantasy outfielder

Bryce Harper, OF

The wunderkind, Mr. Everything, Savior of Washington—whatever you want to call him, that’s what he is.

Like the others on this list, Harper has made his mark in a big way early on and has fantasy owners wowed with his exceptional talent and blue-chip pedigree.

Speaking frankly, I didn’t expect Harper to perform this well so soon upon his promotion to the bigs. In fact, I was almost sure Harper would fall flat on his face and get sent back to Triple-A within a month. After all, he hit just four home runs in his 229 plate appearances above Single-A. It just didn’t seem as though major league success was in the cards for Harper in 2012.

But, oh how wrong I was. 40 games later, Harper is beating back all doubters—forcing each one of us to admit that he’s a major league-ready hitter.

As for what he can do from here on out, I think he settles in as an above-average fantasy outfielder, but nothing exceptional. He’ll still showcase the power and speed he’s shown thus far, but his K-rate is going to rise and bring down his batting average to the low .270s.

If you can get value for him via trade, it’s the perfect time to deal him away in yearly leagues. He’s got all the earmarks of one of those “overachieving blue-chipper for struggling veteran” trade heists and I think the prudent owner will act accordingly.

Prorated to 150 GP: 97.7 R, 24.5 HR, 76.7 RBI, 14 SB, .2731 AVG, and 2.346 points above average

Skinny: 2.346 points above average; Top 25 fantasy outfielder

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Comments

  1. wynams said...

    On EE .. If you are only seeing minor power drops and have him only as a top 5-10 … Who are the 5 3B you expect to outproduce “Projected to 150 games played: 82.7 R, 30.5 HR, 93.9 RBI, 11 SB, .2570 AVG, and 2.586 points above average”?

  2. Mike Silver said...

    @Jules

    Those are some great picks. If the season ended today, I would have to take Trout and Kipnis. Miggy is about 1 points above his round 1 contemporaries; Braun is about 2 and Wright is 1-2 points (check FantasyPlayerRater.com for a further explanation).

    Kipnis, on the other hand, is closer to 3 points ahead of round 13 draftees, while Trout would probably be in the 6 point range.

    Based on relative value, I think you would have to go with Kipnis and Trout.

    @Wymans

    Off the top of my head, Miggy, Wright, and Bautista definitely and Longoria now returning to health. Beltre and Sandoval as well.

    The thing to consider is not necessarily that he is having “minor power drops” but rather he is having drops everywhere across the board. That will add up to a few points, placing him in the 5-10 range.

    -Mike

  3. gm said...

    I think u meant the numbers arent eye-popping. You said the numbers are eye-popping there. Makes no sense how you wrote it.

  4. Mike Silver said...

    @gm

    I guess that depends on how your interpret the sentence. The numbers are eye-popping.

    The next part of the sentence—which I assume is what you’re referencing—addresses how many people probably think its surprising that he rates out at 7.200 points and is in the top 5.

    Reading it again though, I suppose “and” instead of “but” could have been used.

    -Mike

  5. Mark Himmelstein said...

    While obviously no one saw E5 coming like this, I do think you’re selling his career thus far a bit short. He’s been a very good HITTER for a long time for any position other than 1B or DH, averaging around 23 homers per 600 plate appearances in his career without ever really playing a full season. That’s partly because of injuries, but parlty because he’s one of those rare players where defense held back his fantasy value. He was just such a bad natural third baseman that he didn’t play enough to really take full advantage of his bat, and his bat was merely good-not-great any further down the defensive spectrum.

    The Blue Jays weren’t initially a great situation for him when he he was traded since they were pretty loaded at 1B/DH, but now that Lind is gone they’re an almost perfect situation—they preach aggressive, fly ball hitting, they have a great park for right handed power, and they have openings at the two positions he can reasonably play every day (1B and DH). So really the only question that doesn’t apply to any other hitter that applies to Encarnacion right now is whether he can keep his fly ball rate so high. As evidenced by a HR/FB not so far above his career rate, he has enough power to offset the BABIP drop in trading line drives for fly balls. If he does legitimately hit 50% fly balls over a full year, the sudden threat he’s putting on 30 HR shouldn’t be so surprising. He’ll likely do it with a BABIP between .260 and .280, but home runs count as hits too and contact has never been an issue for him and hasn’t become one either, so his average should as least be tolerable.

    Also, agree 100% on Trout and Harper. Trout’s an immediate stud, possibly a true #1 outfielder, while Harper’s more on the border of a #2/3 outfielder.

  6. philosofool said...

    Not sure I see the .300 BA from Mike Trout RoS. Giving him his current HR/AB and K/AB and a .330 BABIP, he’s a .282 hitter. Oliver has him at .286 and ZiPS at .278.

    .330 is a reasonable number for Trout’s BABIP at this point; you can’t take a rookie hitter and project him to have a BABIP talent like Ichiro or Jeter. Many guys similar to Trout, e.g., Grady Sizermore, have BABIPs much lower through their careers.

    I’m picking nits. Maybe he’s only a top 10 OF? I’ll take it (though someone in a league recently told me that he’s untouchable.)

  7. Mike Silver said...

    @philosofool

    The .300 batting average was projected using a .330 BABIP, actually.

    ZIPS has Trout at 9 HR over his next 385 PA with a 20% K-rate. He’s got more power than those 9 HR and his plate discipline profile projects better than a 20% K-rate (I don’t remember what I calculated when I wrote the article, but it was somewhere in the mid-high teens.)

    Those gains together can boost that average 15-20 points and get him over the .300 mark.

  8. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    Wow, another player for the Blue Jays suddenly goes from zero to hero in homers.  What are the odds?

  9. Matt said...

    Where’s Adam Jones? Love Trout and Harper, but rookie seasons don’t count at breakouts IMO.

    Adam Jones
    ZIPs ROS totals
    35 HRs, 100 Runs, 92 RBI, 17 SB, .293

    These look like breakout #‘s to me…

  10. Andrew said...

    In regards to Trout and Harper…are you saying your view is that Trout is a Top 5 Outfielder for his career or just this season?  And Harper’s ceiling is a top 20? That doesnt seem right…

  11. philosofool said...

    I think that’s just a 2012 comparison. If Harper makes his ZiPS RoS projection, he’s basically the best teenage hitter since integration, and that portends an insane career.

    The projections in this article are the basis of the rankings given, and those projections are mean projections of the RoS.

    Harper’s career ceiling is somewhere between Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds.

    It’s not crazy to think that Trout and Harper are first rounders starting in 2014.

  12. Mike Silver said...

    @Andrew/Philosofool

    Philosophool is right, its the 2012 comp. Trout is incredibly good now, Harper is pretty good but not great… for now.

  13. bsball said...

    Hey Matt,

    For Adam Jones notes see Traders corner from 2 days ago. The short version is that HR and SB in 2012 are not real. Expect 2nd half to look more like 2011. Still good, but not 1st round.

    I would add that he’s batting 4th this year so expect a few more R this year than 2011.

  14. Jules said...

    Hi, Mike
    lucky me, having trout and kipnis. but i have a dilemma. our (10×10 OPS) league settings for next year will allow us to have 2 keepers – and to draft them, for one year only, in the round we drafted them this year. our 12-team snake is likely to give me the 12th pick….so, pick 2 from cabrera (R1, pick 12); braun (R2, pick 13); wright (R3, pick 36); kipnis (R13, pick 156); trout (R19, pick 228). thanks,
    Jules

  15. jhon said...

    you’ll have a hard time finding any equal value at any of those picks… both braun and cabrera are top 5 picks.. wright top 15…

    I think trout is a top 15 pick and and kipnis top 20…

    I’d have to go with kipnis and trout… top 20 performers at picks 156 and 228.

  16. MikeEl said...

    Two things,
    First how real is Chris Davis? Will he have 3b eligibility beyond this year?

    Also, in a 10 team league, with 6 x 6 scoring, only get to keep 3 players from Kinsler, Tulowitzki, Votto, Trout, McCutchen, and Darvish. I’m pretty sure I’m going to hold onto Tulo and Votto, but beyond that I’m not certain. I’ve had Kinsler the last 2 years, but I don’t know how much longer he’ll be at 2b, while I only expect Trout, McCutchen and Darvish to get better.

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