Let’s look at some post-hype sleepers — the guys we waited for so eagerly once upon a time before they were here and now that they’re here we barely care anymore. Can these players provide the return once expected of them at a fraction of what we once believed would be their cost?
For context, I’m noting where each player was taken in Thursday’s Yahoo Friends and Family fantasy baseball draft (15 teams, 26 rounds).
Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs, Outfielder (152nd):
Amazing that neither I nor Andy Behrens, who hilariously said he’s driving the Schwarber bandwagon “through the gates of hell,” grabbed Schwarber. Yes, he’s lost his catcher eligibility. But for all his trouble last year, he hit 30 bombs and could easily blast 40 still. His Inside Edge well-hit rate was .178, above average. He needs to cut down his stroke with two strikes since a 420-foot homer is just as good as a 450-foot one. Maybe he figures that out; he’s been seemingly eager to get his career on track given his significant weight loss. He is a bad fielder and there is competition for playing time. I reject the platoon certainty (will definitely sit vs. lefties, we’re told) because lefty-vs.-lefty stats never reach critical mass. He could pull a 2017 Michael Conforto and blast a couple of bombs against lefties and get 10 straight starts vs. them. I’m in on Schwarber near this price.
Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers, Outfielder (163rd):
There’s nothing especially good or bad about his stat report card. He’s not even 23 yet. But he made zero progress last year in the foundational stats, though he knocked in 101 runs for the Rangers. It’s unlikely his power helps you and he has no speed. It could all come together and he can emerge as a true No. 3 hitter — a .300-95-25-100 player. But I just don’t see it. Had he showed either contact or power gains last year, I’d be in. I’m out.
Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers, Shortstop (165th):
The big worry here is batting 8th in the National League. Arcia’s scouting comp once upon a time was Francisco Lindor. He’s 23. Last year the isolated power was .130 and you’d hope for a jump to .160 or so, which would mean about 18-20 homers. He’s 22-for-29 stealing (but just 14-for-21 last year). So 20-20 is possible. He needs to get out of the bottom of the lineup and near the top, which is going to be tough. The key stat is walk rate, but there was no growth last year and it has to get up to about 10% (from 6.6%). Don’t knowingly draft No. 8 hitters in mixed leagues. Out.
Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitcher (196th):
I can get behind this. Yes, he limped along last year. But he did not collapse. He is 26 so it’s probably now or never, meaning the leap from middle-rotation to top-of-rotation. A bet on Taillon is a bet on velocity: 95.3 mph on average with the fastball last year. But he has to lift that swinging strike rate from 8.2% to about double digits — unlikely but possible and worth a spin at the roulette wheel at this cost.
Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners, Catcher (200th):
Power from your catcher is nice and Zunino is big-time with that tool. He also struggles mightily to make contact so you have to make sure you can cover a subpar batting average. As Scott Pianowski always says our podcast, all the power in the game doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about it — it means you have to worry about it even more. Zunino provides certain power at a low-power spot. And the former high first-round pick is a great defensive catcher too.
Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs, Shortstop (209th):
If it was going to happen for Russell, it probably would have happened by now. It’s not age you’re looking at, it’s experience. I made that mistake years ago with Jay Bruce: “Look what he’s done and now the age 26 and 27 seasons are coming!” No. His caked was baked. So is Russell’s, at least that’s my bet.
Amed Rosario, New York Mets, Shortstop (210th):
You don’t see Inside Edge “‘Fs” much for Plate Discipline. But that’s where we were with Rosario last year. This was a top-five prospect who played in the majors last year at 21. He actually showed decent power and stole seven bags in 46 games, more impressive when your OBP is only .271. It’s more likely he hits higher in the lineup than Arcia does, because the Mets see Rosario as a future offensive cornerstone. He gives you the chance for a 15-25 HR-SB combo. The power is real according to everyone who has seen him take batting practice. Maybe Rosario is all tools, no toolbox. But, again, this is a free roll.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, Pitcher (261st):
I’m surprised he fell this far. I think you’ll have to be prepared to pay a much higher price. Everyone gives you the old, “Good pick!” when you grab Bundy. The league, team, division and park are not good. So the headwind is in your face versus say, Taillon. While Bundy is theoretically cheaper, he is a fly ball pitcher in a homer park in a homer era with homer balls. If you like Bundy, you can just pick him up at some point when he’s cut because he not at a level where he’s going to start the season without hiccups.