We’re waiting, Brett…
Seemingly every season, fantasy baseball owners anxiously await the breakout of one of those guys that you just know have massive upside. Last year, we saw the likes of Chris Davis fulfill that long awaited drought of fantasy goodness, and boy, was it worth the wait? So, with that being said, Brett Lawrie has to be next.
At 24-years old, Lawrie has all of the potential in the world. Yes, that evil word, but it’s hard to find a more accurate one. During his first three seasons, Lawrie has belted just 31 home runs, is batting .269, has 119 RBI and 140 runs. Sadly, injuries have been in the way, as Lawrie’s reckless style of play has caused fantasy owners to shield their eyes at times, forcing him to the sideline. In three years, Lawrie has only suited up for 275 contests, failing to ever live up to the enormous hype. However, for the second straight season, Lawrie is one of my biggest sleepers for fantasy baseball. There is still a lot to like here, as during his final 70 games, Lawrie batted a solid .279 with with 14 doubles and six homers. He has immense upside and plays in a hitter friendly ballpark, which is always nice. In 2013, Rogers Centre saw the third-most home runs per game (1.289) and the 6th-most in 2011 (1.186). Lawrie, meanwhile, does have power that can translate to 25-30 home runs, and with a strong lineup around him, the RBI potential should be there. Of course, this is all barring injury. Consider Lawrie one of the biggest post-hype sleepers in baseball right now.
Now onto the others…
Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates: With MVP Andrew McCutchen next to him in the outfield, it was difficult for Marte to draw a lot of buzz, but in fantasy circles, people need to start talking. In 2013, this guy swiped a healthy 41 bags, which was the 3rd-most in the National League. It’s also worth noting that his impressive .363 BABIP was the fourth-highest among all outfielders last season, which means he is getting on base with his eye and skilled contact hitting, which is what you want out of your leadoff hitter. He posted a strong on-base percentage .343 last year, which resulted in a healthy 83 runs. When you are a guy getting on base that much and can steal 40 something bags, there is plenty of fantasy upside. And because outfield is so incredibly deep, I think Marte will be quite overlooked on draft day.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds: I’m getting incredibly excited to watch this young kid. After sitting behind Shin-S00 Choo in the Reds lineup, Hamilton will be thrust into the starting lineup, and his fantasy prospects are looking bright. In 13 starts last year, the Reds top prospect was strong, batting .368 with two doubles and an RBI. But of course, you are looking for steals from Hamilton. Look no further, as the guy swiped 13 bags in those 13 games, including four in his very first game as a pro. I mean, here’s a guy who set a record for steals during his time in the minors with 155 in one season. That is insane. The ballpark should do him justice, as Great American Ballpark saw the second-most home runs in 2013 and 2012. Hamilton will get on base plenty, could flirt with the league lead in steals, and with a strong lineup behind him at the leadoff spot, should score plenty of runs.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: Hosmer is on my love list for 2014, but I also label him as a sleeper, seeing how like outfield, first base is pretty darn deep. After vastly improving from 2012 to 2013, I expect Hosmer to continue to progress. Last year, he improved on his home run count, drove in more runs, and improved his average from .232 all the way to a strong .302. It helped that he improved his plate discipline, swinging at far less pitches landing outside of the strike zone. It seems that the 24-year old is starting to put it together, and at that age, hasn’t even come close to reaching his prime just yet, which excites me. And because he improved on his plate discipline, it resulted in less groundballs (16 percent less) and more home run opportunities. Because of his improvement, stolen base potential and upside, Hosmer could flirt with a top-five finish among the deep first base class in 2014.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.