So your Fantasy Football season is over. Congratulations or condolences, whichever is appropriate for you. Hopefully your favorite team is still alive in the playoffs. If so, as the immortal Carl Spackler says, “You got that going for you, which is nice.” Maybe you’re dabbling in one of the various playoff challenges out there, or engaging in the little bit of DFS left to play. Point is, after the hectic race that Fantasy Football is, if you’re like me you’re feeling a huge void in your life about right now.
The good news is that Fantasy Baseball is coming along at just the right time to fill that void. You may think January is too early to get started, but you probably have some catching up to do. Chances are you started getting prepared for football in late July or Early August. At that time baseball took a bit of a back seat. Maybe your Fantasy Baseball squad was disappointing and you needed the diversion. But even if your team was in the hunt, chances are you focused pretty much just on the players on your team and tuned out much of what was going down in MLB.
We’re here today to start fixing that. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be digging through second half stats, looking for breakout players that seem to have slipped through the cracks for many people. This isn’t one of those old Second Half Studs and Duds articles in which I tell you a player is going to dominate in 2017, just because they had a strong second half. Nope, I’m just highlighting players who stepped up their games that many people might have missed.
This week I’ll focus on NL hitters and we’ll go from there over the next few weeks. There are no elite players in this group and I’m not going to talk about the Trea Turners or Dansby Swansons of the world. They’ve gotten plenty of hype. The players I’ll hit on will be more under the radar types, you’ll be able to grab later in your drafts. You get the idea. Let’s get started.
Breakout Hitters of 2016’s Second Half
Keon Broxton, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Broxton got a little bit of sleeper play last spring, but he struggled early, batting just .125 in the first half and spending almost 50 games down in the minors. He came back later in the year and turned into the player we thought he could be. In 45 second-half games Broxton batted .294, stole 16 bases, and even popped eight homers. His 36.1 percent strikeout rate means he’ve very unlikely to keep a batting average much over .250, but 15 HRs and 30-plus SBs is a real possibility. Those are pretty solid numbers for your fifth outfielder or utility slot. The Brewers do have Lewis Brinson waiting in the wings, but if Broxton plays like he did in the second half, there’s plenty of room in the Milwaukee outfield.
2017 Recommendation: Draft Broxton in the last few rounds and you just might get an underrated multi-category contributor.
Adonis Garcia, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Garcia came up for a 58-game audition in 2015 and hit 10 home runs in just 191 at-bats, so he’s not new to the scene. He completely flopped in the first half of 2016, though, batting .152 in May, and .228 in June. Many people wrote wrote his 2015 debut as a sample-size induced aberration. Garcia then went off, batting .337 in July and finishing the second half off with a .293 mark and nine HRs. Unlike many young hitters, Garcia doesn’t strike out much (16.5K%), but he doesn’t walk much either (4.3 BB%). The Braves have been rumored to be pursuing several alternatives at third base, but as it stands now Garcia has absolutely no competition for his job. At 31 years old, Adonis Garcia is not your typical breakout, but it wouldn’t be out of line to expect close to 20 HRs, along with a .280-plus batting average.
2017 Recommendation: Third base is not the black hole it used to be, so Garcia may be limited to your utility slot or as an injury replacement in mixed leagues. Just kick him way down the ranks if you play in an OBP league.
Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Teammate Adam Duvall got all the Fantasy love for the Reds in 2016, but in the second half Schebler actually outplayed him. Schebler’s power was not real evident in 2016, but he did hit 28 home runs in Double-A back in 2014. Schebler may also be more of a platoon player due to a .195 average against lefties. There’s no real competition for the job in RF, so Schebler should see plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitching. The ballpark and an improving lineup give Schebler a real shot at 20 HRs with 75 or so RBIs and an average that won’t kill you.
2017 Recommendation: Schebler will definitely be scooped up in NL-Only leagues, but as a reserve pick in mixed leagues, you could snag a cheap 20-HR hitter with no real investment.
Jose Peraza, IF/OF, Cincinnati Reds
Yeah, some exciting things happened for the Reds in 2016’s second half. Peraza has been drawing prospect hype for quite awhile, but he’s still just 22 years old. After being traded twice in his young career, some of the hype died down, but his second half last year will probably get that going again by the time we draft. Peraza has no real power. His game is all speed, with a high of 64 stolen bases in 2013 Single-A for the Braves. Peraza also has no clear path to a full-time job after Brandon Phillips refused to be traded yet again. This may actually be a good thing as it will keep many Fantasy owners off his track. He should still exceed 500 plate appearances, and if he does, 30-plus stolen bases is almost a given.
2017 Recommendation: As with all players, Peraza’s real value is tied to the investment it requires to roster him. If he slides to the later rounds in your league, then you just got one of the better stolen base options in the National League. If he’s named a starter before then, he may actually get overvalued. Peraza will have real value, just don’t reach too early for a one dimensional player.
Freddy Galvis, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Twenty homers? Did I read that right? Yes, somehow this career backup middle infielder with a previous high of six, popped 20 long balls last year, with 12 of them coming after the All-Star Break. Shortstop is not as thin as it has been over the last few years, but you’d take those 20 dongs at your middle infield slot wouldn’t you? Now don’t get too excited. Galvis is very unlikely to do that again and he’s a bit of a weight in the batting average category. In mixed leagues, he’s nothing more than an injury replacement or reserve round option, but if you play in NL-Only leagues, he’ll be a cheap option that could be a cheap source of 15-plus HRs.
2017 Recommendation: There’s no reason to draft Galvis in typical mixed leagues, but a late selection in deeper formats could pay off.
Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves
Inciarte doesn’t really fit the mold of these other breakout hitters. After all it was just in 2015 that he batted .303 with 21 stolen bases in 132 games for the D’Backs. This is just a reminder that’s he’s still a nice player. Some of you might need the reminder, because in the first half of 2016 Inciarte batted just .227 and missed time with several leg issues. Many people gave up on him at that point. He went on to hit a scorching .341 after the break and looked a lot like the Inciarte of 2015. Inciarte has no real platoon splits and plays great defense, so his job is very secure. The only real concern is the lack of stolen bases. Over the past two seasons he’s been thrown out in 17 of 54 attempts.
2017 Recommendation: There’s no doubting Inciarte is a very good player in real-life baseball. If he doesn’t run much, though, his value takes a nosedive in Fantasy. Draft him as a fourth or fifth outfielder and you’ll be pleased.
Tony Wolters, C, Colorado Rockies
Frequent injuries and days off make many of us very hesitant to spend a high draft pick on catchers. So if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, there’s no better place to look than Colorado. Wolters is never going to hit for much power, even in Coors, but he did show in the second half of 2016, that he can hit for a decent average, and in full-time duty could give you double digit steals. As an added bonus Wolters might give you a little extra position flexibility. He player seven games at second base and even three games at shortstop last season.
2017 Recommendation: If you’re going to wait on your second catcher, you’re in danger of drafting a hitter who will actually hurt you. Coors makes Wolters a safe play with the possibility of a few sneaky steals.
The breakout hitters above aren’t going to carry your Fantasy team, but they will come cheap and allow you to invest more in other places. Getting production out of your end game is usually what ends up winning you Fantasy Baseball leagues. Next week we’ll dig into the American League, where the second half breakout hitters offer a little more sizzle.