Fantasy Baseball can be a fickle game. In a world of instant gratification, if a young player does not hit the ground running and show immediate results, he is frequently discarded onto the trash heap and forgotten about. If said player is a well-regarded prospect, he will probably get picked up a few more times by hopeful owners, but ultimately performance is king and he’ll land back on the waiver wire. It happens all the time. There are opportunities to snag players once they have failed to meet previous expectations. We are seeing what Jurickson Profar can do now that he is healthy and getting regular at-bats at the major league level. He can be a game-changer both for the Rangers and Fantasy owners, just as long as he stays at the top of that lineup. One of my favorite post-hype prospects was Gregory Polanco, who was billed as a potential superstar three years ago. Patience has paid off and we are finally seeing what he is capable of in 2016. If he played more than a few times a week, Javier Baez could be on this list. Unless he becomes a regular this year due to another Cub injury, Baez is a leader for a 2017 breakthrough. It is time to consider acquiring these five players, whose hype train has already passed through the station.
- Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B, Twins – Nunez was billed as the future of the Yankees infield earlier this decade, but things never materialized. He was more of a super utility type of player than one that would play every day. He showed good speed on the bases and the ability to hit for a decent average, but not much else in his profile suggested a future Fantasy star. Now in his third season with the Twins and playing regularly, Nunez has blossomed. He has popped 9 HRs and swiped 12 bases. He is within striking distance of career highs in just about every statistical category and we are only in mid-June. His success at the top of the order thus far is also promising, as he’s scored 24 runs in 122 at-bats when leading off. While he does not take many walks, he also strikes out very little. Expect the .330 average to drop (.352 BABIP currently), but a 15 HR / 25 SB season would not be a surprise at this point. That makes him a very valuable multi-position asset.
- Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians – Like fellow former top prospect Archie Bradley, Bauer has been taking a step forward lately in his performance after a few seasons of stagnating development. He has struggled with free passes and the long ball, allowing 79 Walks and 23 HRs in 30 starts last season alone. After starting this year in the bullpen for the Indians, Bauer has made eight consecutive starts. Over his last six outings, he has a 3.20 ERA, almost a strikeout per inning and opponents are hitting just .230 against him. He has gone at least six innings in all but one of those starts, another issue that he’s had in the past. His last start was a gem at Seattle, where he went 7 2/3rds with 1 ER and 10 Ks. Bauer’s recent success is going to have him back on the Fantasy radar in short order, so your window to acquire him is limited. Hopefully, he has found the consistency that has escaped him in the past. The talent has always been there for Bauer to develop into an above-average starter.
Steven Souza, OF, Rays – Last year, Souza was touted as a potential 20 HR / 20 SB candidate and that made him a very trendy sleeper selection. Injuries limited him to 110 games, but he did manage 16 HRs and 12 SBs, albeit with a .225 average. I am not suggesting Souza has changed much as a player from now until then, just that he is still very much a candidate for double-digit HRs and SBs if you can tolerate the average. He is getting a chance to play every day for the Rays and his power makes him a fine bench asset in shallow leagues and starter in 12-plus team formats. A .369 BABIP suggests his .252 average is going to drop. He is striking out at an alarming 40-percent rate, but that has been in line with his career numbers. His struggles in June (.161 average, 1 HR) mean he could be readily available on your waiver wire. Grab him if you need depth. It has only been a few games, but you should also keep an eye on Souza’s teammate, Desmond Jennings, who has been letting down Fantasy owners since 2011. He is hitting .476 with 2 HRs in June, showing signs of life for the first time in two years.
- Cameron Maybin, OF, Tigers – Maybin is the post-post hype sleeper poster child. A highly touted prep star, Maybin was drafted in the same class as Justin Upton and showed similar promise. While he never fulfilled his power potential, Maybin has at times been a useful Fantasy player. Now 29 years old and back where it all started (he was drafted by the Tigers 11 years ago), he’s off to a fast start. At his best, he will score a bunch of runs, swipe 20-plus bases and knock maybe 10 HRs. At 29 years old, we cannot expect much more development to his game, but being at the top of the Tigers lineup would certainly help his Fantasy cause.
- Brandon Finnegan, SP, Reds – The hype on Finnegan has been a small blip on the radar compared to the other players on this list. A lot of his buzz comes from the fact that he is the first player to pitch in the College World Series and MLB World Series in the same season. There is debate about whether his future is at the end of the bullpen, but the Reds are committed to giving him a chance in the rotation. That was enough to get the hard-throwing lefty drafted in most Fantasy leagues this year. Unfortunately, after a couple nice starts to open the season, his subsequent performance has gotten him dropped in many formats. He has gone at least 6 1/3rd innings in three of his last four, to the tune of a 2.60 ERA. Finnegan is still walking batters at a scary rate and the strikeouts have not been plentiful, but it is progress. And that is exactly what Finnegan is, a work in progress. He may ultimately end up as a high-leverage reliever where his stuff may play better in short stints. How he does the rest of this season will be very telling and while he is not worth rolling out on a regular basis just yet, you do need to keep tabs on his development.