Which hitters are poised to break out in 2019?

C Willians Astudillo / 27 years old / Minnesota Twins

In his mere 97 PAs last year, Astudillo had a .355 AVG and drove in 21 runs, also chipping in 3 HRs. Astudillo has significant power for a catcher (12 HRs in 307 AAA PAs). Perhaps Astudillo’s most polarizing trait is the aggressiveness he brings to every at bat, which leads to very few walks (2.1%) and strikeouts (3.1%). His stats (all stats in this article per FanGraphs) below illustrate his aforementioned assertiveness at the plate…

  • Contact%: 91.7 (1st among hitters with at least 80 PAs)
  • SwStr%: 4.7 (10th)
  • Z-Contact% (% of the time he makes contact with pitches in the strike zone): 96.7 (2nd)
  • O-Contact%: 85.7 (1st)
  • Swing%: 56.2 (20th)
  • Z-Swing%: 76.5 (37th)
  • O-Swing%: 42.8 (17th)

Another appealing aspect of Astudillo’s profile is his ability to play multiple positions. He spent the majority of his time at AAA behind the dish, but Astudillo also played 28 games at 3B.

The path to playing time is by no means wide open, but Astudillo is bound to get a fair share of ABs with Jason Castro set to return from a knee surgery that cost him virtually all of last year.

Astudillo (288th overall according to Fantasy Pros) is better value than Jorge Alfaro (231) and Francisco Mejia (232)

1B Jake Bauers / 23 years old / Cleveland Indians

During the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Bauers was traded from the Rays to the Indians. Heading into the season, Bauers is presumably the starting 1B with Carlos Santana being the likely DH. Jake Bauers has some positional flexibility, having the ability to play RF and LF. In 96 games last year (just short of 400 PAs), Bauers hit for solid power (11 HRs and 22 2Bs), stole a few bases (6), and exhibited the ability to walk at a high rate (13.9%); however, he hit for a low average (.201) and struck out on a regular basis (26.8%). A low BABIP (.252) indicates Bauers was misfortunate to some extent last season. His BABIP in 52 AAA games (in 2018) was .345 and his BABIP in 132 AAA games the year prior (2017) was .314. Bauers’ combination of power and patience make him a good buy-low candidate for 2019.

Bauers (247) is better value than Jesus Aguilar (81), Ian Desmond (140), and Luke Voit (189)

2B Rougned Odor / 25 years old / Texas Rangers

After a disappointing 1st half (beginning of the season until the All-Star break) in which he hit for a .239 AVG and slugged just 6 HRs in 67 games, Odor bounced back in a big way, as conveyed by his 2nd half numbers (which can be seen below)…

  • AVG: .266 (17th among 2B with at least 150 PAs)
  • OBP: .333 (16th)
  • SB: 7 (7th)
  • HR: 12 (2nd)
  • RBI: 39 (2nd)

If Odor can carry over his stellar 2nd half performance into next season, he is a top 10 2B in all formats.

Odor (146) is better value (and player) than Dee Gordon (93) and Jonathan Villar (105)

SS Amed Rosario / 23 years old / New York Mets

In Rosario’s first full season in the bigs, he swiped 24 bags, hit for a .256 AVG, and added 9 HRs. His plate discipline undoubtedly improved tremendously after a poor showing down the stretch in 2017 (46 games), though it is still a work in progress…

2017

BB rate: 1.8%

K rate: 28.8%

O-Swing%: 48.1

Z-Swing%: 63.9

O-Contact%: 56.4

Z-Contact%: 75.9

Contact%: 67.3

SwStr%: 18.1

2018

BB rate: 4.9%

K rate: 20.1%

O-Swing%: 41.2

Z-Swing%: 69.4

O-Contact%: 63.6

Z-Contact%: 85.1

Contact%: 76.0

SwStr%: 12.8

Rosario finished the seasons strong, hitting .283 down the stretch (his final 28 games). If Rosario can maintain his average between .265-75, he will surely be a valuable asset (don’t forget about his super speed).

Rosario (148) is better value (and player) than Tim Anderson (122)

3B/UTL Johan Camargo / 25 years old / Atlanta Braves

Camargo played very well last season for the Braves (.272 AVG; .349 OBP, 19 HRs, and 76 RBIs), especially in the 2nd half (post-All-Star break)…

  • HR: 10 (12th among 2B with at least 200 PAs)
  • RBI: 37 (9th)
  • AVG: .295 (5th)
  • OBP: .353 (8th)

The signing of star 3B Josh Donaldson does complicate things to some degree, but Camargo will still receive decent playing time, likely in a utility role (similar to that of Martin Gonzalez) according to David O’Brien of The Athletic.

Camargo (294) is better value (and player) than Eduardo Escobar (166)

RF Stephen Piscotty / 28 years old / Oakland Athletics

Piscotty had a solid season in his 1st year with the A’s. He hit for a .267 AVG, slugged 27 HR, and drove in 88 runs. Piscotty barely missed a beat (151 games played). He performed his best down the stretch (post-All-Star break)…

  • AVG: .272 (13th among RFs with at least 200 PAs)
  • HRs: 15 (3rd)
  • RBIs: 42 (3rd)

You can count on Piscotty to drive in 80+ runs and hit 25+ HRs once again in 2019 (his AVG might be a little bit higher).

Piscotty (147) is better value than David Dahl (92), Max Muncy (104), and Wil Myers (107)

CF Tommy Pham / 31 years old / Tampa Bay Rays

Despite hitting more LDs (2018 LD rate: 23.9% vs 2017 LD rate: 22.2%), running into fewer pop ups (2018 IFFB rate: 5.0% vs 2017 IFFB rate: 7.0%), and generating harder contact (2018 hard rate: 48.5% vs 2017 hard rate: 35.5%), Pham regressed overall in 2018. With that being said, Pham was still a very valuable player; he slugged 21 HRs, stole 15 bases, and hit for a .275 AVG in 137 games. After the All-Star break, Pham’s play (most of which was with the Rays, whom he was traded to [from St. Louis] in July for three prospects) perked…

  • AVG: .331 (1st)
  • OBP: .433 (3rd)
  • HRs: 8 (8th)

Pham is in store for a big 2019 season, and he’s a top 10 OF going forward in my books.

Pham (72) is better value (and player) than Charlie Blackmon (25), Starling Marte (39), and George Springer (47)

LF Marwin Gonzalez / 30 years old / FA

Marwin Gonzalez had a very disappointing season in 2018 after a fantastic campaign the year prior (.303 AVG, 20+ HRs, and 90 RBIs). His AVG regressed to .247 and he only managed to hit 16 HRs; however, he seemingly rebounded in the 2nd half (post-All-Star break)…

  • HRs: 10 (12th among LFs with at least 200 PAs)
  • RBI: 31 (12th)
  • AVG: .275 (11th)
  • OBP: .352 (9th)

How frequently Gonzalez plays is contingent on where he signs, but you can still anticipate him to bounce back from his rough 1st half in 2018.

Gonzalez (225) is better value than Jurickson Profar (135)

Thanks for reading

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