Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Some of you already had your eyes on Hamilton as a source of stolen bases this season. However, there are reasons to believe he could produce at a higher level in several categories in 2017. Hamilton’s end-of-season stats weren’t eye popping, but his monthly splits give a few reasons for optimism.






































(3 games)






Admittedly, Hamilton’s production from August 1 on is based on an incredibly small sample (30 games). It’s possible these developments were simply random, and he’ll return to being a hitter with stats more in line with his career averages. Still, there are two potential changes to Hamilton’s approach worth considering.

In August, Hamilton’s walk rate was north of 10 percent. This was due in part to his willingness to lay off of pitches out of the zone and in. Hamilton’s speed is elite, and he simply needs to get on base to be effective. If Hamilton is getting better at drawing walks, he immediately increases his production in steals and runs.

Second, Hamilton’s ground ball rate jumped back above 50 percent in August. Why did this happen? If you look at Hamilton’s swing rates before and after August 1st, something jumps out. After August 1st, Hamilton focused on swinging at pitches down in the zone. As you’d expect, he has a great deal of success on groundballs in play (.393/.393/.473 in 2016). This approach decreased his fly-ball rate, and allowed him to take advantage of his speed.

These changes could be a fluke, but last season Hamilton still produced over $20 worth of value in mixed leagues. He accomplished that with a .236 TAv. If his overall production does go up, even a little, that value is only going to climb. —Eric Roseberry

Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox
You should always draft your favorite player, and since Jackie Bradley Jr. should be your favorite player, you could argue we’re done here. If you are still not convinced it is your flaw, but I will address it. So, JBJ might be the streakiest player in baseball, and at his floor, he’s probably a play-every-day .250/.333/.400 hitter. If he went all year with those numbers, he’d probably be a reliable placeholder and nothing more, a top-o’-the-wire dude. He is, of course, better than that, but he has a funny way of showing it.

In time, Bradley will spring to life as he as always donen for about three weeks, and all will be forgiven. He historically flails and flails, hits a metric ton, then flails some more. If a hot streak is actually worth its weight in vapor, as we are told by their skeptics, his vapors intoxicate the whole damn league. He hit .381/.474/.701 in May and probably could have hit like garbage for the rest of the year and put a good line… and to prove it, he pretty much did, posting a .298/.350/.489 July but trash otherwise. This left him at .267/.349/.486 for the season with 26 homers, which is pretty good but sort of bad, considering, but the key is the last part doesn’t matter.

Remember: It’s a daily or weekly game. The point here is not to stick with Bradley during the down times. The point is to have Bradley for the good times, and plan for life without him if need be. Bradley’s best month plus five months of slightly above average production turns whatever outfield slot you’ve got into a Tier 1.5 operation at something like half the cost, provided he has that big month. I still believe, and if you do too, catch him if you can. When it comes to the showdown, he’ll be there. —Bryan Joiner

Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals
For a brief period this offseason, Adam Eaton was one of the most talked about players in all of baseball. After he was dealt from Chicago to Washington, there were numerous debates on just how valuable of a player he really was. Because of this, I anticipated his value skyrocketing when drafts rolled around. Instead, he’s moved down almost two full rounds in a 15-team league. It’s partially understandable, given that he’s now playing his home games in a worse hitter’s park, but it still makes him a great value as a low-end OF2 or high-end OF3 this year.

We’ll start with the power, since that’s where most of the fear is coming from for potential Eaton owners. After hitting 14 homers in each of the last two years, it’s fair to expect that to drop in 2017. However, double digits are still within reach, and it’s not as if we were ever drafting Eaton for homers. Instead, he’ll now go to a park where it’s easier to hit singles, giving him a slightly bigger boost in AVG. As a perennial .280 hitter, don’t be surprised if he flirts with .300 in 2017. We could also see him reach 20 stolen bases for the first time in his career, given Dusty Baker’s managing tendencies. Combine that with a Nationals lineup that should be much stronger than Chicago’s, and Eaton should get a slight roto boost from the trade despite the likely decrease in home runs. —Matt Collins

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Ah, how quickly we forget. That Jose Bautista was a top-15 player in the two years prior to an abbreviated 2016 season dampened by injury and suspension. It's easy to write him off given his age (36) and somewhat extensive injury history (only four healthy seasons in seven since and including his breakout). Yet a rigorous look at his peripherals indicates Joey Bats suffered not the onset of decline but, rather, the bad luck associated with the random fluctuations that affect all ballplayers.

The limited amount of longitudinal Statcast data available to us makes it difficult to properly evaluate Bautista's 2016 in terms of batted ball metrics. We do know, however, that although his average exit velocity overall dipped last year, his average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives improved. Yet despite making better contact, he barreled up half as many balls than in 2015. While Statcast's Barrel classification depends not only on velocity but also launch angle, Bautista's 2016 exit velocities still ranked among the elite, which inherently maximizes his Barreling opportunities. Alas, it's suspicious he didn't produce more. Josh Donaldson and Chris Davis — both averaged an identical 96.5 mph on fly balls and line drives in 2015 and 2016, respectively — barreled up about 80% more often than Bautista did.

Bautista also chased bad pitches less often than ever before, per PITCHf/x, and did generate swinging strikes at an unusal rate. His contact rate on chased pitches dipped, but he also ma de more in-zone contact than ever before. When the strikeout rate (K%) regresses, so, too, will his batting average, toward something much more palatable. If you anticipate he can't outrun his age or injuries any longer, I understand, but aversion to drafting him because of his disappointing 2016 may be misguided. –Alex Chamberlain

Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
It is getting more difficult to find power/speed combinations in fantasy, and this is particularly true if you are looking for players who can steal 20 or more bases. Last year, 18 players hit 10 or more home runs and stole 20 or more bases. Most of these players have been expensive in NFBC drafts, with seven going in the Top 20 and 10 in the Top 60. But there are a handful of power/speed players slipping through the cracks. One of them is Kiermaier. Unlike some of the other players in this speed/power group, Kiermaier isn’t a playing time risk nor is he a player who performed at his ceiling in 2016. In fact, of the players in the 10/20 club, Kiermaier had the second fewest plate appearances, ahead of only Trea Turner. Kiermaier has quietly turned his speed into an asset, jumping from five steals in 2014 to 21 last year. If Kiermaier can stay healthy (granted, this is not a trivial concern) he has the capability to put up 15 home runs and 25 steals at a minimum. The batting average won’t be great, but Kiermaier is barely being drafted inside the Top 200. There is plenty of upside at that price, and unlike with a lot of speed-first players, Kiermaier’s defense is going to keep him on the field every day when he is healthy. —Mike Gianella

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kiermaier is one of my favorite later picks. once he moved up to the #2 spot, his production took off, particularly his walk rate. I saw a note over the offseason that said he's working on trying to steal 40+ bases next season by being more aggressive on the basepaths.
BP Staff -- do you think it would be possible to mention a few more 'sleeper-like' players in a story such as this one? In most leagues, even my deep NL-only, you're not going to slip under the radar when you put Eaton or Hamilton up for bid.
Thanks for the comment. I covered Keon Broxton as this type of player for mixed leagues in the State of the Position piece. We have an NL-only OF landscape piece coming out on Thursday which will cover this exact topic.
Thanks George-I get a little prickly cause basically most of the fun is finding the diamonds in the rough that slip under the radar. It's getting more and more difficult, it seems, as the CBS site and others agressively tout so many possoble sleepers--a good example would be Tom Murphy--that it seems you've got to go deep to find a decent sleeper. That said, I understand that the object of the story is players who may be undervalued, a $20 player who may sneak by at $15 for instance, but I don't see any of the players above of that ilk. Eaton has OBP and sneaky power and speed, plus the novelty of changing leagues, so I doubt you're going to get him at any kind of discount in an auction, no?
I haven't seen Eaton go for less than he should anywhere. I'll be honest with you, there is so much information out there (from a variety of sources) that there aren't any true "sleepers" anymore. There are no players or prospects that fantasy owners don't know about these days. I think it's far more useful to identify differences of opinion and target players that you believe are more valuable than the rest of your league.