By Dan Becker
Like many Americans, fantasy owners are fond of lottery tickets. Yet instead of hanging around checkout counters frantically scratching away at cards with convoluted premises, owners look for lottery tickets at the end of drafts. Each season, players that were afterthoughts in spring training are acquired either at the end of drafts or through waivers only to deliver extremely valuable production.
The beauty of this paradigm is that unlike the randomness of lottery games, there are some predictive elements in the form of BPIs to assist owners in identifying players with the skills to fuel a breakout/resurgence.
To demonstrate, below is the list of 2012's impact lottery tickets along with the skills that fueled their strong performances:
Name bb% ct% PX Spd R$
================ === === === === ===
Jose Altuve 6% 87% 72 134 $24
Tyler Colvin 5% 72% 164 118 $19
Chris Davis 7% 67% 163 67 $20
Alejandro De Aza 8% 79% 88 119 $22
Carlos Gomez 5% 76% 128 128 $24
Bryce Harper 10% 77% 129 137 $21
Garrett Jones 6% 78% 152 88 $19
Jason Kipnis 10% 82% 76 102 $23
Adam LaRoche 10% 76% 157 68 $22
Alex Rios 4% 85% 125 118 $34
Carlos Ruiz 7% 87% 135 52 $20
Mike Trout 11% 75% 151 145 $49
While the sample is intentionally small, it's also instructive. All of these players demonstrated at least one plus skill, but most displayed two or more of the following BPIs:
- 10+ bb%
- 80+ ct%
- 100+ PX
- 100+ Spd
Based on this information, the players that have demonstrated two or more of these skills prior to 2013 are hitters to target late in drafts. To rule out prospecting (Harper is an obvious outlier in every sense), we'll impose two additional criteria:
- 100 or more career MLB at bats
- 60% or better PT projection for 2013
Using the criteria established above, below are the players most likely to go from end-gamer to game-changer in 2013:
Before a shoulder injury wrecked his season, Chris B. Young (OF, OAK) had turned a strong spring training into a white hot start to 2012. Less than a year later, he finds himself on a new team in a new league, but Young will benefit from the same sturdy blend of bb% and PX that yields solid HR totals. His Spd tailed off in 2012, but he's still only one year removed from a 22 SB/118 Spd performance. Young faces lots of competition for ABs in Oakland, but he has the advantage of being the best defensive CF in the group, and the A's have indicated they intend to find ways to keep him in the lineup.
While he was a candidate for regression heading into 2012, the variety of ailments that plagued Alex Avila (C, DET) affected him as much or more so than statistical gravity. Now healthy, Avila isn't even being drafted in many leagues even though he's entering his prime and already has a $19 $R season on his resume. His poor ct% means owners should keep BA expectations realistic, but his terrific bb% and PX offer rare power upside from the C spot. 400 healthy ABs from Avila has the potential to yield a huge profit.
Until he fractured a hamate bone that required surgery in spring training 2011, it looked like Domonic Brown (OF, PHI) was on track to becoming the next big thing in Philly. He's struggled since, but the tools are there as Brown displayed plus bb%, ct% and PX in otherwise underwhelming stints in 2011 and 2012. He's flashed solid Spd in the past as well so it's just a matter of putting it all together. Just 25 years old, Brown has been having a fine spring while his primary competition (Delmon Young) is out until at least mid-April after ankle surgery. So the opportunity is now for him to realize his considerable potential.
Speaking of opportunities, an offseason trade to Houston has given Chris Carter (1B/OF, HOU) his as he's finally in line for some consistent PT. Carter's ct% keeps his BA grounded, but it's hard not to dream on the HR totals his bb%/PX combination could deliver in 400+ ABs. Carter's move from a negative HR environment in Oakland (-12% RH HR) to a positive one (+7% RH HR) in Houston only helps in this regard. Carter is far from a sure thing, but his price combined with his power potential makes him a risk worth taking.
This name should surprise no one because Tyler Colvin (OF, COL) is on the list above of 2012's breakout end gamers. Colvin's atrocious plate discipline makes him prone to inconsistent results and will prevent him from repeating last year's BA, but owners shouldn't ignore his intriguing PX/Spd combination. His power production is helped by the fact that he hits half the time in Colorado, and while his .694 career OPS vL is rough, he's trending in the right direction by posting a .752 OPS against southpaws in 100 ABs last season. Combine his power with the fact that both his SBO & SB% spiked in the 2H and it's not hard to see 25 HR/10+SB upside.
Picking Ackley not wacky
It's not hard to figure out why it took Justin Maxwell (OF, HOU) so long to earn regular MLB at bats -- he doesn't put the ball in play enough. Yet the Astros were forced to run Maxwell out there virtually every day down the stretch in 2012, and he offset his ct% issues with excellent PX, plus Spd and above-average bb%. Maxwell is set to begin the season as a starter for the first time at age 29, and while his poor ct% continues to loom large, he has the tools to deliver a 20/20 season if he can keep his BA acceptable.
Though he didn't make a big impact upon debuting in Milwaukee last season, the future is bright for Jean Segura (SS, MIL). The BPI headliners are plenty of ct% paired with terrific Spd. These skills keep his BA floor high, but maintaining (or growing) his bb% is critical to boosting his OBP to the point that he can reach his full SB potential. The good news in that regard is that while he showed very little patience in the minors, his bb% actually improved to league average after reaching the big leagues. He has the starting job and his skills profile very well at the SS position, which means he can deliver immediate value to his owners.
There's a lot to like about Starling Marte (OF, PIT), but his lack of plate discipline leaves much to be desired. While his lack of bb% is likely to remain a weakness, he has at least shown better ct% in the high minors giving hope for improvement in this area. For these reasons, he's likely to be BA challenged in the short term, yet his solid PX and elite Spd made the trip with him Pittsburgh. His GB% caps his power upside for now, but he runs often so if he can retain his SB% gains then he has 15/30 HR/SB upside in 2013.
A hip injury and spotty PT all but ruined his 2012, but owners shouldn't forget how effective Peter Bourjos (OF, LAA) was in 2011. That season, Bourjos showed surprising PX growth that complemented his exceptional Spd. The hip injury sapped his power last season, but he's proven he'll deliver double digit HRs when healthy. And while Bourjos has contact issues, his bb% and Eye have both shown modest improvement for two straight seasons. Owners are best to keep BA expectations realistic, but Bourjos is a strong bounceback candidate that can deliver 10+ HRs while swiping 20+ bags.
While Dustin Ackley (2B, SEA) was a disappointment last season, the talent that excited many owners is still present. Specifically, Ackley takes walks and makes enough contact to fuel an OBP boost that will allow him to utilize his strong Spd on the bases. And though his PX did not develop as expected, he still delivered 12 HRs hitting half the time in an oppressive ballpark. Ackley is 25 years old and has already delivered a season of double digit HRs/SBs even amidst an otherwise brutal season. His combination of skills suggest that better production is ahead.
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