2018 Breakout Performers: Was It A Fluke Or Will They Continue To Thrive In 2019 & Beyond

by Connor Henry

Each year there are numerous breakout players who end up producing top fantasy value without the pedigree of someone drafted in the top three rounds. Sometimes these players end up being one-year wonders, but others times they manage to carry their breakouts into the next year. Let’s examine a couple of the players who put up a Top 25 seasons based on wOBA but who were drafted outside of the Top 200 in NFBC ADP to determine if they can repeat their performance in 2019 or if they are destined to disappoint.

 

Mitch Haniger – Seattle Mariners
One of the pieces that came over to the Mariners in the Taijuan Walker trade, Haniger finally delivered on the prospect hype he garnered a couple years back. Over 683 plate appearances in 2018 Haniger hit .285 with a .366 OBP while smacking 26 home runs and stealing 8 bases. Despite batting .282 in 2017 with a similar ISO, he had an ADP of 212 due to his lack of consistent ability over a complete season. Now that he’s proven his fantasy value for over 650 plate appearances, does he deserve to be drafted near the Top 100? Let’s check his batted ball data from 2018 to determine whether his .336 BABIP and power output is sustainable.

LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB% Pull% Soft % Hard %
21 42 36 9 16 45 16 37

Haniger has a very balanced batted ball profile, which actually looks very similar to his stats from 2017. He hits plenty of line drives and avoids too many popups, all while managing to make hard contact 37% of the time. His 42% groundball rate and 36% flyball rate also confirm a player with a balanced approach who doesn’t sell out for power or batting average, making his BABIP very believable. In addition, he hit 26 HR, sustained by his 16% home run to fly ball rate. With a hard contact rate hovering slightly above league average, it makes sense that Haniger would possess a home run to fly ball rate also slightly above league average. Now let’s check in on his plate discipline.

BB% K% O-Swing% Contact% SwStk%
10 22 26 78 9.2

He has always been a patient batter. In 2018 he only swung at pitches outside the zone 26% of the time and maintained a notable 78% contact rate. Due to these impressive numbers, in his age 27 season, Haniger managed to increase his walk rate from 7.5% to 10% in addition to dropping his strikeout rate from 23% to 22%. A 9.2% swinging strike rate only enhances the believability of his strikeout rate and convinces me that his plate discipline is repeatable.

Verdict: Haniger exhibited all the skills to back up his impressive 2018. His batted ball data corresponds to an above average BABIP and his home run to fly ball rate falls right in line with his hard contact rate. He has also continued to improve his plate discipline and therefore should consistently maintain a batting average over .270 with an OBP near or above .350. In addition, he ought to continue to bat near the top of an impressive Mariners lineup affording him plenty of counting stats. His RF and CF eligible player will continue to provide impressive fantasy value so make sure he does not fall too far come 2019 draft day.

 

David Peralta – Arizona Diamondbacks
The 31-year-old journeyman rose to a whole new level of fantasy relevance this year by maintaining his always impressive batting average while almost doubling his power output. His 30 home runs tied him for 24th in the league as did his .293 batting average, making him a multi-category contributor without even mentioning his solid counting stats. With an ADP of 262, Peralta provided his fantasy owners with incredible value, but is he set up to produce similarly next season? First we’ll look at his batted ball data to determine if he can sustain a .328 BABIP:

LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB% Pull% Soft % Hard %
20 51 29 6 23 39 17 49

Peralta made sizable changes to his batted ball profile in 2018. His line drive rate was close to league average, but his lowly fly ball rate increased close to 30% and his groundball rate decreased from 55% to 51% showing he made a conscious decision to elevate the ball.  Peralta avoided popups extremely well and spread the ball around, which speaks to a player who can maintain an above league average BABIP. Most impressively, however, was his 49% hard contact rate which ranked him third in baseball. With such impressive exit velocities, Peralta raised his home run to flyball rate to 23%, which looks sustainable if he maintains a hard contact rate of 49%.

BB% K% O-Swing% Contact% SwStk%
8 20 32 78 10.4

He has always been a player with a more aggressive approach than someone like Haniger. He maintained his O-swing rate in 2018 and even with a drop in his contact rate, he still displayed impressive bat-to-ball skills. Although his strikeout rate did increase about 4% due to his decrease in contact rate, a 30 home run hitter with a 20% strikeout rate is not common and deserves more attention than he generally receives.

Verdict: David Peralta has long been known as a batting average help with minimal stolen bases and power, however this season he launched 30 home runs while maintaining his career batting average of .293. His batted ball data supports his .328 BABIP and his incredible 49% hard contact rate supports his power output even with his sub-30% fly ball rate. Although I’d like to see his contact rate increase closer to 80%, the slight increase in strikeout rate is a small price to pay for his newly found power. The 31-year-old figures to remain near the top of the Diamondbacks lineup in 2019 and should once again be a source of batting average with 20+ home runs.

Sources: Fangraphs, NFBC

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