Post hype hitters for fantasy baseball 2024

When it comes to fantasy sports, we love a breakout. We spend days analyzing (or reading about) metrics that might suggest a player who's set to hit a new level or emerge into a role we never saw coming for them. However, the consequence of that is we tend to almost immediately discard players who don't produce in the way we hoped. Draft rooms are littered with former "favorites" who we now sneer at as we scroll passed their names.

But post-hype sleepers have feelings too. As well as the ability to make a real difference on your fantasy teams.

In this article, I'm going to look at some post-hype hitters who are think could provide major value based on where they're going in drafts. Post-hype here means somebody who was either a top prospect or had some buzz in previous seasons but failed to live up to that. They need to have languished in the minors for longer than expected or struggled in an extended major league attempt. Since they're no longer hyped, they also need to be going outside of the top 250 in current drafts, which means none of these are slam dunk choices to outproduce their draft value, but they're guys who I think can if given the chance.

All ADP data is taken from NFBC Rotowire Online Championship drafts from February 21st to March 6th (35 drafts)

Vaughn Grissom - SS, Red Sox (ADP: 254)

Grissom is a bit of a cheat since he's really only on here because his recent groin jury caused his ADP to slip beyond pick 250. He doesn't figure to miss too much time and will play nearly every day for Boston, which will give him multi-position eligibility as well. Grissom has always run high batting averages and doesn't strike out much, and since Fenway Park actually boosts batting average, there's an argument that Grissom could hit .290 while chipping in 10 home runs and decent counting stats for an improved Red Sox lineup. You're paying for it at this ADP, but he remains a good pick if you need batting average.

Sal Frelick - OF, Brewers (ADP: 295)

Frelick is getting playing time at both 3B and 2B this season with the thought that he might be able to move into the infield as a defensive replacement for Bryce Turang, Tyler Black, Joey Ortiz, or whoever is in the infield if the opponent makes a pitching change. Frelick didn't hit at his typical level in either Triple-A or the Majors last year, but he continued to make an elite amount of contact and brings tremendous plate discipline. I think he can get back to putting up a .270 batting average which should allow him to push for 20 steals while hitting in the middle of the Brewers lineup. If he winds up with 2B/3B/OF eligibility, he could be great value as a player who gives you a little bit of everything except for home runs.

Garrett Mitchell - OF, Brewers (ADP: 364)

If we're going to mention Frelick, we should also highlight his teammate. Mitchell was a top-10 prospect in the Brewers' system because he has plus raw power and elite speed. He just struggled to make lots of contact outside of a tremendous 2022 season where he slashed .287/.377/.426 with five home runs and 17 steals across 68 games in Double-A and Triple-A. He then hit .311/.373/.459 in 28 MLB games with eight more steals. Since Mitchell debuted in 2022, it's not crazy to see a huge improvement like that as a player gets more professional reps. However, injuries in 2023 robbed us of seeing that growth as Mitchell had just 27 total games played. The former first-round pick is slated to be the Brewers' starting left fielder, and if he can just hit .240 then he has the speed to be a value in fantasy drafts at this ADP. If the 25-year-old begins to also unlock his raw power, then there's a chance we'll have a real breakout here.

Brett Baty - 3B, Mets (ADP: 365)

I covered Baty in more detail in my search for “The Next Josh Lowe” and came away tepid, while now he hits the ball hard. He had a max exit velocity of 113.7 mph in the big leagues last year, a 7.6% barrel rate, and posted an absurd 48.7% hard-hit rate in his 104 Triple-A at-bats after being demoted. He also slugged .625 with a 1.013 OPS during that stint. He has good plate discipline, with a 13.2% walk rate in the minors last year, but he did post a 13.2% SwStr% in the majors and also struck out 24% of the time at Triple-A, so he may be more of a .260 hitter with 15 home run power and little speed. If he gets full playing time with the Mets, perhaps that’s a .260, 16 HR, two steal season with 140 R+RBI. That's solid at this ADP even if it's not a game-changer.

Michael Busch, 1B/3B, Cubs (ADP: 376)

Michael Busch was buried in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, but make no mistake about it, he's not a Quad-A hitter. Quad-A hitters don't post sub-20% strikeout rates in Triple-A with 27 home runs in 98 games. His second stint at Triple-A Oklahoma City saw his plate discipline take a huge step forward, but Busch has posted solid walk rates at basically every level, only dipping below 10% in his first season at Triple-A when he finished at 9.9%. There is some swing-and-miss to his game, but he's not going to post a Patrick Wisdom-level strikeout rate. Projections systems don't have Busch down for everyday at-bats, but I just don't agree. They traded for him to play him. Even if Bellinger has to slide over to 1B, Busch can DH and why do the Cubs need Bellinger at 1B to get Mike Tauchman at-bats in center field? There is more than enough room here for push to get over 450 plate appearances.

Alek Thomas - OF, Diamondbacks (ADP: 384)

Alek Thomas was a former top prospect and was a career .316/.391/.500 hitter in 329 minor league games with an .891 OPS. There's no reason that should have translated to a .230/.274/.359 hitter at the MLB level. Thomas knows that too; that's why he re-tooled his swing in the offseason to try to find the gap-to-gap power that he showcased as a prospect. He worked with his father, who was a strength and conditioning coach with the White Sox for 28 years, and a new trainer specializing in data science to open a hitting training company that could give Thomas the resources to re-capture his old swing. Thomas worked specifically on preventing his stance from getting too closed off after his stride and creating more separation between the loading of his hands and hips. He hopes the work will allow him to roll over the ball less and drive the ball to all fields. If Thomas can get back to the hitter many people believed he was as a top prospect, then he could begin to hit for a plus batting average while playing elite defense in center field and would be a major value at his current draft cost.

Kyle Manzardo - 1B, Guardians (ADP: 407)

Kyle Manzardo was the next big thing for the Rays, but he battled some off-field issues last season and his production stagnated a bit. With Xavier Isaac emerging as the 1B of the future in Tampa Bay, they shipped him off to Cleveland for Aaron Civale last year. This is still a player who showed a great feel for contact and enough power to emerge as a 20-home run bat with a strong batting average. So far this spring, he's shown those tools with a .417 average in seven games. It's unclear if he'll break camp with the team, but the Guardians could have him and Josh Naylor at 1B/DH or move Naylor back to the outfield for some reps. Bottom line is that there is room for Manzardo in Cleveland, and he will find his way there this season.

Colton Cowser - OF, Orioles (ADP: 471)

Colton Cowser struggled in his first taste of the majors last year, hitting .115/.286/.148 in 26 games. However, like Alek Thomas, Cowser spent the off-season working on his swing to improve his overall contact and his ability to drive the ball. He also has three home runs in seven spring games while hitting .400. We certainly don't want to read into spring stats too much, but it's nice to see a young player work on something in the offseason and then see immediate results. With the Orioles outfield set, Cowser is likely to start the year at Triple-A, but he's a better long-term bet than Austin Hays, so it's likely only a matter of time before the Orioles make that switch.

Jonathan Aranda - UT, Rays (ADP: Undrafted)

Jonathan Aranda is a bit of a position-less hitter, which could be a problem long-term but right now, the Rays do seem to have the DH spot open. Aranda struggled in the majors last year, but he slashed .339/.449/.613 in 95 games at Triple-A with 25 home runs. He has nothing left to prove there, and the team needs to see if the 25-year-old can fit into their long-term plans. He has elite feel for the strike zone and could post a strong batting average with usable power if he's given the strong side platoon job to start the year. His lack of defensive position makes it a little hard to roster him, but he has the type of bat you want on your bench to see how Tampa Bay decides to use him to start the season.

Luis Garcia - 2B, Nationals (ADP: Undrafted)

Baseball is a wild thing where he can have fatigue over a 23-year-old with a career .265/.295/.395 slash line in 325 MLB games. Garcia may not be overly exciting, but he's also not done growing or improving as a player. Last year he cut his strikeout rate down to just 12.4% while slightly increasing his fly ball rate. His 113.4 career max exit velocity shows the ability to grow into power, but he had a 91% contact rate last year, so he should continue to sport solid batting averages while hitting 10 home runs and stealing 10 bases even without much growth. That has value in deeper leagues, but there is still room for more, which could see him emerging as a real value given his full-time job in Washington.

JJ Bleday - OF, Athletics (ADP: Undrafted)

The 26-year-old was a former top prospect after the Marlins drafted him fourth overall in the 2019 draft; however, he hasn’t really had much success at any level, aside from 28 games at Triple-A last year as a 25-year-old. However, he also has some of the best plate discipline in all of baseball, which is a pretty good feather in his cap. He also slashed .195/.310/.355, which is, you know, not great. He pulls the ball on the ground far too often and has an average exit velocity on fly balls of just 88 mph, so the profile is of a hitter with a good understanding of the strike zone but not a lot of power and a pull-heavy approach with minimal lift in his swing. That groundball-heavy approach has carried over this spring, but it's also led to more hits since he's hitting the ball slightly harder than before. He may be more of an OBP-league asset, but he's going to play every day for Oakland (at least early in the season), so maybe this is the year he can put something together.

Miguel Andujar - INF/OF, Athletics (ADP: Undrafted)

Look, if there's any team that can give at-bats to Miguel Andujar it's Oakland. He wasn't terrible for Pittsburgh last year, hitting .250/.300/.476 in 30 games with four home runs and two steals. He's now hitting .421 with two home runs through seven games in the spring. He doesn't really have a position where he fits best on defense, but there's a chance he's at least a league average-ish bat, which would be a major upgrade in many spots in Oakland's lineup.