Due to the influence of social media, the prospect hype train races at a furious pace these days. Youngsters are touted and re-touted long before they arrive to the Majors, and those who do not experience immediate success are cast aside just as quickly as they were discovered.
But those of us who have played fantasy baseball for a while know that sometimes top players take an uneven path towards stardom. Here is a handful of post-hype sleepers who could soon rebound from a brief downturn.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B), Toronto Blue Jays
That’s right, I’m already branding Guerrero as a post-hype sleeper for 2020. Fantasy managers were expecting instant stardom for this touted prospect and instead received unremarkable numbers (.272 average, 15 homers) across 123 games. The advanced stats suggest that Guerrero may take the slow path to stardom, but prospects of this ilk can take off at a moment’s notice and it would not be shocking to see Guerrero hit .300 with 30 homers this year.
Nomar Mazara (OF), Chicago White Sox
Heading into his fifth Major League season, Mazara is still just 24 years old. The outfielder has been consistent but unremarkable thus far, hitting between 19-20 homers and producing an average between .253 and .268 in all four of his previous seasons. But Mazara shouldn’t be punished too severely for his lackluster production, as it came at an age when most prospects are still toiling in the Minors. He also dealt with a nagging thumb injury last season and now gets a fresh opportunity with the White Sox.
Francisco Mejia (C), San Diego Padres
Once considered virtually untouchable on the trade market, Mejia has been unremarkable since the Indians traded him to the Padres in 2018. The switch-hitter produced just eight homers and 22 RBI in 226 at-bats, making him an afterthought in 2020 fantasy drafts despite being just 24 years old. Astute managers will give Mejia a chance after noticing that he .305 with an .866 OPS after the 2019 All-Star break.
Willie Calhoun (OF), Texas Rangers
The Rangers acquired Calhoun from the Dodgers in 2017 for his offensive skills and then spent the better part of two seasons wasting those talents in the Minors. But the outfielder finally got an extended look last year and wound up showing strong contact skills (15.7 percent strikeout rate) while tallying 21 long balls across 309 at-bats. Calhoun pulls too many balls to hit .300, but his contact rate should ensure a respectable average, and he has the potential (40.7 percent hard-contact rate, 44.2 percent fly-ball rate) to be a potent slugger. Now recovering from a fractured jaw suffered on March 8, Calhoun is a fine option to stash on your season-opening IL.
Danny Jansen (C), Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were ecstatic when Jansen hit .207 with a .640 OPS as a rookie last year. Why, you ask? Well, because their primary focus was on his defense, and he quickly became someone they trust to handle a heavy workload with their developing pitching staff. The 24-year-old should produce 20 homers across 400 at-bats this season, and he could hit .250 simply by experiencing an improvement on his .230 BABIP from 2019.
Tyler O’Neill (OF), St. Louis Cardinals
O’Neill has undeniable power, as is evidenced by his 14 career homers in 271 at-bats. But his lifetime 37.5% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate shows that he has major holes in his swing and a poor batting eye. Still, opportunities abound in the Cardinals unsettled outfield, and O’Neill could turn a full-time role into 30 round-trippers. His boom-or-bust profile fits in the final rounds of a draft.
Jose Peraza (2B/SS/OF), Boston Red Sox
Fantasy managers have been waiting three years to see Peraza build on a 2016 rookie season in which he hit .324 with 21 steals across 256 plate appearances. And expectations have crept to an all-time low after the infielder batted .239 with seven steals across 403 plate appearances last season. But Peraza is getting a fresh start in Boston, and he could grab the second base job during Spring Training. Even hitting lower in the Red Sox lineup, the 25-year-old could combine a solid batting mark with 25 steals and plenty of runs scored.
Dylan Bundy (SP), Los Angeles Angels
Bundy truly puts the “post” in post-hype sleeper, as his hype train left the station when he threw 1.2 innings for the Orioles way back in 2012. Nearly a decade later, we are still waiting for the right-hander to meet expectations that were for much more than his current career 4.67 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Pitching for the Orioles in recent years has presented a massive uphill battle for their rotation members, and Bundy could get a new lease on life now that he is on an Angels team with a talented supporting cast and neutral home park.
Luke Weaver (SP), Arizona Diamondbacks
Weaver has shown flashes in his Major League career, including going 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA and a 10.7 K/9 rate in 2017. And the right-hander appeared to be breaking through last year (2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) before a forearm injury limited him to just two innings after May 27. The combination of inconsistency (career 4.39 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) and injuries has cooled the fantasy market on Weaver to the point where he is becoming a solid boom-or-bust option in the middle of 2020 mixed-league rotations.