With September in full swing, it seems like a great time to start planning for the 2017 campaign. Whether you are in a keeper, dynasty, or even a redraft league, it is never too early.
In today’s Fantasy Lookout, we will focus on three buy high hitters for 2017. All of these players are coming off impressive 2016 seasons and they are still at a point in their careers where the best has yet to come.
It may feel like you are buying high on these hitters, but all of the underlying statistics confirm the breakout and given their age, the future looks extremely bright.
The consensus may try to fade these hitters come draft day next year, but the prepared owners will take that discount and turn it into a profit.
It is all too easy to write off a spike in power or a material rise in batting average as luck or a fluke. The key is to dig into the stats such as the line drive rate, hard hit rate, and even the ground ball to fly ball distribution. These important figures will shed light on the sustainability of the increase in production going forward.
Buy High Hitters for 2017
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freeman always seems to be one of those players that has high expectations every year, but for some reason fails to deliver. Heading into this year, there was plenty of chatter about the weak Braves lineup and how that would impact Freeman’s counting stats. Despite the Braves’ 29th ranked OPS, Freeman has already set a career high in home runs and is on pace to set a new career best mark in runs.
Freeman’s relatively weak RBI total has been impacted by the putrid Atlanta lineup, but also by an uncharacteristic .257 batting average with runners in scoring position. With a career .303 average in that situation, Freeman’s RBI total should get a boost next year. In fact, Freeman’s 72 RBIs are the lowest total among any hitter with at least 29 home runs. When you consider the potential of full and healthy seasons from the likes of Ender Inciarte and Matt Kemp, Atlanta should be a better hitting team in 2017.
It is easy to forget that Freeman is still shy of his 27th birthday, as it seems like he has been around forever. His 2016 power surge looks to be very repeatable next year. Always a line drive hitting machine (he currently ranks third in the MLB in line drive rate), Freeman has also posted new career bests in both fly ball rate and hard hit rate. In fact, his 42.5-percent hard hit rate ranks third in all of baseball.
As we look towards 2017, Freddie Freeman has a legitimate shot at hitting .300 along with 30 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 RBIs. With those potential numbers, you can see that Freeman is clearly in the conversation as one of the top buy high hitters for next year.
Jonathan Villar, SS/3B, Milwaukee Brewers
When the 2016 campaign started, many looked at Villar as merely a placeholder until uber prospect Orlando Arcia was ready. Well, Villar had other plans and he has had a coming out party this year. As an everyday player, first at shortstop and now at the hot corner, Villar has shown the Fantasy Baseball world that he is a speedster with some legit pop. One trick pony, Billy Hamilton, is the only one in all of baseball that has more than Villar’s 51 thefts.
Villar’s gaudy stolen base total should not be a surprise, as his minor league stats show 252 steals in just 664 games. His double-digit home run total is also right in line with his career minor league pace. This year, Villar has also set new career highs in line drive rate, hard hit rate, and also in terms of his HR/FB ratio. Nothing he has done in 2016 looks fishy. All he needed was consistent playing time, and once he got it, he ran with the opportunity.
Steals are less a part of the game today, so Villar’s impact on the category is even greater than in years past. With both middle infield and corner infield eligibility next year, snagging Villar is a great way to instantly contend in the stolen base category.
When you step back and look at Villar’s stat line, it is very hard to distinguish them from that of Starling Marte. After you consider the fact that Marte was a consensus Top 30 hitter as an outfielder, you start to see why Villar is one of the best buy high hitters to target in 2017.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
Prior to this year, Yelich was not much more than a high average hitter who could steal a few bases. Both of those are useful attributes, but were not enough to put him into the elite conversation. After seeing what he has accomplished in 2016 as a whole, and especially in the second half, you can see why Fantasy owners are starting to salivate as they look towards next year.
The main knock against Yelich has been with his propensity to hit the ball on the ground. This year, although it is small in magnitude, Yelich has managed to post a new career high in fly ball rate and new career low (still fifth highest in baseball) in ground ball rate. When you combine that with Yelich’s career best pull rate and his 24th ranked hard hit rate (also a career high), it is not a surprise to see Yelich well on his way to his first 20 home run campaign.
Now we may be talking about a .300 hitter that can go 20/20 along with 80-plus runs and RBIs. Currently, Yelich has only swiped eight bags, after posting seasons of 21 and 16 in the two years prior. This is something to watch as Yelich has had back issues in the past and maybe that has been impacting his running game.
Yelich now appears to be in the rare group of hitters that can materially impact all five of the major roto categories. Come draft day next year, don’t forget about Yelich as he is definitely one of the buy high hitters to target.
We all want to buy low and sell high, but sometimes buying high is the thing to do. Most people expect mean reversion; however, sometimes a breakout occurs and a new, improved level becomes the norm. Do not feel bad buying high on these three hitters, you will not be disappointed. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
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