Hitters that are able to produce meaningful statistics in a number of categories are gold in Fantasy Baseball. If you are able to build a well-balanced team, you immediately allow yourself to be in thick of things come playoff time.
Also, the need to grab the one or two category specialists goes away and you all of sudden are not sacrificing certain statistics just to stay competitive in another one. Uncovering the breakout power-speed hitters in any given year is a great way to achieve this balance.
In today’s Fantasy Lookout, we will touch on three surprising power-speed hitters of 2017. All of these hitters share a few common attributes. First, they all had a preseason NFBC ADP over 350. Second, they currently have all achieved recorded at least 12 home runs and stolen bases, putting them on pace for at least a 15/15 season. Finally, all three of these hitters are providing useful contributions in the three other major roto categories.
3 Surprising Power-Speed Hitters
Chris Taylor, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
To say Chris Taylor’s production so far has been surprising would be a huge understatement. Coming into the year, Taylor sported a dart on the wall ADP of 718 and he started 2017 off in Triple-A. Since joining the Dodgers in mid-April, Taylor has amassed 16 homers, 13 stolen bases, 64 runs, and 55 RBI in addition to his .308 batting average.
Decent speed has always been a part of Taylor’s game and he had notched five consecutive seasons with double-digit steals across a variety of minor league stops. The power, on the other hand, has been quite surprising. In fact, over his minor league career, which has spanned 1,700 at-bats, Taylor hit a grand total of 23 long balls.
When you look at his batted ball profile, you see essentially a league average hard hit rate, fly ball rate, and pull rate, making his home run total and 19.5-percent home run to fly ball rate even more surprising.
Since Taylor’s BABIP sits right at .400, you may want to scream regression, however, given his career minor league BABIP is .379 and his ability to rack up line drives, it may not fall that much.
Going forward, I think Chris Taylor should continue to hit for a solid, if not elite, batting average, and be a decent source of steals and runs. I do expect the power to dry up and his RBI opportunities could also be limited now that he seems cemented as the leadoff hitter for the Dodgers.
Whit Merrifield, 2B, Kansas City Royals
Whit Merrifield’s season has been quite similar to that of Chris Taylor’s campaign. He initially lost a battle to open the season with the Royals and actually opened the 2017 season in Triple-A. With a preseason ADP of 484, Fantasy owners were clearly not expecting too much from Merrifield, but he has proven all the doubters wrong. Merrifield was recalled on April 18 and has compiled a .297 batting average, 13 home runs, 19 stolen bases, 52 runs, and 50 RBI.
A veteran of nearly 2,800 minor league at-bats, Merrifield recorded six consecutive seasons of double-digit stolen bases. Merrifield has also shown glimpses of power, especially of late, where he has hit 11 home runs in his past 78 Triple-A games over the past two seasons.
Merrifield has done a solid job of cutting down on his strikeouts this year, as his 13.3-percent strikeout rate is better than his minor league career mark and actually better than any one season in the minors except for his 2015 season in Triple-A. As we move into the final weeks of the 2017 season, I expect Merrifield to continue to post useful across the board production in the five major roto categories.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Andrelton Simmons is in the midst of his most complete campaign of his young career. Known more for his glove, Simmons is on pace to set new career highs in runs, RBI, stolen bases, batting average, and possibly even home runs. With a preseason ADP of 386, it is safe to say that his batting average of .304 along with 12 home runs, 60 runs, 52 RBI, and 17 stolen bases has been a pleasant surprise to his Fantasy owners.
Simmons teased us is 2013 when he burst onto the scene with 17 home runs as a 23-year-old with the Braves. However, over the next three seasons, he only recorded a total of 15 home runs. This year, Simmons seems to have regained his power stroke as he has posted a career best hard hit rate of 31.2-percent, materially better than his career mark of 25.8-percent.
His career best OBP has also been helping with his stolen base total, and he seems to be running more since he has come to Los Angeles. In his four seasons with the Braves, Simmons only attempted 29 steals, while he as attempted 32 steals in his less than two seasons with the Angels. Simmons looks like he has finally matured into a complete hitter and he should continue to help Fantasy owners in all categories going forward.
Power-speed hitters are rare and will always find a home on my Fantasy teams, especially when they come with a cheap price tag. Today was not about known multi-category Fantasy studs such as Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, or Jose Altuve. It was all about the unheralded power-speed hitters that may have been flying under-the-radar. Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
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