This is a toughie. Whit Merrifield was unknown in standard leagues (471 ADP) in 2017 and finished as the fourth best second baseman.
See, I know predictions like this are difficult and you do, too because no one saw… this… coming. Maybe only Whit Merrifield’s mom and brother, Hite, did.
Tell me Kissy Merrifield didn’t buy a ton of shares of Whit in leagues:
I'm 22 now and my mom still burst into my room at 730 singing happy birthday to me. #mypoint
— Whit Merrifield (@WhitMerrifield) January 24, 2011
By even putting guys here, I am, ex post facto (meaning?), making them not the next Merrifield because I am calling attention to them. Is that confusing? Let’s get to Bryce Harper for a reaction down at the field…
See, what I’m doing here is confusing you and setting low expectations. So, you’ll be happy with just a little support. And now you’ve experienced me like my past girlfriends have. And that nervous laughter you hear is from you, me, and my girlfriend, who proofreads these.
Maybe more people than Kissy should have seen this coming. The league is hitting in a fly ball revolution and Whit got the memo, averaging 40% - 50%. He also hit for contact, without tons of Ks, and got 32 SBs all in the minors. This is what he did last year in the majors:
So, you could have argued that as a ceiling but you didn’t because you didn’t know he existed.
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As you can see, Merrifield is possible. Finding these lottery tickets is about three things:
- Research: Read, listen and watch as much as possible.
- Strategy: You have to be a hawk, a scientist, and a dart thrower that can throw 10 darts at once and get a bullseye. Scour the free agents, research to target, experiment, and do so often. It’s about amassing knowledge and carpe-ing the ef out of the diem.
- Luck: Let’s be real.
With that, here are 10 guys I like to pull a Whit (outside top 340 ADP, Whit’s 2017 high pick, and return top 50). These are quick hits and not in-depth because that is honest. I care about your success and that means flagging 10 guys rather than selling you 4 players that could flop because 99% of players with this similar ADPs don’t pull a Whit.
This Year's Whit Merrifield
Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles (322 ADP)
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I’m already cheating on you. I said after 340 ADP. I’m sorry… but are you really surprised? I’ll make it up to you.
Hays was Baltimore’s No. 8 prospect and hit 33 HRs and batted .330 in the low minors last year. He then got promoted in September and did play very well.
To start the 2018 season, he looks to the be the regular right fielder. He can hit the ball hard, has good FB% and LD% stuff going on, and strikes out a lot and walks very little. So, ya know, a Baltimore Oriole.
I see talent, opportunity, and a low draft pick. That is enough for me to keep track.
Ketel Marte, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (348 ADP)
Marte is one of my faves on this list. He can steal 15-20 bags (and ARI does like to steal), his BB% is getting better, has great contact%. This when combined with his speed, can translate into a .280 AVG. He may push his way to the top of the order with improvement.
Home runs are not his calling card, but 10-13 is possible. With some more at-bats, continued on-base and contact improvement as a 24-year-old, some home runs (probably not in ARI) getting over the fence, and luck he can really return value.
Neil Walker, 2B, New York Yankees (389 ADP)
Yes, he’s 31. Yes, he struggles against lefties and could struggle his way into a platoon. I'm also aware, Gleyber Torres is on his heels. And I'm also aware he has some injury concern.
He’s also hit 23 home runs twice in tougher ballparks, upped his BB% last year, reduced his K% and is hitting in a great line-up (although probably late in that line-up). He was on his way to the most of home runs of his career until he hurt his hamstring. I see an opportunity that, with a little health and luck, could result in 20-25 home runs, a nice average, and a bump in OBP leagues with that BB%.
Dustin Fowler, OF, Oakland Athletics (365 ADP)
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As with many Fantasy Baseball opportunities, Dustin Fowler’s suffering (bru-tal, this is tough to watch) is our bargain basement. A missed year has him off some radars and some scouts say he could be an average to above average everyday OF.
I say there is power and speed here (13 HRs and 13 SBs in 297 ABs in AAA), good LD% and contact%. He is young and can improve on an already decent K% (20%), although a bad BB% (around 5%). Even if he doesn’t, he has the opportunity, good skills, and must be eager.
Worth a flier and worth watching.
Mikie Mahtook, OF, Detroit Tigers (371 ADP)
He was a big deal after being drafted in 2011 in the first round and being considered a top 100 prospect. Now he is 28, on a rebuilding Tigers team, and has an interesting 2017 behind him with 348 ABs, a .335 wOBA, 12 HRs, nice contact% and LD%, and he boosted his BB% from 3.6 to 6.1%.
I don’t see why, with this wide-open opportunity and a long leash, he can’t do 20/10 or with a luck and improvements 25/15 and a .275 average. That makes him worth watching.
Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (378 ADP)
Knee and shoulder injuries have made it tough for Devon Travis to find his potential. 151 games over the last two seasons.
There is loads of room for him make the most of what he’s got now. He has a chance to bat early (though maybe late) in the lineup for the Blue Jays, play every day, and let's see if his great contact rate (83%) and nice pop (.178 ISO) can lead to 500 ABs, 20 HRs, and a .280 AVG.
Colin Moran, 1B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates (398 ADP)
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Another favorite on this list. Already the Pirates’ skipper, said he is prepared to make Moran the every day 3B.
A concussion and facial fracture from a self-induced foul-ball-the-face scenario sent Moran in for some surgery. Moran has always had talent as a toolsy guy. He is young at 25 with room to develop.
This is his big league opportunity to show that .390 wOBA from the minors last year and the 18 home runs in 302 at-bats can translate with his approach. He won’t steal any bases and he could find his way into some 20-25 home runs if his power continues to develop.
Jose Pirela, OF, San Diego Padres (398 ADP)
He was in the Yankees organization for a while before going to the Padres in 2016. He didn’t hit for power then projected as a quick guy with some good contact stuff.
Then while Twitter was telling us that 2017 sucked for America, Pirela found a power stroke, a tight average, and some productivity.
I want to say his .202 ISO, 31.5% HR/FB, and 13.2% HR/FB are unsustainable. I’m just not ready to say no to a guy heading into his 28-year-old season, during the flyball/juiced ball era, and when Andy Green is indicating he has the job.
Jorge Soler, OF, Kansas City Royals (421 ADP)
I’m saving the best of last here. Way to go you, sticking it out to the end.
Jorge Soler is a post-hype guy who strikes out too much, doesn’t hit for great average (.244), and struggles to make contact (66%).
Now the good. The Royals are rebuilding, he can hit (.297 ISO and .408 wOBA), has dropped some weight, and retooled his swing. I see opportunity, a good hitting profile, a tweak in approach, and a ceiling we have not seen yet.
You, Main Ingredient, Awesome Sauce
This may seem cheesy, and you are the secret to finding the next Whit Merrifield. Keep your ears and eyes out for guys that are improving, surprising, finding opportunity, impressing their managers, coming up from the minors, being written about, and being talked about.
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