2019 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: Slump or Bump?

by Dennis Sosic
2019 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: Slump or Bump?

Hello again, Fantasy freaks and geeks!

You read about who I think are the 2019 Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects are for the 2019 season. Let's take a look at the top rookies from last season and how they will perform in their sophomore seasons.

Every fantasy fan dreads the Sophomore Slump. You know the rookie who fails to live up to their breakout rookie seasons. Last season, we saw a healthy amount of great rookies who definitely helped win some fantasy leagues. If you looked at the championship rosters from last season, you would see the likes of Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres, and many more. Which rookies did you have last season?

I wanted to look at which rookies could possibly suffer the Sophomore Slump. I reviewed the top 10 rookies from last season and provided analysis and graded each player. Each player either received a SLUMP-a player who will suffer the sophomore slump and/or not live up to his fantasy expectations or the player received a BUMP-a player who will actually build upon their rookie seasons and continue to climb their position rankings.

Which rookies did I believe were the Top 10 rookies from last season? Who do I think will suffer the Sophomore Slump? Which players got the BUMP rating? Find out the answers to these questions and a whole lot more in the 2019 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: SLUMP or BUMP?

2019 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

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Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuna lived up to all of the hype and won the National League Rookie of the Year. In just 111 games, he slashed a .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs and 64 RBI. Additionally, Acuna drew 45 walks, swiped 16 bases, and had a WAR of 4.1. To top off his fantastic season, he made history by becoming the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the postseason at age 20.

His MLB debut was delayed until April 25 when he missed a month due to a sprained left anterior cruciate ligament on May 27. In 43 games before the All-Star break, Acuna hit .249/.304/.742 with seven homers. Around the All-Star break, Atlanta Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer suggested a change to his batting stance and Acuna was moved up to the leadoff spot. He became the catalyst for the Braves which led them to become the NL East Division champions.

The five-tool player hit .322 with 19 home runs and a 1.028 OPS over 68 games played after the All-Star break. He set a record by hitting a homer in five straight games, becoming the youngest player accomplish that feat in MLB history.

SLUMP or BUMP: If we project his stat line out over a full season, Acuna would have hit 45+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases. Those type of numbers places him in the MVP conversation. In 2019, I project that Ronald Acuna will be in the Top Five in the MVP consideration as he has a 30/30 season and fortifies his spot as a first-round pick in fantasy drafts for years to come. BUMP

Brian Anderson, 3B/OF, Miami Marlins

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Brian Anderson finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, splitting time at third base and in right field last season.

Anderson hit .273/.357/.400 line with 11 home runs and knocked in 65 RBI. However, he did slow down in the second half as evidenced by his wRC+ of 99 in the second half.

Anderson will return to third base for the Miami Marlins on Opening Day. The return to third base is confusing with Anderson having a .994 fielding percentage in right field and 3.4 fWAR. Regardless, the Marlins need his bat in their lineup.

"We do plan on playing him at third," manager Don Mattingly told reporters at the annual FanFest at Marlins Park. "He was excellent in right field last year, but as an organization, we feel like he makes us a better organization playing third base."

The 25-year-old has the tools and potential to be a 20-25 home run hitter. However, the rap on Anderson is that he is not a real difference maker. His power and speed are not accurate standout tools. His home ballpark is not hitter-friendly, and he needs to get more lift on his batted balls with a 51.8% groundball rate.

SLUMP or BUMP: Brian Anderson will not win your league for you, but he is a player that every fantasy owner wouldn't mind at the backend of their rosters. He doesn't do anything elite, and I fear the Marlins offense will hinder his potential. The falloff at the end of last season has to be somewhat of a concern, although he is a fallback option as your fifth outfielder or corner infielder in deeper formats. BUMP

Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees

Miguel Andujar, the AL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up, had a history-making season in 2018. He broke Joe DiMaggio's record for most doubles as a rookie in Yankee history (47). Andujar also finished with 76 XBH, which was good enough for 12th in baseball.

He was perhaps the Yankees' most consistent hitter last season. He slashed .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 92 RBI along with an impressive 126 OPS+.

For all of the offense that Andujar provides, he rated as the worst defensive third baseman in the Majors by his -25 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). His 15 errors were tied for the fourth most in MLB for third basemen.

The Yankees attempted to replace Andujar at third base. The Bronx Bombers tried to sign free agent Manny Machado, but he decided to sign a contract with the San Diego Padres. A move to either first base or even as a full time designated hitter seems like a likely option for Andujar if he can not improve his defensive efficiency.

SLUMP or BUMP:  It is unlikely that he will match last season's breakout. Andujar is probably the sophomore that is most likely to experience the dreaded sophomore slump. He still might sneak into the top 12 at third base but is a risky option. His defense may sink him and diminish his number of bats, and the Yankees are concerned about his issues at third base. His bat may keep him in the lineup but don't be surprised if he manages fewer at-bats which will harm his fantasy relevance. SLUMP

Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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Harrison Bader was not a highly regarded prospect moving through the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. He convinced the team in Spring Training that he belonged playing in the Majors.

Bader proved himself to the tune of batting .264 with a .334 on-base percentage. He hit 12 homers and drove in 37 runs. However, his most significant assets are his speed and defense. He was a Gold-Glove caliber centerfielder. He produced a 3.5 fWAR while providing 11 DRS in center field.

His rookie season did show some warning signs.  He did strikeout an alarming 125 times in 379 at-bats. Per BrooksBaseball.net, Bader averaged .171 against the slider last season, with a large chunk of his strikeouts coming on that pitch. All opposing pitchers and pitching coaches will force feed sliders to Bader until he can show that he can indeed hit that pitch.

Last season, his wRC+ against lefties was 138, or 38% above league average. His wRC+ against righties was 90, or 10% below average. His overall wRC+ was 106, which is not bad for an elite defender but not for someone to have on your fantasy roster.

SLUMP or BUMP:  Harrison Bader is a perfect example of a good baseball player but not good for fantasy. He has speed and is excellent with his glove in centerfield. The Cardinals' pitching staff will love him patrolling the outfield. However, he does not provide much fantasy contribution. He is best suited to be your fifth outfielder with an outside chance of getting you 20 homers and steals. Until he fixes his issues against right-handers, the platoon in St. Louis will not allow you to draft Bader. SLUMP

Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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It seems that we have been hearing Walker Buehler's name for years. A first-round pick in 2015, the young right-hander proved last season that the hype was warranted.

Buehler shined last season; he jumped from the third lowest level of pro ball to the highest in a matter of months. Last season, the flamethrower threw 137.1 innings with a 2.62 ERA, and a 0.961 WHIP with 151 strikeouts. His ERA+ last year was 148 becoming the first Dodger pitcher since Zack Greinke's incredible 2015 season to top Clayton Kershaw in that category.

He ranked in the top five percent of all pitchers with a minimum of 250 plate appearances against in wOBA at .247. That number put him one spot below AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and three places ahead of Max Scherzer.

Buehler finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2018. He will begin the season in the starting rotation, slotting in as the No.2 behind Kershaw. However, Kershaw is hurt (go figure) and may not be ready for Opening Day. It is a matter of time before he becomes the Dodgers ace if he isn't already.

SLUMP or BUMP: Walker Buehler is an ace, and I would love to have him on my fantasy teams this season. The only caveat is a potential innings issue. The Dodgers might manage the innings a bit since he pitched through October for the first time last season. That should not deter fantasy owners for staking an early draft pick on the Dodgers number one starter. BUMP

Jack Flaherty, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

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Jack Flaherty has an excellent Spring Training so far. He has struck out 14 batters in eight innings and looks unhittable.

The St. Louis Cardinals decided to go with Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day Starter, but the homegrown Jack Flaherty might have made the better choice. In 2018, he started 28 games and put up a 3.34 ERA to go along with a 116 ERA+. His 2.3 WAR was second to only Miles Mikolas on the staff.

Flaherty has the upside to take a massive jump in his sophomore season as shown in his Spring Training numbers.

SLUMP or BUMP: A selection of Flaherty in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft will make you look like a fantasy genius. His development into a possible ace should be noted on your draft board. BUMP

Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels

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Every MLB fan knows the story of Shohei Ohtani, and he lived up to his hype in his first MLB season.

He smacked 22 homers and slashed .285/.361/.564 in 326 at-bats as a part-time DH in his rookie season. Also, he posted a 3.31 ERA and averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings in 10 games.

Ohtani completed a successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last fall. He will not pitch at all in 2019. However, he can hit, but he won't be ready until sometime in May.

His production even in his limited time earned him the AL Rookie of the Year.

Ohtani continues to make progress in his recovery. He began taking swings and looks to return in the lineup in May.

SLUMP or BUMP:  With MOST players, I would say that most fantasy owners would leave Ohtani off their rosters. However, he did show that he can hit and hit with power last season while also swiping ten bases. He currently owns a #153 overall ADP according to Fantasy Pros.

The draft capital will not scare you, but the name will make you reach. He will lose at least a month of MLB action and maybe even more. Fantasy investment can be used more wisely. I am staying away from the Japanese phenom. SLUMP

Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

Juan Soto was only 19 for the 2018 season and probably had the greatest teenage season of all time last season. Soto was a highly-rated prospect and summoned to the Majors in May from Single-A to finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Soto finished with a .292/.406/.517 line, 25 doubles, 22 home runs, 79 walks, and 146 wRC+ in a 3.7 fWAR campaign. He also finished with the most walks, fourth-most RBIs, and the highest OBP, OPS+ (142) and wOBA (.392) of any teenager in major league history. Soto’s .406 OBP last season would have ranked 4th in the MLB if he qualified for the batting title.

So what can Soto do for an encore? Opposing pitchers and teams will invent ways to combat his strengths. Of course, Soto will have to figure out those changes and adjust accordingly. Every rookie goes thru this, although his season splits do not signify that. He had a .517 slugging percentage and .929 OPS before the All-Star break and a .517 slugging and .918 OPS after.

SLUMP or BUMP: I don't believe that he can repeat that type of monster season for the ages. His 22 home runs last season didn't finish him among the top 70 in home runs. His modest 9.8% barrel rate was good for only 80th in baseball behind Tommy Pham and just ahead of shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The pressure will be on Soto to produce this season, especially with Bryce Harper now with the Philadelphia Phillies. His current FantasyPros ADP is 31 and while it will be difficult for fantasy owners not to fell in love with last year's numbers. Please don't! Look for him to have a successful season, but not a monster season like 2018. SLUMP

Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, New York Yankees

Gleyber Torres had an impressive, robust season in 2018 and will look to duplicate his splendid rookie season. He was a heralded prospect for years and burst on the scene in his first year in the Majors.

He hit .271/.340.480 and smacked 24 homers and drove in 77 runs (second among rookies) in 123 games. However, there are some red flags concerning the 22-year-old middle infielder. He racked up a massive 122 strikeouts while walking only 42 times. Torres accumulated most of his damage in the first half. He racked up 15 of his 24 homers before the All-Star break. After the break, he hit only .249.

Torres will have plenty of opportunities to improve on his second-half numbers. Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius' injury will not allow him to return until July or August. Torres will receive reps at shortstop along with newcomer Troy Tulowitzki. In addition to signing former Rockie Tulowitzki, the Yankees brought in another former Rockie in DJ LeMahieu. He will play multiple positions including assisting at second base while Torres fills in at shortstop.

SLUMP or BUMP: Gleyber Torres will be available at both positions for your fantasy rosters. The third-place finisher in the AL Rookie of the Year voting currently has an overall FantasyPros ADP of 56, which seems like wishful thinking. His 2018 production resulted in a 120 wRC+. Regression is likely, and Streamer projects Torres to take a step back with a 108 wRC+. Gleyber Torres is not worthy of a Top 50 selection, but he is a top ten selection at second base AND shortstop. BUMP

Joey Wendle, 2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Joey Wendle was the heart and soul of the surprising Tampa Bay Rays, who won 90 games in the mighty AL East. He slashed .300/.354/.435 (.786 OPS) with seven homers, 62 runs, 61 RBI while swiping 16 stolen bases. Wendle finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Wendle was a pleasant surprise and a catalyst for the Rays. He led all AL rookies who had at least 300 plate appearances in batting average and stolen bases. He was second in OBP and had the fourth best wRC+ among all qualified rookies as well. His six triples were eighth most in the AL and led all Rays position players in WAR with an impressive 4.3.

Additionally, he made appearances at second and third base, shortstop and the outfield. In recognition of his determination and style of play, Wendle was awarded the  Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s Heart and Hustle award.

Wendle has a lock at the second baseman's job in 2019. There is uncertainty on where he will hit in the Rays lineup. Roster Resource lists Wendle as hitting third in Tampa's lineup. He does possess good contact skills as evidenced by his 17.6% strikeout rate. Also, he has gap-to-gap power with 33 doubles, and he hit .287 with runners in scoring position.

He does have the skills to hit leadoff. He has speed, as shown by his 16 stolen bases last season. Also, his .356 OBP makes him a strong candidate to lead off.

SLUMP or BUMP: Regardless, where he Wendle slots into the Rays lineup, he provides value, and his multi-position eligibility is fantasy gold. He can hit and has speed in an improving Rays lineup. Do your fantasy roster a favor and do not forget his name on draft day. BUMP

2019 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief Pitcher

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