2021 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: Slump or the Real Deal?

by Trent Dickeson
2021 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

Welcome to the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: Slump or the Real Deal article!

One of my favorite things about baseball is seeing a prospect come up from the minor leagues and make an immediate impact on the big-league roster. Every year, rookies come up and provide an immediate impact for their team. Will any of last year's impact rookies become a Super Sophomore or will they fall victim to the sophomore slump?

It is not often that a Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto comes up and dominates from day one. Unfortunately, there are situations where players struggle after their initial rookie success due to a variety of reasons.

Miguel Andujar finished 2nd in the rookie of the year voting in 2018 and only has 114 plate appearances since then. Fantasy owners are worried if he will ever be fantasy relevant again.

As a Braves fan, I remember Dansby Swanson 38 game stretch in 2016 that gave us hope for the next star. It took three seasons for Swanson to return to fantasy relevance. Austin Riley looked like a fantasy stud for a month in Atlanta and now looks the part of low average/OBP slugger who will run into home runs if he can keep his starting spot.

While they may have given us a strong debut, that does not guarantee long-term fantasy success. Unfortunately, we see one-hit wonders in Fantasy Baseball.

This article will look to predict if a player is in for a sophomore slump or if they can keep up the same level of production going in 2021. It is important to note that with the weird 2020 season, some of these players will still be rookie eligible.

Super Sophomores: Slump or the real deal

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The Super Sophomore Class

Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners

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The 2020 American League Rookie of the year burst onto the scene with an impressive line of .262/.364/.437 with 11 HRs, 37 Rs, 28 RBIs, 5 SBs, and 126 wrc+. Over a full season, he was on pace for 29.7 HRs, 99.9 Rs, 75.6 RBIs, and 13.5 SBs.

That would be a great stat line to have over a full season, but is that sustainable?

Starting with his minor league numbers, Lewis has never shown huge power, which would lead me to believe his peak power could be 20-25 HRs. That would be fine coupled with 10-15 SBs. However, he was never a big base stealer in the minor leagues, so it is hard to predict that being a major aspect of his game going forward. Without the steals, his value could drop.

Currently going in the 12th round in redraft leagues, should fantasy baseball owners be concerned with Kyle Lewis going into 2021?

I am slightly concerned that Lewis regresses some in 2021. Looking at some of the metrics, Lewis ranks in the 30th percentile in hard-hit rate, 34th percentile in xBA, and 40th percentile in exit velocity. He does rank in the 78th percentile in barrel%, which is promising, but overall there is concern over his power potential.

Lewis ranks in the 5th percentile in whiff rate and 16th percentile in K%. A 29.3% K rate and 36.3% whiff rate (58.6% on off-speed pitches) in 2020 raise concerns about the hit tool.

If Lewis has a hard time consistently making solid contact, I would be worried that 20 HRs could be his peak in 2021. If he does not hit for a lot of power, then Lewis needs to steal more bases to help buoy his fantasy value, something that he historically lacks in his game.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 160

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rankings: 130

2021 Verdict: Sophomore Slump

Devin Williams, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

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Up next, the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year, Devin Williams! With a 0.33 ERA, 0.86 FIP, 1.09 xFIP, and a 17.67 K/9 it is easy to see how Williams won ROY as a reliever.

The biggest concern going into 2021 really depends on what league Fantasy Baseball players are playing in. If your league does not count holds (they should), then Williams loses value because of Josh Hader.

It might be hard to justify a reliever near the 14th round if his main value comes in hold leagues. While relievers are fickle and hard to predict, Williams may be able to justify his draft slot thanks to everything else he will provide fantasy owners.

He will still provide great stats for the fantasy ratios with a strong ERA and K/9. This is because Williams is absolutely filthy on the mound.

Here is a list of advanced metrics in which Williams ranks in the 100th percentile in: xBA, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, K%, and xERA.

Convince your commissioner to add holds to your league if they are not already included and be happy drafting Williams for your Fantasy Baseball team. Especially if the Brewers move Hader in the near future, which would then provide Williams with save opportunities.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 198

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 318

2021 Verdict: Real Deal

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

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I find Luis Robert to be an interesting case for redraft leagues. We all know the hype and talent that Robert has. However, 2020 was a mixed bag of results.

Overall, he finished with a stat line of .233/.302/.436 11 HRs, 33 Rs, 31 RBIs, 9 SBs, and a 101 wrc+. In September, he batted .136/.237/.173 1 HR, 11 Rs, 7 RBIs, and 5 SBs. The results did not justify the price Fantasy Baseball owners were paying in 2020 for Robert.

In 2021, he is still being drafted in the 3rd-4th rounds, but are there concerns that he struggles again this season?

Here are some concerning metrics from Robert's 2020 season:

  • 2nd percentile in whiff%- 41.5%
  • 6th percentile in K%- 32.2%
  • 20th percentile in xBA- .223
  • 34th percentile in exit velocity- 87.9
  • 46th percentile in BB%- 8.8%
  • 47th percentile in xwOBA- .325

I do not think it is time to sound the alarms for Robert long-term, but these are definitely concerning peripherals. Especially when looking at his swing and miss rates. He whiffed on 46.3% of breaking balls and 56.8% of off-speed pitches in 2020. He is not destroying fastballs either, only hitting .204 (.220 xBA) and slugging .311 (.410 xSLG).

There are reasons to be concerned with Robert in redraft leagues going into the 2021 Fantasy Baseball season. Especially with the price fantasy owners are going to have to pay. He is the definition of high risk, high reward.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 38

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 16

2021 Verdict: Caution advised in redraft leagues.

Ian Anderson, P, Atlanta Braves

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A player near and dear to my heart as a Braves fan. Ian Anderson burst onto the scene in 2020 with a sub 2 ERA and 11.41 K/9. The 29.7 K% translated to the playoffs where Anderson pitched to a 0.96 ERA in 18.2 IP, and almost helped the Braves reach the World Series.

This stellar performance from Anderson has him being drafted between the 8th and 10th round in Fantasy Baseball drafts. Will Anderson do enough this year to justify that draft capital?

I personally think it could be. Look at the metrics on his baseball savant page.

  • Barrel%- 1.2% (99th percentile)
  • xSLG- .233 (99th percentile)
  • xwOBA- .242 (96th percentile)
  • xwOBAcon- .274 (96th percentile)
  • wOBA- .234 (94th percentile)
  • xBA- .183 (92nd percentile)

It is a small sample size because Anderson has only thrown 51 professional innings at the big-league level if his postseason numbers are included. There is not much to go off of with Anderson, but if he can replicate his production in 2021, he will be a steal at that draft price.

Anderson's changeup was a real weapon in 2020, generating a .173 xBA and .203 xSLG against the pitch. Some scouts are now giving the changeup a 70 grade. Anderson was only considered to have one plus pitch coming out of the minors but now has the potential to find himself with three plus pitches.

The biggest concern with Anderson will be his control issues. He had a 3.90 BB/9 and 10.1% BB rate in 2020, and some of his walk numbers in the minors were concerning as well. In 2019 he had a 3.81 BB/9 in 111 IP at AA and a 6.57 BB/9 in 24.2 IP at AAA.

If Anderson can cut down on the walks, his stuff will absolutely play at the major league level. He has the potential to become an Ace if he learns to harness all the talent he has but could easily be an SP2 in 2021. The metrics support it.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 136

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 127

2021 Verdict: Great value

Sixto Sanchez, P, Miami Marlins

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The Miami Marlins top prospect showed glimpses of excellence in 2020. Could he turn into a fantasy stud going forward?

His 2020 stat line is not as impressive as one would hope, 3.46 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 7.62 K/9. Sanchez has some filthy pitches, and I would have thought he would have a higher K% (20.9%).

In the minor leagues, Sanchez's highest K/9 was 8.68 in 46.2 IP at high-A while still a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. What Sanchez does well is limit hard contact. He allowed only 0.69 HR/9 in 2020 and ranked in the 82nd percentile in xSLG.

This should allow him to be a solid SP3 going forward and justify an 11th round price tag. However, if he can start missing more bats, which should come with maturity and his natural talent, we could be looking at a fantasy stud going forward. Imagine if he can get his K% up to 27%-28%.

I think he should be fine in 2021 but would be a great dynasty asset to grab while it is still reasonable to do so.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 141

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 90

2021 Verdict: Should be fine

Jake Cronenworth, 1B, 2B, SS, San Diego Padres

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Cronenworth is an interesting player to value in Fantasy Baseball. A guy who had a 125 wrc+, .321 xBA (98th percentile), .396 wOBA (94th percentile), and .538 xSLG (91st percentile) is being drafted around the 16th round. Why?

Well, there are a few reasons. One is that there is not a guaranteed lineup spot for him in 2021. The Padres signed international star, Ha-Seong Kim and top prospect CJ Abrams is close to reaching the majors. The Padres do seem to like Cronenworth, so he could find himself in a super-utility role and play all over the field. This could help his fantasy value by allowing him to play nearly every day and could allow for even more positional flexibility for fantasy lineups.

There is also the risk of the small sample size. Overall, Cronenworth slashed .285/.354/.477 with 4 HRs, 26 Rs, 20 RBIs, and 3 SBs. In September, he slashed .183/.275/.268 0 HRs, 6 Rs, 3 RBIs, and 2 SBs.

Is it possible that pitchers figured Cronenworth out and his numbers would have looked worse over the course of a 162-game season or was he just in a slump like all players eventually go through?

The small sample size makes it hard to really say, but if Cronenworth struggles in 2021, there are plenty of options in San Diego that could cut into playing time and make it hard for him to find fantasy value.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 220

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 261

2021 Verdict: Slump candidate

Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

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This is the guy that I think could be a fantasy stud beginning this year. Bohm has all the talent in the world necessary to put up good numbers and he is in a stacked Phillies lineup.

In 44 games in 2020, Bohm hit .338/.400/.481 with 4 HRs, 24 Rs, 23 RBIs, 1 SB, and a 139 wrc+. I think Bohm could easily hit 25+ HRs and add in 175+ runs plus RBIs in 2021, and while I do not think he will hit over .300 consistently in his career, his .285 xBA (86th percentile) gives me confidence he could hit .280 with a .350 OBP. Add in the power and Bohm could be looking at an OPS north of .900.

Currently going around the back end of the 9th round, Bohm has the potential to provide an excellent return on investment for Fantasy Baseball owners.

As Bohm gets older, the doubles are going to become homers, which means more runs and RBI totals for the young third baseman. He is projected to hit behind Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto meaning he should have plenty of RBI opportunities in 2021.

Look for Alec Bohm to have a breakout season for Fantasy Baseball owners in 2021. Enjoy the relatively reasonable price tag now, it probably will go up pretty soon.

Fantasy Six Pack Redraft Rank: 94

Fantasy Six Pack Dynasty Rank: 91

2021 Verdict: Love

Super Sophomores: Slump or the Real Deal? Conclusion

There is obviously some risk when drafting a sophomore player in Fantasy Baseball, especially when we have a limited sample thanks to the shortened 2020 season.

It is an unfortunate reality, but some guys will suffer from a sophomore slump and some guys will never get back to the level they reached in their debut seasons. However, there are also cases of guys carrying their momentum into the next season and continually increasing their fantasy value.

Most of the guys on this list I love long-term and still believe will have great careers. There are just a few I will stay away from in my 2021 redraft leagues.

Fantasy Baseball is great because of the young talent that comes up and makes an immediate impact. It will be fun to watch these "Super Sophomores" in 2021 to see what they can provide for our Fantasy Baseball teams.

Make sure you bookmark our Fantasy Baseball page to consume all of our 2021 MLB content!

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