Every season there are a good amount of guys who break their way into the highest level baseball league in the world. Who are these guys? Are they career minor leaguers, or do they have a legitimate chance to snag long term playing time for your favorite franchise?
This article attempts to use a players track record through their professional baseball career to understand the actual value of a player who is now getting an opportunity to play in the MLB. The goal is to remove all emotional thought and to try and think of these guys as baseball production robots, so we're only searching for pure production here and nothing else. Consider it a less intense version of what "The Shredder" is on MLB Network.
Since fantasy baseball is a measure of offensive production, these guys are essentially listed by who is more fantasy relevant from top to bottom.
Michael Conforto - New York Mets
Most baseball fans should know who Michael Conforto is to an extent at this point since he has already had significant playing time for a team playing in the World Series. Aside from the fact that Conforto is good enough to have played himself into that role on a playoff team, then again for the beginning of this season, it's more than just the eye test that should have your spidey senses tingling here.
Conforto is just barely below the elite mark in terms of getting on base when looking at his minor league track record. He also has a good amount of pop and it's not out of the question for him to be a perennial 30 home run guy in the MLB. When you are thinking about Conforto from here on out, do be sure to make the distinction that he's a professional hitter before he's a power hitter.
Potential hitter player comps - Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Adrian Beltre, Matt Carpenter, Brandon Belt, Adam Jones, Eric Hosmer, Steven Piscotty
Expectations for 2016 - 600 plate appearances, 25 home runs, .350 on base percentage
Scott Schebler - Cincinnati Reds
Scott Schebler has begun the year platooning at left field with Adam Duvall who is farther down on this list. While both players have big time upside, it appears that Schebler has more of the full package and is probably a better bet for regular playing time throughout the year. His best tool is his power, but he is above average with his on base skills and his speed as well. Many have projected Schebler to have a bad average due to a high strikeout rate, but his minor league numbers suggest that he normally keeps his k-rate a smidge below 20% which is about average.
Scheblers 2014 season looks like a best case scenario for him if he can repeat it at the MLB level - he hit 33 homers while maintaining an on base percentage of .360 to go along with 10 steals which is actually the least amount of steals he's had in a given year. If he is able to achieve this level at any time, and remember that he's already done this in his professional career, he will be a star outfielder. He should not be in free agents for fantasy leagues and the Cincinnati Reds might want to think about using him as a guy to build around.
Potential hitter player comps - Yoenis Cespedes, JD Martinez, Todd Frazier, David Peralta, Brian Dozier
Expectations for 2016 - 500 plate appearances, 28 home runs, 12 steals, .325 on base percentage
Joey Rickard - Baltimore Orioles
People may have found out about Joey Rickard when he hit his first career home run the other night out of the leadoff spot. Others may know him for helping to confuse the whole Hyun-Soo Kim situation. What has ended up happening is Kim has sat on the bench the entire regular season thus far while Rickard has picked up a start in every Baltimore Orioles game in the first week. Rickard is a rule-5 pick which means that he can't be sent down this year, but that might not matter if he holds down a starting job this season. He is an athletic lead-off hitting, great defending type player who will have a chance to set the table for one of the most powerful lineups in the league.
Rickard doesn't hit for power at all, just expect a handful each season, but he does have very good on base skills and knows how to steal bases. Rickard maintained an on base percentage well over .420 last season in the minors, so expect him to be on base pretty much every game this season. He's stolen as many as 30 bases in a year as well. If you're looking for someone who can hit for a .300 avg and stealing 25 bases, Rickard is not a long shot to do just that. He could be a future perennial contender for the batting title.
Potential hitter player comps - Ben Revere, Adam Eaton, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Nick Markakis, DJ LeMahieu
Expectations for 2016 - 550 plate appearances, 4 home runs, 25 steals, .385 on base percentage
Domingo Santana - Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gomez was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Houston Astros and one of the bigger pieces Milwaukee got in return was Domingo Santana. Santana has been given a starting spot to begin the year and appears like he will have a legitimate chance to establish himself as a big leaguer this season. Santana has legitimate pop and it's consistent throughout his minor league career dating back to 2012. Although he has the feel of a big swing big miss guy, he does do a good job of keeping his on base percentage up through walking and having a good 2 strike approach. This is another hitter who should not be available in fantasy leagues, and the 23 year old does look like a long term solution as a power hitting corner outfielder.
Potential hitter player comps - Justin Upton, Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Kole Calhoun, Todd Frazier, Joc Pederson, Jay Bruce
Expectations for 2016 - 600 plate appearances, 24 home runs, .320 on base percentage
Jabari Blash - San Diego Padres
Jabari Blash is another one of these rule-5 players who can't get sent down all year. Also, Blash is only getting playing time competition from Melvin Upton Jr at this time. Most importantly, Blash might have the most upside of anyone on this entire outfielder edition article. Blash has consistently put 30 or more homers in the seats each year throughout his minor league career, but has also struk out a lot during that time. Sometimes he is good about getting his walks to compensate for that, but sometimes he appears to go though long cold spells. He is pretty raw and hasn't gotten any MLB exposure yet, so he's a bit of a wildcard as of right now.
The San Diego Padres need offense, so it might be wise of them to let Blash swing away and hope for the best. The biggest downside for Blash is the fact that he's on the Padres, a team who consistently can't maintain a good offense and play in the most pitcher friendly park in the league.
Potential hitter player comps - Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Arenado, JD Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, Evan Gattis, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard, Scott Van Slyke, Brandon Moss, Brett Lawrie, Kyle Blanks
Expectations for 2016 - 300 plate appearances, 17 home runs, .330 on base percentage
Adam Duvall - Cincinnati Reds
Adam Duvall is the Mark Reynolds or Ryan Howard of this class of players. What's meant by that is, he's the biggest home run or bust guy breaking into the big leagues right now besides Joey Gallo who is still figuring things out at the minor league level. There is massive upside here, but there's also great opportunity for extreme failure at the same time.
Duvall has managed to get a cup of coffee with both the San Francisco Giants and the Reds each of the past two seasons and it's worth noting that he's played both corner infield spots a lot in his career, so he provides more value to the Reds by being a bit of an insurance policy for Joey Votto if he was to go down or get traded. Same situation for Jay Bruce, if he gets traded, both Duvall and Schebler would be full time starters. Duvall has hit over 30 home runs in each of his past two seasons and approached the 40 homer mark last year so the raw power is legit. His problem, as mentioned before, is the fact that his strike out rate is too high (36% in MLB last season).
Potential hitter player comps - Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Evan Gattis, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard, Mark Reynolds
Expectations for 2016 - 450 plate appearances, 22 home runs, .290 on base percentage
Cedric Hunter - Philadelphia Phillies
Due to an injury to Aaron Altherr that will have him sidelined 4-6 months, the door was opened for 28 year old Cedric Hunter to snag a starting spot with the Philadelphia Phillies this year. While he is the least profitable name up here so far due to the fact that he's probably too old to be a long term option for the Phillies, Cedric has some value. He actually has a chance to be one of the best players for this team that has almost nothing impressive to show anyone at the MLB level in 2016.
Hunter is an all-round player without big upside in any given area, but is average to above average with his power numbers, on base numbers and speed numbers. Think of him as a guy who might hit 15 homers and get 15 steals with full playing time. He is currently platooning with Tyler Goeddel who is at the very bottom of this list, but he should play himself out of a job sooner rather than later.
Hitter player comps - Marcus Semien, Kolten Wong, Kevin Kiermaier, Kevin Pillar, Austin Jackson, Addison Russell, Logan Morrison, Melky Cabrera
Expectations for 2016 - 450 plate appearances, 13 home runs, 15 steals, .310 on base percentage
Preston Tucker - Houston Astros
You may know Preston Tucker already since he platooned in the Astros outfield for a good chunk of 2015, but let's still figure out what we should expect here. His main tool is his power, but he showed signs of struggling to consistently get on base at the big league level in 2015. He provides little to no value with his speed and his defense is unimpressive which could cost him playing time especially in a system loaded with farm talent. Overall it looks like Tucker will always hit for a pretty good slugging percentage, so he should stick around in the big leagues.
Potential hitter player comps - Colby Rasmus, Lucas Duda, Evan Gattis, Todd Frazier, Chris Carter
Expectations for 2016 - 300 plate appearances, 13 home runs, .300 on base percentage
Keon Broxton - Milwaukee Brewers
If you haven't noticed, most the Milwaukee Brewers are new young guys. Keon Broxton is one that might have some pretty good upside. His minor league track record suggests that speed is his most relied upon tool and he might be capable of stealing more bases than anyone on this list. Broxton also has average to above average power to go along with that speed as he has hit over 15 home runs a few times in his professional career. His on base skills are still developing as he didn't look impressive in that regard until 2015. Overall, this is a potential 20/20 player if he ever gets full time at bats and develops his power a bit, which doesn't look like it will be this year.
Potential hitter player comps - Charlie Blackmon, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Lorenzo Cain, Kevin Pillar, Billy Burns, Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, Anthony Gose, Ender Inciarte
Expectations for 2016 - 300 plate appearances, 4 home runs, 18 steals, .285 on base percentage
Reymond Fuentes - Kansas City Royals
After the Royals decided not to sign Alex Rios, there was an open spot in the outfield and Reymond Fuentes looks like he will get the bulk of the playing time there to begin the season. Fuentes is a average to above average on base guy who has plus speed but below average power. He's somewhat similar to Joey Ricked who is listed above, but isn't quite as elite when it comes to the on base skills. He's likely going to hit 9th when he's in the lineup as he appears to be an ideal secondary leadoff hitter.
Potential hitter player comps - Billy Burns, Ben Revere, Ender Inciarte, Alceides Escobar, Chris Owings, Angel Pagan, Eric Aybar, Jace Peterson
Expectations for 2016 - 350 plate appearances, 3 home runs, 15 steals, .310 on base percentage
Socrates Brito - Arizona Diamondbacks
A lot of people assumed that Socrates Brito would be given most of the starts at center field this season with AJ Pollock out for the year, but infielders Chris Owings and Brandon Drury have taken a good portion of the playing time there early. The season is long and Brito is now a top 3 natural outfielder on the team and he should get plenty of at bats as the season progresses. Brito has plus speed, but might have some trouble consistently getting on base. Arizona fans should pretty much consider him a new version on Ender Inciarte. There is almost no power upside here.
Potential hitter player comps - Billy Burns, Elvis Andrus, Anthony Gose, Ender Inciarte
Expectations for 2016 - 475 plate appearances, 5 home runs, 18 steals, .280 on base percentage
Jeremy Hazelbaker - St. Louis Cardinals
After losing Tommy Pham to injury from his first regular season swing, the St. Louis Cardinals have turned to Jeremy Hazelbaker to spell their outfield thus far in 2016. He has taken starts away from Randall Grichuk who has struggled out of the gate, and could provide the Cardinals the option to play Matt Holliday at first base if he can continue to produce at his current rate.
Although Hazelbaker has been basically a complete unknown until this season, he has been pretty good throughout his minor league career. He has a moderate power tool and an above average speed tool while playing great defense. His overall hitting apparently reached a much higher level in 2015 when he almost had a .400 OBP through AA and AAA which is probably why he got the call ahead of some other guys. If the 2015 version of Hazelbaker is the real one, the 28 year old could be an outfielder at the big league level the rest of his career.
Potential hitter player comps - Austin Jackson, Christian Yelich, Starlin Castro, Freddy Galvis, Gerrardo Parra, Alexei Ramirez
Expectations for 2016 - 250 plate appearances, 6 home runs, 10 steals, .330 on base percentage
Ramon Flores - Milwaukee Brewers
Ramon Flores has begun the year platooning with Keon Broxton (listed above) at center field. Of the two, Broxton looks like he has more upside, but Flores is more MLB ready right now. Flores doesn't have speed or power upside but he does do a fairly good job of getting on base and playing good defense. Because of this, he probably isn't the best fantasy pickup, but he will probably always have an MLB level job if he's solid at getting on base and playing defense.
Potential hitter player comps - Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, Brock Holt, Nick Markakis, Melky Cabrera
Expectations for 2016 - 300 plate appearances, 6 home runs, 2 steals, .330 on base percentage
Travis Jankowski - San Diego Padres
There was a chance that Travis Jankowski would be the opening day starter at center field for the Padres, but the combination of Jon Jay taking the job and a foot injury at the end of Spring Training has had him riding the bench early in the season so far. Jankowski is pretty fast and a great defensive outfielder who knows how to get on base. He has absolutely no power potential.
Potential hitter player comps - Ben Revere, Billy Burns, Anthony Gose, Alceides Escobar, Elvis Andrus
Expectations for 2016 - 250 plate appearances, 1 home run, 15 steals, .330 on base percentage
Eddie Rosario - Minnesota Twins
Many think that Eddie Rosario was actually somewhat of a breakout player in 2015 when he got a lot of playing time in the outfield. Truth is, he was valued improperly because of his second base eligibility in fantasy and the fact that everyone only looked at his average without bothering to see his on base percentage. While Rosiario does have some slight power and speed upside, he is amongst the worst in the league in on base skills. He strikes out a lot and almost never walks. It would not be surprising to see him replaced if he doesn't fix his on base skills. He may have been able to get away with that production as a middle infielder, but there are so many outfield options out there that he might not cut it.
Potential hitter player comps - Drew Stubbs, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jean Segura, Michael Taylor, Alexei Ramirez
Expectations for 2016 - 450 plate appearances, 14 home runs, 12 steals, .285 on base percentage
Matt Szczur - Chicago Cubs
Matt Szczur was a bench player for the Chicago Cubs most of the year last year, but with Kyle Schwarber going down and Szczur off to a hot start, it feels important to include him in this article. Truth is that Szczur doesn't have much to contribute offensively based on his track record. He is a plus speed guy, but has trouble maintaining a high on base percentage and has below average power. In the stacked Cubs system, this means that he will probably never get a chance to start but could be a valuable bench guy used to pinch run a lot.
Potential hitter player comps - Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Sam Fuld
Expectations for 2016 - 150 plate appearances, 2 home runs, 12 steals, .275 on base percentage
Tyler Naquin - Cleveland Indians
Due to the mess that is the Cleveland Indians outfield situation, Tyler Naquin is going to get some playing time out of the gate. Naquin looks like a poor mans Ramon Flores (listed above) and doesn't have speed or power upside but has shown that he can handle the outfield and get on base at an average rate. He will have to improve to be able to consistently make MLB teams
Potential hitter player comps - Melvin Upton Jr, Carl Crawford (Dodgers version), Ryan Goins, Zack Cozart, Eduardo Nunez, Sam Fuld
Expectations for 2016 - 300 plate appearances, 3 home runs, 6 steals, .300 on base percentage
Tyler Goeddel - Philadelphia Phillies
Tyler Goeddel was a rule-5 pick this off-season and he's one that probably shouldn't have made the team and who should have been shipped back to his original teams minor league system. Over the course of his career, he has done nothing that has been very impressive with the bat. His main tool is his running ability but he doesn't have elite speed by any means, just above average. No serious upside and will likely lose the majority of his playing time to Cedric Hunter who is listed above. There's also Aaron Altherr who is spending the season recovering from injury who is better than both Hunter and Goeddel.
Potential hitter player comps - Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Anthony Gose, Alceides Escobar
Expectations for 2016 - 200 plate appearances, 2 home runs, 7 steals, .300 on base percentage