With prospects rising through the minor-league ranks, fantasy owners are trying to get ahead of the curve to score the next big thing. But that doesn’t always work, because for every Mike Trout there’s a Mike Olt, and for every Walker Buehler there’s a Matt Moore.
However, quitting on those once highly touted prospects after one or two underwhelming seasons, and fearing being burned again, can set you up for failure.
Here are five players who haven’t lived up to their hype, but they could easily outperform their draft slot in 2019.
Jurickson Profar – Athletics – 1B/2B/3B/SS – ADP 131
Last season, Jurickson Profar finally showed off the skills that made him baseball’s top prospect way back in 2012. He slashed .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 82 runs scored in 146 games. Combine that with his ridiculous position flexibility, and he should land on fantasy radars.
He’s a sleeper because his ceiling has always made Profar a potential five-category monster. The 26-year-old possesses speed and power, and he makes enough contact to get on base with relative consistency.
Don’t let Oakland’s spacious home park scare you, either. The Athletics’ lineup – with Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and others – rakes, and the switch-hitting Profar will likely serve as the leadoff man.
The 2019 season will probably be his last stand in fantasy, and Profar will fade off if he doesn’t return fifth-round value.
Rafael Devers – Red Sox – 3B – ADP 138
Rafael Devers underperformed in 2018 while slashing .240/.298/.433, with his .281 BABIP dragging down that production. The third baseman was limited to 121 games, and although 21 home runs is a fine total, the hope was that he’d finish closer to 40.
His ADP heading into 2019 has reacted accordingly, as owners are shying away from committing to him as their primary option at the hot corner. But there are a few reasons not to worry.
In his 2017 rookie season, Devers posted an .819 OPS with 10 home runs in 58 games, and the excitement surrounding him increased entering 2018. He’s also only 22 years old and hits in the heart of Boston’s powerful lineup.
Byron Buxton – Twins – OF – ADP 188
Like Profar, Byron Buxton was recently seen as the top prospect in baseball. Also like Profar, he hasn’t lived up to that billing and bottomed out in 2018, appearing in only 28 big-league games and slashing .156/.183/.200. He’s running out of chances to make an impact.
Injuries have undoubtedly played a part, as Buxton landed on the disabled list last year due to migraines and a toe injury before being buried in Triple-A to close the campaign.
He was rounding into form during the second half of 2017, though, hitting .300 with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases over 56 games. The 25-year-old has true 20-20 potential, and he could soar even higher if everything breaks right.
His ADP will start to rise quickly if he keeps up the pace set in his first two spring games. He went 5-for-5 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
Jon Gray – Rockies – SP – ADP 203
Jon Gray was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments in 2018.
He took significant steps forward in 2017, even with a foot injury, while posting a 3.67 ERA, which was especially encouraging in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field. That ERA ballooned to 5.12 in 2018, earning him a demotion to Triple-A and causing problems for fantasy owners.
His 4.08 FIP, which went up after a bad finish, suggests rotten luck played a role in Gray’s performance. He was still a solid source of strikeouts last year, finishing with 183 over 172 1/3 innings, which came while not issuing too many walks (52).
Gray is a bit of an afterthought heading into 2019 after German Marquez cemented himself as Colorado’s ace. But don’t be surprised when he finishes the season as a top 20 fantasy starter.
Scott Kingery – Phillies – 3B/SS – ADP 358
Scott Kingery went through spring training in 2018 like a house of fire, earning a multi-year contract before playing a regular-season game. Then he was a trendy pick to become the NL Rookie of the Year, but his season didn’t play out that way.
Kingery’s rookie year was a profoundly frustrating one, as he slashed .226/.267/.338. Now he doesn’t even have a full-time gig locked up after the Phillies acquired Jean Segura.
However, Kingery could benefit from that if manager Gabe Kapler uses him like a young Ben Zobrist. Expect him to rotate around the infield, and earn outfield eligibility, too.
The fantasy course correction on Kingery has been too harsh, and he’ll reward those who use a late-round flier on him. If he goes undrafted, be ready to pounce the second Kingery starts putting it all together.
- Hunter Renfroe – Padres – OF – ADP 195
- Miguel Sano – Twins – 3B – ADP 206
- Josh Bell – Pirates – 1B – ADP 236
- Maikel Franco – Phillies – 3B – ADP 279
- Julio Urias – Dodgers – SP – ADP 327