2016 MLB Sleepers Ready to Make an Impact
Every year we have players that come out of nowhere and make an impact for their teams. Last year A.J Pollock, Charlie Blackmon and Michael Brantley were just a few players who exceeded expectations and had unexpected success. Let’s take a look at some under-the radar players who find themselves on the 2016 MLB sleepers list.
C J.T. Realmuto (Florida Marlins)
What makes Realmuto so intriguing is his dual-threat ability, which is a real rarity at his position. Last season he had 10 home runs and 8 stolen bases in just 126 games. Given a full season, he is more than capable of putting up 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Realmuto also has a high contact rate, which could translate to a solid batting average this season.
He got off to a slow start last year, but he went on to hit .273 during the second half. Realmuto is already a great defensive catcher with a solid arm, so if he can continue to improve his offensive game, the Marlins could finally have the catcher they’ve been looking for. For that reason, he is one of our 2016 MLB sleepers.
1B C.J. Cron (Los Angeles Angels)
Cron was bounced around between Triple-A and the majors last season, but he showed what he could do when the Angels called him up in June. In 78 games since the call up, he put up 15 home runs and 45 RBI’s while batting .285. Those numbers should land him a full-time gig with the Angels this season.
He will be hitting in the middle of the lineup, which will give him every opportunity to produce 20 home runs and 70 RBI’s. The Angels will be looking for some much needed offense from someone to help out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols; Cron may be the guy to deliver.
2016 Projection: AVG: .260; HR: 22; RBI: 75; SB: 3
2B Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore Orioles)
Schoop was limited by injuries last season, but still managed to finish the year with 15 home runs in just 86 games. His plate discipline will need to improve, as he strikes out at a very high rate and doesn’t generate many walks. Schoop still managed to hit .279, but that success won’t continue if he doesn’t address his approach at the plate.
Despite some of his flaws, the one thing he can do is crush the baseball. His power is for real and in a full season, he has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs. The Orioles will welcome that type of production from a guy who will likely hit near the bottom of the order. With the potential there, he lands a spot on our 2016 MLB sleepers list.
3B Jake Lamb (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Lamb suffered an unfortunate foot injury last season that cost him almost two months. Before the injury, he was red hot at the plate, hitting .414 in his first 10 games. His success did not continue when he came back from injury, as he was only able to produce a .249 average with 5 homers in 97 games.
Lamb just turned 25 years old and still has plenty of raw power. Given a full season, 20+ home runs isn’t out of reach. With Ender Inciarte gone, it could open up more at-bats for Lamb to finally put together a productive season.
2016 Projection: AVG: .262; HR: 18; RBI: 60; SB: 3
SS Kentel Marte (Seattle Mariners)
Marte is not going to hit a ton of homers or drive in a bunch of runs, but what he can do is play exceptional defense while providing much needed stability at the top of the order. There is no question he can hit the baseball and he proved that by hitting .314 in Triple A. When he got his shot in the major leagues he didn’t seem intimidated and went on to bat .283 and swiped 8 bases in 219 at bats – not bad for a 21 year old.
If he can get consistent playing time at the top of the order, he could easily eclipse 30 stolen bases and 70 runs. However, as a youngster, he could find himself at the bottom of the order to start the year.
2016 Projection: AVG: .275; HR: 3; RBI: 45; SB: 25
OF Randal Grichuk (St. Louis Cardinals)
Grichuk, another addition to our 2016 MLB sleepers list, is often referred to as the guy the Angels drafted ahead of Mike Trout, but now it looks like he’s ready to take the next step in his development and become a valuable contributor for the Cardinals. Grichuk wasn’t able to stay healthy last season and only managed to play 103 games. However, during that span he was able to hit 17 home runs which shows his massive power potential.
No one is saying he’s going to start putting up MVP type numbers, but a .275 AVG/30 HR/90 RBI campaign could be in the cards if he can remain healthy for a full season. The Angels could be looking back after this season wondering how they gave up such a young promising star for practically nothing.
P Taijuan Walker (Seattle Mariners)
Walker hasn’t been able to meet expectations ever since reaching the majors, but he’s still only 23 years old and has plenty of time to reach his full potential. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but consistency has been a problem. Walker’s control issues have been a concern and it has led to high walk rates, which is one of the reasons his ERA was an unimpressive 4.56 last season.
Despite his struggles last season, his stuff is too good not to figure it out sooner rather than later. He has two great pitches starting with his fastball that can touch 97 mph and a cutter that reaches 90 mph with good movement. He also throws a splitter and curveball, but doesn’t throw either of them with much success. He will have to feel comfortable throwing those pitches with more confidence in order for him to take the next step in his development.
2016 Projection: Wins: 14; Losses: 9; ERA: 3.60; WHIP: 1.20; SO: 180