As the 2017 fantasy baseball season draws near, we are forced to look back at the 2016 numbers that were and decode what to buy into and what to ignore. How much should we write off that cold streak due to a potential lingering injury? Will this trade affect Player X in a positive or negative way?
And the question we explore today: How much weight can we give that red-hot performance to close out the season? For our purposes today, the answer will be somewhere in the range of "quite a bit."
While some may seem obvious, there's still plenty of context necessary for those that had such a great closing month. Let's attack the bats first.
Five September Surgers
Byron Buxton - OF, MIN
We try not to touch on obvious, but we can’t write an article like this without Buxton – who blasted nine homers with 24 runs and 22 RBIs from Sept. 1 on. His wild .366 ISO trailed on Justin Upton’s absurd .458 mark out of all hitters, as the top prospect’s power has finally started to become game ready as he grows into his six-foot-two frame. He hit 11 homers in 209 Triple-A plate appearances alongside the 10 homers in 331 MLB PAs. This is not to say that he’ll wallop homers at such a clip in 2017, but this is a guy who has plus tools in all five categories and was finally able to flash that at the MLB level. He is not a finished product by any means, as evidenced by his 33.6% strikeout rate in September, but the loud contact did well to overshadow that. Those of you in points leagues where strikeouts can really weigh on you will ding his potential, but he has the talent to go 20/20 here with counting stats toward the 70s/80s.
Kevin Kiermaier - OF, TB
Kiermaier isn’t a new face as he enters his age-27 season, but he is coming off of a season where he hit 12 homers and went 21-for-24 on swipe attempts in only 414 PAs. While he had a steady season, his September saw him triple slash .296/.384/.490 as he smacked five homers and stole eight bases. The real intrigue here is what that OBP hinted at, as he more than doubled his walk rate from 4.5% in 2015 to 9.7% overall last season, which has made him a candidate to bat leadoff for Tampa Bay in 2017 with Logan Forsythe now shipped off to LA. While one shouldn’t extrapolate his September into all six months of 2017 and project him to hit 30 homers with 40-50 steals, a 20/40 campaign is within reach alongside 90 runs if he bats leadoff. His ADP is creeping up, as it's currently 183.41 (OF40), but he’s still a good bargain.
Brandon Drury - 2B/3B/OF, ARI
Drury opened the season with some flash by hitting four homers each in April and May with respective batting averages of .294 and .283, but then dealt with some injuries and didn’t have an everyday job in a crowded Arizona lineup. He’s now a leading candidate to hold down the keystone position in hitter-friendly Chase Field, largely thanks to a wild September that saw him slash .357/.417/.633 – making him one of 11 hitters to slug over .630 in the month. Now, if the 24-year-old can roll that momentum over into a starting gig in 2017, then September’s 40% hard-hit rate could flourish into a 25-homer campaign rather easily. A 30-homer ceiling isn’t out of the question considering he also smacked 31 doubles last season alongside the 16 homers, especially when viewing his spray chart in the aforementioned Chase Field.
Domingo Santana - OF, MIL
Santana’s 43.7% hard-hit rate checked in as the 10th best in the MLB for the month of September, with the three names surrounding him being David Ortiz, Nolan Arenado and Nelson Cruz. His 27.3% line-drive rate wasn’t so bad either, though it actually was lower than his overall 30.1% mark on the season. While his 32.4% strikeout rate looms large, he actually brought his swinging-strike rate down from 14.5% in 2015 to 12.1%. This doesn’t mean he’s on the fast track to solving his plate discipline issues, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign. Mix in that he gets to swing the lumber in Miller Park – which finished ninth in ESPN’s Park Factors for homers last season – and baby, you’ve got a stew going. With an NFBC ADP of 256.54 (OF62), he should make a low-cost, solid upside pick.
Ryon Healy - 3B, OAK
Healy currently holds an NFBC ADP of 197.73 as the 3B18, but this is a guy who could turn into a top-12 bat at the hot corner position with relative ease compared to some of his mid-tier cohorts. After hitting only .241 in his first 57 PAs in July, he hit .303 in 104 August PAs before turning 122 Sept./Oct. PAs into a .336 average that came out as 12th best in the MLB for the month. What really surprised were the seven homers that came with the average, as this is a guy who had really only offered 12-16 homer pop with his Minor League profile. Instead, we got 13 homers in only 283 MLB PAs last season – spurred on by that hot September. While Oakland Coliseum and his surrounding lineup don’t play up well for creating an offensive juggernaut, Healy could still post an 80/23/80/.310 line for you from deep on the draft board.
Thanks for playing along with us today, and be sure to tune in shortly for our look at five arms that surged in September that you should really be buying stock in!