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Is it Legit? Tyler White's Breakout Season

We're back with another edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019.

With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year.

Houston Astros 1B/DH Tyler White didn't make his season debut until June 16, but he has firmly jumped onto the fantasy radar for 2019 after slashing .276/.354/.533 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI in just 66 games played. Even with Evan Gattis unlikely to return, there are a lot of 1B/DH options in Houston. Will White play enough to merit serious fantasy consideration next season, or will he prove that his power surge was a fluke?

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A Big Second Half

White was a part-time player from 2016-2017, racking up 343 plate appearances and slashing .229/.294/.406 with 11 home runs, 38 RBI and a 0.0 fWAR. It is no surprise he was on absolutely zero fantasy owner's radars heading into the 2018 season.

However, after coming up on June 16, White received very extensive playing time and made the most of it, blasting 12 home runs and driving in 42 with a stellar .276/.354/.533 slash line. Now, with Evan Gattis set to hit free agency, White is expected to start at either first base or designated hitter for the Astros along with Yuli Gurriel.

White's minor league profile and the numbers he managed to post in a very small sample in 2017 very much back up the numbers he posted in 2018 - a great sign that his success will continue into 2019.

White posted a .305/.404/.509 slash line in 2,249 plate appearances in the minor leagues, posting an outstanding 15% strikeout rate and 13% BB rate.

Although he only saw 67 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2017, White's batted ball profile was very solid: .246 ISO, 32.6% hard hit rate, 88.9 mile per hour exit velocity and a very stellar 13 percent barrel rate - all numbers that are considerably above the league average.

White managed to build on most of those numbers in a much bigger sample last year, posting a .257 ISO with a 36.4% hard hit rate, a 89.1 exit velocity and 9.3% barrel rate. The results speak for themselves, and are buoyed by an improvement in his plate discipline: his walk rate jumped from 6.0 to 10.1 percent while his strikeouts dropped from 23.9 to 20.7 percent.


Where to Draft White

So basically, White build upon his very strong batted ball profile by improving his plate discipline, which earned him an everyday spot in arguably the best batting lineup in the entire league heading into 2019. There's a reason he is considered a top-200 draft pick despite limited big league exposure.

I'd be more than happy to snag White in the 18-20 round range, particularly with a surprising lack of talent at the first base position. If you miss out on Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo, snagging White is a perfectly acceptable backup plan. In fact, it might pay off even more if White can stay healthy. A 30-home run, 90-RBI season with a solid slash line is not out of the question here, for those who are willing to take the relative risk.

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