Ranking MLB's 25 Most Overhyped Players Entering 2020

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2020

Ranking MLB's 25 Most Overhyped Players Entering 2020

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    Not every Major League Baseball player is going to live up to expectations during the 2020 season.

    Some players will simply not be able to fulfill the hype that stems from their solid performance the previous year, and there are often warning signs below the surface in the form of peripheral numbers.

    Ahead we've highlighted 25 players who will come up short during the upcoming season relative to what is expected of them. It's a mix of young players with limited track records of success and established MLB veterans with a few red flags below the surface.

    Players are ranked based on level of expectations and hype for the upcoming season. That's not to say these guys can't still be productive players in 2020, but they appear to be positioned for a letdown.

    Let's get started.

25. IF Hanser Alberto, Baltimore Orioles

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    The Good

    Plucked from the waiver wire in March, Hanser Alberto ended up being one of the Baltimore Orioles' most productive players. He hit .305/.329/.422 with 35 extra-base hits in a 3.1 WAR season, wearing out left-handed pitching to the tune of a .398 average in 227 plate appearances.

          

    The Bad

    The 27-year-old only walked 16 times in 550 plate appearances, which puts a lot of pressure on his batting average to carry his offensive value. With some of the worst exit velocity (first percentile) and hard-hit rate (first percentile) numbers in all of baseball, hitting over .300 again could be a tough ask.

24. SP Zach Plesac, Cleveland Indians

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    The Good

    Despite entering last season well off the top-prospect radar, Zach Plesac wound up emerging as a key contributor in the Cleveland Indians' starting rotation. He started 21 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP on his way to a 1.8 WAR rookie season.

         

    The Bad

    The surface-level numbers were backed by a 4.94 FIP and a middling 6.8 K/9 strikeout rate that speaks to his lack of overpowering stuff. The 25-year-old ranked near the bottom of the league in exit velocity allowed (19th percentile), expected weighted OBA (14th percentile) and strikeout percentage (17th percentile). He has his work cut out for him to simply hold onto a spot in the rotation.

23. SP Mike Fiers, Oakland Athletics

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Good

    Mike Fiers has a 3.86 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 42 starts with the Oakland Athletics over the past two seasons, after coming over in an August waiver trade with the Detroit Tigers in 2018. He tossed a career-high 184.2 innings last year, recording 19 quality starts along the way.

          

    The Bad

    All eyes are going to be on Fiers this season after the role he played as whistle-blower in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. His strong numbers in Oakland have been accompanied by a 4.96 FIP and a middling 6.7 K/9 strikeout rate. The 34-year-old has outpitched his peripherals throughout his career, but some significant regression seems inevitable.

22. IF David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Good

    Only Mike Trout (8.3) had a higher WAR among Los Angeles Angels players last season than David Fletcher, who quietly put together a 3.8 WAR season. The 25-year-old hit .290/.350/.384 with 40 extra-base hits while playing above-average defense at second base (6 DRS, 10.9 UZR/150), shortstop (2 DRS, 10.5 UZR/150) and third base (6 DRS, 7.4 UZR/150).

         

    The Bad

    Fletcher showed elite bat-to-ball skills with just 55 walks and 64 strikeouts in 653 plate appearances. However, the contact he made was low-quality contact more times than not, with an exit velocity (third percentile) and hard-hit rate (zero percentile) that ranked among the worst in baseball. His future appears to be as a defensive-minded backup.

21. SP Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Good

    Daniel Norris pitched a career-high 144.1 innings last season, posting a 4.49 ERA in a 2.9 WAR season while looking very much like a potential long-term piece of the puzzle in Detroit. Once viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball during his time in the Toronto Blue Jays system, he was one of the prospect centerpieces of the David Price blockbuster.

         

    The Bad

    While the bottom-line results were solid, Norris tip-toed around some of the worst exit velocity allowed (sixth percentile) and hard-hit rate allowed (fifth percentile) in all of baseball. The 2020 season could be make-or-break for the 26-year-old with a number of high-profile pitching prospects rising the ranks of the Tigers' minor league system.

20. RF Avisail Garcia, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The Good

    The Tampa Bay Rays signed Avisail Garcia to a one-year, $3.5 million contract last offseason after he was non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox, and he rewarded them with a 111 OPS+ and 20 home runs while finishing second on the team with 72 RBI.

         

    The Bad

    The 28-year-old has been prone to wild fluctuations in performance throughout his career. He was an All-Star in 2017 when he hit .330, and then saw his average fall nearly 100 points in a 0.3 WAR season the following year. His exit velocity (60th percentile) and hard-hit rate (58th percentile) are far from elite for an offensive-minded player, and his two-year, $20 million deal could prove to be a mistake.

19. SP Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Good

    After an injury-plagued 2018 season, Jeff Samardzija bounced back to rank among the NL leaders in ERA (3.52, 14th), WHIP (1.11, 10th) and innings pitched (181.1, 15th). Entering the final season of a five-year, $90 million contract, he's now the closest thing the San Francisco Giants have to a staff ace.

         

    The Bad

    The Giants should have sold high on Samardzija when they had a chance this offseason, eating some of his remaining salary to facilitate a trade and add more prospect talent to a system on the rise. His 4.59 FIP and the lowest BABIP among qualified NL pitchers (.240) are significant regression indicators looking ahead to 2020.

18. RP Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    The Good

    Alex Colome saved 30 games last season for a White Sox team that only won 72, suffering just three blown saves while posting a 2.80 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 62 appearances. He was brought back at the hefty price tag of $10.53 million for his final year of arbitration to anchor the bullpen of a team expecting to take a significant step forward.

          

    The Bad

    At his peak, Colome was a dominant bullpen arm who averaged 11.3 K/9 during the 2016 season. Those days are gone, though, and his strikeout rate dipped to 8.1 K/9 last year. The 31-year-old ranked among the worst in baseball in exit velocity allowed (second percentile) and hard-hit rate allowed (12th percentile), two areas where elite closers usually dominate. Don't be surprised if Aaron Bummer is closing games by midseason.

17. RF Hunter Renfroe, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Good

    Hunter Renfroe slugged a career-high 33 home runs for the San Diego Padres last season, and his 85 long balls over the past three seasons are tied for 30th in the majors during that span. He also played stellar defense in the outfield, tallying 23 DRS and 13.1 UZR/150 while playing all three spots.

        

    The Bad

    The power and defense are nice, but Renfroe has some glaring holes in his game. He struck out at a 31.2 percent clip and struggled to a .289 on-base percentage. The decision to trade Tommy Pham for Renfroe could be one the Rays come to regret, especially if he is unable to make any strides in his batting average and on-base percentage.

16. RP Shane Greene, Atlanta Braves

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    The Good

    After saving a career-high 32 games in 2018, Shane Greene put together a brilliant first half last season, nailing down 22 of 24 save chances with a 1.09 ERA and 9.3 K/9 in 33 appearances. That made him a hot commodity at the trade deadline, and he was eventually traded to the Atlanta Braves.

           

    The Bad

    Greene allowed runs in four of his first six appearances with the Braves, which led to his quick removal from the closer's role. The 31-year-old had a 4.01 ERA with 10 holds in 27 appearances in his time with the Braves, and he will now earn $6.25 million in 2020. His peripheral numbers suggest a repeat of his second-half performance is more likely than another All-Star appearance.

15. SS Kevin Newman, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Good

    After years as one of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, Kevin Newman finally broke through to hit .308/.353/.446 with 38 extra-base hits and 16 steals in 130 games. He now looks like the clear starter at shortstop for a team headed for a rebuild.

        

    The Bad

    In terms of exit velocity (fifth percentile) and hard-hit rate (fifth percentile), Newman profiled as one of the least impactful hitters in baseball last year. That is going to make repeating his .308 batting average awfully tough. He was also not particularly good defensively (-7 DRS, -9.8 UZR/150), which could give him a tenuous hold on the starting job if his offensive game crashes back to earth.

14. 1B/2B Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox

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    The Good

    Michael Chavis hit .263/.357/.496 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI in his first 157 plate appearances in the majors last season, quickly emerging as a key contributor for the Boston Red Sox after making his MLB debut on April 20. The 24-year-old entered last season as one of the few bright spots in an extremely thin farm system.

            

    The Bad

    From June 1 through Aug. 11, when his season ended prematurely with a left AC join sprain, Chavis hit just .248/.298/.410 with eight home runs in 225 plate appearances the rest of the way. With Dustin Pedroia on the shelf once again, Chavis is set to open the season as the starting second baseman for the Red Sox. His sluggish finish to last season makes it hard to know exactly what to expect going into 2020.

13. LF Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    The Good

    Kyle Lewis exploded onto the scene with six home runs and 12 RBI in his first 10 games at the MLB level last season. The No. 11 pick in the 2016 draft jumped straight to the majors from Double-A last year after hitting .263 with a .342 on-base percentage and 38 extra-base hits in 122 games in the minors.

         

    The Bad

    While the early power production was impressive, Lewis also struck out 29 times in 75 plate appearances after making his MLB debut last September. That came after he whiffed 152 times in 417 plate appearances at Double-A. It's fair to wonder if he's going to make enough consistent contact to fully tap into his intriguing raw power potential.

12. SP Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    The Good

    After posting a middling 4.95 ERA in 136.1 innings with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018, Luke Weaver took a significant step forward last year after he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Paul Goldschmidt blockbuster. The 26-year-old had a 2.94 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 69 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.

         

    The Bad

    While his 3.09 FIP and strong strikeout numbers provide plenty of reason for optimism, Weaver was hit hard last season. His exit velocity allowed (16th percentile) and hard-hit rate allowed (11th percentile) both give reason for pause, especially in a hitter-friendly ballpark in Arizona. He's a tough one to peg in terms of long-term potential, and he will be one to watch in 2020.

11. 3B Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    The Good

    In his first 20 games in the majors last year, Austin Riley hit .329/.369/.696 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 84 plate appearances. The 22-year-old has a top-prospect pedigree with strong offensive numbers throughout his time in the minors.

         

    The Bad

    After his hot start, Riley hit just .185/.244/.379 with 19 extra-base hits and a staggering 38.0 percent strikeout rate in 213 plate appearances the rest of the way. The departure of Josh Donaldson left a glaring hole to fill at third base, but Riley will have to beat out Johan Camargo for the starting gig. Otherwise, he is likely headed back to Triple-A to work on his approach.

10. RF Nomar Mazara, Chicago White Sox

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The Good

    In his four full seasons in the majors, Nomar Mazara has averaged 24 doubles, 20 home runs and 77 RBI. Still just 24 years old, and with a top-prospect pedigree, he offers more upside than most players who have his level of MLB experience. After White Sox right fielders hit .220/.277/.288 last year, he should be an upgrade.

         

    The Bad

    Beyond the counting numbers, Mazara has hit a lackluster .261/.320/.435 for a 93 OPS+ while showing no real signs of improvement. He hit just .220/.252/.394 against left-handed pitching last year, so he's best served in a platoon role, and he's also a poor defender (-4 DRS, -3.7 UZR/150).

9. SP Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    The Good

    An All-Star last season, Sandy Alcantara posted a 3.88 ERA and tossed a pair of shutouts in 197.1 innings to emerge as a promising long-term piece for the rebuilding Miami Marlins. The 24-year-old was one of the prospect centerpieces of the Marcell Ozuna blockbuster trade.

        

    The Bad

    Despite elite fastball velocity (84th percentile), Alcantara finished near the bottom of the league in strikeout percentage (16th percentile). His 4.55 FIP and 1.31 WHIP give him more of a back-of-the-rotation profile than future ace potential. The stuff can be elite at times, but he's still a long way from putting it all together.

8. IF/OF Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Good

    It seems like every year the St. Louis Cardinals pluck a previously unheralded prospect from their minor league ranks and watch him emerge as a key contributor. Last year, it was Tommy Edman, who hit .304/.350/.500 with 35 extra-base hits in 349 plate appearances en route to 3.8 WAR while playing five different positions.

         

    The Bad

    With a career .769 OPS and just 23 home runs in 1,597 plate appearances during his time in the minors, there is little in Edman's track record to suggest his .850 OPS and 11 home runs in 92 games are sustainable. Mediocre exit velocity (21st percentile) and hard-hit rate (19th percentile) numbers give him significant flash-in-the-pan risk.

7. IF/OF Danny Santana, Texas Rangers

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The Good

    Danny Santana burst onto the scene with a 130 OPS+ in 430 plate appearances during a 3.9 WAR rookie season with the Minnesota Twins in 2014. He then promptly dropped off the MLB radar, before popping back up last season with a 112 OPS+ and a career-high 28 home runs and 21 steals on a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.

         

    The Bad

    An out-of-nowhere breakout season at the age of 28 always raises a few eyebrows, and Santana is no exception. His .353 BABIP and an unsustainably high 24.3 percent home run-to-fly ball rate are both significant regression red flags, and he might be best served in a part-time, super-utility role going forward.

6. SS Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    The Good

    Adalberto Mondesi used his plus speed (43 SB) and elite defense (8 DRS, 11.7 UZR/150) to post a 2.6 WAR season as one of the few promising young building blocks on the Kansas City Royals roster. The 24-year-old is still settling in at the MLB level with just 943 plate appearances under his belt.

         

    The Bad

    A 29.8 percent strikeout rate compared to a 4.3 percent walk rate last year speaks to a hitter without any real plan at the plate. His exit velocity (30th percentile), hard-hit rate (22nd percentile) and middling on-base percentage (.291) leave him looking a lot like post-hype Billy Hamilton offensively.

5. SP Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Good

    In his first full season in the majors, Dakota Hudson won 16 games while posting a 3.35 ERA in 174.2 innings as a staple in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. He limited opposing hitters to a .245 batting average and finished strong with a 1.86 ERA over his final nine starts.

         

    The Bad

    His strong ERA was backed by an ugly 4.93 FIP and a 1.41 WHIP that stemmed from an NL-leading 86 walks and a 4.4 BB/9 walk rate. In order to take the next step forward, Hudson needs to improve his strikeout rate (16th percentile) and hard-hit rate (28th percentile), and that will come from improved command in the zone.

4. CF David Dahl, Colorado Rockies

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The Good

    David Dahl earned his first All-Star nod last season while hitting .302/.353/.524 with 28 doubles, 15 home runs, 61 RBI and 67 runs scored in 100 games. The 25-year-old also held his own defensively in center field after swapping spots with Charlie Blackmon.

         

    The Bad

    The home (.349 BA, 1.000 OPS, 27 XBH) and road (.254 BA, .751 OPS, 21 XBH) splits are ugly, and that has been the case for Dahl throughout his time in the majors. A below-average exit velocity (33rd percentile) and hard-hit rate (48th percentile) raise some questions about the sustainability of his batting average. In the end, he was just a 0.4 WAR player in 2019.

3. LF Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Good

    Used primarily as the cleanup hitter in a stacked Minnesota Twins lineup, Eddie Rosario posted a 106 OPS+ with 28 doubles, 32 home runs and 109 RBI to finish 18th in AL MVP voting.

        

    The Bad

    Rosario walked just 22 times in 590 plate appearances for a 3.7 percent walk rate and a .300 on-base percentage. He makes a lot of contact, with just 86 strikeouts to go along with those walks, but it's not always good contact. His exit velocity (51st percentile) and hard-hit rate (34th percentile) do not paint him as an elite middle-of-the-order threat.

2. SP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Good

    Matthew Boyd racked up 238 strikeouts in 185.1 innings for a career-high 11.6 K/9 that ranked fourth in the AL during a breakout 2019 season. The 29-year-old left-hander was a popular name on the summer trade market, though he ultimately stayed put when no one was willing to meet the Tigers' exorbitant asking price.

         

    The Bad

    The strong strikeout numbers were accompanied by a mediocre 4.56 ERA, and the wheels really fell off down the stretch. He had a 6.11 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over his final 10 starts, recording just two quality starts during that span, and there's a chance the Tigers may have missed their chance to sell high.

1. SS Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox

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    Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

    The Good

    After hitting a lackluster .240/.281/.406 in 2018, Tim Anderson put together a breakout season offensively last year, winning the AL batting title with a .335 average in a 4.0 WAR campaign.

         

    The Bad

    The free-swinging Anderson was the beneficiary of a .399 BABIP that ranked second among all qualified hitters, and that is simply not sustainable. His exit velocity (36th percentile) and hard-hit rate (39th percentile) both speak to a player who was performing over his head, and significant regression is likely coming in his offensive numbers.

           

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted.

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