Mitch Haniger – Sleeper Post

Mitch Haniger was a popular sleeper going into 2017 when he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Mariners.  He settled in nicely slotting in the two hole for the 21 games of the season hitting .342 with 4 HRs and 2 steals.  An oblique injury late in April caused him to miss nearly two months with a return to the lineup in mid-June.  It seemed to sap some of his power as he hit only three HRs through July.  Sure enough June and July is were he posted his lowest hard contact rates. He missed more time in August with a facial laceration before getting hot in September hitting seven dingers and stealing 2 bases.  Overall it was a bit of a lost year but the start and finish were encouraging and he’ll entering his age 27 season.

What’s interesting to me is that in the minors Haniger had solid K and BB rates but in the majors his 22.7% K and 7.6% BB rate left me wondering what was going on.  His O-Swing% was 24.7, Z-Contact% 88.6, and SwStr% 8.7.  All of those are quite a bit better than league average but the K rate and BB rate are just below average.  I’m expecting improvements in both BB and Ks meaning higher OBP and more balls in play.

In the past, Haniger hit well over 40% of the balls in the air but sat at 36.7% in 2017.  Now this may have helped his BABIP but in this day and age I think he goes back to his flyball ways and it’s possible that his injury changed his approach as well.  The elevated BABIP might drop but his power should improve as long as he can continue to elevate his pulled contact. His hard contact on fly balls is nearly 45% and his HR/FB on pulled fly balls was 48% last year!

He doesn’t have elite speed by any means but could easily steal 10 bases in 2018.  The additional walks will help.  His final numbers will come down to health and where he hits in the lineup. As of now  Roster Resource has him slotted in the six spot which I thinkis about right. The addition of Dee Gordon moves him down so his run total will suffer but his RBI numbers should be very good with Cano, Cruz, and Seager hitting in front of him.   I’ll take my chances with his current ADP per NFBC sitting at 210 overall around guys like Avisail Garcia and Odubel Herrera.  In a standard 12 team league, that’s around a fourth OF so he doesn’t cost much.

For 2018 I’ll give Haniger: .271/.343 24 HRs, 9 steals, 75 runs, 86 RBI
Remember, he was a hyped sleeper going into to 2017 and now he enters his prime at age 27, only injuries derailed what should have been a top 100 overall season in 2017.