2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Kole Calhoun
Keith Law of ESPN.com had some pointed words for the Angels farm system. He said that it wasn’t only the worst farm system in the big leagues now, but it was the worst he had seen in quite some time. In that kind of environment, it’s difficult to find breakout candidates. After all, a breakout candidate almost always has to be a young player. Obviously, the Angels don’t have very many young players to choose from.
Everyone knows about Mike Trout and he is still a young player by definition, but he has also arguably been the best player in baseball over the past four seasons. He very easily could have three MVP awards to his name if the voters were paying any attention. Everyone knows about Albert Pujols as well. His overall production has dipped considerably since he’s become an Angel. Still, he hit 40 home runs a year ago. Outside of those two players, there isn’t much left.
Yet, if you left the Angels after those two players you would lose out on an up and coming player in the outfield. Kole Calhoun may not be a star level performer yet, but he clearly is the third best player on the team and might end up supplanting Pujols as the secondary force by the end of the 2016 season.
Where he has been
Calhoun’s batting averages on balls in play (BABIP) have been very stable over his three seasons in the big leagues. His strikeout rate has steadily increased with each passing season. The biggest difference came in a sharp decrease in his contact rate last season within the zone and overall. We can only surmise that this happened because Calhoun began to swing for the fences more often. His sweet spot may end up being around 20 home runs a season as compared to the 30 home runs he seems to be aiming for.
Of course, the other part of the equation comes down to expectations. The Angels hoped to have a deep lineup last season, but events even before the season ended up ruining that hope. The question moving forward is whether Calhoun is good enough to be the third best hitter on a contending team. If the Angels are going to be in the hunt in the AL West he will have to be.
Where he could go
Outfield is the most packed position in fantasy baseball. In a standard mixed league, Calhoun may not be good enough to be a fantasy regular. That’s just the way it goes these days in fantasy baseball. All that being said, he is definitely good enough to be a fourth outfielder or even an outfielder in your lineup if one is being used as a utility player. He should play every day and that is always part of the battle.
The experts seem to think the strikeout rate will go down slightly. Still, we are talking about a player with a three to one strikeout to walk ratio. If anything demonstrates that there has been a shift between pitching and hitting it is these numbers. We are talking about a borderline all-star here. It’s hard to imagine there being much of a difference in the rosy numbers because everyone expects him to play every day.
A Rosy Picture
Again, we reach the question over whether we should consider only where a player has been or whether we should factor in where we think a player will go. Unfortunately, in Calhoun’s case there really doesn’t appear to be a lot of growth left. That growth probably came last season when he went from 17 to 26 home runs. Yet, you never know what is in store in the future. If he can find a way not to swing at so many pitches outside the zone, he might take that next step towards being a bonafide all-star.