Mitch Haniger quietly came over to the Mariners this offseason. Should fantasy owners be intrigued by him though in 2017?
It is always interesting to see players reinvent themselves after their career seemingly plateaus or comes to a standstill. Mitch Haniger was one of those examples of a player that was getting bypassed by other minor leaguers and recognized that a change had to happen. After tweaking his swing, Haniger not only turned things around but wound up being a key piece in the Mariners/D’Backs deal this offseason.
Haniger and Jean Segura were sent to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. While Walker and Segura dominated the fantasy focus, Haniger was overlooked as an interesting fantasy asset. Haniger exploded in the minors over the last two seasons, posting a .310/13 HR/55 RBI/12 SB line in 2015 and a monster .321/25 HR/94 RBI/12 SB/.999 OPS line last season.
This forced the D’Backs hand in promoting him, where he would make his debut in August. He did not get regular at-bats until September but did finish with a .229/5 HR/9 RBI/.713 OPs over 123 at-bats. It was nothing spectacular, but the raw talent was evident.
Following the footsteps of Josh Donaldson, A.J. Pollock, Jose Bautista and Justin Turner, Haniger added a leg kick to his swing in an effort to generate power. The results can not be ignored, though, as he bypassed his career high in HR the last two seasons.
Minor league numbers obviously do not always translate, but the tangible evidence that helped his numbers is encouraging to see. Now he does have flaws, he does strike out nearly 20% of the time while only walking 10% of the time.
The move away from Chase Field hurts the potential power upside as well, but moving to the Mariners’ deeper lineup will help. Owners should not be expecting the world, but Haniger has the potential to be a 20 HR/20 SB threat. Based on the ESPN HR tracker, he averaged 420 ft. per homer. Add the fact that manager Scott Servais has already given him the green light on the basepaths, and it easy to see why owners should be excited.
The Mariners have OF options, but they did not target Haniger in the trade for nothing. He is the favorite to start in RF for Seattle and should slot right into the back half of the lineup. The M’s lineup should be one of the best in MLB, so the counting stats should be there.
It is early in the draft process, but Hanigan is currently going in the 200’s, making him nothing more than late-round OF4 or OF5 flier. Owners should monitor him this spring, and write his name down as one of the best sleepers this season. A .260/20 HR/60 RBI/20 SB line is definitely a possibility, so do not sleep on him.